“Not Everyone at Google is a Billionaire,” Says Google Manager Crystal Sholts (Who Just Bought a $1.2 Million SF Home) at Tech Company Shuttle Hearing
A Google manager has incurred the wrath of San Francisco anti-gentrification activists after it was revealed that she gave misleading testimony during a hearing about a controversial private shuttle bus service for the tech giant’s employees.
Crystal Sholts, a 34-year-old program manager in engineering at Google, testified at a January 21 hearing at San Francisco City Hall at which the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) voted unanimously to approve a controversial pilot program that will open up 200 public bus stops for use by private shuttles ferrying tech workers living in the city to and from their Silicon Valley jobs.
“I’ve lived in San Francisco since 2005 and moved here from Minnesota like many people for hundreds of years moving to San Francisco to seek a better life,” Sholts said during her lengthy testimony.
“I just wanted to say that not everyone at Google is a billionaire. Like many people, 10 years after the fact I’m still paying off my student loans,” Sholts continued. “I moved to the Mission (district) because I am a pedestrian, I don’t own a car, and I moved to the Mission because there are two BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stations. I walk everywhere on the weekend and I have relied on the shuttle since I moved to San Francisco.
“This is a choice, I know, to live in San Francisco and commute to Mountain View, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she added.
What Sholts did not disclose during her testimony is that not only did she move to the Mission, she also purchased an expensive home there. Sources with access to real estate transaction documents informed Moral Low Ground that Sholts and her husband, Adam Lauridsen, a partner at the prestigious Keker & Van Nest law firm, bought an 1,860-square foot, two-story restored Victorian home on a rapidly gentrifying block for $1,201,000 last April 17.
“As someone who has recently purchased a $1.2 million home in the Mission, and someone whose combined family income most likely vastly exceeds the income of those who suffer the consequences of the private corporation shuttle buses, she is not presenting a totally honest image of her position in the context of the SFMTA’s hearing’s agenda,” asserted Dark and Difficult, the blog which brought Sholts’ home purchase to our attention (Moral Low Ground verified the site’s information with a search of her public records). “The content of her statement paired with the reality of her situation just breeds more mistrust of the entire tech community.”
Indeed, Sholts testifying that “not everyone at Google is a billionaire” seems a awful lot like an attempt to obfuscate the fact that she (when combined with her husband) is likely a millionaire, or well on her way to becoming one, who, when the truth of her financial situation is disclosed, comes off as an entitled elitist utterly unaware of the real suffering caused by her attitudes and actions.
Like Sholts said, living in San Francisco is a choice. But it’s a choice with profound consequences for those displaced or priced out of a market in which the average home price has now topped $1 million and the average 1-bedroom apartment rents for more than $3,000 a month. Researcher Alexandra Goldman found that rental prices within walking distance of Google bus pickup sites have risen faster than elsewhere in the area. Two-bedroom apartments within half a mile of the Google bus stop at Valencia and 24th– very likely where Sholts boards each day– have risen 27 percent.
“We’re seeing rents have gone up 20 percent in the last year along tech bus routes, because [tech company workers] move to units along those stops,” Erin McElroy of Eviction Free San Francisco, the activist group responsible for organizing a series of recent bus-blocking protests, told Grist. “Eviction rates also go up along tech bus routes because of (landlord) speculation.”
The results of an SFMTA study suggest that nearly a third of those who use tech company buses would choose to live closer to work in Silicon Valley if the shuttles did not exist. While I’ve got nothing against most of those who use them (my upstairs neighbor is a socially-conscious, non-billionaire Google employee who I see getting on and off the shuttle as I walk my dog, and I am friends with numerous other Google workers), and it’s not my place to tell people where to live, perhaps some of the thousands of tech workers who use the shuttles really should consider living closer to work?
How dare I! It’s the poor who should get the hell out of the way, at least according to a handful of very vocal tech millionaires. Rising star Greg Gopman, founder of tech startup AngelHack, recently took to Facebook to rail against the “crazy, the homeless, the drug dealers, the dropouts and the trash” who he says are polluting San Francisco by their very “grotesque” presence. Gopman slammed the “degenerates” who “gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs and get rowdy” on city streets. He waxes wistful about cities where “the lower part of society keep to themselves [and] sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet and generally stay out of your way.” Based on the number of supportive comments Gopman’s Facebook rant received, his is far from an isolated opinion.
The battle over tech buses is the latest front in an ongoing struggle between those who want San Francisco to retain its famous diversity and progressive character and those who see no problem with the city evolving into a haven for the wealthy. As the second tech boom continues apace, working- and middle-class families, racial minorities, artists, activists and others have found themselves increasingly priced out of a city where many of them were born and raised. Oakland, suburban counties, often-overlooked cities like Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno and Modesto, and even states like Oregon, Texas, Nevada, Arizona and others have also experienced an influx of former San Franciscans looking for more affordable places to live now that the City by the Bay is the nation’s most expensive.
Miguel Rivera, an attorney and native of San Francisco’s Mission district, lamented what his city is becoming.
“I hate self-entitled people,” Rivera told Moral Low Ground after hearing about Sholts’ testimony. “I am surrounded by them everywhere.”
Others point to the positive economic impact tech workers living in San Francisco have on the city.
“They drink in bars that cost $10 a drink. They eat in restaurants that charge $24 per dinner. They shop in stores that have clothes that cost more than the average American makes per day,” Google bus supporter Allen Beck told NPR.
Beck may be lowballing it a bit– some of the city’s swankier watering holes, staffed by bowtied, mustachioed mixologists, charge upwards of $14 for drinks, and there are plenty of relatively unremarkable eateries where dinner for two could easily cost $100. But San Francisco doesn’t need more Batteries or NOPAs. It needs more affordable housing. More access to reliable public transportation. And less self-entitled, disingenuous millionaires, or those well on the way to that status, crying poverty.
Tagged Adam Lauridsen, Crystal Sholts, Crystal Sholts Google, economic inequality, Erin McElroy, Eviction Free San Francisco, gentrification, Google, Google bus, Google bus protest, Greg Gopman, Sam Francisco inequality, San Francisco, San Francisco cost of living, San Francisco exodus, San Francisco gentrification, sfmta, SFMTA tech buses, Silicon Valley, tech company shuttles