Google Buses: Gentrifying the Home of The Summer of Love

I was visiting San Francisco this past week. The freaky people used to run the show in the City By The Bay, but now when you cross the city limits, the town feels like it has a big, shiny, corporate tech sponsor. A stroll through San Francisco feels like walking through Palo Alto North; weeknights have become strangely silent. (Sh-sh-sh! You’ll wake the tech millionaires!) Hot hipster hippie girls have been replaced by those who know a lot about html. San Francisco has become a city filled with people who’d think riding a razor scooter around the office is the craziest thing you can ever do. 

Obviously, tech-titans like Twitter have moved to town, trumpeting the Bataan death march of low rent and the city’s artistic community.

A big symbol of the sea of gentrification and change are the regular Silicon Valley private buses that whisk people in the city to their high-paying tech jobs at giant companies like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo. Much like an extension of junior high, each morning tech workers wait at designated bus stops so large metallic buses can provide them with the morning commute to billion-dollar Silicon Valley corporations. (Of course the buses are equipped with Wi-Fi to squeeze an extra few hours of work out of everyone.)

Yesterday, though, crunchy was added to the smooth:

A group of protesters surrounded and blocked a Google employee commuter bus for more than a half hour Monday morning at a Muni bus stop at 24th and Valencia streets in San Francisco’s Mission District. The buses have, for some, become a symbol of tech-fueled gentrification, economic inequality and soaring housing prices in the city.

The bus, which was headed to Google’s Mountain View campus, had riders on board. A dozen protesters stood around the bus with signs saying “Public $$$$, Private Gains,” “Stop Displacement Now,” “Fine $271, Total Fine $1 Billion,” and “Warning: Two-Tier System.”

San Francisco is currently going through a major eviction crisis; droves of artists are being driven from the town that fostered the Summer of Love, The Dead Kennedys, and The Beatnik Movement. Adding insult to injury, the Google buses have become a symbol of economic disparity and class warfare, slapping the city’s predominantly Latino neighborhood. (Though, in pure San Francisco irony, the buses do cut down in CO2 emissions.)

The revolution won’t be televised, but it will be live-streamed on your iPhone.

Spend a Stylish Summer with the Tech Elite of Silicon Valley

The last time I spent a weekend in Menlo Park, I got sunburnt. Yes, it might come as a surprise that the birthplace of Google Glass can also be a hip travel destination with plenty of chances to catch glimpses of the blazing California sun, but the area is shedding its dorky backstory and emerging as one of the hippest getaway spots on the left coast.

For years, Silicon Valley — the region of the San Francisco bay peninsula that stretches from Palo Alto to San Jose, and where Facebook, Google, Apple, YouTube, eBay, and Yahoo are all headquartered — didn’t have a town square, a physical epicenter where the new breed of hip-to-be-square wealthy wunderkinds could gather, gush about Steve Jobs, and gloat about IPOs.

That all changed after the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park started attracting entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The local tech elite come to the Rosewood to mingle with like-minded power players. Its ideal location in the center of Silicon Valley makes the hotel the perfect place to have a lunch meeting, host a conference, or just to catch some fresh air away from the office. Yet it’s still close enough to the neighboring tech headquarters as to not risk getting stuck in commuter traffic.

Surrounded by drab businesses hotels (even the Four Seasons in nearby Palo Alto is rather bland), the Rosewood is a sight for sore eyes and can really make an impression for more boastful affairs. The picturesque pool area is the go-to hotspot for exclusive cocktail parties, and other industry-only elegant soirees have lured the millionaires (and billionaires) in the area.

Want to check out one of these parties to pitch your next great app idea (Grindr for pot dealers? Pandora for music videos?) but didn’t get an invitation because you’re not the founder of Instagram? Don’t worry. Most of these things just advertise themselves as invite-only. No one is there checking names or, god-forbid, Twitter followers. If anyone stops you to ask questions while in the hotel’s bibliotheca-style lobby bar, just tell them your name is Dave Morin. You invented Path. And as for dress code: make sure you wear a hoodie.

But beware looking too much like a fresh-faced, tech-savvy executive, especially on Thursday nights, when the Rosewood welcomes matchmakers for their stylish and popular, yet unofficial, “Cougar Night.”

The only women you should be mingling with are Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer. But how to “lean in” and start a conversation with the first ladies of tech? Tell Sheryl that her TED Talk made you proud to be an unemployed stay-at-home dad (a.k.a. trophy husband) and remind Marissa that she looked flawless in Alexander McQueen. They may be powerful feminists, but they still like to receive compliments.

For those visiting Silicon Valley on business to secure the next billion dollar deal, there’s even more incentives to choose a stay at the Rosewood Sand Hill. The hotel also offers private two and three-bedroom villas, ideal for out-of-town businessmen working remotely during an extended stay.

Soon, Silicon Valley might become a travel destination for more than just geeks with startups. Architecture and design enthusiasts will be interested to see the truly spectacular buildings being planned to drastically reinvent the Silicon Valley skyline.

The new Googleplex in Menlo Park will be made up of several bent buildings connected by bridges. Nearby in Menlo Park, Facebook has hired iconic architect Frank Gehry to design its headquarters expansion. And in Cupertino, Apple is planning to land a spaceship-like structure that has been dubbed the “Death Star” because of the project’s outlandishly sci-fi delusions of grandeur.

So next time you’re in Northern California looking to meet Mark Zuckerberg while admiring one-of-a-kind architecture, take the Cal Train to Silicon Valley. Just remember to apply sunscreen.

[BlackBook San Francisco Guide; Listing for Rosewood Sand Hill; More by Oscar Raymundo]

Some Changes Yahoo! Plans To Make At Tumblr

Much hay has been made of the news that Internet dinosaur Yahoo! Inc. will buy the blogging platform Tumblr for $1.1 billion, allowing the company’s decrepit 26-year-old founder and CEO, David Karp, to finally retire to his private island made of American Apparel models. (Just kidding, David. Please don’t delete me.) But while Tumblr users and others have expressed outrage and threatened self-exile, as if we’d just reelected George W. Bush, we didn’t know what a Yahoo!-fried Tumblr will look like. Until now. Here are some highly confidential plans we intercepted. 

·      All Tumblr user names will be modified to have the Yahoo! exclamation point at the end.

·      Ask Boxes will be replaced with Yahoo! email accounts (and users must delete Gmail accounts before being permitted to register for Yahoo! email accounts).

·      Panels of Sudoku, GemClix, Deep Sea Mahjong and other Yahoo! Games will be randomly inserted into the dashboard. Everyone loves games. 

·      Half of Tumblr’s budget will now go toward high-concept Super Bowl ad buys.

·      Logging onto Yahoo!-Tumblr for the first time downloads a spyware patch onto your computer. Don’t worry, it’s just to make sure that you never quit  Yahoo!-Tumblr. Ever.

·      More yodeling, somehow.

·      The edit and delete post buttons will be removed. Yahoo! is a big believer in learning from your mistakes. 

·      All songs must now be uploaded as MIDI files.

·      Any attempt to embed a YouTube video will incur an automatic DMCA lawsuit from NBCUniversal. 

·       Tumblr Radar will be revamped to advertise nothing but Dell computers. Dude, you’re getting a Dell!

Follow Miles on Twitter here

Catch Up With ‘Burning Love’ Season Two

For fans of The State, Party Down, Reno 911!, and just about every live-action show on Adult Swim, Yahoo!’s unexpected foray into deadpan parody, Burning Love, was a nonstop joy. Ken Marino, in particular, as an idiot firefighter trying to find a soul mate via reality TV series, was pitch-perfect. This time around, the tables are turned, and former contestant Julie Gristlewhite (played as unhinged by the hilarious June Diane Raphael) is in the position of bachelorette and grand prize.

Competing for her damaged affections is a murder’s row of funny dudes: Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Cera, Adam Scott—hell, even Jerry O’Connell and Colin Hanks are in the mix. Though we bet that nothing can top Jennifer Aniston’s turn in the original. Check out the extended trailer for season two below, then go hit up the first two episodes of it, which have already "aired." I promise that the weirdness of going to yahoo.com wears off eventually (no it doesn’t).

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.