How Tech Campuses Hinder Diversity and Help Gentrification
By Emma Grey Ellis
18 February 2017
Photo courtesy Getty Images
In-house catering, coffee shops, laundry services, nap rooms, and a slew of other perks have become the norm for many workers in the Bay Area’s ever-expanding tech industry. But while those bougie office perks keep workers caffeinated, happy and at their desks, they’re also partially responsible for tech’s biggest sins: a lack of diversity and gentrification.
To maximize productivity, insular tech campuses have intentionally isolated workers, their time, and their money, sequestering employment and economic opportunities away from the communities around the campus. And once that bubble is in place, it tends to self-perpetuate rather than burst.
Tech campuses don’t bring many of the benefits that typically come with a big company setting up shop. While jobs immediately surrounding tech office buildings may have increased business via the multiplier effect ‒ a theory that suggests each tech-industry job creates five additional jobs in the service economy ‒ communities as a whole remain unaffected or are negatively targeted, according to Professor of City & Regional Planning Karen Chapple.
“If those folks are not patronizing local establishments, you’re not getting the multiplier effect in the neighborhood,” Professor Chapple explained. “It goes to some lucky contractor instead.” This isn’t necessarily a disaster around tech companies with more urban campuses ‒ like Twitter in San Francisco’s mid-Market area ‒ but in more suburban areas like Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and especially East Palo Alto, communities are negatively affected.
All of this isn’t to say that techies should never get coffee again. But they could be more programmatic about hiring qualified community members, Chapple said. “If you’re going to have your amenities internal, at least do some local purchasing,” Chapple concluded. In other words: Go out for lunch sometime.