Silicon Valley rising star Greg Gopman took to Facebook on Tuesday to rail against poor and homeless residents of San Francisco, inflaming already simmering tensions between the city’s tech industry and low-wage workers.
Gopman, the CEO of the hackathon-organizing startup AngelHack, went on a rant wishing the “crazy, homeless, drug dealers, dropouts, and trash” would segregate themselves and stop marring his experience of San Francisco.
In the comments, Gopman bemoaned how the “degenerates” of San Francisco “gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, [and] get rowdy” in an area of town he considers to be off-limits to them. In comparison, he offered a rosy view of more class-segregated cities, where, he says, “the lower part of society keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it’s a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests.”
Gopman deleted the post and apologized for his diatribe the next morning. “I trivialized the plight of those struggling to get by and I shouldn’t have,” he wrote. “I hope this thread can help start an open discussion on what changes we can make to fix these serious problems.”
The CEO’s comments came just a day after protesters blocked a Google commuter shuttle, decrying tech-driven gentrification and San Francisco’s increasingly unaffordable housing costs. As the uber-rich tech industry migrates north from Silicon Valley the city’s real estate costs have soared, income inequality has worsened, and many long-time San Francisco residents are suddenly being priced out of their neighborhoods.
While Gopman’s post was especially incendiary, he’s not the only one who has expressed the idea that homeless and poor residents are an unsightly burden on the city. Another startup founder, Peter Shih, sparked outrage over the summer by complaining that homeless people were ruining San Francisco for him. This disgust may soon spread past a few insensitive individuals and start influencing actual policy. San Francisco is currently considering criminalizing homelessness by making it illegal to sleep in city parks at night.
The tech boom has already transformed Silicon Valley, where a sharp class divide has emerged between tech workers and the growing population of low-wage janitors, housekeepers, waiters, retail workers, and bank tellers who serve them. Most of Silicon Valley’s projected job growth is made up of jobs that pay less than $50,000 a year, falling drastically short of what it takes to afford an apartment in the region. Homelessness in the area shot up 20 percent in two years as housing prices rose farther out of reach for all but the wealthiest workers. San Francisco may be next.