Two San Francisco Supervisors Want Tech’s Lunch Money

Christopher Benek

Some of the benefits of working in tech-related fields are often the perks. One of those perks is often receiving free meals. Not anymore in San Francisco if two lawmakers get their way.

CNBC reports that two San Francisco supervisors, Ahsha Safai and Aaron Peskin are seeking to ban tech companies that are new to San Francisco office space from serving free meals.

Safai told CNBC, "We are confronting and are about to enable 6 more million feet of office space in what we call Central SoMa, closer to the south of downtown, And so at this particular time, thinking about one of the things that could have been different about the mid-market tax break, I decided to put forth a policy to say let's limit these or completely ban them in certain areas that are offering essentially free food and that's OK, I'm not trying to take away anyone's lunch. We really want to encourage people to get out of their silos, get out of their offices, and go interact and contribute to what makes for a healthy city.

Currently 40 office cafeterias, like those of Twitter, Uber and Square offer untaxed food to their employees. Tech companies often provide such perks as a way of increasing productivity and keeping top talent.

Ryan Cole who owns 4 local restaurants in the area is quoted as saying, "So when you have thousands and thousands of people taking up all of the real estate, but they don't ever leave, it makes a very weird dynamic for other businesses in the area that kind of didn't think it all the way through and banked on the number of office space, the number of employees, the number of people, and how their patterns probably should have been, but these tech companies are so smart that they disrupted the normal patterns, because it is a benefit for themselves."

Because of the proposal, conversations about overregulation are already in full swing. Some opposed to the measures argue that the measure, if approved should apply to all companies. Others articulate that the new regulations will just deter new companies from coming to the area. Currently many of the existing tech companies have already been granted significant tax breaks.

"I think tech has been a phenomenal contributor to San Francisco," Safai said. "But that does not mean that we can't be reflective and think about ways in which we can strengthen certain aspects of our economy and our society, and encourage those to look at their business model and say, 'Maybe that worked in Silicon Valley, but it does not work in an urban environment.'"

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. Do you think that the lawmakers in San Francisco have a valid point?

Q2. What responsibility do you think that tech companies have, if any, to encourage workers to engage in the local economy?

Q3. What do you think is the most helpful way to address tech disruptions in local communities?