It was hard to read the news that Yahoo! was moving its San Francisco headquarters to the old San Francisco Chronicle building at 5th and Mission and not embark on a vivid fantasy about some other big dot-com companies moving to downtown Oakland — specifically, to the Tribune Tower building.

“I love the symbolism of moving into the Chronicle building, as it personifies the digital revolution in how people around the world consume media,” is what the Jacqueline Reses, Yahoo!’s chief development officer, said on Yahoo!’s tumblr blog. She adds, “We’ll have a fabulous on-site environment, including great food, a game room, collaborative work stations, and ample room for teams to work together and have fun.”

Given that HUB Oakland, Call Socket, Pandora, Ask.com, SparkArt, Tech Liminal, and many other tech companies are already clustered in Oakland, is it unreasonable to imagine a Yahoo!, Google, Twitter, or similar big company that is now renting in Silicon Valley and/or San Francisco might want to move downtown?

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On the other hand, San Francisco doesn’t have the history of demonstrations, protests, window-breaking, BART station shut-downs and general chaos that is both a strong part of Oakland’s present and its labor-driven past.  Those problems have been so acute in recent months that some of Oakland’s tech companies are saying privately that, until we get a better synch between the Mayor and the police department around quality of life issues, recruiting more tech companies to Oakland has some challenges.

The companies that would want to move here would need managers that valued affordable real estate, great transportation, a good climate and a truly diverse community over some of the really frustrating disruptions Oakland has endured.

What do you think? Any candidates you’d suggest move from San Francisco and Silicon Valley to Oakland?

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including Salon.com, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

10 Responses

  1. jt

    I agree with the tech companies. The leadership in Oakland need unity-of-command. Everyone needs to get on the same page and start working together so this city, with endless potential, can flourish. The reasons more tech companies DON’T come here are the same reasons the A’s want to LEAVE. Speaking of which, the Town needs to do everything they can to get that Howard Street Terminal location turned into a ball park…it will help attract business and convert one section of the city into a vibrant business district.

    Reply
  2. Val

    But wouldn’t a tech company coming to Oakland fly in the face of Oakland Local’s 45 part series on Gentrification, where tech workers were soundly criticized and demonized? We want companies to bring jobs and prosperity to to Oakland, but they all have to be non-profit coalitions for justice, that are unanimously approved by Decolonize Oakland.

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  3. KL

    Will these tech companies hire Oakland natives or bring in people from the outside? Will there be internships?

    Reply
  4. Eric E

    Right now I see more blight and vacancy downtown/uptown than I do any gentrification. East-bay offices would naturally attract more east bay workers, and indirectly lead to more support businesses. In just the past year we’ve seen many new food, drink, and retail businesses open in the area, some supported entirely by daytime officeworkers. I count dozens of new employees in the area.

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  5. KL

    As you wrote, many of the new businesses mainly serve the daytime officeworkers. Oakland officials should recruit and support businesses that serve Oakland residents.

    Perhaps serving Oakland residents doesn’t improve “Oakland’s image,” but they serve the people of Oakland. That is more important.

    By the way, those business could hire Oakland residents as well and put more money into the communities that way as well.

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  6. KM

    It’s extremely short-sighted to think that the only important criteria for businesses moving to Oakland is that they hire only Oaklanders. If a company sets up shop in a city, there will of course be new local hires, but it also means that people who come to work here may also choose to live here and pay rent or buy homes here, frequent the businesses here, and if that’s gentrification, so be it… In addition there’s the business tax which will also help boost the local economy. I’m an idealist but am pragmatic enough to know that many of Oakland’s problems get back to lack of money. If the leadership would shape up, we may actually be able to make this city thrive and make some progress on solving some of our systemic social problems.

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  7. KL

    I didn’t say Oakland businesses should only hire Oakand natives. I said business, especially if they want City support, should serve the community.

    I do believe that most business (not all) better serve a community if locals are on their staff. They know what a community wants.

    Plus, they are not likely to be intimidated by “Oakland’s image.”

    Those Oakland locals/employees can also pay taxes, buy homes, etc.

    One cannot assume that any business that sets up shop in Oakland will hire locals. I’ve seen many coffee shops that do not.

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  8. Jonatton Yeah?

    Many of the daytime office workers are Oakland residents. A few are my neighbours. But they don’t matter, right? Because when gentrification and business development is discussed in Oakland, the only community that matters is the one the “anti-gentrifier” is a member of.

    “One cannot assume that any business that sets up shop in Oakland will hire locals. I’ve seen many coffee shops that do not.”

    How on Earth do you know the workers at these coffee shops are not from Oakland? Did you ask them? Did you just know somehow? Or was this based completely on assumption and conjecture?

    The reality is that Oakland needs to serve all of its residents. Many of these residents would like to see downtown improved, see less urban decay, and to see further development. Many are tired of Oakland’s unfair reputation and would like to see this reputation turn a corner in the positive. Many are not willing to wait for the nonexistant “perfect company” or “companies” for this to happen because it never will happen. These residents are also Oakland. These residents matter. Even if they don’t matter to you.

    Reply
  9. KL

    “How on Earth do you know the workers at these coffee shops are not from Oakland? Did you ask them?”

    Yes, I have. We’ve also had many conversations. Are you assuming that I’m assuming?

    “Many are tired of Oakland’s unfair reputation and would like to see this reputation turn a corner in the positive.”

    Many are tired of so much focus being placed on Oakland’s reputation and not on us. If people don’t like Oakland, they don’t have to come here. That too is based on many conversations.

    Reply
  10. SF2OAK

    OAK is the ultimate in disruptive society so really innovative small tech company’s should look forward to the challenges of OAK and embrace them. I don’t see the dinosaurs coming to locate here, but then they are the lumbrlering old ( dying) giants. OAK Is right for upstarts. Somebody brought up the same reason the As want to leave. Wrong. The As want to leave for a much needed New stadium and better corporate opportunities. Hardly what a young tech co needs. Tech is certainly part of the crime solution and somebody ought to fund an incubator for just that reason as clearly that will be a big part of the solution.

    Reply

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