Issue 216, January 6, 2000  

Compromise Is In Order For Tech,
Residential Communities

By Stephen M. Lawton

      Technology companies seem to be in for some tough times here in California. Not only must they battle for market share, they must battle the cities they call home — the very cities they put on the map.
      The just-concluded election did little to help them. Despite all the talk that tech executives heard when the candidates breezed through town with their hands out, very little, if anything, has changed.
      In Congress, the state has several representatives who have taken leadership positions — we've profiled some of them here in MicroTimes — but our senators still don't seem to recognize that technology drives our economy. While we must have a diversified economy to protect ourselves from a recession, let's use our vast technology resources as the bedrock on which to build the California of tomorrow.
      During recessions, cities beg companies to build plants, create jobs and bolster their economies. Why not support the companies that are already doing so here and now in these relatively good times, too?
      Locally, the technology engine is sputtering as businesses battle various interests over the size and placement of new facilities. In San Jose, for example, Cisco Systems wants to build a new campus. Environmentalists claim that the development would harm the environment and slow-growth advocates point out the lack of housing and infrastructure in place to support the new jobs. Even municipal officials as far south as Salinas are complaining that more high-paying technology jobs will increase the cost of housing. Is there a problem with high-paying jobs?
      In San Francisco, as in other Bay Area cities, the government is trying to zone dot-coms and tech firms right out of town. The argument is that they are making the cost of housing and business rents too high.
      We have a dilemma here, but excluding companies through zoning is not the answer. Tech companies provide jobs and opportunities. They provide the tax base we need to keep up our standard of living. Of course, we have to preserve our environment. Of course, we have to preserve the arts and nonprofit organizations. But if our economy falters, will we have the funds for these endeavors?
      We need to build up our infrastructure to support the growth, including providing sufficient power, water, housing and schools. If we can't learn to live with a mixture of industry, business, residential and open space, we're going to drive our core tax base out of California and into other states where technology parks now exist. Our economic engine will be dead.
      Instead of pitting the technology sector against governments and "community leaders," it's time for a summit to build a consensus for all of California. Without a plan that manages growth, no company — or community — survives.

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