The Can't Do Society: San Francisco's War On Tech

For all of the "we are the future" rhetoric that we hear from SF politicos, the truth is that the City That Doesn't Know How is much better at throwing up roadblocks, rather than getting out of the way of the spread of innovative technology:

San Francisco boasts an enviable roster of high-tech companies such as Zynga, Twitter and It's home to legions of tech workers serving companies throughout the Bay Area. And it's got a cutting-edge culture that has helped the city become a tech capital.

But beneath those credentials is a city that has a track record of opposition to companies wanting to expand or upgrade the technology infrastructure, brought on by concerned neighborhood groups.

Over the past few years, San Francisco has been in the middle of protracted fights over cellular antennas, a stalled deployment of AT&T's broadband and TV service, and a failed city Wi-Fi network.

Even Apple CEO Steve Jobs brought the issue to the fore last month when he said during a press conference that it takes a cellular antenna site three years to get approved in San Francisco compared with three weeks in Texas.

Some city and business leaders worry the trend could undercut San Francisco's reputation, which may eventually harm the city's ability to attract and retain companies and residents.

Embarrassingly, a lot of the opposition is driven by the possibility of health problems arising from cell phones and cell phone towers. This from the progressive party of Science and Reason.

Of course, the real reason behind delays is more likely to be NIMBY opponents to cell phone towers in their neighborhood. San Francisco has a large number of cranks and gadflies, all of whom seem to have gone to law school, or are at least conversant with the City's byzantine planning procedures. It's a good example of how a determined minority of dedicated activists can obtain more from the political process than the thousands of, shall we say, "regular" people who don't have time to go to Planning Commission meetings, and just want their iPhones to work.

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