A Twitter Engineer's Epic Diss of 'Disgusting' San FranciscoS

Gavin Newsom loves Twitter. The San Francisco mayor is convinced his hometown microblogging service will change the world. How heartbreaking it must be, then, to read that a key Twitter coder can't wait to escape his "filthy... disastrous" town.

It's not unreasonable to expect that Newsom, a candidate for California governor, might have seen the essay from Twitter API lead Alex Payne (pictured); it's attracted plenty of notice among bloggers on both coasts. The blog post, titled "So You're Moving to San Francisco," carries extra punch for two reasons: Its tone is more dispassionate than ranty, acknowledging the city's upside along with its flaws; and it comes from a man whose job involves interfacing with the growing ecosystem of Twitter-centric startups, many of which are based in and around San Francisco.

After giving the city credit for its weather, food, cocktails, coffee and tech scene, Payne moves on to the reasons he desperately wants to ditch San Francisco for the uber-trendy hipster haven of Portland, Oregon "once I'm able to work remotely with confidence:"

  • an annoying surplus of superifical and narcissistic well-to-do white nerds;
  • crime;
  • human waste and other filth in the streets;
  • streets choked with homeless people;
  • terrible mass transit;
  • "mediocre" cultural offerings;
  • hollowed out neighborhoods with weak architecture.

And then there are the ones that hit Newsom where it hurts. Though the mayor was first elected in 2003 on a promise to improve the homeless situation, Payne complains that

  • "the city government seem[s] to accept these circumstances..."
  • and about "Generally poor urban/civic planning"

An excerpt:

For a first world city, San Francisco is dirty. No, filthy. No, disgusting. Whenever I travel outside of San Francisco, I'm amazed at what a disastrous anomaly it is. Sidewalks are routinely covered in broken glass, trash, old food, and human excrement...



.... Aging hippies in the Haight argue about marijuana legalization and anti-war referendums when men and women are dying – visibly dying – on the streets of the Tenderloin. It's as if all parties don't occupy the same city...

Payne isn't the first to make these observations about San Francisco, and he won't be the last. But he's a key staffer at a company Newsom holds up as a pinnacle of local entrepreneurial achievement, and his scathing evaluation comes fully six years after Newsom was elected to office on a promise to clean up many of these exact problems. Oh, and then there's this: Payne is largely correct.

Twitter Inc. probably isn't leaving San Francisco anytime soon; co-founder and SF resident Evan Williams is building a new house, Silicon Valley is too dreadfully dull for Twitter's hipster executives and Portland lacks the depth of tech talent needed to source top flight engineers. But the high-profile startup need not abandon its hometime to damage San Francisco's reputation. It just needs to complain this loudly.

(Pic by Lou Springer)