April Fools' Day Protest Blocks Google Bus in Mission District

Ahead of a San Francisco Board of Supervisors' hearing this afternoon on a pending pilot program to charge private shuttle buses for using public bus stops, a group of protesters blocked a Google commuter bus in the city's Mission District.

Police were called around 9 a.m. about a group of 20 to 30 people blocking a private shuttle bus at 24th and Valencia streets, according to police.

Responding officers told the group to disperse and the bus, apparently transporting Google workers, was able to move around 9:15 a.m., police said.

No one was arrested or injured during the brief protest.

The Heart of the City Collective, which has been staging protests at tech commuter bus stops throughout the city since December 2013, said it organized today's protest on its website.

The April Fools' Day demonstration included stilt walkers and protesters in Google-colored clown suits carrying large bouncy balls with "Gmuni" printed on them.

In a statement on the protesters' website, the group wrote, "Let's take back the city!" and included a list of demands including stopping private shuttles from using public bus zones and making Muni free for all residents.

The group called for "tech companies (to) pay for their impact on housing and public infrastructure" and to fund affordable housing initiatives, and brought up other housing issues such as evictions and rent control.

The protest comes hours before the Board of Supervisors is holding a hearing during their 2 p.m. meeting on an appeal of a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency pilot program slated to start July 1.

The 18-month program would charge private shuttles $1 per stop to use designated San Francisco Municipal Railway stops.

Opponents of the pilot program have appealed the planning process after the SFMTA board of directors approved the program in January with a California Environmental Quality Act exemption.

The appellants, including members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, affordable housing advocates and other community activists, are calling for an environmental review to study the impact of the new shuttle program.

If the board accepts the appeal, the start of the program would be delayed to include a more thorough CEQA review.

This morning's protesters said in a statement that SFMTA and the city government "will decide if these corporations can continue to use public bus zones for a mere $1 per stop.

"Meanwhile, underfunded Muni is considering a fare hike. Why fund Muni on the backs of poor and working class people while rich corporations use public infrastructure for pennies?" the group wrote.

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