A San Francisco tech worker landed himself in hot water this week when an open letter he penned to Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr was criticized for insensitivity towards the city’s homeless population.
In the letter, app developer Justin Keller opined that he was disappointed in the city’s handling of homeless “riff raff,” writing that the number of homeless people seems to be at a peak since he moved to the city three years ago.
“I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day,” he wrote in the blog post on his website. “What are you going to do to address this problem?”
He continued: “…I know people are frustrated about gentrification happening in the city, but the reality is, we live in a free market society. The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city.” Towards the end of the letter, he promises a “revolution,” in which the wealthy presumably elect officials who will more vigorously remove homeless from San Francisco.
The iconic city has long been struggling with gentrification in some of its poorest neighborhoods, and many have interpreted Keller’s remarks against a backdrop of rising rents, evictions and closures of small businesses.
Ultimately, the letter is seen by many as representative of a larger culture clash between the tech hub in San Francisco and its older residents.
It doesn’t help that Keller also wrote favorably about Super Bowl City’s displacement of the homeless, which in itself was a controversy that sparked numerous protests among San Francisco activists.
The comments have inspired many San Franciscans to write missives of their own, calling Keller tone deaf to the issues facing the city in both longer Medium posts and tweets.
“Thanks Justin Keller for reminding us how entitled privileged people feel about other human beings,” Wrote one Twitter user. “Always refreshing.”
However, some did jump to Keller’s defense.
“I visited SF last March, and this guy's description, while a bit vulgar, does accurately describe what we saw and encountered,” said one Redditor.
As for Keller, he appears to be standing by his words -- all but one of them, at least.
“I want to apologize for using the term riff raff,” he wrote in a footnote on the original blog post. “It was insensitive and counterproductive. “