Self-described wealthy tech company founder Justin Keller recently drew the Internet’s ire by publishing an open letter to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr, saying rich people shouldn't have to see homeless "riff raff" on their way to work.
His letter, which starts off with some legitimate concerns over the city’s condition, quickly turns into an insensitive rant of how the app developer has had enough of the homeless roaming around in his city.
“I am writing today, to voice my concern and outrage over the increasing homeless and drug problem that the city is faced with,” Keller wrote in a letter dated Monday and posted on his personal website. “Every day, on my way to, and from work, I see people sprawled across the sidewalk, tent cities, human feces and the faces of addiction. The city is becoming a shanty town… Worst of all, it is unsafe.”
The entrepreneur, who has only been living in San Francisco for the past three years, probably isn’t aware of the fact that the “riff raff” he’s bemoaning likely once lived in the same neighborhood as him. The city has long been struggling with gentrification in some of its poorest neighborhoods, and Keller’s remarks are a representation of a larger culture clash between San Francisco’s tech hub and its older residents.
"[The] reality is, we live in a free market society," he wrote. “The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard and earned it. I shouldn't have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn't have to see the pain, struggle and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.”
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The insensitive letter prompted harsh reaction from social media users, who dubbed Keller as “tech bro” — a reference to “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli.
The funny thing, and yes Justin Keller is a tone deaf, immature soul-less fool and product of an upbringing that... https://t.co/aXzjmdSGd0— david panagore (@dpanagore) February 19, 2016
I don't know, that S. F. tech-bro homeless-rant-guy made me glad I'm not in tech, or a bro, or homeless anymore in San Francisco.— Terrilynn Cantlon (@astarstudent) February 19, 2016
I shouldn't be surprised that gentrifying SF tech bro can't write because if he could, he wouldn't be able to afford living in SF.— Kyle McLorg (@Kyle_McLorg) February 19, 2016
The techbro of today is like the yuppie of yesteryear. Advantaged to get into the good jobs and naive enough to think they do it themselves.— Tadhg (@tiedtiger) February 18, 2016
. @johnny5sf bro, when you write famously idiotic comments on homelessness, you justify the vilification of tech in sf. hope u were trolling— Evan Stites-Clayton (@the_esc) February 18, 2016
Following the backlash, the tech worker backpedaled on his letter and told The Guardian his real interests lie with the city official’s response, not with the poor people themselves.
“The thesis of the post was that inaction by the city and officials is not working. We all as citizens of San Francisco need to figure out how we can improve the city and address the homeless and drug addiction problem straight on,” he said, apologizing for calling the homeless "riff raff."