We can all hope that the San Francisco-centric demonstrations featuring protesters blocking so-called Google (GOOG) buses are over.

First, Silicon Valley's tech giants this week agreed to pay the city to monitor and enforce the use of Muni bus stops by the big luxury cruisers that carry workers from San Francisco to tech campuses in the South Bay. (Who would have guessed that San Francisco would become a bedroom community for Silicon Valley?)

And then Google decided to add exclusive ferry service from San Francisco to Redwood City, as a second way to get its brilliant and brilliantly paid workforce from the land of hills and fog to the land of tilt-ups and cubes. The move could ease tensions by taking a few buses off the crowded streets of San Francisco, but for now it's only an experiment. (And God help us should activists turn from protesting Google buses to protesting Google boats. I'm seeing Greenpeace on the bay.)

At any rate, a cease-fire in the bus wars would be a good thing. The buses were always a bad target for activists with a good cause: working to counter rising rents, increasing evictions and spreading gentrification.


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A little background: More and more in recent years, valley companies have been shuttling workers between San Francisco and the valley. Many hip tech workers prefer the vibe of San Francisco, and valley companies see the free ride as a valuable recruiting and retention tool. Now, as the economy has improved and demand for housing has increased, high-paid tech workers are among those bidding up rents in San Francisco and encouraging developers to convert rental apartments into more lucrative condos.

As rents soared and somewhat affordable neighborhoods got gussied up and unaffordable, activists seized on tech workers as the culprits. They took to the streets, blocking the corporate shuttles and gaining media attention.

"They're definitely, for us, a symbol of a wider systemic issue, which is these tech companies are basically becoming, if you want to call it, the ruling class or the upper class in San Francisco," Erin McElroy, of Eviction Free San Francisco, says of the double-decker buses. And she said activists haven't ruled out blocking buses again in an effort to make their larger point.

I get it. I understand why strategic activists see the Google buses and other luxury shuttles serving Facebook, Apple (AAPL), Yahoo (YHOO), LinkedIn, eBay (EBAY), Tesla, Adobe (ADBE) and others, as buzz-worthy targets. They are the perfect metaphor for the global corporations that deploy the shuttles to move their workers around the bay. Think big, powerful, machines rolling down Highway 101 and moving from diamond lane to exit lane the way aggressive companies move through the marketplace. Whether it's competing commuters or competing companies, the unspoken message is "get out of the way or get crushed."

Even Matt Regan, of the Bay Area Council, a regional business-backed nonprofit that works to influence public policy, sees the emotional appeal of railing against the buses.

"There is a legitimate cause for concern and angst in some neighborhoods and communities in San Francisco about housing affordability," says Regan, who worked on the deal that says shuttle-using companies will pay San Francisco about $1.5 million to monitor their bus programs for 18 months. "People are looking for physical ramifications to blame, and all the sudden they're seeing these large white buses on the street and they say, 'That must be the cause.'"

But look at the buses another way: Cushy, yes, but filled with people on their way to work -- people, who more likely than not worked hard to put themselves in a position to land at some of the world's most successful companies. And consider that high-paying tech jobs spawn other jobs: UC-Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti puts the multiplier at five additional jobs created for every tech job created.

"They work long hours," Regan says of the tech workers, "so when they come home, they eat out and use services. They have dog-walkers and gardeners." And Moretti points out, they visit doctors and hire lawyers and architects.

It's one of the ways an economy grows -- which is not to say growth is painless. In fact, what San Francisco and much of the Bay Area is experiencing with high rents and a tightening real estate market is one of those recurring themes in Silicon Valley. Think of it as the downside of the upswing.

"It's been a huge economic boom," Regan says, "and the ramification of that is rising rents and less affordability."

The solution is a heavy lift: More housing, ideally densely built near public transit in the urban cores of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. And it's a solution people have been talking about for decades.

Given the lack of progress so far, it's hard to blame anyone for feeling pessimistic about the prospects. It almost makes you want to grab a megaphone and stand in front of an idling bus. But please don't.

Contact Mike Cassidy at mcassidy@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5536. Follow him at Twitter.com/mikecassidy.