The adulation of the technoriche

Happily married, fined, and fawned over

It’s hardly news at this point that billionaire tech mogul Sean Parker tore up a public campground to build the sets for his $10 million fantasy wedding in Big Sur. And it’s been widely reported that Parker paid a $2.5 million fine to the Coastal Commission, which he tried to spin as a wonderful environmental gift to improve the state park system.

But I read with interest in the Chron that both Lite Guv Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris were reportedly at the wedding. Both are very smart people; both have the ability to observe the world around them. So I have to wonder:

Didn’t either Newsom or Harris think it was a little bit odd to see all this new development in a protected area? Did it occur to either of them that their richy-rich-rich pal, who has a history of snubbing laws he doesn’t like, might have done the same thing here?

Could the state’s top law-enforcement official and a member of the state Lands Commission really look at artificial ponds and large new structures, which involved bulldozers to create, and not say:

Huh? Aren’t there rules against this sort of thing?

Okay, it was a wedding, and nobody wants to be the one to throw the turd in the punchbowl. The politician guests were there to celebrate with a person who is capable of helping to fund future campaigns (and since both Harris and Newsom are considered possible candidates for governor when Jerry steps down, I bet they had a great time together).

But didn’t either of them feel at least a little weird about it?

I called Newsom’s office and left a message for Dierdre Hussey, his press person. She hasn’t called back. Nick Pacilio in Harris’s office told me someone would get right back to me; hasn’t happened yet. So we don’t know what the two were thinking.
But I do know this: The level of adulation of the technoriche has reached levels we haven’t seen since the Gilded Age.

Technology columnist James Temple puts it this way:

To the outside observer, Parker's actions look like contempt for the piddling rules that we non-billionaires can't buy our way around. And they certainly do nothing to alter the increasingly popular local view of the tech class as selfish and aloof, conspicuously relishing their venture capital rounds and IPO winnings, as a growing portion of the Bay Area population struggles to make the skyrocketing rents.

And politicians seem to adore the most selfish and aloof (and clueless) among them.

Take Mayor Ed Lee’s comments about Airbnb. The company is clearly cheating on its taxes. The city treasurer investigated the situation and ruled unequivocally that airbnb needs to collect and remit the Transit Occupancy Tax money that should be charged on its rooms.
When Michael Krasny asked the mayor on Forum about the issue, Lee defended airbnb (which is funded by his buddy Ron Conway), saying that the company is just “making arguments” about whether it owes the tax.

But that’s just false: The arguments are over. The company argued with the tax collector and lost. And it isn’t arguing anywhere anymore -- not in court, not in the political sector. It’s just .... not paying. And because it’s a tech company, and Conway is nurturing it, the mayor seems just fine with that.

It appears that big corporations are big corporations. They may claim that they won’t be evil, and they may be headed by people in their 20s who dress like hipsters, and they may make really cool products -- but their operating just like the robber barons of old. And the great wealth they’ve created has, to a great extent, also created great arrogance.

Before the trolls accuse me of fomenting class warfare, let me repeat: I didn’t start this war. I didn’t rig the political and tax systems so that the middle class would be wiped out as all of the net new wealth in a generation goes to the top 1 percent. I’d much prefer we all share in the bounty, as the middle class and working class did in the post-War era.

Meanwhile: Does anyone really need a $10 million wedding in a state park?


Could it be that everyone knows that you are obsessed with the successful, and that you hate them?

Heck, I wouldn't return your calls either. You're a broken record on this.

Oh, and BTW, the fact that the City Treasurer has "decided" that AirBnB owes tax is irrelevant because it needs to go to court so a judge can rule on whether he is right or wrong. If he is wrong, AirBnB owes nothing.

And clearly it is ultimately the AirBnB hosts who owe the tax. The city is just trying to use AirBnB as a free tax collection service.

Tim, seriously, lose this "the rich are evil; the poor, beloved" routine. This ain;t the Sermon on the Mount and you're not Christ - you're just a very naughty boy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

What Parker did was inexcusable, particularly considering that this site is right next to a stream where some of the last endangered steelhead in California spawn.

There's no way to spin it - Parker thought he could do whatever he wanted and buy his way out of it and that's what he did. Regardless of whether this is private land or not within the coastal zone certain regulations have to be observed in order to protect fragile areas (and believe it or not, redwoods are fragile particularly considering their shallow root system). Parker did none of those things.

There should not be one set of rules for wealthy people in regard to our natural resources, but this gives all the appearance of that being so and it stinks. The criticism Parker is enduring is 100% warranted.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

wealthy guy pays to change the park and then pays to put it back again, and there is money left over that the park would otherwise not have had, I'm fairly sure I can live with that.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

Damaging a 500 year old redwood means it dies - you can't fix that. Silting up a stream where the few remaining steelhead we have left in California spawn means the water temperature increases and reduces their population, which is already endangered.

Money cannot solve everything. Some things are irreplaceable. Our ancient redwood forests and few remaining native fish stocks are some of those things.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

why is this not a criminal act? perhaps the county's DA can prosecute since the AG seems to be a bit conflicted in the matter.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

I can't avoid the horror of imagining the troll energetically flitting about in a stand of old growth sempervirens and drilling holes in them, etc. *That* would be perfectly in keeping with an established track record here on

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

So far every single one of your comments is calling out a commenter and asking others to judge him/her based on YOUR opinion of them. That's not really a valid argument at all.

Address the substance of the comments or don't comment at all. Your personal opinion of whom you believe to be commenting is totally beside the point - no one cares.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

What else would you expect from him?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

He spends a lot of time on various boards so it appears this is an outlet for him. Unfortunately if his Internet personae in anyway matches his public personae we know why he's chosen the medium of a computer screen to try and establish some type of contact with other people.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

He's in a gentle decline towards senility and a lonely death.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

Actually, as we've said repeatedly, airbnb is more than welcome to go to court and challenge the tax decision and let a judge rule on it. But that hasn't happened -- and unless the company does that, the tax collector's ruling is presumptively valid law and airbnb has to comply.

The hosts AND the company are BOTH liable for the taxes. Unless someone wants to convince a court otherwise. But you can't just blow this off and say: Nah, I don't think I have to pay.


Posted by tim on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

The question here is whether the city can take the "easy route" and just collect from the intermediary.

That's a gray area and AirBnB are entitled to not collect it and invite the city to claim, when it will go to court anyway.

But I think that any judge would rule that the city must try and go after the host if they can. And AirBnB could provide data to help the city do that.

That's a much better solution. After all, AirBnB might easily be beyond the city's jurisdiction - that's the whole thing with internet commerce - location is moot.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

>"Actually, as we've said repeatedly, airbnb is more than welcome to go to court and challenge the tax decision and let a judge rule on it."

...and you've repeatedly been wrong, that's not the way that the system works. Ciserneros is not trying to enforce his ruling, using his discretionary powers. There fore AirBNB has not been damaged in any way. The judge would tell them to come back after they've been damaged.

For example in NYC they have been questioning the legality of AirBNB for creating illegal hotels. But it wasn't until a an individual got fined that AirBNB began a legal challenge:

And again, there is not one city on planet earth that tries to collect TOT taxes from AirBNB. Not one. Except in the fairy tale imaginations of Steven and Tim.

Posted by Troll on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

And compelling.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

Glad to hear that. I thought my life was pretty dull.

Posted by tim on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

You're of a vintage that I thought you might have picked up on that.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

This is contradiction.

Posted by tim on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

Get the riff-raff *OUT* *OF* *MY* *WAY*!!!!

I know this story isn't about congestion pricing, but when someone can deface a public park and laugh off the fine, it's just another example of the same principle at work

Unless congestion pricing schemes -- and environmental destruction fines -- are made to affect all people equally they are, you know, fundamentally unfair and/or ineffective.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

They're totally different. Shit like that immediately turns off the listener.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 4:01 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

from user fees intended to clear space. Congestion pricing schemes are intended to clear space, but obviously given our radically imbalanced distribution of wealth, they represent yet another departure from the egalitarianism that this country was founded on.

Both congestion pricing *and* fines are the same in that they should be tailored to match the net worth of the recipient.

This notion struck home for me when I saw the fines for parking in a bus zone or blocking a wheelchair ramp were raised up into the several hundred dollars range; and passing a school bus with its flashers on was set well over a thousand dollars.

I'm not disputing that people who pass a flashing lighted school bus should be severely punished, but while some people can weather such a fine without much trouble, for others it is much more akin to a death sentence.

Did Sean Parker pay the fine? That's not what I'm interested in. What I want to know is did it hurt him? If it did not hurt him then the fine did not serve its purpose.

(Whether Lucretia is turned on or turned off doesn't interest me either.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

was designed to reduce congestion and send more money into the Cal Trans general fund. In the same way the congestion charge in London was designed to reduce traffic congestion and ensure those wanting to drive at peak times are paying a higher rate. It has nothing to do with "tolerance of vast disparities of wealth."

Parker has paid the fine. I still think what happened is a total shame and he shouldn't have been allowed to get away with it at all. I have zero tolerance for damaging any of California's remaining stands of redwoods or our once thriving stocks of native steelhead and trout. The whole thing is disgusting.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

now, and I know that this is a troll with no redeeming characteristics despite an occasional scant suggestion to the contrary. This pious talk about environmentalism is just such a false clue. Trust me: there's nothing there which is not greasy, perfidious, or berserk.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

Thanks Lilli!

I've been reading Lucretia's posts also. After every one I said to myself "Wow, I wish that Lilli would be kind enough to tell me what I should think of Lucretia".

I really needed your help to form an opinion and now I got it! I now know what to think because of the generosity with which you disperse your great wisdom!

Posted by Troll on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

Spend your time redeeming your food stamps and GA check and less documenting the behavior of others.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

Tim is so misleading on this AirBNB stuff. If you read what the honest journalists write you get a very different picture.

The Treasurer's (Jose Cisneros) ruling came down over a year ago; to the best of my knowledge no tax has actually been accessed against AirBNB. When the ruling came down some honest journalists made the point that it was based on a 40+ year old regulation that didn't foresee the internet and that there was a working group looking at reviewing those city laws:

"Cisneros' office is part of that working group, and Kato said the new regulation would help, not hinder, those efforts. "We think what will be helpful ... is to have a clear understanding of what the existing law says," Kato said.


If Cisneros assessed something than AirBNB would fight it. Right now there is nothing to fight.

What would help is if Steven or Tim could name one city on Planet earth that is actively trying to get AirBNB to pay the TOT taxes.

It's a big planet and AirBNB is active all over it. If what Tim and Steven are saying makes any sense at all they should be able to name one city.

Just one city to prove that they aren't just goofballs.

Because the concept that San Francisco, where AirBNB employs people and contributes to the local economy, should be the ONLY city forcing them to pay TOT taxes is sort of goofy. Well, for real journalists it would be goofy, for Tim and Steven it is about a 2 on a scale of 1 -10

Posted by Troll on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 4:10 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

Worth reading.

Says a lot about Harris and Newsom being there and not giving a damn.

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