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Twitter Debuts New Learning Center as Part of Tax Deal With San Francisco

NeighborNest was unveiled Wednesday night.

Kurt Wagner

Twitter debuted NeighborNest on Wednesday, a new learning and community center across the street from its San Francisco headquarters.

The new center, funded by Twitter, offers people from the local community access to computers and classes on things like coding. Twitter’s office is located just a few blocks from San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, which has an exceedingly high population of homeless and low-income residents.

The center is also a space for local nonprofits, such as Compass Family Services, to offer their own classes and events. The tech and coding classes will be taught by Twitter employees.

NeighborNest isn’t just a random act of kindness, though. The center is part of a deal Twitter cut with the City of San Francisco that shields the company from paying expensive payroll taxes — tens of millions of dollars per year — in exchange for community outreach programs like NeighborNest. In total, Twitter says it will spend $3 million on NeighborNest over the next four years.

San Francisco has made similar agreements with multiple tech companies in the areas, like benefits company Zendesk and online dating company Zoosk. These companies agree to help build out the local community in exchange for tax breaks, and the move has changed the look and feel of San Francisco’s mid-Market neighborhood.

Right next door to Twitter are headquarters for both Square and Uber. All three companies have moved into the city in the past five years and are bringing the tech culture — and money — with them.

The moves have created a clash of interests. Tech companies are improving certain neighborhoods with community centers like NeighborNest, but they’re also taking the brunt of the blame for neighborhood changes and rising rents. Landlords are able to jack up rent prices thanks to Silicon Valley’s generous engineering salaries, and San Francisco boasts the highest rental prices in the country.

You wouldn’t have known any of that Wednesday, though, as Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee spoke together during the NeighborNest opening ceremony, with many a “thank you” tossed around from all sides. Costolo, a former comedian, even finished the night with a laugh: “With that, we’ll cut the ribbon with this extraordinarily giant pair of scissors,” he said.

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