Cupertino mayor jokes about building border wall round Apple’s hometown

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Blind survey
Predictably, the comments backfired.
Photo: Duncan Sinfield

Depending on who you are, jokes about “building a wall and making [insert name] pay for it” range from trollish to downright offensive. Apparently no-one told the mayor of Cupertino, however — since he invoked the Donald Trump meme during his recent state of the union speech.

Predictably, his quip about building a wall around Apple’s hometown city and making surrounding communities pay for it — as a way of solving local traffic problems — hasn’t exactly gone down a storm.

In his speech, Mayor Steven Scharf showed a PowerPoint slide titled “Securing Our Borders With The Cupertino Wall.” It depicted a map of the city with its border highlighted in black. He then proceeded to joke about constructing a wall and how the surrounding communities of Santa Clara, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and San Jose would pay it.

“You have heard about the wall along our southern border,” Scharf said. “This is the wall around Cupertino. We have a big problem with all these Teslas coming through our city from Saratoga and other people from other cities, so we came up with this proposal. San Jose will be mainly paying for it, so it’s not coming out of our own taxes. Saratoga will give a little bit too, since they are a big contributor to our traffic issue.”

The comments were made at the end of January. However, they only started whipping up outrage online after they were tweeted this week by venture capitalist and housing advocate Kim-Mai Cutler. The issue is that they tap into long-time concerns that San Francisco is no longer affordable for average people.

More affordable housing needed

“Cupertino is a city that, for the longest time, has fought new housing construction,” Matt Regan, senior vice-president of housing policy for the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, told the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper. “They haven’t permitted a single permit for affordable housing in over three years. The city’s median home value right now is over $2.2m. Median rent value right now is $3,200 a month. They essentially already have built a wall around their city by making it so unaffordable to live in and refusing to build more housing.”

While this isn’t specifically an Apple issue, there’s no doubt that tech giants like Apple have helped make Cupertino a desirable place to live for many. The problem is that, while creating high-paying jobs in fields like engineering is a great thing, it has also helped increase the wealth divide in the area.

Not all Apple employees are on the right side of this, of course. A survey last year suggested that around 60 percent of Apple workers say house prices in the Bay Area are too expensive.