San Francisco gets a lot of flack for its alleged lawlessness — open-air drug markets, vandalized shop windows, and whatever else Fox News can cobble together a segment out of.
If you want to experience the full force of the state, though — to have an army of city administrators descend on you, with speed and ferocity — that’s easy. Just put up any sort of structure without permission, and wait for them to beat down your door.
Elon Musk learned that lesson the hard way on Monday, when the enormous lit-up X he had erected in recent days atop the former Twitter’s Market Street headquarters was unceremoniously removed.
The X Corporation has in recent days devoted more time to signage-related issues than is prudent for a company that continues to lose advertisers, employees, and users’ time. But it’s consistent with Musk’s current incarnation as a cultural vandal, using his money and power to deface once-influential institutions and dare anyone to stop him.
According to Bloomberg, in its brief and precarious life atop 1355 Market St., Musk’s big swinging X garnered 24 resident complaints. That’s a level of opposition the city typically reserves only for the most audacious projects — an ice cream shop, say, or a condo building.
In fairness to residents, though, it had only been up on the roof for a few days — barely enough time for even one nearby apartment dweller to score a viral tweet showing the X’s blinding lights through his bedroom window.
Still, the obvious danger of a poorly secured steel sign atop a tall building in an often windy city was enough to keep me away from the area while the city inspectors did their work.
Which, according to Aisha Counts, Eliyahu Kamisher, and Karen Breslau at Bloomberg, Musk wouldn’t let them do. They write:
The building inspector who issued the complaint over the X wasn’t allowed onto the roof on Friday to see whether the sign was safely secured, according to the complaint. A representative for Twitter “did explain that the structure is a temporary lighted sign for an event,” the inspector said in the report.
The inspector tried again on Saturday, was denied again, and mailed Twitter a notice of violation.
Now that the sign is down, X will still owe fees, the Department of Building Inspection and City Planning said. That will account for the unpermitted installation and removal of the illuminated structure, and the cost of the investigation.
Given that Musk has been sued for not even paying rent on the building, I’m not sure the city’s odds of collecting those fines are particularly high.
Musk trolled the city further over the weekend by stating that, while “the city is in a doom spiral with one company after another left or leaving,” he intended to keep X here. “San Francisco, beautiful San Francisco, though others forsake you, we will always be your friend,” he wrote.
As usual, he has a funny way of showing it.
While the sign imbroglio captured everyone’s attention over the weekend, inside the company, a more consequential drama may be about to play out.
You’ll recall that when Musk bought Twitter, he paid a rich premium: $54.20 a share. Some of the 1,350 or so X employees are still receiving regular stock grants at that price, and the occasional windfalls have been enough to keep them at their jobs over the past year of tumult.
Tomorrow, those employees will receive their final grant of $54.20 stock. And the question is how many of them will stay much longer.