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Archive for the ‘gentrification’ Category

…praying for the next dot com bust…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 13, 2013

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A rising tide lifts all boats

So goes the old adage. The problem with a wise old saying such as the above, aside from amounting to a cliché, is that its also only half true. David Korten wrote in Agenda for a New Economy that “The idea that economic growth will bring up the bottom and finance environmental restoration has no substance. The so-called rising tide lifts only the yachts and swamps the desperate, naked swimmers struggling for survival, and no amount of money can heal the environment in the face of unrestrained growth in material consumption.” (2d. ed., p.42) William Pfaff, in an article entitled “Restoring balance to a globalized world,” (NYT, 6-4-7) makes a similar argument that, contrary to neoclassical economic theory, the most celebrated economic policies over the last 20 to 30 years are also the most counterproductive. Such policies do nothing to raise the living standards of the world’s poorest, but instead have guaranteed that the wealth of the richest members of all the world’s countries have reached astronomical proportions. This process has resulted in “the most profoundly destabilizing force the world has experienced since World War II,” responsible for “the social upheavals and progress of radicalization occurring in the world’s poor countries.”

The new adage should read: A rising tide drowns those with no yachts or A rising tide drowns those without boats.

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During the height of the last dot com bubble, around the end of 1999, I was looking for work as an IT professional in the tech industry. Some of my job search took me for interviews into West Oakland, at the time ground zero for the dot com bubble in the East Bay. Tech companies and start ups were moving into West Oakland, renting property, sometimes taking over whole blocks, displacing the poor black residents, and creating often well-fortified enclaves for their young white techie work forces. I remember interviewing at one startup housed in a renovated brick warehouse/residency that had more front door security than your average bank, with security cameras and pass cards. The side lot was surrounded by hurricane fencing topped with razor wire. The brand spanking new interior was all flashy colors, with places for the techies to store their bikes, play a variety of games like ping pong, cook and eat their meals, and even sleep between all night bouts of coding. Youngsters half my age zipped around from station to station on kick scooters. I was applying for the position of a server administrator, and part of my orientation for the potential job was being shown my own little cubby where I could sleep. It was made clear that I was expected to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the job, if necessary, as required by the young white techie workforce who, similarly, came in at any time day or night and spent 10, 15, 20 plus hours straight working on their respective projects. These tech geeks didn’t have a life, and I wasn’t expected to have a life either. The whole place had a fortress feel to it, plopped down in the middle of West Oakland’s crime and drug ridden ghetto, an affluent sanctuary, an all white high tech island surrounded by black poverty and misery. I got the call back for a second interview, but I never returned.

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The dot com bubble of 1997-2000 ended with a profound collapse as tech companies went bankrupt and startups failed. Dot com enterprises and workers fled West Oakland, disappearing almost overnight, leaving the community with rising levels of crime, drugs and poverty. Although West Oakland is statistically undifferentiated from the rest of Oakland, the rate of homicide reached its highest in more than a decade by 2006. The tech industry as a whole, particular dot com companies, and their IT workers were interlopers in West Oakland. They took over property and displaced people, but they didn’t give back to the community, either with time, energy, resources or wealth. When the dot com economy crashed and burned in 2000, West Oakland had not been improved. Indeed, it can be argued that it was left worse off than before its presence because the tech industry did nothing to better the community, abandoning it to rot in the intervening bubble period.

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There is a new dot com bubble brewing. Now that I live in San Francisco, I see signs of it everywhere. The cost of office space is skyrocketing, and the median price for a home has topped $1 million and “is directly tied to the strength of the Bay Area’s largely tech-fueled job market.” Evictions and gentrification are a concern not only in San Francisco’s Mission District, but in the City as a whole. Then, there is the introduction of several rather unsavory elements into San Francisco’s population at large.

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Hipsters are proliferating throughout the City, taking over whole neighborhoods. Christian Lorentzen has argued that: “[u]nder the guise of ‘irony,’ hipsterism fetishizes the authentic and regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity. Those 18-to-34-year-olds called hipsters have defanged, skinned and consumed the fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge. Hungry for more, and sick with the anxiety of influence, they feed as well from the trough of the uncool, turning white trash chic, and gouging the husks of long-expired subcultures—vaudeville, burlesque, cowboys and pirates.” Congregating with their own in high priced coffee shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, their sullenness, cliquishness, self-centered narcissism, and incapacity to give to the greater community are legendary. Then there are the techies proper. Even wealthier and less diverse than hipsters, these tech workers are often targeted for the same hatred as their hipster cousins. Insulated from the rest of their fellow humans, their neighborhoods, their communities, and the rest of the world by their iPads, iPods, iPhones, computer notebooks, etc., techies travel to and from their jobs (where they work long, long hours) riding in private buses with air conditioning, tinted windows, and uninterrupted wifi. Google, Yahoo and Genentech buses cruise the streets of San Francisco, full of self-absorbed tech zombies. “What’s happening to San Francisco [as a result of this tech invasion] goes beyond the accelerating gentrification in multicultural districts like the Mission or Mayor Ed Lee minimizing affordable housing woes. The city that’s been a magnet for free spirits and immigrants and working-class people for decades seems to be losing its famous heart. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that its heart is being replaced by a software update.” So writes Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet. “Meanwhile, hundreds more longtime residents have been put on notice for possible eviction. The Tenants Union says that the Mission, Haight-Ashbury, North Beach and Inner Richmond neighborhoods are the hardest hit, with upward of 100 households a month losing their longterm housing through a mix of evictions and paid buyouts, most of which aren’t recorded in city hall statistics.”

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The tech industry as a whole, tech companies from the established to the startup, and their tech workers give nothing back to their neighborhoods or to the city of San Francisco. Instead, they gut their environment of its unique character, its soul, replacing it with an ersatz, gentrified, high tech, sterilized imitation. Much the same can be said of their hipster cousins and their so-called “culture.” Is it any wonder that I sometimes pray for the next dot com bust?

Posted in dot com, gentrification, hipsters, life, Millions of Dead Hipsters!, Oakland, San Francisco, techies, The Mission, West Oakland | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Millions of Dead Hipsters!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 8, 2013

Millions of Dead Hipsters!

Millions of Dead Hipsters!


Its official. According to Forbes, the Mission in San Francisco is the second best hipster neighborhood in the country. Huffington Post concurs.
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But there’s trouble in the burgeoning hipster paradise of the Mission. San Francisco columnist Carl Nolte writes with a touch of sadness that tensions are mounting between the Latino population already in the neighborhood and the invading hipsters, who bring with them artisanal coffee shops, pricy restaurants, and higher rents. There has already been vandalism and outright protest against the influx of hipsters. Oh my, can’t we all just get along?
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Gabriela Sierra Alonso writes, in an article in El Tecolote, that tensions in the Mission are high and about to reach the boiling point over “pent up frustrations about gentrification—for longtime Mission residents and newcomers alike.” The changing demographics of the Mission have claimed another victim, the city’s dwindling black population. Driven out of the Fillmore by urban renewal (called “negro removal” by the black community) in the 1950s and 60s, Jimmy Falls has started an occasional series in New American Media called “San Francisco’s Black Community — Where Did We Go?” where he writes “During that time, I would sometimes come back to my neighborhood to hang out with old friends, and I began to notice the same thing happening to my new neighborhood in the Mission — there seemed to be less and less black people.”
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There is something folks can do. Fight Back! Gentrification by more than just hipsters is now on the agenda for the Mission, according to the SF Chronicle and the SF Bay Guardian. In response, there are growing protests to the Mission’s corporate gentrification, as exemplified by the eviction of local families and small businesses. But, more can be done.
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BuzzFeed FWD recently posted “When San Francisco Rebelled Against The Techies” offering a brief history of the “city’s anti-tech backlash.” Inspirational posters from previous uprisings against yuppie/hipster invasions can be viewed there, as well as here. Take heart, a solution to the hipster infestation and corporate gentrification of the Mission may be just a cocktail away. A Molotov cocktail…
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Posted in El Tecolote, gentrification, hipsters, life, Millions of Dead Hipsters!, New American Media, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, The Mission | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Recipe for disaster or party organizing opportunity

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 9, 2007

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This report in the SF Chronicle details the ongoing trainwreck of city government efforts to deal with the infamous Halloween party in the Castro. After last year’s shootings and stabbing, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Bevan Dufty promised to convene a task force to look into how to make the Castro party safer this year. But the task force never met because the consensus in city government was to cancel the event altogether. Then, an effort was made to set up a diversionary event on the waterfront to draw people away from the Castro and give them a party to go to on Halloween. The promoter for that event cancelled however, and now the city insists that there will be no Halloween party in the Castro, and no alternative party anywhere else.

The problem with this, of course, is that people are going to show up in the Castro on Halloween anyway. Many of those who attend might even be a little pissed off at Newsom’s and Dufty’s bad faith in all of this. The police won’t block off the streets or provide porta-potties for the Halloween party, but that won’t stop thousands of people from showing up and taking over the streets. The perfect scenario for a riot.

I propose that people consider this the perfect opportunity to organize Halloween in the Castro against the wishes of San Francisco’s city government instead. Here’s how it could be done:

1) Get together all the pro-party/pro-entertainment forces in the city, from folks like SF Party Party to promoters of other SF events shut down or hassled by the city (How Weird Street Fair, Haight-Ashbury Street Fair, etc.) to like-minded individuals and organizations in the LGBT community. Put together a statement openly defying Newsom and Dufty that calls for people to come to the Castro on Halloween to celebrate. Publicize this statement, and the ongoing debate about Halloween in the Castro, in sympathetic local media like the SF Bay Guardian. Maybe get a few of the mayoral candidates (Josh Wolf, Chicken John, Chris Daly) to endorse the statement.

2) Organize outreach to businesses in the Castro asking them to defy Newsom and Dufty, and to stay open late on Halloween. Reward them with increased patronage before, during, and after Halloween.

3) Use sympathetic local media, email, websites, word-of-mouth, etc. to publicize that there will indeed be a party on Halloween in the Castro, and give those who wish to attend suggestions on how to deal with problems, to include gang and police violence.

4) Ask for volunteers to help with security on Halloween, then have a number of training sessions to organize and prepare these volunteers. Give them something distinctive to wear, and make sure they can cope, not just with crowd problems, but with a potentially hostile police force.

5) Organize alternative entertainment for Halloween in the Castro. This might require highly mobile, guerrilla events that stay one step ahead of the police. It also might involve enlisting willing local merchants to provide venues for acts and events. From portable streetcorner stages to roving DJs, all of this entertainment will be strictly DIY.

The only way people are going to be able to save Halloween in the Castro is to take it away from SF city officials and the SFPD and run it themselves.

———

PS — Here‘s SF Party Party’s take on Newsom cancelling Halloween in the Castro. A touch rabid, but a voice worth listening to nevertheless.

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Posted in anti-suburbanization, Bay Area, Bevan Dufty, Carnaval, Castro Street, Chicken John, Chris Daly, City Living, Eureka Valley, Fillmore Jazz Festival, Gavin Newsom, gay, gentrification, Giulianism, Haight Street Fair, Haight-Ashbury, Halloween in the Castro, How Weird Street Fair, Josh Wolf, LGBT, Matt Gonzalez, NIMBY, NIMBYism, police, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco mayor, San Francisco Party Party, SFPD, The Castro, Tom Ammiano, yuppie | 1 Comment »

City living

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 8, 2007

I couldn’t have said this better myself. You can find the original commentary here in the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

———

CITY LIVING

By Steven Jones

City living isn’t for everyone. It gets messy, crowded, stinky, loud, scary, and downright weird. Sometimes people block your car even when you have a green light and pound their fists on your hood if you honk. They wear outrageous costumes, play silly games, and follow ridiculous trends. They yell and laugh too loud right outside your window when you’re trying to sleep. Occasionally they pee in your doorway, graffiti your wall, grab your ass, or barf on your shoes.

But that’s city living, and I love it.

If you want clean and orderly, there are plenty of small towns and suburbs to choose from. You can probably even get front and back yards and a roomy house big enough for 2.5 children and assorted pets for what you’re paying for your apartment here. Tempting? Then you should do it. Really. We’ll all be very supportive of your decision to leave if it comes to that, no hard feelings. I might even help you pack and find a new occupant for your place.

But if you want to shut down our party or expect us to dance around your delicate sensibilities, we’re gonna have to fight. And guess what? We’ll win. There are more of us in this crazy town than there are of you … and we aren’t afraid. We dodge SUVs on bicycles, brush past ranting lunatics, stand tall against cops in riot gear, pierce painful parts, bring strange people home to do unspeakable things, cavort with revolutionaries, and take way too many drugs. So there’s no way we’re caving in to the NIMBYs, the conservatives, or the complainers who want to banish our beloved chaos.

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has long embraced true city living, from the Summer of Love and its hordes of hippies to the summer of 2007, when our glorious urban messiness is being threatened by the forces of gentrification, corporatization, homogenization, normalization, and stagnation. Once-radical neighborhoods like the Castro and the Haight are increasingly filled with aging homeowners, some of whom have grown frustrated with aspects of city living they once embraced.

Increasingly, however, these tragic naysayers are being confronted by groups such as the San Francisco Party Party, which was created to oppose the forces that are suburbanizing our great city. Last Halloween I donned a beard and stovepipe hat and joined the Party Party’s Abe Lincoln brigades as they cruised the Castro. Why Abe? Why not? Two dozen Abes strolled past the phalanxes of cops on overtime whose presence the nervous Nellies had urged (and who couldn’t stop violence from breaking out anyway), whooping it up until the party was shut down at the ridiculously early hour of 10:30 p.m. and city water trucks chased the partyers away, a sight that almost made us weep – and provoked the crowd into a state of restless frustration.

City living is about keeping the party going, not ending it. It’s a massive pillow fight in Justin Herman Plaza. It’s placing your body and bike in front of the angry guy in the Hummer who wants to cut through Critical Mass. It’s the drunken decision to get another tattoo or the hungry impulse to try an unfamiliar taquería. It’s wearing a chicken suit to confront a cowardly mayor. It’s watching Willy Wonka or the World Cup on massive screens in Dolores Park that somebody set up just because they thought it would be cool. It’s a bonfire on Ocean Beach, a blog argument over the latest city hall scandal, a giant purple head suddenly appearing in Golden Gate Park, street dancing at the late, lamented How Weird Street Faire, a bunch of wasted Santas bar crawling through North Beach, a sunny afternoon at Zeitgeist, a shopping trip to the Haight for a good pair of Burning Man goggles.

Or maybe for you it’s something else, something I’ve never thought or heard of, just some eccentric thing you and your freaky friends like to do. San Francisco has thousands of dynamic social pockets, big and small, each with its own passions, routines, and language. And not all civically spirited events are exotic, either. I’ve felt the abstract joy of the Bay descend during the most pedestrian of tasks, like when this great old guy in the Mission fixed the loose soles on my combat boots (bought used on Haight for $20 a few months ago and walked down many wild paths since) and made me a new key for my dog walker, a woman whose control over a large and combustible crew of canines borders on the miraculous.

Whatever our ideas of city living may be, there’s a reason we’re all living in the city, making San Francisco what it is. Some of the corporate-owned publications in town seem to enjoy mocking the free-living, forward-thinking sensibilities we embrace, dismissively deploying their “only in San Francisco” eye roll or casting progressives as somehow floating outside the country’s political spectrum.

Don’t let them put a ding in your wa, as my DJ friend Syd Gris likes to say. We know that it’s the rest of the country that’s the problem, not us. Luckily, there are a million things to do in this beautiful and bountiful city while we wait for the rest of the world to catch up

Posted in anti-suburbanization, Bay Area, City Living, gentrification, Giulianism, Haight Street Fair, Halloween in the Castro, hippie, hippies, How Weird Street Fair, life, NIMBY, NIMBYism, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Party Party, Steven Jones, Summer of Love | 3 Comments »

Here we go again!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 2, 2007

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According to a story on yesterday’s SF Chronicle website, Mayor Gavin Newsom is once again intent on banning the infamous Castro Halloween party. (here) Now, personally, I’m not a big partyer. I wasn’t one when I was young, and I’m even less of one now that I’m over 50. And frankly, my claustrophobia kicks in when I think of the wall-to-wall crowd that takes over the Castro every Halloween.

Yet Newsom’s ongoing efforts to “Giulianize” San Francisco really piss me off. The Mayor’s focus on “quality of life” issues is an attempt to suburbanize the city, as the folks at San Francisco Party Party point out. He needs to be opposed. What follows is a brief list of organizations trying to make the city into a fun and livable place. Each website has further links and resources.

San Francisco Party Party (HELP!!! SF Mayor Gavin Newsom is suburbanizing our great City… he must be stopped!)

Livable City (Livable City works to create a San Francisco of great streets and complete neighborhoods, where walking, bicycling, and transit are the best choices for most trips, where public spaces are beautiful, well-designed, and well-maintained, and where housing is more plentiful and more affordable.)

Boom! (the sound of eviction)

Fun/Cheap San Francisco (cool and affordable things to do in the san francisco bay area)

Friends of the Urban Forest (creating a greener San Francisco tree by tree)

SF Gro (San Francisco garden resource organization)

I’ll have more to say on this subject in the future.

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Posted in anti-suburbanization, Castro Street, Gavin Newsom, gentrification, Halloween in the Castro, Halloween party, life, quality of life, San Francisco, SFPD, The Castro | 2 Comments »

Izzy’s is gone!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 29, 2007

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I walked around my old South of Market neighborhood yesterday. A lot has changed since I moved away 9 months ago, most of it not for the better. The residential building boom of apartments, condos and “live/work” lofts continues at an alarming rate, altering the light industrial character of the area with relentless gentrification. Upscale businesses are proliferating, yet there’s no commensurate expansion of public parking for the customers those businesses hope to draw. The Academy of Art University has spread like a cancer, occupying more and more real estate. Perhaps most disheartening of all, Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels at 151 Townsend is no more.

I regularly walked down to the waterfront for exercise when I lived in the neighborhood, passing Izzy’s on the way. I always bought a bagel to nosh on for the remainder of my walk, and occasionally picked up a few more for home. I ate them plain, savoring the smell and taste of Izzy’s authentic, kosher bagels. Their bialys were to die for. Izzy’s bagels never failed to transport me in my memories to the times I spent in Brooklyn and Manhattan visiting friends.

Izzy sold the San Francisco store, and it’s now the non-kosher Bagel Bakery. There’s another Izzy’s down the peninsula in Palo Alto (477 S. California Ave.), but that’s a long way to go for genuine Brooklyn bagels. I’m saddened more by Izzy’s departure then I am about SOMA’s inexorable transformation into yuppieland. (Izzy’s website)
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Posted in bagels, gentrification, Izzy's, life, South of Market | Leave a Comment »