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Posts Tagged ‘gentrification’

Neighborhood hangout

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 13, 2016

NeighborsCorner#6
In New York City, its a bodega on every corner. In LA, its corner liquor stores. Here in San Francisco, its the corner grocery store which, unfortunately, is being threatened by rampant gentrification.

NeighborsCorner#5
We live in an already upscale part of the City, between Noe and Eureka Valleys. Two blocks down from our house, an old funky grocery store (no fresh fruits or vegetables, just canned or packaged food items, often with expired dates, plus the usual alcohol) gave up the ghost several years ago. This allowed four local entrepreneurs to take over the empty space and do a soft-story earthquake retrofit in addition to overall improvements.

NeighborsCorner#2
The resulting business is part coffee shop/ice cream bar/prepared food store/event and class location/commercial popup/neighborhood hangout. And its been successful from the start. They’ve scheduled a class on the “Art & Science of Saving Bees, Birds & Trees,” and host boutique flower arranging by the FloraCultural Society on weekends.

NeighborsCorner#4
Ryan and Laurel can often be found preparing gourmet coffees and teas or serving Laurel’s sweet and savory pastries. And people do what they usually do in San Francisco coffee shops, set up their laptops for long sessions of work and play online. Neighbor’s Corner is bright and airy, with a modern bathroom to boot.

NeighborsCorner#3
The previous store owner left quite mysteriously and was unable to pass on the location’s liquor licenses to the new owners. Now the new owners are working through the lengthy city permit process to allow for regular coffee shop occupancy and patronage during business hours. Given the enthusiastic response from the residents, Neighbor’s Corner looks like it’s here to stay.

UPDATED 2-14-16:
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Posted in Eureka Valley, gentrification, life, Noe Valley, Paris of the West, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Triple Tech Bus Blockade with Teachers at Fairmount Elementary School

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on February 15, 2015

I’ve reprinted the following story from IndyBay about the continuing protests against tech bus usurpation of public bus stops. This action was taken by the teachers at San Francisco’s Fairmount Elementary School in coordination with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project.

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On February 6th, at 8am, teachers at San Francisco’s bilingual public Fairmount Elementary School joined with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project to block 3 private tech buses. Buses from Google and Facebook were blocked, as we protested the takeover of what had been four parking spots for teachers at the school by a tech bus stop. Teachers had not been consulted before their parking stops were privatized, just this past month. A video of the action by Peter Menchini can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/118965425.
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There are other parking metered spots in the city, such as on 16th between Capp and South Van Ness, that now have restricted parking so that private tech buses can load and unload their passengers, presumably to avoid paying the $3.55 that is now required through the SFMTA shuttle bus pilot program.
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Claudia Tirado, the third grade teacher who led the demonstration, is not only being ousted from her parking spot through collusions of high tech and “secret handshakes” with the SFMTA, but she also being evicted from her home by Google’s head of e-Discovery, Jack Halprin.
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As Claudia implored to other teachers, “Please come and stand up for parking and less congestion in the area we need our school to be safe for us and for our children. We need parking for the people that serve these children.”
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In this city, gentrification does not only mean being displaced from one’s home, but also from public spaces and city infrastructure. From parks to BART plazas to public bus stops, we are seeing public spaces increasing privatized and surveilled. In a city in which people are being kicked out of their homes and crowded into small rooms just to pay rent, public spaces are increasingly valuable. In this case, private tech companies are being privileged at the expense of teachers.

A photo of the blockade can be seen here: https://twitter.com/tigerbeat/status/563737348517539840

http://vimeo.com/118965425

Posted in gentrification, Google buses, life, San Francisco, tech, tech industry, techies | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flower war

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 7, 2014

The tech industry, and consequent real estate boom, are not only crowding out San Francisco’s poor and its ethnic/cultural diversity, but also its economic diversity as well. Here’s the latest front in the fight for The City’s heart and soul, the flower war (from 48hills):

Turn the Flower Mart into tech offices? Say it’s not so
By Zelda Bronstein

Former Mayor Art Agnos speaks at a rally to save the Flower Mart

Former Mayor Art Agnos speaks at a rally to save the Flower Mart


The Flower Mart, a beloved San Francisco institution, is in danger of falling victim to the City Hall-stoked tech real estate boom.

The wholesale market for flowers, a staple for local florists at Sixth and Brannan since 1956 that Martha Stewart once called the “best flower market in the country,” could soon be bought by a real-estate developer, meaning the tenants may face eviction since the property is far more valuable if it’s turned into office space.

Although the headline in the July 25 Chronicle—“Developer acquires S.F. Flower Mart”— suggested that the market is doomed, the Mart can still be saved, and with it a big piece of the city’s old, industrial, blue-collar base.

But that will take a prompt and vigorous show of public support and political muscle.

The beginning of a campaign to save the Flower Mart was on view this week, as Mart tenants, joined by florists, flower market enthusiasts and advocates of an inclusive San Francisco, gathered for a noontime “Save the Flower Mart” press conference and rally in Repetto’s Nursery at the site.

Organized by Mart tenant Patrick McCann of Greenworks, the rally featured an impressive array of speakers: tenants David Repetto of Repetto’s Nursery, “Mama” Lee of SoMa Flowers, and Lupe Rico of Lassen Ranch; former State Senator Quentin Kopp; former Mayor Art Agnos; former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin; District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim; Small Business Commissioner and florist Kathleen Dooley; and the grand old man of the city’s flower-selling industry, the proprietor of the “I. Magnin” flower stand, 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian.

The 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian, dean of the SF florist world, speaks on behalf of saving the Flower Mart

The 92-year-old Albert Nalbandian, dean of the SF florist word, speaks on behalf of saving the Flower Mart


Six years ago, then-Board of Supervisors President Peskin sank the Academy of Art’s attempt to buy the Flower Mart and turn it into sculpture studios.

Some of the Mart’s 100 tenants approached him and Agnos after the Los Angeles-based Kilroy Realty Corporation announced on July 11 that it had “executed a merger agreement to acquire all the outstanding shares” of the San Francisco Flower Growers Association, one of the three firms that own portions of the Mart site.

Describing the SFFGA as “a privately owned entity whose only material asset” is a 1.9 acre portion of the Flower Mart site, Kilroy said that the transaction was valued at about $27 million. The merger is contingent on its approval by a majority of the SFFGA stockholders in a September 11 vote.

Last Wednesday Agnos and Peskin presided over a meeting of 40-odd tenants in the patio of the Flower Mart Café. Both made it clear that they were neither running for office nor being paid to advocate the tenants’ cause. They were there, Agnos said, because protecting the flower market is “part of a struggle to save the heart and soul of this great city,” a fight that he linked to the defeat of the 8 Washington condo project at the polls last November and the successful defense of the tenants at the San Francisco Design Center at the BoS Land Use Committee in July.

A major impetus for the meeting was an August 19 letter that the SFFGA had sent to its sixty tenants, copies of which Peskin distributed to the group.

“Rest assured,” wrote SFFGA’s Ron Chiappari,

that an integral part of Kilroy’s development plan includes a new, state of the art Flower Mart enabling continued operations of present and future flower mart tenants and customers, as well as a plan for continuous operations of the Flower Mart during construction.Our understanding comes directly from the highest decision-makers at Kilroy and is consistent with the statements that John Kilroy, President, CEO, and Chairman of Kilroy, has made in the attached news article [the Chronicle story referenced above, which has been removed from the paper’s website].

Peskin, however, focused on another line in the letter:

“After the transaction has been completed[,] Kilroy will be able to meet with you on site, show you its preliminary plans, and seek your feedback.”

Mart tenant “Mama” Lee delivers an impassioned speech in Chinese

Mart tenant “Mama” Lee delivers an impassioned speech in Chinese


This, Peskin observed, was not at all reassuring. If the SFFGA and Kilroy really want to demonstrate their commitment to the tenants and the Mart, they should offer to meet with them and seek their input—not just their feedback—before the transaction is completed, not afterwards. Peskin also said that the developer had called him and asked him not to hold the meeting.

He went on to suggest terms that the tenants should ask Kilroy to guarantee in writing before the deal closed:

* no tenant will be displaced even temporarily under construction

* leases will be renewed (at affordable rates)

* tenants’ expenses due to the new construction will be paid for

* Kilroy will reveal its plans for the site and its management

Former Sup. Aaron Peskin says tenants should demand honest answers from the developer

Former Sup. Aaron Peskin says tenants should demand honest answers from the developer


A week later, neither Kilroy nor the SFFGA had contacted the tenants.

Addressing the rally, tenant David Repetto said, “We need long-term leases at rental rates that are affordable for small business….Kilroy also needs to tell us who will run the Flower Mart? Will it be the biggest tenants? Wholesalers? Retailers? Will it be democratically run? And we need professional management that understands the flower business, not just a real estate entity.”

According to McCann, what’s at stake is not just the 60 locally owned businesses that lease from the SFFGA but also the thousands of living-wage jobs provided by the growers, shippers, and truck drivers who supply our region’s 46,000 florists. The Flower Mart is one of only five such markets in the U.S. In most other places, florists have to drive around from small wholesaler to small wholesaler.

My North Berkeley neighborhood florist, Amir Abdolhosseini of Solano Flowers, was shocked to learn that the Mart might close. “The Flower Mart cannot disappear,” he said. “Where would people”—i.e., florists such as himself—“go to get their flowers?”

At last week’s tenants meeting, Peskin said he neither trusted nor distrusted Kilroy. But he told the rally that he’d changed his mind. That’s because former Planning Commissioner Bill Sugaya had just handed him the Planning Department’s preliminary assessment of what Kilroy is proposing for the SFFGA property at 575 Sixth Street: an 11-story, 160-foot-tall, 655,150-square-foot development separated into one nine-story building and one 11-story building, connected by pedestrian bridges at the fifth and sixth levels. The buildings would include 508,040 square feet of new office space, plus 16,410 square feet of retail on the ground floor. All structures on the site would be demolished. The proposal says nothing about phasing in existing businesses.

In other words, Kilroy has known for more than a year exactly what it’s proposing to build — and yet has said nothing to the Flower Mart’s tenants.

Peskin also noted that the Kilroy project “does not fit the current zoning.”

No kidding. For starters, the SALI (Service/Arts/Light Industrial) District prohibits offices. In addition, the proposed Floor Area Ratio (FAR) exceeds the allowed maximum, and the proposed 160-foot-tall building exceeds the current 40-55 foot height limit.

But like the many other big developers salivating over SoMa’s industrial lands, Kilroy is looking beyond the current zoning to the relaxed standards of the forthcoming Central SoMa Plan. As is their wont, the city’s planners have evaluated Kilroy’s proposal with respect to both current standards and to proposed zoning—in this case, proposals that won’t come before the Planning Commission, much less the Board of Supervisors, before next year.

To wit, the draft Central SoMa Plan would replace SALI with Mixed Use-Office (MUO), a category that exemplifies the Planning Department’s deregulatory approach to land use. In SoMA Leadership Council President Jim Meko’s memorable phrase, MUO is “zoning for people who don’t like zoning.” It permits just about everything but adult entertainment and heavy industry.

In another respect, however, the Kilroy project would be inconsistent even with the relaxed development standards of the proposed Central SoMa Plan. The city’s planners want to raise the height allowances on the block from 40-55 feet to either 55/65 feet or 65/85 feet—significantly less than the 160 feet Kilroy hopes to construct.

At the rally, Supervisor Kim announced that at the September 9th Board meeting, she would be proposing that interim controls that would prohibit conversions from Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR), i.e., light industry, to office or residential during the time the Central SoMa Plan is under deliberation and encourage the Planning Department “to work with the developer to ensure the vibrancy of the Flower Mart.”

That’s a step in the right direction.

But it’s going to take far more than interim controls and requests that the planners work with the developer to protect the Flower Mart and the rest of SoMa’s light industrial economy. As 48 hills reported last winter, the Central SoMa Plan is openly premised on the destruction of that economy and its replacement by a high-rise, high-rent, tech-dominated second Downtown.

The Planning Department says the Central SoMa Plan emerged out of “a community planning process.” When did the “community” embrace the elimination of 1,800 blue-collar jobs (that’s Planning’s figure, not mine), including the jobs at the Flower Mart?

As for the Flower Mart: The city’s planners, too, have known for well over a year what Kilroy intends to do at 575 Sixth Street. Why haven’t they come forward and supported the tenants, or at least informed them about the proposed project?

At the rally, Art Agnos said he’d called Mayor Lee and asked him to bring his Planning Department and Kilroy to the Mart and tell the tenants what they’re going to do to protect them. Will the mayor accept that invitation?

Posted in gentrification, life, San Francisco, tech, tech industry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

By any other name…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 20, 2014

I’m a bit leery of this article’s conclusion, which claims that there are four different types of gentrification, but here’s the story in full.
original
There Are Actually 4 Types of Gentrification That Could Change Your City
The Huffington Post | By Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson

Posted: 08/20/2014 12:53 pm EDT

In 1985, gentrification was as easy to spot as a bottle of New Coke. According to a quiz published by the San Francisco Chronicle (and recently found by UCLA Ph.D. candidate Devin McCutchen), markers of a neighborhood on the cusp of yuppiedom included the introduction of gourmet bakeries, needlepoint boutiques and, puzzlingly, pet stores specializing in exotic Central American birds.

And while a neighborhood’s rapidly changing demographic is often as easily identifiable today (just look at how New York City has changed before our eyes), the reasons a certain area may appeal to more “upscale” interests is trickier than you’d think.

“Gentrification is a nuanced phenomenon … but most people engaged in any gentrification fail to acknowledge the nuances.”— Pete Saunders

On his blog, The Corner Side Yard, urban planning expert Pete Saunders set out to establish some ground rules for understanding the trend. In short, this isn’t just about mom-and-pop shops being overtaken by the latest farm-to-table restaurant, or high-rise condos looming ominously over one remaining row of single-family homes. Rather, it’s about what makes a neighborhood ripe for gentrification to begin with.

Saunders’ basic premise is that the amount of pre-World War II, walkable areas in a given city (what he refers to as “old form”) combined with the number of African-Americans who live there can forecast gentrification activity.

“Once areas of a city obtain a majority of minorities, particularly a majority of African Americans, it somehow drops from the mental landscape of whites when thinking of the city at large,” Saunders wrote in an email to HuffPost Home. “Because some cities have had historically lower black populations, less of the city has become invisible to current residents. This means that more of the city became ‘available’ for potential future gentrification.”

And, as Saunders writes on his blog, gentrification can look different depending where it is. Most of what comes to mind when we think of gentrification is the experience of those in cities such as New York, San Francisco and Boston. There, the debate is fueled by concerns over affordability, displacement and growing inequality. “But the gentrification debate is quite different in cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta, where seeking ways to more equitably spread the positive benefits of revitalization might lead such discussions,” he says.

According to Saunders, there isn’t one single way to define gentrification, but four: Expansive Gentrification, Concentrated Gentrification, Limited Gentrification and Nascent Gentrification. Here’s where each type is likely to occur.

Here’s how he breaks it all down:

Expansive Gentrification
Best examples: New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle
Each city has a strong older core — a pre-World War II, traditional grid street system that you can easily walk, shop and live in without using a car much. Each has also had smaller historical black populations (when compared with Southern cities and Rust Belt cities that had extensive migration for manufacturing jobs). This gave them a leg up when the back-to-the-city movement gathered steam. Gentrification often sprouted from a number of places within a city and those often connected with each other to create even larger and stronger gentrified areas.

Concentrated Gentrification
Best examples: Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Here, the cities share the same type of older layout as the cities above, but have had larger (relative) black populations. This is where you see that larger parts of such cities have been “written off” by many residents. In each case, gentrification sprouted usually from one area that was a last bastion of white affluent residents (Chicago’s North Side, Northwest D.C. or the area around the University of Pennsylvania in Philly) and spread outward from there. Although most large cities have vast inequality, it’s most evident in these cities because they tend to be racially, economically and socially divided.

Limited Gentrification
Best examples: Phoenix, San Diego and Las Vegas
These are largely Western cities that developed after World War II and have had historically small black populations. Gentrification is more limited in these cities because of their largely suburban structure. Some black neighborhoods have grown and thrived here, but they’ve usually been small when compared to the city overall. Many residents see the value of creating walkable and dense areas that they’ve been lacking, and they are leading the charge in developing them. They are also investing in transit in ways that cities in other parts of the country are not.

Nascent Gentrification
Best examples: Houston, Charlotte and Memphis
This a largely Southern phenomenon. These are cities with a newer layout, but higher black populations that are still wedded to the conventional suburban development model. This is not to say that there isn’t any development of walkable/dense areas, but it likely occurs less often than in any of the other three categories.

Posted in City Living, economics, gentrification, life, Manhattanization, Manhattanization of San Francisco, New York City, Oakland, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Stop the WOSP! (June 11)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 8, 2014

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In the 1960s, efforts to gentrify certain parts of San Francisco were called “urban renewal.” Critics renamed this “negro removal” as city policy and planning systematically bleached out neighborhoods like the Western Addition and the Fillmore, decimating the already beleaguered black community of the day. This all but destroyed the once vibrant jazz and blues nightlife that these areas were known for.

Something similar is being proposed for the impoverished, largely black neighborhoods of West Oakland under the West Oakland Specific Plan (or WOSP). This proposed plan to gentrify West Oakland also means displacing its residents in what might be called “negro removal 2.0.” Here is some info for folks who wish to encourage Community Opposition to WOSP.
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Posted in gentrification, life, Oakland | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Going, going…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 18, 2014

Shakespeare_and_Company_store_in_Paris
The famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris is a well known tourist destination. Actually, it was a bookstore begun by Sylvia Beach in 1919 which closed during the German occupation in 1940 and then a second bookstore founded by George Whitman in 1951, a tribute to Beach’s original which is still around.
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Shakespeare and Company is also a small chain of locally owned bookshops in New York City unaffiliated with its Paris namesake. With three locations all in Manhattan, Shakespeare and Co started in 1981. In May of this year, it was announced that the Broadway location will close due to an astronomical rent increase.
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I often visited Shakespeare and Co when I made regular pilgrimages to New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. The scourge that was (and remains) Barnes and Noble, which spread like cancer across the City and systematically killed off most of New York’s independent bookstores, is still around if financially ailing due to competition with Amazon. This mainstream New York Times obituary hopefully does not portend the overall Shakespeare chain’s demise.
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I’m constantly lamenting the death of all the joys that make living in San Francisco and New York so wonderful. The steady destruction of independent bookstores, record shops, cinemas, etc. due to urban gentrification and stratification doesn’t make me nostalgic, but rather sad and angry. A marvelous blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, had this to say about Shakespeare and Co. Jeremiah’s is where I first heard that Little Rickie, a famous novelty store in Manhattan, also recently closed. Little Rickie is where I bought a smokin’ fez monkey.
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So fucking sad!

Posted in gentrification, independent bookstores, life, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, Shakespeare & Co | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“San Francisco’s Class War, By the Numbers,” by Susie Cagle

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on March 21, 2014

This is a fucking excellent comic. Enough said.
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This comic, “San Francisco’s Class War, By the Numbers,” by Susie Cagle, can be found in its entirety here. Fucking brilliant!

Posted in Bay Area, class war, gentrification, life, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, tech industry, techies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Defend the Bay Area: March 28-April 5: Direct Action Gets Satisfaction

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on March 20, 2014

Anti-Gentrification
Here’s a week long series of events targeted toward defending the Bay Area and fighting back against the big tech takeover. I suspect this is being organized by the usual leftist suspects, but I think it behooves everyone in the Bay Area to start taking action against the tech incursions and gentrification of our communities. Below is the 4-1-1:

DEFEND THE BAY AREA!

Evict the Evictors
March 21 @ 11:45 am – 12:45 pm
After 20 years of successfully evicting Bay area tenants, BORNSTEIN & BORNSTEIN are now in need of support as they face their own eviction. Join Project Lawyer Connect, a new network for lawyers in need. Help us help them access the life saving social services they have become accustomed to, including sealskin manicures, diplomatic immunity, cocaine fondue, and Michelin rated dinners at Sheriff Mirkarimi’s palatial compound. With community support they can get back on their feet and continue holding their “eviction bootcamps” for the countless landlords who are held captive by renters throughout San Francisco.

Anti-Tech Movie Night: Das Net
March 27 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Das Net: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet

A marvelously subversive approach to the history of the internet, this insightful documentary combines speculative travelogue and investigative journalism to trace contrasting counter-cultural to the cybernetic revolution.

Free screening.
Some food and drink will be provided.

Kick-off week of action
March 28 – April 5
Kick-off week of action
Week of loosely coordinated actions against gentrification, real estate speculation, surveillance, invasive technology and displacement. Link to call here.

Faces of the Mission, Faces of Bernal Heights
March 29 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Faces of the Mission, Faces of Bernal Heights
PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT AND TOWN HALL MEETING
Come hear from long-time Mission and Bernal residents about the issues they are facing in their daily lives and in their communities. From the displacement of our neighbors to new businesses that don’t cater to the surrounding communities, our neighborhoods are changing around us. Come see some of the “faces” of our neighborhoods in person and in photograph, and discuss how we can band together for the changes we need.

Anti-Tech Movie Night: startup.com
April 3 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Friends since high school, 20-somethings Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman have an idea: a Web site for people to conduct business with municipal governments. This documentary tracks the rise and fall of govworks.com from May of 1999 to December of 2000, and the trials the business brings to the relationship of these best friends. Will the business or the friendship crash first?

Free screening.Some food and drink will be provided.

Assembly of Bay Area Residents
April 5 @ 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Assembly of Bay Area Residents
An assembly of residents from across the Bay Area, coming together to discuss resistance to the current wave of financial speculation and tech development.

come to find others taking action
meet other tenants fighting displacement
resist the proliferation of surveillance
combat racist “redevelopment”
plan actions with others

Development Without Displacement
April 7 @ 5:30 pm – 8:00 pm
Causa Justa :: Just Cause (CJJC) is excited to announce the release of Development without Displacement: Resistance against Gentrification in the Bay Area. This report is a culmination of a year of work with the Alameda County Public Health Department. The report digs in to the root causes of gentrification and displacement and calls for urgent policy changes and using a different paradigm of human development. As tenants in both San Francisco and Oakland reel under the highest rents in the nation, new development and investment is causing tremendous market pressures destabilizing everything from housing to health to political power. On April 7th, CJJC will release our nearly 100-page report on Displacement and Gentrification and we want to celebrate it with you.

Click on the above links for more details re: dates, times, venues, organizers, and relevant websites.

It’s about time to take direct action to defend our communities…
Anti-Capital

Posted in Bay Area, Bernal Heights, gentrification, neighborhoods, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, tech industry, techies, The Mission | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Anti-Techie backlash: bus blockade tactic

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on December 31, 2013

So I’m walking around Market Street, doing a bit of extra exercise between my workout sessions, when I encounter this sticker on a newspaper kiosk near the corner of Church Street.
GAM_scum1GAM_scum2
Its an old slogan (“Die Yuppie Scum!”) updated for present realities in San Francisco. The techies flooding into the City have become a lightning rod for local frustration, discontent, protest, and worse. In particular, those Apple, Google, and Genentech buses seen cruising the city’s streets have become prime targets. On December 20, four separate incidents involving blockades and/or attacks on tech buses occurred in Oakland and San Francisco, according to the SF Chronicle. People peacefully surrounded and briefly detained buses at MacArthur BART Station in Oakland and the 24th Street and Mission BART Station in San Francisco. At 7th and Adeline streets near the West Oakland BART Station, violence greeted another bus, rocks and bottles were thrown, and window was shattered and tires were slashed.
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Video can be found here. These protests, nonviolent and violent, follow a bus blockade on December 9 in the Mission, covered here. The folks staging this protest called themselves the San Francisco Displacement and Neighborhood Impact Agency, and sighted the following reasons for their protest:

[W]e’re stopping the injustice in the city’s two-tier system where the public pays and the private corporations gain.

Rents and evictions are on the rise. Tech-fueled real estate speculation is the culprit. We say: Enough is Enough! The local government, especially Mayor Lee, has given tech the keys to shape the city to their fancy without the public having any say in it. We say, lets take them back!

Tech Industry private shuttles use over 200 SF MUNI stops approximately 7,100 times in total each day (M-F) without permission or contributing funds to support this public infrastructure. No vehicles other than MUNI are allowed to use these stops. If the tech industry was fined for each illegal use for the past 2 years, they would owe an estimated $1 billion to the city.

We demand they PAY UP or GET OUT!
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Those tech workers temporarily trapped on the buses in question were furious about being “held hostage” by the protestors blockading the means of transportation to their jobs. These techies have demonstrated a profound myopia over their own part in gentrifying San Francisco and in engendering the hostility among the locals to their intrusion. All the while tech workers are safely ensconced in their buses with tinted windows, air conditioning and wifi without thought one about giving back to the neighborhoods and the city they’re blithely destroying.

Business leaders narrowly argue that the backlash against the tech buses makes no sense, because the buses take solo drivers in individual cars off the roads. These business interests deliberately ignore the wider damage done to San Francisco by the tech industries relentless encroachments. And they conveniently look the other way as Mayor Ed Lee and other corporate complicit local politicians provide $14.2 million annually in tax breaks to stimulate growth in tech, biotech, and cleantech, most prominently to keep Twitter in San Francisco and to stimulate economic growth around its mid-Market Street headquarters.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian has provided a much needed critical counterbalance to the Chronicle’s pro-business cheerleading that simultaneously bemoans all the fuss being made over tech workers and the tech industry. Along with the YouTube of the December 20 bus protests below, SFBG continues to cover the bus blockages and other anti-techie protests.

Posted in capitalism, evictions, gentrification, Google buses, life, Oakland, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, tech industry, techies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Sage advice from an asshole laureate

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 24, 2013

I never thought I’d be quoting advice from Willie Brown, former Speaker of the California State Assembly and ex-SF mayor, who once praised Peoples Temple cult leader Jim Jones and then feared that he might be assassinated when Jones went rogue, and whose response to having the Bay Bridge named after him is “aw shucks.” The man has an ego that can’t be contained by his city of residence, yet this cautionary bit from his regular SF Chronicle column (11-23-13) is worth repeating. Under the title “Techies must nip growing scorn in bud:”

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There’s a war brewing in the streets of San Francisco, and a lot of people could get caught up in it if the tech world doesn’t start changing its self-centered culture.

Every day in every way, from rising rents to rising prices at restaurants to its private buses, the tech world is becoming an object of scorn. It’s only a matter of time before the techies’ youthful lustre fades, and they’re seen as just another extension of Wall Street.

And when that happens, tenant advocates, community activists, labor unions and Occupy types are going to start asking why we’re giving away the city to all these white-male-dominated businesses that don’t even hire locals.

At which point, the politicians will do what they always do – count votes. And by my last count, for all of their hype and money, tech types were still a decidedly small part of the vote. If they even vote at all.

What the tech world needs to do is nip this thorny plant in the bud. They need to come off their high cloud efforts to save Africa or wherever they take adventure vacations and start making things better for folks right here.

They need to start helping in Hunters Point and in Chinatown.

Most of all, they need to start hiring locals.

Otherwise, the next time it comes to a tax measure or a vote at the Planning Commission, they could find themselves getting skinned.

The tech industry’s utter lack of empathy for the city that has become its “home away from home,” indeed, its willingness to befoul its own nest so to speak, not only is unsound in an ecological sense, it speaks to the monumental hubris of what SF Chronicle business writer Andrew S. Ross calls “new money.” In his article “Old money winning face-off over Presidio museum,” (11-23-13) Ross opines: “Here’s what Lucas’ supporters need to get, not to mention Lucas himself. It’s what one critic called “an aroma of hubris” surrounding the project. Or what others have more generally described as Silicon Valley “arrogance,” which Conway’s letter smacked of.”

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Whether specifically in the battle between George Lucas versus old San Francisco money over what will become of San Francisco’s Presidio, or more generally in the battle between tech interests versus the rest of San Francisco over the reshaping of this city, the arrogance and hubris of “new money” or the tech industry or what have you is stunning. You can see it in the techies and hipsters who wander about the Mission, oblivious to their surroundings as their influx raises rents and gentrifies the neighborhood. Its time for the rebels to strike back.

Posted in gentrification, hipsters, life, San Francisco, San Francisco Chronicle, tech industry, techies, The Presidio | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

…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 »