Wednesday, June 03, 2015
Gentrified Out of San Francisco
Seemingly half of the Mission District showed up at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon and evening for the weekly Board of Supervisors meeting. The legislative body was considering a short moratorium offered up by Supervisor Campos on the construction of market-rate, luxury housing developments in the neighborhood. The rationale was to try and come up with a plan, any plan, to slow the tsunami of gentrification and its attendant evictions of mostly working class Latins, many who had been born and raised in the neighborhood.
There were dozens of heartbreaking stories being told during the two-minute speeches, and one of the saddest was from the young man above who talked about not being able to sleep until 5AM the previous night while sharing a bed in a single room occupancy hotel with his father.
Not all of the speeches were downbeat. The gentleman above passionately excoriated the Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee in Spanish, while his instantaneous English translator tried to articulate, "you are all whores for moneyed interests rather than advocates for your constituents." I'm paraphrasing from memory, but the Spanish was brilliant.
So was Sandra Sandoval above right whose theatrical condemnation of what has been done to her neighborhood by drunk white tech bros ("I can't even take my son to Dolores Park anymore") was being studiously ignored by appointed District 3 Supervisor Christensen, on her laptop top left. The Supervisor had announced at the beginning of the meeting that she was voting against the moratorium because it wouldn't do any good, and she then proceeded to stare at her computer and ignore every public speaker from her front row desk for the remainder of the evening.
Former District Six Supervisor Chris Daly called the Mayor's Office and the current Board of Supervisors "guilty of malfeasance," and he was joined by a few other gringos who were supporting the moratorium.
Almost all of the speakers urging a no vote on the moratorium were white, including a large turnout from the Irish-accented Residential Builders Association. A few of them looked genuinely troubled by the issue of families losing their homes and some of them offered suggestions, such as "Legislate against the tenancies-in-common loophole which is driving so many of these evictions, but don't stop building."
There were also a number of unempathetic souls who were intent on proving their point(s) about how economics really works, and their insensitivity to anyone other than themselves was disturbing to watch in this context.
What's happening in San Francisco is not unique, since the same sort of economic drivers are pushing people without enough money out of London, New York, Los Angeles and a host of other cities. There are too many people in the world, their number is increasing by the second, and widening income inequality only exacerbates the stressful situation.
The Mission moratorium was strictly symbolic, an unfortunate tendency of Supervisor Campos, but the anger and despair in the Board chambers last night were real. San Francisco natives just announced that they are getting very restless.