San Francisco + Displacement

I have dreamt of moving to San Francisco for the last 10 years, and I’ve finally landed right smack in the middle of it: 6th Street by way of South of Market, or SoMa. By in the middle of it, I don’t mean geographically but literally I am seeing, month-by-month, the neighborhood change. This is not just a housing crisis with the median rent now at $2,353 for a one-bedroom in Hunter’s Point, but a real transformation of city culture, class, and race:

Along Third Street and in SOMA and other areas, people of color are being pushed out, and the working-class is being replaced by middle-income condo owners. The African American population of the city is down to 6 percent.

In “A call to arms,” the SF Guardian sends out a cry to the city to wake up and react to the displacement of people as well as small businesses. Not quite convinced? Check out this eviction map:

San Francisco Ellis Act Notices of Intent to Withdraw Rental Units 1/1/97-4/8/13 - Source: San Francisco Rent Board reports
San Francisco Ellis Act Notices of Intent to Withdraw Rental Units 1/1/97-4/8/13 – Source: San Francisco Rent Board reports

Notes the Guardian in another article, “You want scary? We’ve got an eviction map“:

Between 1997 and 2013, it seems as if most of the Mission, Noe Valley, North Beach, the Marina, and Potrero Hill was evicted. Hundreds and hundreds of apartments turned into TICs, which now want to convert to condos. Hundreds and hundreds of tenants, who once had rent-controlled apartments, losing their homes — and given the price of housing, losing their ability to live in San Francisco.

Some of the comments people posted to the first news article take this transformation as a sign that the city is growing up, unfortunately without noting the structural inequalities that have to take place for this to happen:

Personally, I think SF is a lot more interesting than it used to be. We have dynamic new business, lots of creative well-paid jobs, fabulous new restaurants, decent links to the airport, a better choice of homes including high-rises and it feels like crime is down.

Formerly dumpy and dangerous area’s like Hayes Valley and Inner Mission now have great bars and restaurants.

I’ll take it over a poverty-striken, crime-infested city for losers and loafers.

Pushing out certain peoples and cutting down on social services and fair housing rights to make way for a better San Francisco future does not make a lot of sense to me. The future of San Francisco to me is NOT a stroll down Townsend in SoMa that makes you feel like you’re not in SF anymore but any random US town. Take the blocks adjacent to my studio in SoMa, for example. I don’t think most of my neighbors aspire to be “losers and loafers,” but are just trying to live their lives, and hell, keep living in SF. The other day, for example, the Filipino SoMa neighborhood group lost another battle for more affordable housing to a tourist hotel. I had noticed that most of the older residents in my building were Filipinos who had lived in there for the past 10+ years and that mass at St.Patrick’s can be heard in Latin and Tagalog, but until I had read the previous article, “Planners sheepishly approve SoMa hotel“, I didn’t even know that SoMa is a historically Filipino neighborhood since the turn of the century.

I’m guessing this is how neighbors historically got started in SF–Chinatown, Richmond, the Mission, North Beach, etc.—people were pushed out and in some cases, were allowed to only live in certain areas of the city. It would be easy to say–Hey, well those neighborhoods came out ok–but it is much more complicated than that. Housing rights, community services, refugee outreach, etc. all these things need to be in place and supported if we want to an embrace a  forward-thinking and culturally vibrant San Francisco.

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