by Adriana Camarena
Originally published January 24, 2014 at unsettlers.org
Over the last three decades, several waves of tech booms and housing bubbles have eroded the character of this multi-racial, predominantly Latino, working class neighborhood. As lower income workers are pushed out of their homes by the shenanigans of private property markets catering to high earning professionals, the cultural diversity of the Mission is supplanted by the drab sameness of mainstream monoculture. We are at a loss.
On June 1st as part of the MAPP events, Adriana Camarena in collaboration with Mission poets, artists, and residents walked the night regretfully asking: “Where are my Mission children?/ ¿Dónde están mis hijos de la Misión?” The poetic action was made in the likeness of the legendary *La Llorona* (The Weeping Woman).
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La Llorona 8.3.13 from David Martinez on Vimeo. Videographer: David Martinez
The procession meandered through Harrison Street, Treat Ave, Balmy Alley, Treat Street, Lucky Street, Treat Street, Folsom Street, and 24th Street ending at the new location of Adobe Bookstore (after being evicted from 16th Street) for a viewing of maps and art referencing gentrification and eviction in the Mission. The exhibit “Layers of History: Mapping 40 Years of Resistance” was curated by Chris Carlsson and Paz de la Calzada.
The First Eviction: Memory
Once upon a time, long before the Mission was El Barrio and a hipster incubator, it was simply a watershed. From the twin mounds to the west, a myriad of rivulets and creeks tumbled into the crevices below. The most robust creek coursed east towards the middle of the valley, engorging at the site of a spring and feeding a tidal lagoon in the lowlands. The overflow of this lagoon leaked out into another river that marked the northern boundary of the valley. This river would have continued bounding down east into an estuary, along the route today of 14th Street under the highway overpass.
The estuary opened onto the pungent salty inner bay, wiggling with amphibians and fish, and thick with reeds. The Spaniards wrote testimonies of the skies that blackened with migrating flocks, while otters, bears, and the First People – who we think of as Ohlone – harvested the mollusk-fruits of the bay. There would have been shellmounds, here, near the creeks and seasonal lagoon of the Mission, but these were disturbed a long time ago. We know from other shellmounds that they are composed of refuse: mussels, clams, cockleshells, and oyster shells, interspersed with ash from cooking; mammal bones of rodents, rabbits, deer, elk, bear, and sea and river otters; fish bones; bird bones, mostly of duck and geese but also egrets and herons. These bones alone reward us with a memory of a world in which non-human species dominated this place.
The mounds are sometimes called “kitchen middens” or refuse piles, but these piles are more than just trash. Bay Area archealogist Evan Elliot explains, “They are richer in information than the landscape itself. Some shellmounds are deliberate monumental constructions, indicating a ceremonial gathering place for funerals or feasts, or an elevated village site that could also serve as vantage point to track fires or hunt. Other middens were landfills aimed towards surviving tidal living near a river or a marsh.” […] Archeologist Jessica Tudor adds, “With such shellmounds, the Ohlone seem to be saying, ‘We made this. Our ancestors are here. We are of here’.”
I ask her about the connection between shellmounds and memory, and she reflects, “I often wonder whether people learnt about their past, when they buried someone in a shellmound, much in the way, I learn about them when I am analyzing a dig. … Theoretical archeologists say that landscape and memory are tied together. Our memories of life cannot be separated from where they happened. To the extent that a place is a stable environment, it is possible to have a better memory of a lifeline.”
The Second Eviction: Landscape (2/12)
In the beginning, the Mission was an undulating valley cradled in a crescent of hills. Bulking in the middle like a croissant, the hills huddled high against the evening assault of the ocean fog from the west, and collapsed gently into limbs that embraced an inner bay towards the east. Oaks and buckeye trees clutched exuberantly at the valley slopes, and flowering shrubs thrived on the surrounding ridges in impenetrable growths. Wherever there was passage, the wind blew over perennial bunchgrass, speckled with wildflowers and crusty with bugs. Hummingbirds hummed, eagles swooped, hares silently stared at the moon, and coyotes howled. The fog rarely blanketed the protected valley below, making this the sunniest place on the peninsula.
“Mission” is the namesake of the first religious Spanish settlement of the Franciscan priests, who established themselves here in 1776. The Missions were the first to wreak ecological warfare on the California landscape using cows as weapons, and non-native grass seeds as ammunition. They broke the ancient semi-nomadic traditions of land management when the indigenous inhabitants of the region were bound to Mission work and social structures that mimicked convent life. In doing so, they pioneered the death and dispersion of the First People. The successive century of Spanish and Mexican cattle ranches further decimated the endemic grasslands and poisoned the creeks with tallow waste, changing the native ecosystems forever.
From the late 19th to the early 20th centuries, the loping land of the Mission valley was cut down to accommodate a real estate land grab and the construction of the railroads. A mechanical tsunami of steam-paddies plowed, scraped, and carved this rolling Valley into a comparatively flattened street grid. The streets dissected land into lots “for sale,” and the desire to create lots to sell created more streets, which in turn, facilitated the establishment of a grid that could be crossed by railroad tracks. Four railway lines pushed from the Ferry building to the Mission, and the Stick-style, Italianate, Edwardian, Victorian, and Queen Anne buildings rose on the land in a pageant of sequential fashions. The shellmounds and the sand dunes became garden compost, pavement, and landfill material. The landfilled Mission Bay became a sewage channel known as Shit Creek, flanked left and right by the industrial docks. By the late 1800s, the street grid and aesthetics of the urban Mission of today had been defined.
Land had become property instead of ecology.
The Third Eviction: Abundance (3/12)
By the mid-19th century, the crescent valley of the Mission stopped being harvested and farmed for sustenance by its inhabitants. The Mission be- came a residential neighborhood for longshoremen and workers of factories located in the northeast quadrant of the district. Labor unions found footing in the Mission, participating in the 1934 General Strike, which led to the 1937 Fair Labor Standards Act fixing the eight-hour work day into law; a right now taken for granted.
Throughout the 21st century, the north east Mission developed into a place of pungent industrial food smells that Jesse Drew describes best:
“[…] In the 1970s freight trains still rolled stealthily through the streets of the Mission under cover of darkness, moving finished goods out and raw materials in. One could smell the cloying sweet smell of white bread, as union workers moved tens of thousands of loaves of Kilpatricks Bread from dough to ovens to market on 16th and South Van Ness. On foggy mornings, a thick corrosive mist of vinegar would descend over the vicinity of Best Foods on Florida Street, as union workers bottled mayonnaise and other condiments. […] In the early morning, shiny tanker trucks would block sidewalks with their hoses pumping syrup and chocolate into the side of the brick Hostess plant on Bryant, producing Twinkies and HoHos for the West Coast. […]”
The Mission would next see the rise of the first food co-ops of the mid-’70s (Seeds of Life on 24th Street and Rainbow Grocery on 16th Street), which participated in establishing The People’s Food System; a network of community food stores and small-scale food collectives that organized to take back control of food from large agricultural and chemical companies by building direct connections to farmers to establish the first farmers’ markets. Dennis “Tree” Rubenstein one of the founders of the Kaliflower Commune (Shotwell and 23rd) and the Free Food Conspiracy of 1968 (Haight-Ashbury) keeps the spirit of that period alive in the Mission by running a Free Farm Stand at the Niños Unidos park. The Free Farm Stand gathers surplus from farmer’s markets, community gardens, and fruit trees in order to distribute food for free on Sundays. But the fight for abundance in the Mission was co-opted when the radical local, organic, and slow food movement became a high-end dining experience inaccessible to the working poor.
The Fourth Eviction: Solidarity (4/12)
By the mid-1960s, the population of the Mission was predominantly Latin American, but the neighborhood also belonged to the Irish, Italian, Anglo, Filipino, Native-American, Samoan, and Black. Among Latinos, there were also differentiating ethnic roots in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and the more established Chicano culture. Neighbors often worked together in the factories in the northern industrial zone of the Mission, or on the docks of San Francisco, belonging to the same unions or social centers in the neighborhood. The Mission was a working class village.
In 1967, the neighborhood organized across its subcultures to take control of redevelopment funds that threatened to flatten the vibrancy of the Mission, as had been done to the Fillmore. The movement—the Mission Coalition Organization—is recognized as the “largest urban popular mobilization in San Francisco’s recent history” (Castells, 1984). It was a federation of Mission organizations and social groups, which ultimately disintegrated, but resulted in fortified non-profit community organizations for generations to come. Informed by Third Worldism, radicals of color also bonded over a mutual struggle for self-determination during this period. The seventies in the Mission saw the rise of radical grassroots organizing such as the Black Panthers, Mission Rebels, and the mobilization around Los Siete. Los Siete were a group of seven young Latino men wrongly accused of killing a police officer in 1969, and their defense became a celebrated cause of the Latino New Left. The men were acquitted.
In this context, children were raised in the Mission. […] Mattie—60— tells me, “You have to understand: I grew up in the segregated South. When I arrived in the Mission, well, it was heaven! Black, brown, white: Everyone got along!“
“My grandmother”, says Liz—50—“was Spanish, and she cared for all the children on the block. She would give me a bath in the same tub as the Black kids next door. I mean, man, I didn’t even know what racism was…”
Mattie recalls, “On a night like tonight, there would be neighbors out on every porch and staircase; kids jumping rope, and closing down the street to play ball.”
Liz laughs, “Every block had a loud mother, and a drunk!”
Mattie continues, “On Fridays, we would go to dances at O’Connell or at the Centro Social Obrero, and walk back home alone…”
“And to the movies at the New Mission Cinema,” Liz says.
“We also had family days. On Saturday, everyone went to the pool at Garfield Park. You would see everyone there!” explains Mattie.
“Hey Mattie, do you remember the lady who used to sit all day long at her window in the Army Projects looking down over the park?” They both laugh. “She would sit, leaning out, hailing everyone who went by, smiling and waving, and asking about family, all day long.”
The Fifth Eviction: Safety (5/12)
Then came the eighties. This decade was rich with neighborhood art and music. Vibrant struggles turned San Francisco into a Sanctuary City for refugees of the Central American wars, and challenged U.S. militarism at home, too. But this decade was also disasterous: public education was decimated by funding cuts, poor and mentally ill people were thrown into the streets by the thousands, and the inner city was flooded by cheap powerful narcotics. There was a lot of money to be made in trafficking illegal drugs, and poor neighbors were willing to take the risk (like in the 1920s Prohibition).
Ula, a Mission homegirl, now 37, tells me she started dealing drugs when she was 14 years old. “My parents gave me hell for it! But they didn’t have money to pay off their mortgage. Do you think they didn’t take that money?” Even then, she didn’t really understand about gangs, until one day, she was riding the bus back home in the Mission, wearing her red 49ers fan sweatshirt, when a Sureño spotted her, assumed her affiliation, and pulled the cables off the bus. He boarded the bus, and stabbed Ula in the neck. After that, she realized she needed to become affiliated to be pro- tected. Gang affiliation then was not what it is today. “Back then, we had code: You never started anything in front of families or pregnant women. We had OGs to show us the game.” She shakes her head, “These new booties out there, they don’t have nothing like that. They jump in new recruits just to defend the pennies they’re making off a corner. They get their identity from what they see on teevee.”
A few years ago, Ula’s parents got an offer to sell their home in the Mission. “You have to understand that they had never seen that kind of money, and accepted the offer. They bought a big house, a mansion, in the Central Valley. I call it The Museum.” Prompted to explain the monicker, Ula says, “Oh, there are high ceilings and the place is full of cobwebs, because my parents are too old to reach the corners. They spend a lot time alone in the house.”
The Sixth Eviction: Youth (6/12)
Through the eighties into the nineties, competition in the drug business escalated into contested gang territories. Gun violence increased; addicts overdosed; police brutality found new excuses; and the use of injected drugs piggybacked into the AIDS crisis of the late ’80s.The worst part was the loss of elders in the community to addiction, prison, illness, and deportation. Some families in the Mission have suffered generational neglect and separation. If it weren’t for afterschool programs, and the self-appointed hood mommas, uncles, and aunties some youth would have no guidance at all. So, there are other ways to get permanently displaced from the Mission, including by being shot dead.
In September 2012, there was an altar for 20-year-old Jesus Solis on Treat Street near Garfield Park [9/16/2012]. A month later, there was an altar for 20-year-old Jose Luis Anthony Escobar by 16th and Caledonia [10/20/2012]; followed days later by another for 19-year-old Cesar Bermudez over on Harrison Street [10/25/2012], and yet another for Jose Matias Aguilon (28) by 20th Street and S Van Ness that same month of October [10/30/2012]. There were five other homicides in the Mission in 2012. On Easter Weekend of 2013, 19-year-old Jacobo Valdivieso was gunned down outside his home on Bryant near 24th, while on spring break from college [3/30/2013]. Jacobo’s death would be followed by the fatal shootings of Keith Smith (24), Eric Mabry (20), Maurice White (28), Waynenard Aitemon Jr. (32), and John Porter (56) in the Mission, and there are many other incidents of shootings and stabbings that do not result in death.
I met Mattie Scott and Liz Torres in a procession for Jacobo Valdivieso, 19 years old. Mattie and Liz are part of a growing group of mothers who have lost children to gun violence in the Bay Area. I asked whether growing up in the Mission of the ’60s and ’70s informs their activism today. Mattie responds,“Of course! I remember the Black Panthers and the Mission Rebels. They were among the most diverse groups. They taught social consciousness, and organized breakfasts, childcare, and feeding the elderly.”
Liz remembers hanging out at the Kaliflower Commune that still stands at 23rd and Shotwell, with the white hippie chics, who taught her arts and crafts and how to paint her toenails in rainbow colors. People of the Mission—like Mattie and Liz—who were raised in solidarity and security of the ’60s and ’70s in a multi-racial, blue collar, and politically left neighborhood know that violence, drugs, and death is not the fate of a low income community.
The Seventh Eviction: Elders (7/12)
Ana Gutierrez—a disabled senior—received an Ellis Act Eviction notice in 2012 ordering her to leave her Lucky Street home of 34 years. Ana is from Sonora, Mexico near the border to Arizona. As a young wife, Ana worked as a seasonal migrant worker fruit packing in Yuma, and picking and packing lettuce, tomatoes, and strawberries around Gilroy. She became a member of the United Farm Workers in 1968, and vowed that her children would not see the fields. In 1978, Ana and her husband brought their children from Arizona to the Lucky Street home. Two weeks after they arrived, a stroke put Ana’s husband in a coma until his death seven years later. There, in that home, Ana raised a family of five children as a single mother. She was a holiday seasonal worker at the See’s Chocolate Factory, and ironed Levis pants at the old Levi’s Strauss factory on Valencia Street, until she became a hospital worker. A few years ago, she retired with a disability from pushing the ill on gurneys and wheelchairs.
Polo is the eldest son of the family of five children. After he separated from his wife, he returned to live on Lucky Street with his mom and youngest brother. As a young man, being the eldest son in the family, Polo dropped out of school to help support the family. The Mission gave him almost every job he has ever known. “I grew up at a time in the Mission when the general opinion was that nothing positive could become of Latino youth.” From early on, Polo was involved in community services in the Mission, including graffiti abatement programs, volunteering at event security for Carnival, and most recently, collaborating with the DJ Project at Horizons Unlimited, which teaches youth creative and business management skills. Today, he is a man- ager at a Philz Coffeehouse, where he politely admonishes clients who call The Mission, “The Mish,” to please call it by its proper name.
On the weekends that Polo has his kids, he can leave the house knowing that grandma is there to care for them. “… On my income, if I didn’t have cheap rent, I couldn’t pay alimony, child support, expenses, and support my mom.” Polo feels despair that his children will not grow up knowing the Mission, that he won’t ever afford to come back to the neighborhood he loves, and that his mom can’t stay in the barrio she knows in her elder years. He says with emotion, “Because she is fighting the eviction, I know that she is not ready to go.”
The Eighth Eviction: Belonging (8/12)
You can’t get more Mission than Al Downing: Third generation blue collar, north Mission industrial, Nicaraguense. In the mid-seventies, Al Downing, postman, became a protagonist in the neighborhood lowrider scene. “I had a 53’ baby blue Belair Chevy. We’d pile up on the block and go cruising. … You went low and slow, because you had no other choice. It was wall to wall, bumper to bumper from 16th Street to Silver Avenue every weekend. You’d brush past so close you’d share a bottle or a joint through the window. We’d go one or two rounds, and then home. The Mission was packed with kids. Now on a Saturday night all you have is hipsters… We kept cruising into the early eighties, until the cops shut down the lowriders on Mission Street. I sold that car in 1990,” Al pauses, “but I know where it is. I think of buying it back.”
In the early 1980s, Carnival started in the Mission; then came Pride Parade and the notorious Halloween in the Castro. “I lived through the rise of all that,” says Al, “I’m gay.” I ask Al when he came out to his friends. “I never had to. Over time they just became aware. They already knew who I was, and just accepted me.” […] “The bathhouses were not my scene. AIDS started, and I decided it wasn’t worth it.” Like many other gay men, Al became celibate in the face of a brutal epidemic. Simultaneously, he witnessed his neighborhood dive into insecurity. Since the 1980’s, he has lost between 30 to 40 friends and acquaintances to AIDS, overdose, illness, suicide, and street violence. “It’s the same for many people in the Mission”, he tells me. I often reflect on the trauma of experiencing repetitive peer deaths in youth, and the many friendships etched in grief.
Albert often feels goaded by the rising number of hipsters in the neighborhood who are oblivious to the community struggles and bonds, and admire things like graffiti that for Albert symbolized a deflated neighborhood. “They seem to think it is cool to be poor, but there is nothing hip or trendy about being poor…. One day, I’m walking home and as I pass these hipsters at a corner, they get very quiet and look scared. I tell them, ‘Whatch’ you looking at?’ But they just keep staring, so I tell them, ‘You’re scared of me?! When it’s you people coming into the neighborhood to take over Latino homes?’ And they still just stare at me, so I lean in real close, and shout, ‘BOO!’, and they all jumped.”
Albert grins like the Cheshire Cat. He loves to scare hipsters. His boyfriend calls him The Bear, because Albert has a growl. Part of the art of growing-up poor is not letting others evict your pride.
The Ninth Eviction: Loyalty (9/12)
Ula now lives with her 16 year old son and 4 year old daughter, over in South San Francisco. Her husband (father to her youngest) was shot dead in the Tenderloin in 2011. “We were splitting up back then, but I am his remaining voice, and I will fight for justice for him.” […] Like many other people who have suffered violent losses, Ula suffers from depression and anxiety. She lives broke, day by day, and spends much time in isolation. She is prohibited from visiting the Mission with her children under the threat of being charged with “child endangerment” due to her past vida loca. Still she yearns for her kids to grow up knowing what it is like to live around people that care deeply about each other.
“When my son was born, his father was in jail. Soon after I got home from the hospital, there was a knock on my door. I opened and there were all these grown men, all these solid OGs. Frank Peña was among them. They said they were friends of my husband and that they had come to hold the baby. They came into my home, and took turns holding my son, because my husband couldn’t be there. …” Ula wants her children to grow up understanding the solidarity that exists among the homeboys. “I make choices all the time about when and where to take my kids to funerals and parties. I don’t want them to be overexposed to a lifestyle, but I do want them to see how much love and support there exists in our community.”
Ula had no doubt about one community event to which she took her kids. “I got to tell ya’, in 2010, when the Giants won the World Series, the moment that last ball was in the glove, I looked at my son and said, ‘Grab your jacket.’ […] I needed him to be there. I wanted him to experience being on streets packed with people you know, in celebration.” The “outcasts and misfits” won that World Series. That night in the Mission firetrucks honked, mattress- es burned, homies drank, everyone drank, and riot cops rioted! […] As to Ula and her homie survivors of the 80’s, 90’s, and so far 00’s, they dedicated that win to Tiny T of the Mission. Tiny T was killed in February 2010, and he was beloved by his tribe, because despite being raised in extreme negligence and abandon, he grew up to be a man of enormous heart, loyalty, and generosity. That’s how real OGs do.
During November 2013, Ula ran around the Bay Area picking up donations on behalf of United Playaz for Filipino survivors of typhoon Haiyan.
The Tenth Eviction: Sanctuary (10/12)
When he was a little boy, George lived in my apartment, with his mother, siblings, and grandmother. George is now homeless. Talking on our stoop, George tells me, “I once saw the devil in that little room at the top of the stairs.” That room is our storage closet.
“What did he look like?” I ask.
“Just as you expect, red face with black horns. I told mi abuela, and she did a limpia (cleansing) to drive him out.”
“Thanks for getting him out,” I say. George nods.
Another day, I am waiting on the sidewalk in front of my building for my friend Katerina to pick me up. George strolls by, and he is in a horrid mood because he is feeling the weight and injustice of his homelessness. He desperately and drunkenly rants at me about the sequence of events that placed him on the street. A woman in a yellow jacket and pencil skirt, sporting a gigantic black Easter bonnet parks her convertible in front of the building. She sits overhearing George’s litany to me, then gets out and walks up one stoop of the building, peering through the doors, and then back down over to ours, gleefully inspecting the door- ways. This woman is cartoonish in her representation of a real estate agent. She even carries a clipboard. I see she is the devil disguised in a designer jacket trying to sneak back upstairs.
In 1982, the foundations for today’s Dolores Street Community Services was founded in the basement of the Dolores Street Baptist Church at Dolores and 15th Street, as part of the Sanctuary Movement to provide shelter to refugees fleeing Central American civil wars. Those civil wars can be traced back to continuous U.S. intervention since before the Gold Rush. The DCCS today operates the homeless shelters in the Mission, which primary clients are Latino working poor and U.S. veterans.
The Eleventh Eviction: Spirit (11/12)
In the Ohlone origin story life begins with a flood. Coyote, Hummingbird, and Eagle wait on the top of Mount Diablo for the waters to recede. Coyote is finally sent to confirm that the land is dry. Trotting around, he encounters Woman and mates with her. But Woman becomes scared of Coyote and runs into the bay, fragmenting into the first water beings: the abalone, the shrimp, and the sand fleas. For this reason, the Ohlone consider the iridescent abalone sacred material. Coyote then mates with another Woman, and she gives birth to the first Ohlone. For the Ohlone, like many other Native Americans, Coyote is the trickster, the wiley one. […]
My neighbor Rose May Dance is a pagan, a feminist, and an activist. She’s lived in the Mission for over 30 years, where she worked on developing the earliest needle exchange studies at a time when the neighborhood was flooded by narcotics, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. During the same period, Rose was grounding her feminism to spirituality and fell in with the Reclaiming Movement. Feminism taught her to reclaim the word “witch” as an identity and a political act. Shamanism and Reclaiming encouraged her to accept no mediator between herself and the mysterious or the divine. “By definition, one cannot define the ‘mysterious’”, says Rose, but adds, ‘It is that which touches your ‘spirit mind’; not your brain, nor your body, but that state of mindfulness that connects to that which is outside of yourself and beyond yourself.” Rose worships nature, and by consequence, remains a staunch anti-war and ecological activist. Radical left communities often reject spiritual communities and vice versa, but for Rose those communities are bridged by the concept of gratitude and experience of the senses. Sense of place is perhaps one of the most important. She considers the area near Dolores and 18th Streets an ancient sacred space; where once flowed a river down a natural gulley and likely stood Ohlone shellmounds. “I have a recurrent dream of that place, since my earliest days in the Mission. There is water running down the hill. Different things come flowing down towards me. The star Cirius rises in the West, then turns into Coyote, who runs towards me. As he nears, Coyote turns into a dog that jumps into my open arms to merge with me.”
In June of 2013, as part of the Mission Arts and Performances Project (an opening of private spaces to the public for art and music), I collaborated with my dear friend Paz de la Calzada, visual artist and pagan witch, on a public procession, punctuated by readings, to Ellis Act Eviction sites in the Mission. It bore the same names as this essay, “La Llorona”. At the end of the night, Paz closed the procession with an invocation: “Mission of the Spirit stay.” We never defined that Spirit, and just as well, since my spirit-mind tells me that it is a connectivity that cannot be defined by words, and perhaps only as a vision or sense of place.
The Twelfth Eviction: Equality (12/12)
The 1986 “Ellis Act” is a California state law which says that landlords who remove a property from rental business have the unconditional right to evict tenants. The Ellis Act was intended to support mom and pop property owners, who wanted to stop being landlords. Instead, the Ellis Act is com- monly used to evict tenants in multi-family units, in order to sell the entire building as a Tenancy In Common property. […] A 2013 housing report by Supervisor David Campos mentions that Ellis Act evictions in the City in- creased from 43 in 2010 to 162 in September of 2013; nearly a 400% increase in Ellis Act Evictions. The report acknowledges a relationship between increased property value and Ellis Action evictions […]. From 2009 to 2013, the Mission District was the neighborhood with the greatest number of Ellis Act Eviction notices in the City; representing 15% of all citywide Ellis Act notices. In that same period, housing prices in the Mission District increased 29.5%. In the first six months of 2012, housing prices in proximity to BART and the corporate shuttle stops of Google, Apple, Facebook, eBay, LinkedIn, and other dot-com employers carried a 10% premium. Today, rental prices in proximity to the same shuttle stops command a 20% premium.
The evictions, real estate speculation, and the wealth of professionals from Bay Area technology companies are inter-related. Yet employees riding the double-decker corporate tech shuttles remain confused as to the protests of housing activists who have coined the phrase “warning: two-tiered system” to describe the growing gap in income inequality and accompanying loss of rights of residents of neighborhoods that, once upon a time, were low- income, working-class, immigrant, family, artistic, cultural, radical havens. The actual eviction of long term residents is indicative of a cultural eviction of a community bonded over decades of political, economic, and health struggles by a middle-class community that bonds over consumerism.
In 2013, after the Cesar Chavez Day parade in the Mission, upstanding community member and DPW manager Sandy Cuadra and her family were denied available seating without explanation at a hip restaurant boasting local organic food named “Local’s Corner” on Bryant and 23rd. Sandy Cuadra succumbed last November to cancer. Her funeral escort was a trail of low riders of every imaginable shape and color. Attending her funeral was like witnessing the last Elf ships, with ring-bearers aboard, leave Middle Earth to the Undying Lands.
In January 2014, Sandy Cuadra received a posthumous Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) Hall of Fame Award from the City.