Friday, June 19, 2009

Are Trustifarians Endangered? We can only hope....

According to this article in the NY Times, "Trustifarians" are being hit by hard times brought on by their families' gambling on the stock market and on bad mortgage securities. "Trustifarians" are also known as "Trust Fund Hipsters", "Hij@s de Papi", "Subsidized Loafers", and other affectionate names.

Oh no! What will that artists-that-has-never-sold-any-art-but-lives-in-a-flat-in-the-mission-previously-rented-by-working-class-tenants do? Or what about the loafer hipsters who like to sit at Ritual Coffee on their computer all day, even though they have internet at home? I mean, who will wait an hour for mediocre food at Boogaloos? Will these Trustafarians be able to get a job and make it through four hours without "twittering" or taking artistic yet aloof pictures for their facebook/myspace profiles?

As a show of solidarity we can give them a gift bag of job applications, coupons, and fashion tips, such as don't wear your faded/yellow "Keep on Truckin'" t-shirt to a job interview and leave the ironic 80's fashion at home.

At this very moment capitalism continues to collapse onto itself, people continue to loose their jobs & homes, and the pinche mayor (gruesome newsom) is hells bent on gutting services for the poor and for the ill. The people of San Francisco are fighting to keep these services which people depend on every day. The least of our concerns is whether or not the offspring of the ruling class will have to move back with their parents or if they will have to confront the reality of 40+ hour weekday.

Welcome to our economic reality, Trustifarians. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

They Say “Save Medjool”… We Say “Save the Progressive/Historic Latino/a Mission District “

Everyday activists, organizers, non-profit workers, and community members in the Mission District always have to decide how to fight injustices barreling down on our community. From ICE raids to evictions to street violence, we prioritize and do the best we can to put our social justice values into action by “fighting the good fight”. Sometimes in the social justice movement we have differences of opinion regarding tactics and strategies, these differences can be intense and difficult but rarely do they reach a point where we are on opposite sides of the struggle for equity and justice. On those rare instances we are divided, it is usually on land-use issues and high-end condo projects because wealthy, well-connected, developers are able to corrupt the political process and divide the community through patronage.

The current controversy involving local, well-heeled, developer Gud Murad and his Save Medjool campaign, while complicated in some respects, is quite basic. As social justice activists we all stand against corruption, lack of transparency, gentrification, and the erosion of progressive democratic principles. The root causes of this current controversy are the implicit and overt racial and economic inequities shaping development along Mission Street, the districts main commercial corridor. As progressives we should also stand together against these deeply ingrained societal injustices. However, it seems that because of patronage and the lack of foresight to strive for socially equitable projects, some activists have compromised their values and actively campaign in support of saving Medjool and throw their support behind the proposed New Mission Theater project that would bring dozens more high-end condos to our neighborhood and a higher end version of Medjool.

Here is some historical background that may help clarify the situation and help us reconnect with our social justice principles:

• When the New Mission Theater was put on the market by City College, Gus Murad out bid local nonprofits, thereby undermining community based development;

• He was anti-union in selecting contractors for developing Medjool and the accompanying Elements Hostel;

• He chose to provide “community benefits” by selecting Mission Neighborhood Centers as the recipient of space on the ground floor of his New Mission Theater project. While providing space for a community-based nonprofit is, at first glance, certainly a worthy gesture, in this case it is not what it appears to be. Years of land-use based activism by groups like MAC have resulted in changes in the way developers approach the project entitlement process. For-profit developers in our neighborhood have come to understand that they need to show that they are “working with the community” in order to get their projects approved The simplest way to do this is to provide some commercial space to a community group willing to take the handout. For a project of this scale and impact, simply giving up some community space is not enough. This developer tactic creates the sad spectacle of community groups pitted against each other in hearings as those that are benefitting directly from small potatoes developer handouts fight for a project that that could potentially give a much greater benefit then the one that they are defending;

• Murad, notoriously, has given money and gifts to politicians and community leaders to gain their support, thereby compromising their principles and corrupting democratic processes;

• He bypassed the proper permitting process for his roof-top bar by using the political capital he has accumulated through political donations and favors.

While we in MAC support the preservation and expansion of job opportunities in the neighborhood, we will not be forced into accepting political patronage, more gentrification, and the undermining of a community-based planning process by siding with unscrupulous developers and building owners. Many of these developers have chosen to pursue the politics of favoritism instead of working with the community towards developing community benefits and assets that go beyond the nominal job or office space. They further jeopardize their community standing by not following the city’s proper permitting and development processes. It’s those actions that are putting at risk Medjool’s jobs, not the community or city officials that refuse to look the other way. Further, it is these high-end businesses that have put at risk or have driven or kept out hundreds of formerly existing and potentially existing neighborhood-based jobs in small businesses. These businesses can’t afford to operate in the Mission due to the speculation fever and greed that has gripped local land-owners and developers because they want their own version of Medjool, Foreign Cinema or a large formula retail business in their commercial space.

There is no righteousness in Gus Murad using resources to mount a campaign that uses phrases like Save Mejool or Save Mission Jobs especially when these large high-end, destination night-clubs drive up the rent along the corridor and drive neighborhood serving, sustainable and affordable business and their jobs out of the Mission District. Instead, progressive residents should oppose more Medjool-like developments and fight against the forced displacement of working class residents, businesses and institutions.

As I write this, the residents at 2789 Harrison Street are fighting for their homes and business as they face outrageous rent increases and harassment from their landlord because he wants to bring in wealthier residents and a Medjool-like business to 24th Street. As a community we must fight back and support sustainable community development based on the overall needs of the community and not on the speculative greed that has corrupted development in San Francisco and the Mission District.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Rest in Peace: Manong Al Robles

RIP to a our local fierce elder and warrior Al Robles. The following words are from our friends over at POOR magazine:

Out of the deep fog, we saw two birds...

After the news of the passing of revolutionary poet and scholar of the people Uncle Al Robles, Tony, his nephew, Tiburcio, and me (Tiny) went to the edge of ocean to say goodbye to Uncle AL - the powerful embodiment of everything that is the revolution, who began his journey to the other side at 9:30 am yesterday, Saturday, May 2nd, after approximately two months battling with an illness. His family was with him all the way through the struggle of health, healing, setback and passing.

There are no amount of words, images or thoughts that could be enough to honor the power and espiritu of Uncle AL. So in addition to any words or messages written in his honor we can honor him with all that he lived and practiced and accomplished... the continuing of each of our efforts at global and local organizing, writing, protesting, poetry,art, song, love, caregiving,family, eldership, indigenous resistance and perhaps most important, dreaming....

Family and Community will be planning a community event sometime in the next few weeks- we will update folks when the date is known...

and then they flew away...

Con amor y paz
Tiny, Tiburcio and Tony Robles

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Help keep the Ramirez family together! ¡Ayude a mantener unida a la familia Ramírez!

What: Fundraiser tardeada for the Ramirez Family Legal Fund

When: Sunday, April 26, 3 – 7 pm

Where: El Patio Restaurant (3193 Mission St.)


When the Ramirez Family migrated to San Francisco, their sons did their grade school homework in the flower shop that Mamá Ramirez ran out of their Mission District apartment. With tons of community support, they defended the flower shop from gentrification, and their campaign helped start the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition. Ten years and many dozens of flowers later, the landlord found a legal way to evict them, and they were displaced from the Mission but not from the struggle.

Both mom and dad got their residency, but our messed up immigration laws prevented their two sons from qualifying despite having been here all their lives and despite one of them having a 5-year old daughter who was born and raised here. The family found a lawyer who promised to fix their immigration status, but instead he took all of the family’s savings, lost his legal license, and disappeared overnight, leaving their case in shambles.

Suddenly, the Ramirez family got a notice from immigration, stating that they were to leave the country immediately or face deportation. Completely shocked, they appealed for more time to resolve the problem that the fraudulent lawyer created for them. The appeal was granted.

A week later, near dawn, ICE raided their home in the Bayview, found one of the young men at home, threw him on the floor, held a gun to his head, and threw him into their squad car. Mamá Ramirez was not easily intimidated and demanded that her son be released. She waved the appeal letter in front of the ICE officer and threatened to call Univisión, pointing to the note on her dresser with the television station’s phone number, which she had from the last press conference organized to defend their flower shop and home. Her bravery and her history in the struggle paid off, and her son was released.

Now both the sons are still in legal proceedings, trying to adjust their status. The trauma of the raid still brings Mamá Ramirez to tears, and her bravery has inspired her sons to reach out to the community for support.

Please join St. Peter’s Housing Committee, and stand in solidarity with the Ramirez family! The April 26 tardeada will feature food, DJ and other entertainment, as well as a chance to meet the Ramirez family and hear their story. $10-25 donation requested at the door.

You can also donate directly to the legal fund here.

Don't forget to march for legalization on May 1st!


Cuando la familia Ramírez migró a San Francisco, sus hijos hacían la tarea de primaria en la florería que operaba la Mamá Ramírez desde departamento en el distrito de la Misión. Con un montón de apoyo comunitario, defendieron a su florería contra el aburguesamiento, y su campaña ayudó en dar a luz a la Coalición Anti-Desplazamiento de la Misión. Después de diez anos y muchas docenas de flores, la propietaria encontró una forma legal de desalojarlos, y fueron desplazados de la Misión, pero nunca de la lucha.

Mamá y Papá consiguieron su residencia, pero las estropeadas leyes de migración impidieron que sus dos hijos calificaran, a pesar de haber estado aquí todas sus vidas, y a pesar de que uno de ellos tiene una hija de cinco anos nacida y criada aqui.

Encontraron un abogado que les prometió arreglar su estado migratorio. Pero en vez de cumplir, se llevo todos los ahorros de la familia, perdió su licencia para practicar leyes, y desapareció de la noche a la mañana, dejando el caso hecho un desastre.

De repente, la familia Ramirez recibió una notificación de migración, diciendo que tenían que retirarse del país inmediatamente o enfrentar el proceso de deportación. En un estado de shock, solicitaron más tiempo para resolver el problema que el abogado defraudador les causó. La corte les otorgó la extensión.

Una semana después, cerca de la madrugada, ICE hizo una redada en su hogar en el Bayview. Encontró que uno de los jóvenes estaba en casa, lo tiraron al piso, le apuntaron con pistola, y lo tiraron en el auto patrulla. Pero Mamá Ramírez no es alguien que se deja intimidar facilmente, y exigió que dejaran en libertad a su hijo. Agitó la carta de apelación frente al oficial de ICE, y amenazó con llamar a Univisión, señalando a la nota en el estante que tenía el número de aquella estación de televisión, cuyo teléfono tenía por causa de la última conferencia de prensa que se organizó para defender la florería y su hogar. Su valentía y su historia en la lucha se hicieron valer en ese momento, y su hijo fue liberado.

Ahora ambos hijos estan todavía dentro del procedimiento legal, intentando ajustar su estado migratorio. El trauma de la redada todavía le saca las lágrimas a Mamá Ramírez, y su valentía ha inspirado a sus hijos a buscar apoyo en la comunidad.

Por favor únase al Comité de Vivienda San Pedro, en apoyo solidario a la familia Ramírez!

En la tardeada el dia 26 habrán botanas, música de DJ y una oportunidad de conocer a la familia Ramírez y escuchar su testimonio. Se pide una donación de $10-25 a la entrada.

También puede donar directamente al fondo legal aquí.

¡Y marche por la legalización el 1° de mayo!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mission District Hershey's Plant Threatened with Closure, While The Co. Increases Profits

So while there's talk and real fear of the Hershey's chocolate plant closing in the Mission District on 16th & Folsom, laying off over 100 local workers..."Hershey's profits rise as economy slumps"

The following is an excerpt from a news report that came out back in January talking about the banner year that Hershey's is having despite the economic crises.

"The company reported Tuesday that 2008 sales reached $5.13 billion, up 3.8 percent from its $4.95 billion in 2007. The company also was more profitable in 2008, making $311 million, compared with $214 million in 2007.

"Most food companies in 2008 did well," said Christopher Shanahan, a research analyst with Mountain View, Calif.-based Frost & Sullivan. "Hershey was definitely one of the leaders."

Hershey Co. CEO and President David J. West said the financial numbers show the company's strategy is working."

Peep out these links on how the French are getting down and radical: "United against the crisis, defend employment, spending power and public services."

French workers take manager hostage over job cuts

BBC News Video of People Taking to the Streets

Friday, March 20, 2009

Get Down with the Frisco Movement For Land & Jobs

Press Release: Bay Area community & labor groups want to stimulate equality and transparency in Green Jobs Stimulus Package

SAN FRANCISCO, CA— A broad alliance of community groups and workers centers will testify before Land Use Committee of the Board of Supervisors this Monday March 23 calling for greater transparency and community input in shaping the infusion of federal stimulus dollars slated for San Francisco’s developing green collar economy.

Community groups are echoing the frustration of City Supervisors and others in City Hall, all of who have not been given concrete and comprehensive information about the specific allocations San Francisco has secured from the Federal Stimulus Package, as well as other specific proposals the city has submitted for future allocations.

“The American people and the President have called for the highest level of transparency and accountability in the use of the stimulus funds, but here in San Francisco we haven’t seen any of the Mayor’s concrete proposals or allocations for public approval,” said Oscar Grande from PODER...

Click here to read the full press release

Join us @
The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee
March 23, 2pm
SF City Hall, Room 263

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Speakling of the New Mission Theater...

Courtesy of Mission Mission:

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

After several days of titlating headlines and public displays of disbelief and outrage we have...silence. The documented and now publicly acknowledged wrongdoing of our favorite neighborhood restauranteur/innkeeper/friend-of-Gavin, Gus Murad, has resulted in a whole lot of nothing.

Operating a rooftop bar without a permit and illegaly taking much needed residential hotel units off the market to operate a hostel may not seem a like big deal to some. After all, shouldn't we encourage entreprenours to grow their businesses even if it means calling in a few favors at City Hall? And, really, wouldn't you rather have some cute, young, European tourist walking around Mission Street than your typical crazed, unsightly, SRO tenant? So what if we have a homelesness crisis in this City? But consider this: at what point does the City become complicit in the (potential)wrongdoing after its been notified of these apparently illegal acts yet takes no action?

The City's Planning Commission and Planning Department as well as the Department of Building Inspection have been asked to investigate and police these matters, yet, several weeks later, we have seen no results.

The question, of course, is WHY? Stay tuned...we will be pursuing this story until we get an answer.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chronic Stress

Below is some background information from the Unnatural Causes website

Chronic Stress

Background: Turn on the stress response for five minutes and it can save your life. But as Stanford biologist Robert Sapolsky observes, turn on the stress response for 30 years, even at a low level, and it can increase your risk for every chronic disease.

Chronic stress, like other conditions that threaten or promote health, is distributed unevenly through society along class and racial lines. Our ability to manage the pressures that might upset our lives is not simply a matter of personality or character; it's tied to our access to power, resources, support networks and opportunities. Both exposures to stressors and access to the resources we need to manage them are tied to our class and social status.

We all experience stress. Our body's stress response is actually a way of protecting us from a perceived danger. In the face of peril, hormones like cortisol and epinephrine increase our heart rate and blood pressure to supply oxygen and glucose to muscles and the brain while shutting down "non-essential" functions like growth and reproduction.

Rockefeller University's Bruce McEwen and UCLA's Teresa Seeman are among those studying how long-term or chronic stress throws our body out of balance, especially our neuro-endocrine, immune and cardiovascular systems. McEwen calls the measurable wear and tear of persistent "micro-insults" to the body allostatic load. He and other researchers are demonstrating how chronic stress increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart and artery disease, stroke, depression, auto-immune diseases, impaired memory, even failure to ovulate in females and erectile dysfunction in males.

There's also increasing evidence that repeated activation of the stress response early in life can literally affect the wiring of the brain, inhibit children's ability to develop "resilience," and increase the chances they will develop helplessness, anger and depression later in life and become more susceptible to obesity and illness.

All of us face pressures in our lives, but our ability to cope - and consequently stay healthy or not - depends on our position on the class pyramid. It's not CEOs who are dropping dead of heart attacks, it's their subordinates. Why? Because those with access to power, resources, support and opportunity have more control over the forces that impinge upon their lives and are better able to manage or escape the demands placed upon them.

People who are lower on the socioeconomic pyramid tend to be exposed to more formidable and ongoing stressors, e.g., job insecurity, unpaid bills, inadequate childcare, underperforming schools, and dangerous or toxic living conditions, crowded homes, even noisy streets. They are also less likely to have access to the money, power, status, knowledge, social connections and other resources they need to gain control over these many tempests that threaten to upset their lives.

But it's not only those at the bottom of the pyramid harmed by stress. So are many middle managers, working people and especially people of color, whose aspirations to succeed are often thwarted by interpersonal and institutional barriers over which they have little control, including prejudice and racism. High demand / low control jobs are particularly stressful.

Today, chronic stress is widely recognized as a health threat. But suggested solutions usually are limited to individually based interventions like taking vitamin supplements, practicing yoga, or meditating. Although these are helpful, they aren't the whole picture. We also need strategies that challenge the underlying economic and social conditions that imperil our chances for health in the first place.

Social policies like living wage jobs, greater autonomy and control at work, safe, walkable neighborhoods, efficient public transportation, good schools, and quality, affordable housing and paid vacations are all effective ways to reduce stress, though they require a political commitment, not just a personal one. But political engagement is an effective remedy in more ways than one: while improving social conditions improves health, research suggests that the very act of engagement can also be empowering and thus stress reducing. That's a double victory.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is inequality making us sick?

Check out this article from the Guardian.

Sustainability is also about equitable development, not just being "green."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Everything you wanted to know about the Mission and more

A lot of blogs put up historical pictures of the Mission, fun facts and other random activities in the neighborhood. So we thought we would provide you with some statistics.

The stats are part of a the Healthy Development Measurement Tool.

"The Healthy Development Measurement Tool is a comprehensive evaluation metric to consider health needs in urban development plans and projects.
The HDMT explicitly connects public health to urban development planning in efforts to achieve a higher quality social and physical environment that advances health."

Check it out, it is very interesting.

Monday, February 16, 2009


A Solo Theater Work-In-Progress

Directed by Brian Freeman
Videography by Haldun Morgan

Thursday February 19, 2009 @ 7pm*
Friday February 20, 2009 @ 8pm**


2698 Folsom Street @ 23rd Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Tickets $7-$10 Sliding Scale available at the door

How could gentrification be violent if artists started it?

Like many young artists, Paul Flores came to San Francisco looking to find a community and establish himself. You're Gonna Cry is about the hard realities of life in San Francisco's Mission District, and the offbeat and humorous characters who also make it a place to love.

*2/19 (Thurs) Also features guest performances in homage to Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri featuring influential local poets Alfonso Texidor, Avotjca, QR Hand and Marina Lavaille. w/ dj lucha grande

**2/20 (Fri) Also features Youth Speaks with James Kass, local narrator Norman Zelaya and Taco Shop Poet Adrian Arancibia reading from his new book Atacama Poems. w/ dj lucha grande

Check out video of Paul @


You're Gonna Cry is a work-in-progress, original multimedia solo theater piece refelecting on Flores' own relationship to the Mission District Latino community where he spent ten years developing as a community artist and witnessing the force of gentrification that displaced many Latino residents and fellow artists, as the neighborhood went through a cultural shift beginning in 1995 when the SF Chronicle dubbed the neighborhood the "New Bohemia". Flores' story addresses his search for identity as an artist while pursuing an ideal/romantic vision of the Mission District as the Latino cultural oasis that it was famed to be in the 1960's and 70's.

The piece includes spoken word, personal narrative, character monologues, puppets as well as a visual element - with the work of video artist Haldun Morgan -to explore Flores' personal journey as he developed into a Mission based poet, youth mentor, and Latino community activist against the backdrop of San Francisco's "Dot-Com" boom. Flores follows changes in the Mission's Latino community dynamics, including mass evictions, gang injunctions and immigration enforcement raids largely brought on by the affects of gentrification, ultimately leading him to arrive at a wiser, realistic understanding of an artist and his community.

Playwright and director Brian Freeman's expertise in developing solo performance will be instrumental in shaping Flores' first solo theater project. And the two nights of work-in-progress at Red Poppy Art House are designed to get community feedback in preparation for the premiere in May 2009.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rally For Families @ 2789 Harrison Canceled Today

The owner of 2789 Harrison Street (@ 24th) has agreed to enter into good faith negotiations with the families-the rally and press conference today is canceled. We will keep you posted on developments as they happen. Thanks for your support!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Spot Zoning Part V

Reading about the events of last week at the Planning Commission, it is obvious that American Apparel can learn a thing or two about doing business in the city. Check out this post from Beyond Chron.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Spot Zoning Part IV

Is Medjool's rooftop bar illegal? Check out this article from SFGate.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Support Our Neighbors Keep their Home

Rally and Press Conference

Support Mission Families in their fight to keep their homes!

The apartment building on 24th and Harrison, (2789 Harrison St), home to 6 working-class Immigrant and Latino Families are being forced out of their long-time homes by a new land-lord. He is trying to implement rent increases between $800.00 and $1100.00 per month, in effect forcing the residents out of their homes. The residents are willing to negotiate a fair increase in rent in order to remain in their homes. These increases are too much for these working families to afford, we believe this is an injustice and ask that the owner of the property RBA member Mr. Allen McCarthy negotiate a fair rent increase and new lease with the residents of 2789 Harrison.

Please Join us on the Steps of City Hall for a rally and Press Conference to support the Residents and the introduction of a Board of Supervisor Resolution introduced by District 9 Supervisor David Campos calling for a just resolution for the residents.

Rally and Press Conference
Tuesday, February 10
Steps of City Hall (Polk St. entrance)

Sponsored by: Comite 24 y Harrison with support from MAC, and community allies

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Tale of Two Commercial Corridors

It was the best of times (for well connected developers on Mission Street and anti-formula retail activists on Valencia Street) and the worst of times (for folks interested in restoring the New Mission Theater as a true community serving institution, affordable housing advocates, and fans of good planning and clean government). Valencia has become iconic for its high-end eclecticism, it's hipster saturated streets and pricey restaurants. The demographic on the street is young, hyper-educated and affluent. Mission Street is, well, Mission Street, full of brown faces, families with kids, recent immigrants, grime, and all kinds of cheap apparel stores up and down the corridor. Two streets that sit side by side running parallel through the Mission District, only a block away but worlds apart.

Our last post gave you the result of the vote to override the veto on the New Mission Theater, let's just say it didn't go our way. The press and blogger attention this story got was minimal, to put it kindly. Compare that to the incredible amount of heat and press coverage that the spectre of American Apparel coming to Valencia has generated, it's truly mind boggling given the relatively small impact that this store would have on the neighborhood as a whole. Meanwhile, Gavin Newsom helps Gus Murad, the glad handing owner of "the Douchiest Bar in San Francisco," execute an end run around the Planning Department and the Board of Supervisors to build close to 100 high-end condos and Medjool Part II where a beloved and historical theater sits, and all those angry Valencia Street activists and bloggers have shown about as much interest in this anti-gentrification battle as they would in going to a close out sale at Lane Bryant.

In part, its lack of outreach on our part to bring in the folks that are now activated by the AA campaign. However, its no secret that the Mission has been overrun with gentrifying development projects throughout the past decade with a noticeable lack of outrage from most of the folks jumping on the anti-formula retail bandwagon.

The takeaway is that (duh) money rules and community consciousness often doesn't extend past race and class lines, even when similar battles are happening literally one block away from each other.

To have a real shot at preventing big money developers from continuing to call the shots in the Mission all of the different sectors of the anti-gentrification movement have to come together. Its one thing to drive off a sleazy, mustachioed formula retail vendor out of a neighborhood that's already hating on chain stores. Its quite another to fight off sophisticated developers with ready access to City decision makers and deep pockets to fund politician's election drives.

I'll leave you with a silver lining, the New Mission Theater battle is far from over. The project still has to go through the Planning Commission to receive permission to move forward and, if we lose there, will come before the Board of Supervisors again on appeal. We shall see if the anti-AA forces are willing to extend their concern for preserving the Mission one block east. We sincerely hope they do.

Spot Zoning Part III

The Board failed to override the veto. Supervisors Carmen Chu, Alioto-Pier, Elsbernd and Dufty supported the well connected restaurateur/developer by voting against the override.

See what the Chronicle had to say here. You can read Supervisor Daly's take on the issue and the influence of money here.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Spot Zoning Part II - A strange series of events

Advocates of the community planning process were happy to learn that Sandoval’s spot zoning legislation died at the Board of Supervisors. We believe Sandoval’s legislation died because the merits of raising the heights on just two properties were never vetted through the planning process. Interestingly enough, one Supervisor who supported his legislation at committee did not support it at the Board. This would be the first strange event in a series of strange events.

On Monday November 24th, the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan was passed by the Land Use Committee. The height limits along Mission Street are an aspect of the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan. While the Committee voted to keep the height limits along Mission Street as they have been, but nor below 55ft, the text of the actual legislation had the height limits set at 85 feet. The text carried a previous proposal, rejected by the Committee, to set the height limits along Mission Street at 85 ft.

On Tuesday November 25, the Plan was scheduled to be heard at the full Board of Supervisors. Given that the Plan was approved late Monday evening, there was not enough time to change the actual text of the legislation for the Board meeting to reflect what was passed.

The Board followed the Committee’s recommendation on height limits along Mission Street. As for the the height limits on both the El Capitan and New Mission theatre, they stayed where they are at, 55 feet and 65 feet respectively.

Are you with me so far?

The next strange event happened sometime in the week of the 24th when the Planning Department staff in charge of actually changing the text in the legislation to reflect the Board’s decision made a typographical error. They were making the changes they did not have time to do on the 24th.

The height limits on paper for the New Mission Theatre remained unchanged @ 85 ft instead of 55ft, but the height limit for the El Capitan Theatre was amended to reflect the Board’s decision at setting it at 55ft.

So of all of the parcels to get wrong, the planning staff gets wrong the one that is owned by a well connected restaurateur/developer. A part of me believes that it was an honest mistake because there is no evidence to the contrary.

When the Board approved the heights along Mission Street on the second reading on December 9th, as I stated in a previous post, they did not know that there was a typo regarding that one parcel.

This is where the problem begins. The planning staff made a typo that is caught too late, and the Board essentially votes the typo into law.

In a not so strange event, at the same hearing another Supervisor again tries to assist the well connected restaurateur /developer by trying to exclude his parcel, and that of the El Capitan Theatre, from the legislation. At this point the Supervisors are still unaware of the typo in the legislation. This move, if supported by the Board, would have essentially allowed the well connected restaurateur /developer to circumvent the planning process.

The centrist block of the Board of Supervisors supported the move to sever the two parcels from the height limits legislation in an effort to give the well connected restaurateur /developer his desired height. I guess they are not really into the idea of a community planning process and are ok with bypassing the planning process for well connected individuals.

Fortunately his efforts failed.

During all this time parcel 3616-007 had the incorrect height limit. On December 16th, the Board voted to correct their mistake. The Board passed the issue on the second reading, fixing the typographical error. Supervisors Carmen Chu, Dufty, Elsbernd, Alioto-Pier opposed fixing the error. Why would four otherwise rational law makers vote against a non-controversial issue such as fixing a mistake?

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Mayor vetoed the legislation fixing the issue before he left to Washington DC. For President Obama’s Inauguration.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spot Zoning Part I

Where did all the trouble with parcel 3616-007 (the site of the New Mission Theatre) begin? It really started with former Supervisor Geraldo Sandoval.

Under the guise of historic preservation, former Supervisor Sandoval introduced legislation that would have excluded the parcels where the El Capitan residential hotel and the New Mission sit from the height requirements, essentially giving the developers a variance.

Sandoval introduced legislation during the last Land Use Committee Hearing on the Eastern Neighborhoods on November 24th. Scores of hearings were held at both the Planning Commission and the Land Use Committee on the Plan, where proposed amendments were, for the most part, thoroughly vetted. The height increase proposed in Sandoval’s legislation was never discussed during the process.

The last minute introduction of this piece of legislation was an insult to the hundreds if not thousands of individuals who attended the Eastern Neighborhoods hearings at the Planning Commission and Land Use Committee. Only a few concerned citizens had the opportunity to comment on the legislation at the last minute.

Sandoval argued that any proposed developments on those two parcels should be allowed to go up to 85 feet, by right, in order to preserve the facades or marquees. We were not necessarily opposed to the merits of his legislation; we were opposed to the manner in which it was introduced.

It was our contention that Sandoval’s action to introduce legislation at the final hearing went against the spirit of the Eastern Neighborhoods planning process. While we have reservations about the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, it had unlike Sandoval’s legislation, been vetted during the last year by community organizations, community residents, the development lobby, the Planning Department, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors.

At best we considered the legislation to have been spot zoning, and at worst, to be a mockery of the planning process in San Francisco.

We argued for it to be treated as trailing legislation to allow for more community input and a more measured analysis by the Planning Department and Board of Supervisors.

Luckily for the community, the Board recognized the legislation as spot zoning and turned it down.

Unfortunately, other Supervisor were not content with its defeat, leading to a strange series of events that brings us to the February 3rd vote.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Your Recommended Daily Allowance of Irony

Over the years MAC has fought against displacement, evictions, speculation and gentrification in the Mission District. We have organized to keep out big box developments, supported the formula retail ban, fought the Walgreens on Cesar Chavez, Home Depot on Bayshore and have worked to protect neighborhood serving and locally owned small businesses, so it would seem like a no-brainer that we would oppose the American Apparel outlet proposed for Valencia Street.

Yet, MAC and other long-time residents who have seen the changes on Valencia Street, Mission Street and 24th St. corridors, we cannot overlook the irony and contradictions that the “locally owned businesses on Valencia “Your Mission” campaign present. Many of the displacements have been at the hands of non-neighborhood serving boutique shops, or destination restaurants or just plain expensive shops that many Mission residents can not shop at. I noticed a comment on the No American Apparel site that stated that it was these shops that had saved the Mission from 99 cent stores and, I assume, other lower-end businesses. It is this short sighted analysis from the group that makes us pause. It is because many locals cannot afford to buy from shops on Valencia and we see the forcing out of Latino owned and operated business on 24th that are being replaced by Valencia like businesses that we are hesitating on our position on American Apparel.

It also bears mentioning that AA hires workers of color from within the community their production plant is located within and pays them a fair wage, a practice that our local businesses should but often don't follow. The knee-jerk "no" to chain stores would make a lot more sense if our existing Valencia St. shop owners committed to hiring young people from the neighborhood and providing price points that we all could afford. It would also sense if local businesses coming to the Mission partnered with community-based organizations to train and recruit a diverse work force that had opportunities to work in all aspects of their businesses and not just as janitors, or dish washers.

In the end we oppose formula retail on Valencia, but not because we want to protect the businesses that displaced the community-serving businesses in the hood. We only hope that the Your Mission Campaign takes a moment to reflect on their role in displacing the previous group of small businesses. It might also be a good time for them to figure out what "Your Mission...Not Theirs" means when this same group of shop owners do not provide goods and services for the working class and lower-income residents of the neighborhood that make up the majority of the residents in the Mission District.

MAC opposes formula retail because it allows landlords to speculate and dispense of long-time sustainable businesses that cannot afford the outrageous rents that are currently charged for commercial spaces in our neighborhood. It is not about American Apparel, it's about landlord greed and how they keep spaces empty waiting for formula retail or the next fancy restaurant while not providing long-term leases for real neighborhood serving businesses.

One final but important point, after the passage of the Eastern Neighborhood Plan the conditional use process will be more important than ever for the community to have some handle on how deveoopment occurs in the Mission. The precedent setting impact of allowing new formula retail on our NC corridors is something that we should be very worried about and is another critical reason why are saying no to American Apparel.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Say It Ain't So

According to post on the City Insider’s page, Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoed a piece of legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors that would have corrected a typographical error in the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan that was recently approved by the Board. Why would the mayor veto something that is essentially a non policy issue, but is just correcting a mistake? Before I answer that question, let me give you some history on the matter.

In December the Board of Supervisors voted to maintain the maximum allowable heights of buildings along Mission Street at their current levels, a change from the proposed allowable heights in the Eastern Neighborhood Plan.

In order to do this every parcel, several hundred if not thousands, had to be listed in the legislation at their correct heights. Every parcel has the correct height listed except for one. On that parcel happens to sit the New Mission Theatre and Giant Value store. The Supervisors believed that they voted to maintain the height of that parcel at 65 feet (approximately 6 stories), but the legislation carried the typo. The Board with out knowing voted to approve the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan with the allowable height at that particular parcel at 85 feet.

To their credit, the mistake was owned up to by the Planning staff. When informed of this error, the Board of Supervisors drafted and passed legislation to correct the mistake. What is funny is that some supervisors (Dufty, Alioto-Pier, Elsbernd and Carmen Chu) voted against correcting the mistake. Why would they vote against correcting a mistake? It is not even a policy issue.

The owner of the site, Gus Murad, (who is politically well connected and happens to assist with fundraising for a variety of San Francisco politicians) plans to build an eight story tower that would contain high-end condos and a nightclub. If the heights were correctly set at 65 feet he would need to apply for a zoning variance to be allowed to build an eight story tower. To my knowledge, he has had these plans in the works for years, but has yet to apply for a variance. We hope he develops a project that is an asset to the community.

The problem is that he has circumvented the planning process that all other developers have to abide by, most likely because he is politically connected. The Newsom veto allows him the additional height to build his project without having to provide any additional benefits for the community. In this day and age of Change, shouldn’t the politicians be called out for appearances of out-right voting under the influence of money.

No one is outright opposed to an eight story tall tower along Mission Street, but the developer should go through the proper channels to do it. Otherwise, this is spot zoning by the Mayor and the four Supervisors who supported the original amendment. This winter the community and the Planning Department completed a decade long planning process, just to have the Mayor allow one special character exempted from its requirements because of a mistake. All San Franciscans should be outraged at such blatant pay to play politics and call Supervisors Chu, Elsbernd, Alito-Pier, and Dufty to demand that they support the override of the Mayor’s Veto that is scheduled to be considered at the Board of Supervisors February 3.


Signed, sealed and delivered!

The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan was passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed by the Mayor in December. The Plans became effective on January 19, 2009.

We will provide some analysis as to how the Plan will affect the Mission District in future posts.