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.