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.