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.


Ben said...

I'd love to know how that typo got in there in the first place.

Elana said...

please publicize as widely as possible when the commission hearing date is set, if it isn't already. i would like to attend.

Joanna said...

I think lack of outreach has a lot to do with why related neighborhood issues end up so atomized.

I'm a relatively new (coming up on 5 years) resident of the Mission. I live in the Mission because I really, really like the multi-cultural environment, the amazingly good food, small businesses, and the mix of people. Things seem so hostile on these blogs, but in the real world, people in my neighborhood are friendly and I really like the blend of working-class families, young college graduates and professional creatives that live here.

I also think that, for the most part, all residents of the neighborhood have the same interests: affordable housing, available healthy food, community services, and safe and free public spaces, a thriving local economy and jobs with dignity.

I'm definately on board with opposing developers, but I don't see a lot of bright, snazzy posters about Mission Theater. And as lame as it sounds, seeing the posters is what got me to the website which is what got me to write a letter. I really appreciate the work that MAC does, but it is hard for me to follow long technical posts about bureaucracy. I don't know what spot zoning is, and I don't really have the attention and time to go through the blow-by-blow of planning meetings (although I'm really glad and grateful that other residents are), but I do support the work of MAC and if someone gave me an easy, direct way to do something, I would. I'd totally write a letter to prevent another Medjool from opening up, but unless someone spells it out for, I'm not going to know even where to send it. Or why-- I mean, I have no idea which restaurants are owned by capitalist restauranteurs and which are the operations of residents and families.

As ignorant and uninvolved as I sound, I'm just being honest here because I don't want my neighborhood to be atomized by race or class or ethnicity, and I hope all community activists think about outreach. I think the assumption that different groups don't want to talk to or help each other just sucks; I believe the majority of people just don't know how or are not in the habit.

rhea said...

well said - Thank you!