This city lost another little piece of its soul today (Aug. 27) when sheriff's deputies arrived to carry out an eviction at 17th and Capp.
Tenants of what used to be called the "17 Reasons" building after the strange but prominent sign that once graced its roof were given exactly sixty seconds to grab what they could of their belongings before the deputies secured the place for owner Rick Holman, who bought the place in April.
The residents were part of what used to be the heart of the mission, a group of activists and radicals who lived in converted commercial space and used their home as a meeting place for community organizers. Food Not Bombs cooked and stored food there.
Holman claims the place was an illegal sublet, that people who weren't on the lease had been living there. But the previous landlord never cared, and let the artist-collective types pretty much alone. And once an owner has established a practice, it's not surprising that the tenants would continue with it.
They always paid the rent on time. There is no indication that they damaged the property.
And for many, many years, scrappy young tenants, many of them artists, poets, writers, have inhabited marginal living spaces in the Mission and SOMA, creating communities and contributing to the fabric of the city.
But now, frankly, land in the Mission is too valuable for poor people and artists and malcontents to live on it. So today, more than a dozen members of the San Francisco Sheriff's Department showed up a little after 3pm. A locksmith was on site to open the doors. Homan was watching, along with an aide who did his best to shoo away two reporters by insisting that even the back parking lot was "private property" and nobody could stand there and watch the eviction.
Chema Hernandez Gil, who had been living in the building, met us out front and took us inside. We could see the deputies searching the living space, making sure nobody was still hiding out. When Hernandez asked if he could go in and reclaim the property still left behind, the deputy in charge said the landlord had refused. But under pressure from the sheriffs, Homan agreed to give Hernandez and Alicia Pelton, another resident, sixty seconds to grab what they could.
To get the rest, they will have to contact a landlord who they say has been hostile to them from day one, and get his permission to return and reclaim their possessions.
Pelton has found a new place to live -- in the East Bay. That's the tragedy of all these evictions, all this displacement -- San Franciscans can't stay in their own town anymore. And for all the comments I hear about how that's just life, how people from Manhattan have been forced to move to Brooklyn, it's not the same. Brooklyn is part of New York. Oakland is not part of San Francisco.
The speculators and landlords are cleaning up the Mission. They are driving out the life. They are emptying a city of it's madness and color and fun. It's worse than it's ever been, and it's been bad before.
It's like this, to quote my old friend, the late great poet John Ross:
RONCO Y DULCE
Coming out of the underground
On the BART escalator,
The Mission sky
Is washed by autumn,
The old men and their garbage bags
Are clustered in the battered plaza
We once named for Cesar Augusto Sandino.
Behind me down below
In the throat of the earth
A rough bracero sings
Of his comings and goings
In a voice as ronco y dulce
As the mountains of Michoacan and Jalisco
For the white zombies
To the dot coms.
They are trying to kick us
Out of here
They are trying to drain
This neighborhood of color
This time we are not moving on.
We are going to stick to this barrio
Like the posters so fiercely pasted
To the walls of La Mision
With iron glue
That they will have to take them down
Brick by brick
To make us go away
And even then our ghosts
Will come home
And turn those bricks
And take back our streets
Brick by brick
And song by song
Ronco y dulce
As Jalisco and Michaocan
Managua, Manila, Ramallah Pine Ridge, Vietnam, and Africa.
As my compa QR say
We here now motherfuckers
Tell the Klan and the Nazis
And the Real Estate vampires
To catch the next BART out of here