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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A little bit of San Francisco's soul, evicted

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:

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
Careening downtown
To the dot coms.
They are trying to kick us
Out of here
They are trying to drain
This neighborhood of color
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
Into weapons
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
For Hell.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is truly disgusting. Yet it's happening and all the artists, musicians, and ethnic people are moving away. San Francisco becomes whiter (and Asian) by the minute.

    1. Race has nothing to do with this situation.

  3. More Frisco heartbreak. Good report.

  4. I don't see one mention of Supervisor David Campos in this story. Didn't his office get involved? What did they do? Tell me he did something. I know Ross Mirkarimi did something. He sent his deputies to kick them out. Ironic huh? This happens on the watch of two "progressives". Ross, who promotes art shows at the SF jail.

    It's amazing to me how we squander our SF culture. We pat ourselves on the backs for the creation of "The Mission School" of artists, yet allow the true fabric of our community get kicked out.

    I hope this story makes it to the national stage. I'm pissed off that I am hearing about it after the fact. This one sticks in my craw.

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  6. That's too bad. But while we're on the subject, Tim, shall I squat in the living room of the home you bought in Bernal Heights? I mean, I know it's your property and you paid for it and all, but I was around to see a few Dead Kennedys shows way back when, which proves I'm cooler than any property owner ever could be and therefore I deserve to live wherever I want in SF, no matter what happens.

    At least that's what I'm told by former SFBG writers.

    1. Still, after all that hate you're putting out there, I would still want them as my neighbors because they are good people who care about the community. That simple.

    2. Jack, I think you miss the point. Nobody was using the property as a "squat". Instead this is a case where the owner declared the tenants to be taking part in an illegal sublet. He only wanted them out so that he can turn around and rent it at a much higher rate. This is a tactic that you are going to be seeing a lot more of as new owners strive to find ways around rent control so that they can drive up prices.

    3. Jack, it's people like you who ruined SF for everyone else. This is not the same, as someone squatting in your house. These people were here, before the SOB bought it!

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  10. I think San Francisco lost it's soul some time ago! The SF that I remember and love, is long gone. At least it's satisfying to know, that even if I could afford to move back, I probably wouldn't!

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