The Dot-Con Game


root - Posted on 31 December 1969

Lately, the Mission (and a lot of other neighborhoods) are succumbing

by Scott Clark

Lately, the Mission (and a lot of other neighborhoods) are succumbing to what real-estate investors probably like to think of as their version of the old pea-and-shell game. The problem is, the game is usually a con: the operative is far more skilled than the average player, the prime skills being fast talk and fast moves. Then the Con packs it up and quickly moves on, being also a fast traveler.

Some folks tend to prefer to live a more honest life. When they find the Con coming back around a bit too often, they tend to group together and try to force him out of town, or else reconsider the terms of his engagement. More or less being held by the scruff of the neck while the played-out player tells the con how sick his game is, and even maybe slaps him around a bit, just for emphasis.

In the case of the Mission District, the Con is represented by the Planning Department (and Planning Commission) of San Francisco. The Played-out Players, of course, are residents of the Mission District. The game, this time around, came to a head in the form of the Bryant Street Square Project: and the Average Players were Pissed.

In the words of Oscar Grande from PODER (Spanish for "Power") : "They said we couldn’t do it, couldn’t organize it, but here we are, 500 strong."

On Monday, June 26, the Board of Supervisors held a hearing on the Bryant Square Project, in which appeals were heard from various Mission Residents. This is a 150,000+ square foot, 5-story, market-rate office building slated for placement within a heavily populated residential area at 19th and Bryant Streets. Outcome of hearing: that Bryant Square passed, even though the line of speakers numbered more than 100 people.

On Wednesday, June 28: a community protest entitled "Mission District Speaks". This had been organized in advance as a ‘Plan B’ avenue of addressing the City Government on growing anger, fears and frustration within the Mission regarding the invasion of Dot-Com businesses, Business-Service industries, and market-rate live-work conversions. This took place at the Horace Mann Middle School, in the evening, so everyone could make it.

Present at this meeting/protest: Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition (MAC), PODER, The San Francisco Day Laborer Program, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Mission Housing Development Corporation, Mission Economic Development Agency, various Mission District Neighborhood groups, advocates and concerned citizens. Planning Director, Gerald Green. Planning Commissioners Hector Chinchilla, Linda Richardson. Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano. Totalling 500-plus audience and speakers.

Its theme and purpose: The Mission is in crisis. Rents are skyrocketing, long-time residents are being evicted, and small businesses and non-profits that serve the community can’t afford to be here. Low—income and Latino families, seniors, immigrants, artists, and people who grew up here are some of those being hit the hardest. Meanwhile, the Planning Department and the Planning Commission have been happily rubber-stamping giant office complexes and luxury lofts, despite intense community opposition. Mission residents, community organizations, and small business owners have gotten together and demanded that Planning Department Director Gerald Green and members of the Planning Commission come to the neighborhood and answer to our demands and respond to our plan for the Mission.

This problem is not exclusive to the Mission. It’s happening in places like Richmond, Oakland, San Jose, and closer to home: Hunters Point/ Bayview, South of Market, and North Beach, to name a few. Traditionally, these cities and neighborhoods have been home to working class families of all colors, small businesses of varying sizes, and individuals of all lifestyles. The long-standing history of diversity in these neighborhoods are slowly being turned into homogenous locales where it’s getting harder and harder to decipher the difference between a beauty salon and a trendy bar. In the past, Mission folks facing displacement had a Plan B: pack your bags and move to Daly City or Oakland. Nowadays, Plan B no longer works; the bottom line is if you aren’t making more than 50 g’s, have no stock options, have kids, and/or are taking care of an elder parent…then you are ass out.

For the past four years, the Mission District (as well as other low-income and working class multicultural, immigrant, communities of color) has borne the brunt of gentrification caused by the booming economy and unchecked development of live-work lofts and high-tech multimedia offices. All parts of our community, from small community-serving businesses to low income renters and non-profit community based organizations, have been displaced. The Planning Department and Commission have done little to protect the most vulnerable residents, businesses, and CBO’s (community business organizations). Instead, the department and commission have blindly followed the demands of powerful lobbyists and developers, and have overlooked the concerns of the low income communities like the Mission.

This is happening in the midst of a booming economy that is increasing the gap between rich and poor, with little if any response from city officials. On this day, we are here to say that we no longer accept this disregard for our community. Our concerns will no longer be ignored! We demand an end to the displacement and the destruction of our diverse working class community.

The Demands:

An immediate moratorium, covering the entire Mission District, on New Market-Rate housing and "Live-Work".

An immediate moratorium, covering the entire Mission District, on conversions and new construction of office space, dot-com space, Business Service space, whatever it is called.

Immediate abatement of illegal conversions, specifically including the conversion of the Bayview Bank building to a single dot-com company.

A community-initiated planning process.

Discuss reprogramming of funds in 2000-2001 so that these things can be accomplished.

Gerald Green, when requested to give a response to these demands one at a time, was only able to fully agree with the last three. After all, this is a fast-moving game, and he has to hold on to some of his principles.

Antonio Diaz (also from PODER) ended up the meeting with the invitation to "Go out and bring in 5 more people" for July 13, "the Next Step." There will be an action that day at 1pm on the Polk Street side of City Hall; just to let the Cons know, as was quotably chanted out Wednesday Night: "That Ain’t Right!"

Regarding some of the lesser players in this ongoing drama: a website (from the "Stop the Monsters; Protect Our Neighborhoods" flyer):

http://saveguerrero street.editthispage.com (email at: parrot.pobox.com).

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