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Ahhh.  I got the “It’s Our City. Take it Back!” campaign slogan all wrong.  I thought it was more garden variety hating on newcomers and techies that’s been prevalent around town.  It’s not.  It’s the oligarchy we’re taking it back from.  It’s Donald Trump.  Steve Bannon and the alt-right.  Ron Conway.  Ev Williams (whose wife, Sara, has contributed hugely to Tenderloin public arts and youth development, but that’s beside the point).  My apologies to Supervisor Kim for misunderstanding her understanding of who our enemy is.  She’s flying at 30,000 feet and I’m just walking the streets of the TL.

Still, Supervisor Kim, in her frequent, misleading references to “high-rise luxury condominiums,” is not always talking about the billionaires and the oligarchy, is she?

Anyway, my bad. All those years studying Weber, Marx and Durkheim, and I still didn’t get that this was really about The Great War:  The proletariat vs the bourgeoisie.

That said, the oligarchy didn’t stop us from building housing for everyone over the past several decades.  We did that.  It didn’t force us to concentrate extreme poverty in one small neighborhood where about 3000 kids live.  We did that too.  The oligarchy doesn’t force us to oppose projects because we want to protect our view and don’t want newcomers venturing into our neighborhoods.  We do that.  The oligarchy didn’t tell Supervisor Kim to torpedo new resources for the arts.  She did that.  The oligarchy doesn’t care if we clean our streets for our poor families to live with dignity.  Supervisor Kim hasn’t cared either, except for 3 months or so before an election.   The oligarchy doesn’t care if we provide enough beds for our homeless; we’ve been unwilling to.

Bernie’s right about the oligarchy, of course.   Speaking of which, did you see that Trump’s perverse version of redistributed wealth is derailing the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program?  LIHTCs have been a powerhouse in the production of affordable housing, so this is a seismic undermining of a key resource.   It was one of the programs Hillary said she would aggressively expand.

Blog Graph LIHTC Equity Pricing Per Credit as of April 2018

Maybe what Hillary supporters don’t get about the Bernie supporters is that they’re right.  Maybe what Bernie supporters don’t get about Hillary supporters is they care less about Bernie being right and more about expanding nuts & bolts programs like LIHTC, at least until the global oligarchy is overthrown and justice rings throughout the land.  The poetic vs the prosaic.

I don’t fly at 30,000 feet.  At about 5’11”, I just can’t believe that after the biggest boom in 150 years we have a worse situation on the street than ever before, and we haven’t improved conditions, particularly for families living in the Tenderloin.  Instead, Supervisor Kim (proletariat?) complained about Ed Lee’s office (bourgeoisie?), and vice versa.  Maybe she also had her sights set on Conway, Sara Williams, President Snow… who knows.  There was so much we could have done that was within our power, but instead we always claimed helplessness and subjugation to larger sinister forces (like Ed Lee’s office).  We blew it, and if she wins next month, we’ll no doubt again be helpless but for a different reason, with a different bogeyman or bogeywoman.  With Supervisor Kim we’re all just victims in need of protection, and I can’t stomach being a victim.

If you read Richard DeLeon’s “Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco, 1975-1991,” you’ll recognize the decades-old pattern of progressives needing “The Enemy,”  the “Bogeyman.”  In the 80’s it was the pro-growth, downtown interests. Today it’s the tech billionaires and the alt-right.  Progressives can and have accomplished little on their own; they just know how to oppose.  Similar to the Republican Party, they are accomplished primarily in being the opposition.

So, again, I was wrong about the Take Back Our City! slogan being just a bit fascist.  Instead, it’s just a tired, cliché, and ultimately useless ideology for meeting the basic needs of our citizens.  It’s an “Immigrants are Welcome Here” or “Stop Global Warming!” sign on the front lawn of a household that votes against the proposed 4 story housing development down the street to preserve neighborhood character.  It’s stepping over bodies and feces day after day while focusing on impeaching Trump and getting rid of local philanthropist Sara Williams.  (I signed the impeach Trump petition, btw, but he’s still there.  What the fuck?)  But you don’t notice life on the street so much at 30,000 feet.

How about this as an anti-tribalism compromise: Resist!  And build housing at all price points, not just the low-end, which results in little to no housing getting built at all.  Resist!  And restore arts funding to original levels, or at least stop opposing the arts because we think they’re bourgeois and irrelevant to the lives of poor people (which is fucking insulting).  Resist!  And provide clean, healthy, safe streets for poor people, or at least stop opposing clean streets because we think they’re bourgeois and irrelevant to the lives of poor people.  We can think of many examples.

If you’re all about The Resistance only, well, you’re just no use at all to the real proletariats who have indeed been systematically disenfranchised and oppressed by the Trumps and oligarchies throughout the ages.

Shouldn’t we all do something about this?  And stop waiting for Neo and Katniss to save us?

Or should we continue to just settle for our annual “Add-backs” and saying “Fuck Trump.”

Elvin

p.s.  Should we stop accepting Sara’s money until we sort this us vs. them thing out?

Anyway, as it turned out, the oppressors were President Snow and President Coin.  As a big Julianne Moore fan I was really bummed out.  As for the brilliant Donald Sutherland, well, you just knew he was going to be a bad guy.

I’ve been wondering about Supervisor Jane Kim’s mayoral campaign slogan: “This is Our City. Take it back!”

I suppose I’m wondering: Take it back to what?

An arts friendly city?  It can’t be that.  Supervisor Kim opposed new resources for the arts and affordable housing for artists. (See below.)  The hotel tax allocation for Grants for the Arts has steadily dwindled during Supervisor Kim’s tenure.  And she blew $24 million dollars for permanently affordable arts education space for a very disadvantaged community.  Twenty-four million dollars, and we hadn’t yet started a capital campaign to raise more.

How about take it back to an equitable, affordable city?  It can’t be that either. Supervisor Kim’s local control model ultimately produces fewer units of affordable housing and exacerbates San Francisco’s now famous income inequality between rich and poor.  Moderate and middle-income households need not apply.

Take it back to what exactly?  Pre-tech?  Should we tell them to leave?  Start checking people’s papers?

What exactly does that mean?

I arrived in SF in 2009.  Did I beat the cut-off date for new arrivals?  Acceptable new arrivals?  I’m starting to wonder.  Should I expect a loud knock on my door from the Department of Take Back Our City?

I’m worried my accent will give me away.  Going to get my supplies ready in case I need to lay low come June 6th.  Candles.  Canned food.  Bottled watta (doh!).

Maybe I’ll prepare a list of qualifications.  I have a SF Public Library card; I’m a regular user and usually return stuff on time.  SFPL rocks by the way, easily one of the true treasures of the city.  I go to Giants games from time to time.  I confess I don’t buy at the concessions, but $14.50 for a Budweiser?… I, just, can’t.  I need to buy more Giants apparel; when they knock on the door I’m going to be wearing the whole ensemble down to my briefs.  Do the Warriors count?  Or will they count only after they move here?  I hear the tickets at the new arena are going to be crazy expensive though, so not sure how that’s going to fit in the “This is Our City. Take it Back!” calculus, which seems to have a class-warfare kind of vibe.  It gets complicated; I’m going to approach mentioning the Warriors with caution, just to be safe.

At the very least, if we’re going to build a wall after getting rid of the riffraff, I propose we commission local artists to dress it up a bit with some cool murals. We’ll have to be sure to check the artists’ papers of course, and do something about restoring funding for the arts as we’ll have lots of wall to cover.  We should pay the artists a living wage for their work, even though they’re a scrappy lot and can live off practically nothing, or so the legend goes.  I don’t know where to source a wall; I know the President looked at swatches in San Diego recently so he may have some leads.  The beauty of the wall is we can paint both sides, so whichever side of the wall I wind-up on, I’m going to advocate for the artists.  On our side we can paint a message: Thank God They’re Gone.  I don’t know who decides what gets painted on the other side, but we (I’m assuming I’m still part of “we”) can suggest something like: Don’t Even Think About It, or, Stay the Fuck Out.

The more I think about it, the more this campaign slogan impresses me as just a bit fascist and hateful.

Elvin

P.S.  Where did the 49ers go?  Should I mention them in my interview?


Supervisor Kim’s deletions of Mayor Ed Lee’s 2011 draft Central Market plan:

  • Create a mini-grant program to fund artists and arts organizations that will implement this type of programming.
  • Create incentives for developers and property owners to develop and maintain facilities for arts organizations and uses.
  • Support privately-funded development of housing that includes live/work housing for low-income artists that engage the local community.
  • Provide support to catalytic commercial and housing development projects—including arts and culture establishments as stand-alone or mixed-use projects—that transform large portions of vacant property.

 

Have you been to Marfa?

Marfa is a small town in the high desert in West Texas. Population around 1800. It’s an arts destination. Marfa’s in Presidio County, one of the poorest counties in the United States.

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Sustainable Energy

 

 

Marfa has one traffic signal that blinks. At least that’s all I remember seeing.  If you go you must visit Marfa Burritos.  Fantastic.  It’s Ramona’s joint. As you leave, Ramona will say farewell with a cheerful “Adios Guapos!”  I went there for breakfast and lunch, and would have gone for dinner if it was still open.  Anthony Bourdain was there while we were visiting.  We talked about Puerto Rico a bit.  Bourdain ordered the asado.  I went for the egg & chorizo. You can’t go wrong either way.

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Be sure to stop here.

 

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Outdoor dining @ Marfa Burrito

 

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Ramona: she’s always happy to see you.

 

Some of my closest friends here in SF don’t want any more development. Or wonder if the city’s built-out.  Yet they’re both involved in facilities development projects for permanently affordable arts space.  Arts people.  They’re brilliant, inspiring to me.  They save lives, including mine.   The whole thing with money and architects and engineers and developers and construction – i.e. development – is hard, but it’s what we have to do if we want affordable living or work space.  Unless we lived in Marfa.  My friends grew up in the city or have been in the city for decades.  One of my friends hates this guy Ron Conway; she blames him for the affordable housing crisis.  Another wonders: Is there a point where the city is full?  The specter of Manhattan looms.

My California cycling legend buddy Tony Tom grew up at Jones and Broadway. He remembers doing wheelies in the middle of the street.  He said he could do that because no cars would pass by, back in the day.

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Tony with his daughters.  Tony owns the coolest bike shop anywhere: A Bicycle Odyssey in Sausalito. 

 

 

I suppose I always thought of cities as ever-evolving cauldrons of people, economies, cultures, civilizations.  I never considered the prospect of a static city until I moved to San Francisco and learned of its deeply conservative, anti-city ethos.

I look at much of San Francisco, with its landscape of one and two-story buildings within minutes walk of major public transit stations, and I don’t get the references to Manhattan.  Not even Queens or Brooklyn for that matter.   My friends are probably talking about the giant, blunt force redevelopment projects like the Embarcadero Center and Yerba Buena.   I can see how those projects left a long, traumatic, residual stream of anti-development sentiments in their wake.

I don’t know Ron Conway; maybe he’s an asshole.  I saw he is a major contributor to anti-gun violence efforts; that impresses me as a very good thing.  Either way, it’s arguably better to build affordable space than to endlessly fixate on one asshole or one benefactor.  So I’m happy for my arts friends’ real estate development projects.

On the other hand, what if Jeff Bezos chooses Marfa for HQ2?  If I were a Marfa resident, I’d be all over opposing that.

Sad to hear of Larry’s passing today.  He had a kind spirit.  I wrote this a couple of years back.

Chillin’ with the Original Burning Man on the Luggage Store Gallery Rooftop

I know it’s impossible for natives to believe this but I didn’t know what Burning Man was when I arrived in the Tenderloin in 2009.  The mayor’s office certainly knew who they were, and they knew Burning Man had recently created the Black Rock Arts Foundation.  “Burning Man is loaded!” the mayor’s staff said.  “They can revitalize mid-Market!”

Larry Harvey, Burning Man’s founder, is an inquisitive, super smart guy with a friendly spirit.  He and his colleagues were weighing the prospect of settling their headquarters in mid-Market.  Larry was moving forward cautiously with eyes wide open under his famous Stetson hat.  One late afternoon on the rooftop at 1007 Market Street, the home of the iconic Luggage Store Gallery, we chatted and looked out at the intersection of 6th & Market, one of the most fascinating intersections of any city anywhere.

I sensed the hesitancy about moving to the area.   I think one of Larry’s concerns was whether Burning Man would be perceived as an interloper.   I remember offering him my two cents: “You see that intersection down there?  That is a great city meeting place for all.  It belongs to no one; it belongs to everyone.  If you come it will belong to you just like it belongs to everyone else.”

While moving to the area was a question mark, Larry was clear on his view of city hall’s mid-Market arts district plans.  He told me: “They will let us furry animals out for a while, and then when they don’t need us anymore they will put us back in our cages.”  (Easily one of the more memorable observations during my five years in the TL.)

With that we walked back to the death-defying ladder leading from the roof down to the third floor rear window at the Luggage Store Gallery.   I don’t know what ultimately led Burning Man to move to the neighborhood or what led them to leave.  I do know that, not long after, the city proved Larry Harvey’s Little Furry Animals Theory right.

Below are Supervisor Kim’s deletions of various arts initiatives in Mayor Ed Lee’s October 2011 draft plan for Central Market.   As is clear, Supervisor Kim opposed the mayor’s office creating – or even exploring – new funding resources for the arts, arts facilities, and affordable housing for low-income artists (even privately funded).  Catalytic community arts projects are not “a priority.”

These edits demonstrate an entirely different position on the arts than what Supervisor Kim has communicated publicly.

Supervisor Kim’s deletions of Mayor Ed Lee’s plan:

  • Create a mini-grant program to fund artists and arts organizations that will implement this type of programming.
  • Create incentives for developers and property owners to develop and maintain facilities for arts organizations and uses.
  • Support privately-funded development of housing that includes live/work housing for low-income artists that engage the local community.
  • Provide support to catalytic commercial and housing development projects—including arts and culture establishments as stand-alone or mixed-use projects—that transform large portions of vacant property.

 

It was a unanimous vote by the Planning Commission.  Congrats to Craig Young and ilana Lipset!  The public comments were across the board positive, though there was one from an undefined mid-Market “coalition” that expressed concern about the risk of “psychological displacement” as higher-income residents move into the neighborhood.

Psychological displacement.  I’m guessing this means that the Tenderloin’s poor, living in protected rooms/housing, will look at the new people moving in – their new apartments with toilets and fire sprinklers, the businesses that cater to them (the Black Cats, the Biigs), maybe the clothes they wear – and feel an immediate need for psychological counseling services?

This, by the way, is a primary reason why the arts are so important.  We want a level playing field to counteract “psychological displacement?”   Then we should invest heavily in arts facilities, public markets, playgrounds, rec centers where we all can meet, break bread, and share these fundamental human experiences regardless of our backgrounds.

Here’s my admittedly non-scientific take on the situation.  Nice people who have money will move into both 1028 and 950.  They will be neighbors and interact with the Tenderloin’s nice people who have little or no-money.   Have money, have little money, have no money – we will all be nice people together.  Of course, there are low-income, middle-income and high-income people that are jerks, but we’ll deal with them.   There will be a yellow one that won’t accept the black one, that won’t accept the red one that won’t accept the white one.  And different strokes for different folks.  And so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby.

As a simple guiding principal I propose: New or long-term resident, rich or poor, you respect the Tenderloin – and its residents – or you need to leave.

Poor people are not necessarily helpless people.  Quite the contrary; in the Tenderloin you will find some of the strongest people you’ve ever met.  No psychological counseling necessary, though moving toward a healthier, more integrated community, sharing the same stuff everybody needs, would be nice.  Time for the champions of segregation to step aside.  We’re all Everyday People.  Oh sha sha.  We got to live together.

A big shoutout to Krissy Keefer and Dance Brigade on their brilliant 40th Anniversary Celebration at YBCA.  One of the most daring and life-affirming works of dance choreography I’ve ever witnessed.   Happy Anniversary!

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Krissy Keefer – creative, visionary genius behind Dance Brigade