A Year in the Life of the Anti-Displacement Movement

Key events in the anti-displacement movement in the Mission district of San Francisco in the late ’90s. Extracts from the full article.

Writings on the Walls

The posters of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project (MYEP) was one of the visible signs of opposition in 1998. Below, left, we see the first of several posters MYEP — advocating vandalism of expensive cars — wheatpasted around the neighborhood. On the right, social commentary on an abandoned Mission district factory wall.

blight2 myep

July 27th: Party Crashing at the Armory

armoryEikon Investments, the firm that proposed a dot-com office remake for the Mission Armory, staged a party for the Internet business set, served by white-coated parking valets, and addressed by Da Mayor. Activists from MAC and the Digital Workers Alliance crashed the party.

September 21st: Occupation of BigStep.Com Offices

bigstepThe first influx of dot-com office development had been in the Northeast Mission Industrial Zone. The Bay View Bank Building was the first major incursion into the heart of the Mission — the Mission Street corridor. The Mission Street and 24th Street corridors are the main commercial and cultural heart of the Latino community in San Francisco, and many of the small businesses in these commercial strips are marginal. For example, produce markets are a common site in the Mission. A study of these markets by MEDA showed that only 16% had enough revenue to qualify for mortgage capital to buy their buildings. This puts them at the mercy of the current rental market. The incursion of high tech firms into this commercial district threatens to drive rents through the sky, as landlords drool at the prospect of much higher revenue per square foot.

The first major invasion of high-tech firms into the Mission was the takeover of three floors of the Bay View Bank Building by BigStep.Com — a firm that provides e-tailing services and tools for small businesses. The Cort family, who had bought the building, used asbestos abatement as the excuse to evict two dozen community serving entities from the building — immigration lawyers, nonprofits, etc. Luring BigStep.Com was the sign that the Corts needed that their strategy of “flipping” the building would work. MAC maintains, however, that this takeover is illegal. Zoning for Mission Street limits any one entity to no more than 6,000 square feet — the equivalent of one floor. This is to maintain the office space in the Mission for smaller community-serving entities. To “enforce the law” (which the Planning Department has failed to do), MAC activists occupied the offices of BigStep on Sept. 21st, to present their case directly to employees. About 20 activists were arrested by police. A banner was also draped on the outside the building (photo at right).

November 30th: Zing.Com Blockaded

blockade

Richard Marquez, left, and Renee Saucedo, speaking, are among the MAC members blockading the doors to Zing.com.

At 11:30 AM Mission Anti-Displacement Coaltion members “moved in” at the live/work building illegally used as office space by Zing.Com (an online photography firm), at 17th & Bryant Streets. Furniture and padlocks were used to block all the entries to the building. After more than two hours Zing management finally signed a complaint and the police arrested a dozen MAC members blocking the doors. The blockaders were enthusiastically supported by over a hundred people from the Mission Anti-Displacment Coalition and the Day Laborers’ Program, which has its makeshift hiring hall one block away.

As with the BigStep occupation, MAC was demanding that the city enforce existing laws. By converting a 48-unit live/work building to office space, the city loses out on the fees that office developers are required to pay for affordable housing and childcare, as well as losing the 48 units of housing.

 

 

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