Vanishing city - Page 4

Up against intense market pressure, longtime residents and community projects fade from SF

Esperanza gardeners (left to right): Gabriel Fraley, Maria Fernanda Valecillos, Alana Corpuz, Veronica Ramirez, Jonathan Youtt

A statement distributed at the "be-in" noted that a group called Mission of the Commons envisions a crowd-funding project that would raise enough funds to purchase the warehouse, though details are sketchy on how exactly this would be accomplished. "Selling off this block to a developer will deeply disable our community, displace many," the notice reads, "and perpetuate these very issues [of gentrification] we seek to mitigate and stop."



The thwack of a stick against a Google-bus piñata at the 16th Street BART station attracted considerable attention on Twitter a few weeks ago during a May 5 event billed as a Mission Anti-Gentrification Block Party. It was organized in part because a 5,200-square feet collective space run by a group of activists is facing eviction from 3265 17th Street. Sometimes called the 17 Reasons building, the property houses Thrift Town, Discount Fabrics and several other businesses at Mission and 17th streets.

The activists signed a four-year commercial lease on the space in August of 2011. Since then, they've been using it as a Food Not Bombs cookhouse, where volunteers prepare giant vats of food for the homeless using donated ingredients, and serve it up weekly at the 16th and Mission BART station. The Food Not Bombs collective and two other collective groups, known as In the Works and Rincon, have used the space to host political events, fix bicycles, and provide a place where penniless activists can get projects off the ground.

"The whole point was to make an accessible space," explained Chema Hernandez Gil, who is involved with the In the Works collective. "We don't have that in the Mission anymore."

Now, their idealistic endeavor is quickly spiraling toward a messy legal clash. This past April, Rick Holman, a managing partner at Asher Insights Inc. whose background is in investment banking and corporate finance, purchased the property. On April 10, leaseholders received a three-day notice to quit, the first step in an eviction, charging they'd subletted the space in violation of their lease terms.

In the Works collective members told the Guardian that the building's locks were changed and they still haven't been issued new keys, although they are able to gain access using a keypad. They've hired an attorney and are exploring their legal options. They view their plight as part of a wider trend of Mission gentrification.

"Every legitimate tenant who was asked has been issued keys," Holman said when reached by phone. He declined to answer questions about the eviction, saying, "I'm respectful of these people and their privacy."


On May 8, Modern Times Bookstore Collective sent out an email blast inviting supporters to a town hall meeting to address the loaded question of what their future holds.

"For 41 years, Modern Times has had its doors open to activists, educators, rabble-rousers, queers, and scholars of all stripes," the collective members of the bookstore wrote. "We've maintained our position as a progressive resource, stocking thousands of titles and collections that you'd be hard-pressed to find at most bookstores: queer theory, sex/uality, disability justice, well-curated and left-leaning section of libros en espanol, critical race studies, anarchy, radical retellings of US history, political economy, socialism, Raza studies, African American and Asian American history and analysis, criticisms of the Prison Industrial Complex, and global activism (just to name a few)."

There are myriad reasons why the bookstore is facing challenges, one being the declining market for print books. But there's also been an erosion of the store's membership and customer base; so many of the former shoppers have been priced out.