Before August, I had never known of a neighborhood called ‘The Western Addition.” Fillmore, sure. Japantown, absolutely. After talking to dozens of local residents, merchants, and community figures throughout the semester, it became obvious that the neighborhood has its own camps.
Their concerns are not all the same–NOPA gripes about iPhone thefts while Fillmore residents tell tales of displacement. They all agree on the rich history and diversity of The Western Addition, though. Public institutions are reflective of these characteristics; the library has one of the largest Japanese collections on the West Coast while Rosa Parks Elementary School posts signs in Japanese, Arabic and Spanish.
Seeing the divisions are discouraging. But if you look hard enough, you’ll see the most eclectic groups uniting to keep the legacy alive. You never know what you’ll get when you step around the corner.
If there’s a symbol for the crossroads the Western Addition finds itself in, it’s evident in the historic Rube Goldberg building preserved by longtime residents whose doors are often open to others.
For local jazz musician Jacqui Naylor, living in the rent-controlled Gough Street home for 25 years has meant she’s been able to keep her career and use it to build community through arts. For neighbor Beverly Upton, it has meant continuing to work as the executive director of the Domestic Violence Consortium based in the Women’s Building.
Their landlord, however, cast a sense of alarm over their homes in November with multiple threats of the increasingly utilized Ellis Act, state legislation passed in 1986 allowing tenant evictions for the purpose of taking a property off the rental market. The fourth time, which occurred shortly before the Thanksgiving holidays, he meant it.
“It is a sad time,” said Naylor. Finding a replacement home in San Francisco she can afford has been fruitless. “I love this space.”
The ghost of “urban renewal” still haunts the Western Addition, but the legacy of displacement lives on in the Ellis Act—and it’s setting its sights on the whole city this time.
The burden of this new crisis hasn’t fallen evenly; a city report found seven neighborhoods to be the most affected. It declared Haight Ashbury/Western Addition as one, but the district doesn’t get nearly the same attention.
“The Mission gets a lot of press because they have organizations,” said Supervising Attorney Nathanael Player of the Eviction Defense Collaborative, a city organization providing emergency legal services to tenants. “Generally, if a community can come together, they can take care of themselves.”
Unfortunately for the Western Addition, coming together is tough when it operates as more of an umbrella for other neighborhoods—North of Panhandle, Fillmore and Hayes Valley have different identities.
Nonetheless, locals are having the displacement discussion. “It’s time to take matters into our own hands,” said Kyle Smeallie, local resident.
Amy Weiss, founder of hyper-local non-profit Neighbors Developing Divisadero and community activist has been using the predicament of Marcus Books as a way to make them more public.
“Marcus Books comes into play,” Weiss said. “You can still be inflicting harm when living by a code, thinking ‘I can legally do this, it’s ok.’”
For landlord Andrew Long, San Francisco’s rent control is seen as a motivator to enlist developers to turn a profit via condo conversion.
“This has caused rents for long-term tenants to be quite low, which is great for them, but it doesn’t keep a building up,” Long said at a special City Hall hearing on evictions Dec. 14.
Defense lawyer Player notices a landlord will often want to threaten using the Ellis Act to get what they want. However, when a landlord files the papers, they’re committed and the tenants are stuck, unless it’s filed wrong and gets thrown out on a technicality.
“There’s no legal defense—they can only get more money and time,” said Player. “If a landlord wants them to move, they will move.”
According to the city report, 90.7 percent of housing in the Western Addition are rent-controlled units. The district has seen 238 Ellis Act evictions between 2001 and 2013.
During the special hearing, Upton spoke out to the current board of a city government she has long navigated. “Once the advocates and the organizers and the artists are gone, who will be left to care about our city?” she said.
“We’re worried about the community who comes here. We think of ourselves as cultural ambassadors,” said Naylor of hosting Buddhist chanting meetings and the youth who come for music mentoring. “We don’t ask for much. It feels like a punishment without a crime.”
Because the Ellis Act is a state law, San Francisco is largely left to work within it for now. Supervisor Campos, who called for the special meeting, proposed amendments like increasing the relocation fees and time the building must stay off the rental market to make it less attractive as well as closing the tenancy-in-common loophole.
Until the Board of Supervisors takes legislative action, renters are left in limbo.
“If you don’t feel secure in your housing, it’s hard to feel secure in general,” said Weiss, speaking from experience. “There’s an extra level of stress that takes away the ability to be an asset to the community.”
And until the neighborhood can really come together, the threat of resistance remains miniscule to landlords seeking tenant removal.
“If we don’t get our shit together and put aside petty differences, we’re gonna be swallowed up,” Weiss said.
From the Big Umbrella Studios Facebook invite, lineup includes:
- Bar 821
- Big Umbrella Studios – “Moments of Grace” Art Show by SCAPE and HLOVE, small art works, graffiti workshop 1:30-3:30pm, Color Master book signing 3:30-5:30pm
- Bi-Rite Market – $1 cups of hot chocolate with any purchase from 1-6pm
- Comix Experience
- Corkage Sake & Wine Shop – 10% off on any bottle purchases, 20% off on 6 and more bottles mix and match sake and/or wine bottles + Happy Hour from 1-7pm:
- $5 for selected sake & wine by the glass
- Onyx – 20% off $200 spent from 1-6pm; Wood installations by Alexsandra Zee
- The Other Shop – 10% off storewide from 1-6pm, featuring Mid-Century Art including sculpture, original oils, watercolors, needle point, prints
- The Perish Trust
- Madrone Art Bar – “Great Art Starts Here” – 366 Self-Portraits from the kids at Creative Arts Charter School
- Magpie & Rye
- Mojo Bicycle Cafe – Art by Chris McNally and pop-up food by Rice Paper Scissors
- The Mill
- Rare Device – Yellow Owl Workshop Holiday Pop-Up shop
- San Francisco Skate Club – Youth Art Show “Skate Aquatic” and special SF Skate Club youth created ‘zines on sale
- San Franpsycho – 10% off all products in the shop. Live music, drinks, and local art.
- Verde SF – Still Lifes by Michelle Lee Steen
- Vinyl Coffee & Wine Bar – $6 Mimosas and showing of “Human Color” by Taylor Hamilton
- Yoga Garden SF – 10% off all yoga mats and tastings of fresh produce from Farmbox SF
- Ziryab Bar and Grill
“The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency‘s Board of Directors voted 5-0, with one abstention, Tuesday to ban tour buses from a 25-square-block area surrounding and including Alamo Square Park, an increasingly popular stop for drive-by sightseeing tours.”
To read more, follow the original article at SF Gate.
A fellow Western Addition resident, Amy Weiss of Neighbors Developing Divisadero, mentioned Nextdoor online or with the iPhone/Android app as handy way to give and receive local information, safety updates and recommendations. The website creates private social networks for each neighborhood to bring them together. Here’s a sample network:
Police say Kevin San, 16, was killed when Jennie Y. Zhu, 58, rear-ended the family minivan at a Pine and Gough stoplight on Sept. 27. Zhu had been driving 80 mph and has since been arrested with charges of vehicular manslaughter.
Friends held a vigil near the scene Sunday night. Cousin Dennis Ho translated a statement from the family outside Lincoln High School Monday night, where San attended.
“Everyday his family wakes up and wishes it was all just a nightmare and we can still hug and see Kevin’s warm smile. None of what has happened makes any sense” he said.
According to KGO, Zhu had reportedly been speeding for several blocks before ramming into the minivan, causing both vehicles to roll over. The crash leaves San’s sister in critical condition and his mother in a coma. The driver escaped harm.
The DMV says Zhu has an otherwise clean driving record and was not found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The case is still under investigation.