Dot-Com Boom/Bust 1.0
Megan Wilson, Home/Casa, Art Strikes Back, Clarion Alley, 2000
The following chronicles an experience I had during the first Dot-Com bomb/bust. I share it because in many ways it mirrors the situation that we are currently experiencing in the SF Bay Area, and in particular, the responses from the tech community and the community of new money that has moved in. The interaction that I had in 2000 with a woman from New York who was working for a dotcom PR firm that I share here, reminds me of many of the interactions that I’ve had with folks who are new to SF and part of the community that is displacing longtime residents, organizations and businesses and the attitude that we (those of us who are being displaced) just don’t really get it … and we’re just not working with them enough. In other words, they view the communities that many of us have spent years creating and contributing to as now theirs because they believe they have the right to it – and they have the money to buy it – the market is the force that determines who gets to stay and who must leave – regardless of whose livelihoods are at stake.
Dot-Com Boom/Bust 1.0
In the summer of 2000 – June/July Lise Swenson and I organized the performance series Art Strikes Back (Tim Costigan was involved in the early development phase of the project). We initiated the project as a creative response to the unprecedented growth and displacement in San Francisco and the blind greed and privilege that we were experiencing at that time. We sent out an open email to as many artists as we could asking if they would be interested in participating in the project through a performative work or another medium (murals, posters, text etc). Our plan was to stage performances every Friday and Saturday night at 7pm and 9pm for 6-weeks along the Valencia corridor in the Mission District – the area that was being the hardest hit by evictions. Anyone could participate – they just needed to provide us with a description of their work and the slot that they would like to sign up for (if available). My and Lise’s commitment was that we would organize the schedule, publicize the events, and document the works via still photography and video. For those who weren’t doing performances – we also did the same.
Lise Swenson’s performance The Emperor’s New Clothes, Art Strikes Back 2000
The response was overwhelming and we ended up extending the project to 8-weeks with over 80 artists who participated. The project was not without criticism – by others as well as ourselves – often it seemed like we were just providing free entertainment for the new wealthy interlopers. However, Art Strikes Back also brought a good deal of attention via the press to what was happening in San Francisco, which was our ultimate goal. The project was featured in the SF Chronicle, the LA Times, the London Telegraph, the Drudge Report, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” as well as numerous other publications.
We did not see the situation as being about tech vs. the rest of us – as we used tech to communicate and promote the project. Our press release stated:
As they suck up the atmospheres around them and leave nothing but a cultural waste behind, it is becoming harder and harder to produce the very cultural environments they are so eagerly buying up. The participating artists are creating work at ground zero, from nothing and for nothing.
We were referring to the people who had moved in and completely disregarded that they were moving into an existing community and that they were creating a great deal of pain and suffering for many who had spent their livelihoods creating and contributing to the communities that were our homes. Basically we saw/see it as a case of contemporary colonialism.
Later that fall in November 2000, I was contacted by a woman named Valorie in New York who was putting together a Website and listening tour about the San Francisco’s Mission District and DUMBO in Brooklyn with her co-workers. When I looked up her email address, I learned that she worked in marketing and PR for a new dotcom company. She was interested in footage of Art Strikes Back to juxtapose with work in DUMBO as a way of “showcasing various artists, musicians and dancers from both neighborhoods.” Her title with the company was “Associate Information Architect.”
Rene Garcia and Marci Klane, Art Strikes Back, 2000
Of course I was suspect of her intentions and challenged her on the underlying motivations for the project, to which she was “shocked” by my tone as I called out her company. She responded with the following:
As I made clear in my opening, I don’t wish to comment how “companies like mine” fit into this equation. This is a personal project of mine, not a company endeavor, and I feel I’ve stated to you my support of the arts. But I will respond to how I see myself in relation to the communities I wish to represent. I live a couple neighborhoods away from DUMBO, in an old-Italian area known as Carroll Gardens. Brooklyn, like all of Manhattan, has experienced dramatic rent increases over the past four years, the last two in particular. The NYT wrote an article early this summer stating that real estate has increased over 40% since January. Everyone feels this pinch. I can’t afford to live by myself even in Brooklyn so I share a tiny 2 bedroom apartment with a dancer. Her and I have discussed extensively the “new economy,” how it’s affected her, her friends (both here and in San Francisco), and never has blame been placed on me personally. We worry about the use of technology and if it inhibits interpersonal communication and people’s relationship with their bodies, not my employer. We both question the cultural benefit of this New Age, weighing its pros and cons. But both my roommate and I feel in order to temper a new technology, one needs to know how to work with it. And that is what I’m learning at my company. Additionally, new media indisputably serves as a global distribution vehicle for all artists. I believe this is a benefit. Technology in itself is not inherently evil, nor are the people creating it.
Thus, to summarize my relationship to the art community, I see myself as a patron and legal supporter. I attend gallery openings and exhibits in DUMBO and encourage my friends to support local Brooklyn artists as well. We help them financially and through word of mouth. I do not apologize for my profession nor the fact that I’m not an artist by trade. I leverage my network of friends and colleagues to help DUMBO’s artists as well as promote legislation that protects and funds the profession of dancer, musician, painter, sculptor.
Your comment “we don’t want companies like the one you work for in our neighborhoods, nor do we want the culture that has resulted from the “dot-com Spring” in our neighborhoods” saddens me. Your experience compared to mine differs dramatically. Talent, energy and passion are the three adjectives I use to describe my coworkers and therefore our environment. Those are values I want governing my community, all tempered by a civic sensibility. That sensibility is what I hope to create with this website.
Thus I would like to continue our conversation further. Both of us are entitled to our positions. But I believe Megan, that although our backgrounds are different, our objectives are one. I care about the borough I live in and hope to see it realize itself as an art’s bastion. That said, I ask you the similar question, “How do you see the artists’ role in gentrification and displacement?” I do not mean to be spiteful but illustrate NY’s gentrification history over the past 20 years. The Bowery and Soho, once industrial strips of Manhattan housing numerous immigrant groups, have been popularized by artists. Today they are now one of the most desired and expensive areas to live in Manhattan. Original tenants, who lived there for years, were forced to find affordable alternative housing elsewhere. When I moved to NYC in 1997, I was told that whatever neighborhoods the artists live, those areas were up and coming. DUMBO and Williamsburg prove this point. Each area has witnessed a dramatic rent increase after artists began occupying warehouse space. Thus, in NYC, artists have, indirectly, raised the rent and have driven out the Polish, Italians, West Indians and many other ethnic groups as New Yorkers have followed the artists into these neighborhoods. Therefore I was shocked at the tone of your email. In my mind, I see you holding a similar culpability, if either of us truly own one. This is a complicated matter. Gentrification and urban development are never easy questions to integrate much less experience. That’s much of what I studied in school. Yet I believe both of us acknowledge our civic and artist responsibility and are acting on it.
I don’t mean to put you with this response but if we are to continue our discussion, I want to redirect our dialogue. I want to be part of a solution and see myself as such.
The Dot, Art Strike’s Back, 2000
I responded with the following:
I raised the questions that I did because I think it’s important that we all do that for others and ourselves to check in with how what we do impacts our lives and others – though I am aware that I was much more direct in asking them of you because of the project that you are initiating. Many of the decisions that I’ve made for my life, including my work, have been the result of that kind of critical analysis posed to me by others. And as an educator and someone who works for a media literacy organization, asking those types of questions is a daily endeavor.
However, I also know that this issue is not a simple one or one that can easily be couched in terms of black and white – which is why it has become so volatile. You also raised a good question – that of the role of the artist in the gentrification. Sadly, we are the market indicator for gentrification. And I’m not sure what the answer to that is given that artists move into residences we can afford – we tend to be economically poor. But we also tend to be incredibly community-minded and put a lot of time and energy into the neighborhoods that we become a part of – and it is precisely the manifestation of that time and energy that makes our neighborhoods desirable. Obviously we too suffer from the result of our commitment in the process – being forced to leave the communities we helped to create.
In reference to my comment that we don’t want companies like yours – or the culture that has resulted – in our neighborhoods, I can only speak from the experience here – as you said, yours has been different. But I will give you a little bit of background as to why so much hostility – the energy that has fueled the communities here to band together and take action, including our efforts to pass Proposition L, a slow-growth measure that ultimately was defeated by a 1 percent margin – has been felt towards the New Economy. I also want to make it clear that this is not directed at technology or people having jobs – as you know, it’s much more complex, as are the issues around technology and the economy.
In the past three years – though the acceleration has really been in the last two – we have watched (and responded) as the communities that we have spent years building and contributing to have been dismantled. And by contribute I mean – we have created many public art projects, often for NO monetary compensation (projects that we are beginning to see destroyed as the buildings they are housed on are being demolished for new condos), we have created community gardens, we have patronized the small family businesses of the ethnic communities you alluded to, we have organized community events, we have taught the kids in our neighborhood, we have worked at community organizations, and we have started our own families here – in essence we have contributed an enormous amount of time and energy to our communities. This is not just a job for us – this is our livelihood. The destruction of our neighborhoods has happened in the form of skyrocketing rents, as well as property that’s been taken off the rental market and sold as condominiums. Every week we hear of more evictions. And every week we hear of more and more people that are being forced to leave San Francisco altogether. This has also had an enormous impact on arts organizations and non-profits that are even more vulnerable with commercial leases – many of these are folding.
What we’ve watched move in to replace the community members (many of whom had been here for years and years) and the community organizations are dot-com startups that (in the Mission) are being deceitfully classified as “business/servers” instead of the correct “office” classification that would disqualify their occupancy in the live/work spaces many are now operating from (check out: http://www.sfbg.com/News/35/07/07oglvwk.html). The office classification would also have kept many of them out – as the cap for this year was reached early in the year. Our neighborhoods do not have the capacity to support the traffic and numbers of people this industry is bringing in. Additionally, as you are well aware, and as many of us predicted from the get-go several years ago, many of the companies moving in here are not sustainable on their own – they are not profitable – once the venture capitalist pulls out after seeing no profit for the third year in a row with no signs of that changing, the companies are tanking. So that the organizations – many of them very established, long-standing (10, 20 years plus) foundations to the community – that were evicted and as a result had to close, were evicted so that a startup company comprised of young, talented, energetic twenty-something transplants from somewhere other than SF could have a fun, energetic, passionate work environment for two, maybe three years. In addition, our neighborhood also now feels like a college campus with a kegger happening every night. The small family businesses and restaurants have had to close shop because the new patrons to the neighborhood want more upscale venues – and they can pay for it. We also have not experienced contributions from the new boom economy to our community in the form of philanthropy. As a fundraiser, I can say firsthand that our community organizations are not in anyway a priority to this new money. Nor are the arts.
I also am aware that it’s probably hard for many of the young folks involved in this boom economy and these new companies to understand the impact they are having. Many of them are just out of college or graduate school and have never known what it means to be a part of an adult community outside of the college environment – nor do they have any investment in the communities here. And if it is their first job out of school, or even if not, it’s a really fun environment – and that is great, we should all have the opportunity to enjoy what we do for a living and feel passionate about it. But we should also have the right to housing and the option to stay in the communities that we have spent so much energy creating and not be forced out because we do not have money.
All that being said, I do believe that you have a genuine interest in supporting the arts and I commend you for that. I will start sending you more info specifically about Art Strikes Back so that you can begin to understand more about our role in the response here. I will say too that Art Strikes Back was also problematic in that sometimes it felt more like we were just providing free entertainment for the people our message was targeted at. Though much of it was very powerful and did hit home, as well as drew a lot of attention to the issue – we did get a good amount of press.
I look forward to seeing how your project takes shape and helping to work with you on it.
Our correspondence ended there. I sent Valorie additional information and images and she never responded – not even to say “thank you.” Apparently she’d moved on to the next thing. The company she worked for went under soon after our exchange. I looked her up recently and she is still doing PR/marketing for tech companies.
Homeless Bill of Rights MLK Day of Action!
Sunday night into Monday morning Christopher and I participated in the Homeless Bill of Rights MLK Day of Action! organized by the Coalition on Homelessness (COH):
“On Sunday, January 18th, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter actions across the country, we will honor Dr. King’s vision and fight for the end of the War on the Poor and homeless. We will fight to end Broken Windows policing in SF and fight to protect the human rights of every person without housing. Our action will begin with a Sleep-In at 5p on 1/18 and continue through the night and into Monday morning. We will have food, coffee, live music, orators, and a movie screening for all those who join! We will end Monday morning by joining a contingency to head over to Oakland for an entire day of action!”
We arrived at Powell and Market around 6pm to a group of about 50 – 60 diverse folks energetically, yet peacefully gathered around a large banner reading “Black Lives Matter” in front of the Powell Street cable car turnaround. Near the BART escalators a table was set up with trays of food and beverages provided for free by Food Not Bombs, COH, and others. Soon after we arrived, the crowd was invited to participate in a guided meditation to reflect on our varied purposes for being there – to honor MLK, to support Black Lives Matter, to support and rally for a Homeless Bill of Rights, to connect with one another in solidarity and others.
A series of inspiring and engaging speakers addressed the crowd – un-housed and housed – on topics that ranged from Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s Campaign” for economic justice; the connection between racial inequity and homelessness – a black man is four times as likely to be homeless than a white man; the critical need to pass a national Homeless Bill of Rights and the devastating impact of not doing so; the challenges and pain of living on the street and the downward spiral that more often than not results; and the war on San Francisco’s poor and homeless accompanied by hollow promises of the city’s “leadership” to effectively and compassionately address the epidemic.
My emotions ranged wildly – deep compassion for those who are living and struggling on the street, a great sense of community and connection to work together to demand change and to have a real impact, gratitude for being blessed to have a home and bed to sleep in, anger at a culture that allows for this demonstration of systemic cruelty and dysfunction, great power, possibility, hopeful and hopelessness all in the same breath.
Following the speakers, various attempts were made to set up a projector and audio to view a documentary of MLK … with varying degrees of success. Mainly we huddled with different folks, including our friends and colleagues Laura Slattery (Gubbio Project) and Kelly Cutler (Coalition on Homelessness) to share stories and be together as a community rooted in fierce compassion and loving kindness – that radiated throughout the night.
About 20 – 25 people ended up staying the entire night – a mix of those with housing, and those without. Overall I slept for about four hours and in that time, I unfortunately missed out when the folks from POOR magazine rolled through and gave a powerful performance. We were lucky at 2:30am to find a 24-hour Starbucks that allowed us to use their bathroom, though at 4am it was closed to the public.
At 5:30 we were given a 15-minute warning that DPW would be coming through to spray the area down. We packed up and walked Laura over to the Gubbio Project … on our way up Golden Gate Ave. we passed tent after tent and sleeping bags filled with folks living on the street amidst the strong scent of urine and excrement – a reflection of how San Francisco is transforming from a city filled with many diverse, distinct hearts beating to the sound of a proud progressive history to one represented in the form of 200-ton lifeless cold lump of black granite sitting at 555 California Street, known as the “Banker’s Heart,” though today it could just as easily be the “Mayor’s Heart” or the “Board of Supervisors’ Heart” or the “Developer’s Heart” or the “Mega-Tech Corporation’s Heart”
Christopher and I both spent yesterday feeling high on the energy from the previous night, as well as sick from getting such little sleep for me – no sleep for Chris. My body ached, my throat sore, a headache … all the initial signs of flu. We both have autoimmune diseases, so we’re more inclined to get sick easily. But really what kept going through my mind is that for over 7,000 people in SF, to some degree that is their life everyday … and without the protected community that had gathered as part of a community protest/sleep-in.
In the “2013 Homeless Point-In-Time Count & Survey Comprehensive Report” the most commonly cited obstacles for obtaining permanent housing were all economic: 55% reported an inability to afford rent; 52% cited lack of a job or income; and 29% didn’t have money for moving costs. Forty-eight percent of respondents expressed that they were experiencing homelessness for the first time in 2013. Of those who were not experiencing homelessness for the first time 41% reported they had experienced homelessness four or more times in the past three years. More than half of respondents (54%) reported they had been without housing for a year or more.
There are only 1,300 shelter beds in San Francisco and, according to the January 2013 homeless count, 7,350 people are without homes. To receive a shelter bed, single adults must have their face and fingertips bio-metrically imaged, a requirement that implies criminalization to many who are already living on the margins, including immigrants and the mentally ill. And while the City reports vacancies in the shelters each night, 2 out of 3 people seeking shelter are turned away.
Places to rest during the day legally are equally as difficult to come by. In the past 12 years in San Francisco, 167,074 citations were given out for sleeping and sitting in public (San Francisco Municipal Court). Each citation carries a fine of $100. An unpaid or unresolved ticket goes to warrant in 21 days, and the fine doubles. Accumulated warrants can result in incarceration and denial of affordable housing. The Sit/Lie ordinance in conjunction with city practices that aim to move homeless people around public spaces, such as the recently enacted daily street cleanings on Market Street and sweeps in BART stations to remove sleeping or sitting people make it nearly impossible to rest in one spot for more than a few hours consecutively and does nothing to solve the problem.
A 2012 report released by the SF City Hall Fellows found that San Francisco’s Sit/Lie ordinance has been unequivocally ineffective, citing that the reported citations were issued to the same 19 offenders, who were reported as chronically homeless and incapable of paying the $100 fines. In March, 2014 the U.N. panel that reviews countries’ compliance with a human-rights treaty says laws in U.S. communities that subject the homeless to prosecution for everyday activities – including “sit-lie” ordinances like San Francisco’s – appear to violate international standards and should be abolished nationwide. The United States, the report said, should “engage with state and local authorities” to eliminate all such laws, withdraw funding from communities that enforce the laws, and work with social service, health care and law enforcement professionals “to intensify efforts to find solutions for the homeless in accordance with human-rights standards.”
Additionally, one of the most overlooked, yet greatest health risks for the homeless is the lack of sleep. San Diego-based blogger and self-proclaimed “chronic homeless man” Kevin Barbieux, who writes under the name The Homeless Guy states in the article Homelessness and the Impossibility of a Good Night’s Sleep by Hanna Brooks Olsen in the August 2014 issue of The Atlantic that “Without a doubt, sleep is the biggest issue for homeless people …homeless advocates are always focused on what are believed to be the root causes of homelessness, and providing the basics of food shelter and clothing to those who do without, and although those things are important in their own way, they don’t affect homeless people with the intensity that sleep does (or the lack thereof).” And yet, says Eowyn Rieke, a physician with Outside In in Portland, Oregon, the problem of insufficient sleep is “an unrecognized” one. Even within the medical community that deals directly with the homeless, “we don’t talk enough about these concerns with our patients.” Chronic diseases, such as hypertension, asthma, diabetes, mental health problems and other ongoing conditions, are difficult to manage under stressful circumstances and worsen with lack of sleep. Additionally, acute problems such as infections, injuries, and pneumonia are difficult to heal when there is no place to rest and recuperate.
Another critical health concern for the homeless is the growing rates of hate crimes. Over the past 15 years, the National Coalition on Homelessness (NCH) has recorded 1,437 incidents of crimes committed against the homeless by housed individuals. In 2013 alone, the NCH became aware of 109 attacks, 18 of which resulted in death. The highest percentage of attacks (30%) took place in California. It is important to note that people experiencing homelessness are often treated so poorly by society that attacks are forgotten
of unreported. This reality worsens when one considers that many violent acts against homeless populations go unreported and therefore, the true number of incidents is likely to be substantially higher.
We must work to put far more pressure on our city officials and hold them accountable to truly address homelessness and the growing divide between the rich and poor in San Francisco through policy change and with strong and clear avenues for oversight and accountability.
All people, especially those who are living on the streets or have mental health or substance abuse issues, are worthy of respect, dignity, and loving kindness.
PLEASE HELP SUPPORT THE PASSAGE OF A HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS!
Google’s Jack Halprin Runs Away From the Tenants He’s Evicting
Photo by Peter Menchini
Photo by Peter Menchini
Protesters disrupt landlord from getting on Google bus
By Sara Bloomberg
DECEMBER 16, 2014 — Sometimes he drives to work, but this morning Jack Halprin decided to take a private shuttle to his office at Google.
Housing advocates were awaiting him.
Shortly before 7 am, around a dozen protesters blocked a tech shuttle from leaving its stop at 18th and Dolores streets when someone in the group started yelling, “He’s walking down Guerrero!”
Maybe Halprin thought he could sneak by the loud group—and their signs denouncing him—unnoticed. But no such luck.
Halprin, a lawyer for Google, is using the Ellis Act to evict the remaining tenants at 812 Guerrero St., a seven unit building tucked between the bustling Valencia commercial corridor and Dolores Park.
And the question on everyone’s minds since he served the eviction notice last February is: Why does he need a seven unit building all to himself? Continue Reading HERE
Clarion Alley Mural Project’s “Wall of Shame & Solutions”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CLARION ALLEY MURAL PROJECT’S WALL OF SHAME AND SOLUTIONS
Megan Wilson: 415-351-8193 MegAWilson@aol.com
Christopher Statton: 925-876-4588 Christopher.Statton@gmail.com
High Resolution and Additional images available on request
Clarion Alley Mural Project Wall of Shame & Solutions
New Mural on Clarion Alley by Christopher Statton, Megan Wilson, and Mike Reger
Monday, February 24 – October 1, 2014
TBA – information to follow
Clarion Alley Mural Project
Clarion Alley @ Valencia Street (between 17th & 18th Streets), San Francisco, CA, USA.
WALL OF SHAME AND SOLUTIONS:
In a city that is rapidly changing to cater to the one-percent at every level, Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) is one of the last remaining truly punk venues in San Francisco, organized by a core and revolving group of individuals who have collectively volunteered tens of thousands of hours throughout its history over the past 21 years.
As part of CAMP’s mission to be a force for those who are marginalized and a place where culture and dignity speak louder than the rules of private property or a lifestyle that puts profit before compassion, respect, and social/economic/environmental justice, CAMP artists/organizers Megan Wilson, Christopher Statton, and Mike Reger have just completed Clarion Alley Mural Project’s Wall of Shame and Solutions to address the current crisis of displacement and the dismantling of our city’s historic culture.
Wilson herself was evicted in 2008 through the Ellis Act from her home of 13 years. In 2013 she was evicted from her studio at 340 Bryant Street, along with 150 other artists, by developer Joy Ou of Group i to make way for new tech offices. 340 Bryant Street was one of the last remaining affordable industrial spaces for artists’ studios in San Francisco. Additionally, during the painting of the “Wall of Shame and Solutions” Wilson was held by a Mission District police officer (with a back-up team of two officers) for 30-minutes for “breaking San Francisco’s Sit/Lie Ordinance” by sitting on the ground while taking a break from painting the mural.
The mural includes the following selection of “Shames” and “Solutions” – there are many others that could’ve been included; however, due to space, we narrowed it down:
SHAME: 3,705 Ellis Evictions 1997 – 2013, SF Eviction Epidemic
SOLUTION: Ellis Act Relocation Bill & Support the Anti-Speculation Tax and Support the SF Community Land Trust
SHAME: “Google Buses” / SFMTA
SOLUTION: Ban Private Shuttles From Public Bus Stops and Pay Into The Existing Public Transit System
SHAME: Corporate Tax Give-Aways by: Mayor Ed Lee & Supervisors Jane Kim, Scott Weiner, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, Eric Mar, and David Chiu
SOLUTION: End Corporate Welfare and Tax Them and Make Them Pay Their Fair Share
SHAME: Uber, Lyft, Sidecar etal.
SOLUTION: Regulate & Tax
SOLUTION: Regulate & Tax
SHAME: Corporate Community Benefit Agreements
SOLUTION: Just Say “NO” – Make Them Pay Their Fair Share
SHAME: Closure of Chess Game in Mid Market
SOLUTION: Bring Back The Public Chess Games
SHAME: SF Sit/Lie Ordinance
SOLUTION: Repeal Sit/Lie
SHAME: Closing SF Public Parks at Night
SOLUTION: Re-open The Parks at Night
San Francisco is experiencing a massive displacement of its residents, its communities, and its diverse culture – as the high tech industry and its workers continue to move into our City and to recruit more and more of its employees from outside of the Bay Area. Additionally, high numbers of foreigners are buying up property in San Francisco as second or third homes, contributing to the shortage of affordable housing. Those being forced out of their homes and neighborhoods include longtime residents (many who are low and middle income, immigrants, and communities of color), local businesses, and non-profit social service and arts organizations – agencies that act as integral parts to the neighborhoods they live in and serve. It’s been truly heartbreaking to watch so many people who have spent many years creating and contributing to our communities be forced to leave because, while they have plenty of creativity, energy, and love for their neighborhoods, they don’t have enough money to keep their homes, small businesses, and community-based organizations.
This is an epidemic rooted in a systemic war being forged by politicians and for-profit interests across the world. In San Francisco it’s a war being led by Mayor Ed Lee (led by Gavin Newsom before him, and Willie Brown before that), District Supervisors, and the Planning Commission, funded by deep pockets with the money to pull these City “leaders”’ strings. These are the folks who have created and are creating the changing image of San Francisco as “money is the priority,” not culture and/or a voice for the disenfranchised. All eyes throughout the world are now on San Francisco and watching as the city that was once known for its progressive free-love counterculture is rapidly being dismantled by free-market capitalism on steroids.
Ultimately the power of the people who don’t have deep pockets lies in calling these interests out, demanding better, and coming up with “creative solutions” to put an end to the powers that are cruelly targeting the most vulnerable populations locally, nationally, and globally.
CLARION ALLEY MURAL PROJECT
Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) was established in October 1992 by a volunteer collective of six North Mission residents: Aaron Noble, Michael O’Connor, Sebastiana Pastor, Rigo 92, Mary Gail Snyder, and Aracely Soriano. Photographer Fiona O’Connor documented CAMP from the beginning. Other members of CAMP over the years include Diego Diaz, Kate Ellis, Permi Gill, Maya Hayuk, Megan Wilson, Andrew Schoultz, Ivy Jeanne McClelland, Jet Martinez, CUBA, Daniel Doherty, Antonio Roman-Alcala, Mike Reger, Christopher Statton, and Ronin Miyamoto-San.
Today CAMP’s core organizers include: Megan Wilson, Mike Reger, Christopher Statton, Ronin Miyamoto-San, Jean Yaste, Roisin Isner, Jose V. Guerra Awe, and Rigo 23.
CAMP was directly inspired by the mural cluster in Balmy Alley focused on Central American social struggles. CAMP did not choose a single theme however, instead focused on the two goals of social inclusiveness and aesthetic variety. As a result CAMP has produced over 700 murals on and around Clarion Alley by artists of all ethnicities, ages, and levels of experience, with an emphasis on emerging artists and new styles.
CAMP has contributed to the tradition of labor muralism with offsite projects at ILWU Local 6, at 9th and Clementina, and inside the Redstone Building at 16th and Capp (the latter, a cluster of its own, includes twelve murals). CAMP has also presented major gallery installations at the San Francisco Art Institute, New Langton Arts, and Intersection for the Arts. In 2003 CAMP completed an international exchange project, Sama-sama/Together with artists from Yogyakarta, Indonesia. As part of the project CAMP produced the 156-page book “Sama-Sama/Together: An International Exchange Project Between Yogyakarta & San Francisco,” published by Jam Karet Press.
CAMP and The Changes To The Mission Neighborhood:
Sadly CAMP has helped to contribute to the extreme gentrification of the Mission District over these past two decades. What started as neighborhood-based project committed to diversity and inclusion, is now a magnet for lots of folks hoping to profit off of the image that CAMP has created – from the developers and real estate agents who use CAMP as a selling point for the “cool, hip Mission experience,” to those who use the space for fashion shoots, to corporations hoping to include the “gritty urban street art” image to sell their products, to any number of paid tours by folks unrelated to CAMP, spreading misinformation about the project, artists, and murals.
CAMP itself was evicted from our warehouse at 47 Clarion in 2000 to make way for new condo lofts. In addition to its long history as a labor hall in the 1930’s, community center, and space for artists (including Terry Riley, John Waters, and the Cockettes), 47 Clarion was the original office and studio for the Clarion Alley Mural Project. Subsequently, CAMP was then evicted from its garage on the alley in 2005. Many of the artists who once lived in the neighborhood and worked with CAMP have also been displaced due to the outrageous and unaffordable hikes in rents to the area.
WALL OF SHAME AND SOLUTIONS ARTISTS:
Megan Wilson has been an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project since 1998. In 2003 she curated, raised the funds, co-organized, and participated in CAMP’s international exchange project Sama-Sama/Together through which six artists from SF (Aaron Noble, Andrew Schoultz, Alicia McCarthy, Carolyn Castaño, Carolyn Ryder Cooley, and Megan Wilson) completed a 6-week residency in Yogykarta, Indonesia and 4 artists from Yogykarta (Arie Dyanto, Arya Panjalu, Nano Warsono, and Samuel Indratma) completed an 8-week residency in SF painting murals, installing exhibitions, and participating in public dialogues. In addition to her work as an artist, Wilson has worked in non-profit development, planning and management for over 15 years. She has extensive experience in program development, community organizing, and social & economic justice activism.
For more information see: www.MeganWilson.com
Christopher Statton has been an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project since 2012. Statton is the former Executive Director of San Francisco’s Roxie Theater (2010 – 2013). In 2013 he was awarded the Marlon Riggs Award by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle for “his significant contribution to San Francisco’s film community through the Roxie over the past four years.” In 2013 Statton was also awarded a Certificate of Honor by SF Supervisor David Campos for his “important and tireless work with the Roxie.” Statton was a founding member of the Sidewalk Sideshow, a project of the Marin Interfaith Council, which produced music shows with San Rafael’s street and homeless community. In addition, he is an Advisory Board member of the Tom Steel Clinic, which provides medical services for the HIV positive community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mike Reger has been an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project since 2010. Reger, a prolific cartoonist, is a co-founder of Mission Mini-Comix. He’s also a San Francisco native, and juggler. His specialties include: commix, OCD detailing, painting, juggling, and sedition. For more information see: www.MissionMiniComix.com.
High Resolution and Additional images available on request
Megan Wilson: 415-351-8193 MegAWilson@aol.com
Christopher Statton: 925-876-4588 Christopher.Statton@gmail.com
San Francisco’s “Mission Local” Disrespects the Wishes of Artists & Clarion Alley Mural Project
In December 2013 I received an email forwarded from Annice Jacoby that was originally from Mission Local’s Editor-In-Chief Lydia Chávez. The email was also sent to Rigo 23, John Jota Leaños, Isis Rodriguez, and Jet Martinez. Lydia was promoting a contest by Mission Local, asking artists to submit designs for the “Google Bus” shuttles:
But what’s better is that it is no longer completely unofficial.
Apart from our prize money — which was more of a gesture to those artists willing to give something unofficial a try — Genentech wants to bedazzle its buses and will select one winner whose art will adorn the side of one of its buses in 2014!”
Today we learned that the Winner was selected (see image above):
The real point for Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) and the artists involved here is one of respect – on a number of levels:
1) Several artists from CAMP were engaged in an exchange with Mission Local’s Editor-In-Chief Lydia Chavez during the initial promotion of this contest (see the link above). Each of us (three are core organizers for CAMP) expressed our desire to not be included in any way in this contest and articulated why we do not support it – additionally one of the artists (Jet Martinez) was the one who painted Community Thrift. Therefore, the selected entry really seems like the choice was based on spite and retaliation for that expression; and
2) If the idea here is to build community, then the process was anything but that, and rather more about creating greater divides since neither Clarion Alley Mural Project or Community Thrift were approached to weigh in on the winning selection and it was already known that we were opposed to the contest in general. That’s not about community or respect – it’s more about contemporary colonialism and the elite caste system that these private transportation services have created – now, also reflected in Mission Local’s contest and process for selection.
The following is the full email exchange that I and the other artists had with Lydia:
From: Annice Jacoby
To: Jet Martinez ; Rigo 23; Isis Rodriguez; Megan Wilson; John Leanos
Sent: Saturday, December 7, 2013 1:08 PM
Subject: Fwd: Maybe work for Mission Artists
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Lydia L. Chavez <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 2:24 PM
Subject: Maybe work for Mission Artists
To: Annice Jacoby <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Annice: I’d love your help in getting this around to Mission Artists. We are trying to get Facebook and the others to join in…..if done right, this could be a plus about having tech in the Mission.
All the best and lets get together soon.
Lydia L. Chavez
On Dec 7, 2013, at 7:07 AM, Rigo 23 wrote:
keep me out of this one – unless they might be inclined to consider paying something remotely
resembling their financial and material rewards for doing what they do.
if Lydia can offer 50 thousand dollars for doing a portrait of Edward Snowden – then maybe.
all the best,
From: Megan Wilson <email@example.com>
To: Rigo 23
Cc: Annice Jacoby; Jet Martinez; Isis Rodriguez; John Leanos
Sent: Saturday, December 7, 2013 4:07 PM
Subject: Re: Maybe work for Mission Artists
Heeeeeeelllllll Noooooooo! Even if they had $50,000 – they can keep it – integrity doesn’t have a price …
On Dec 8, 2013, at 5:22 PM, Leaños wrote:
I had many subversive thoughts and brainstorms over breakfast, but none would fly… much to Rigo’s point that subversive, political, social art does not pass corporate scrutiny…
I question Mission Local’s move to promote this and work with FB and others …to exploit artists to beautify their cush-rides while indirectly displacing these same artists… Fijate!
Hell to the NO!
From: Lydia L. Chavez <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Megan Wilson; Rigo 23; Annice Jacoby; Jet Martinez; Isis Rodriguez
Sent: Sun, Dec 8, 2013 7:51 pm
Subject: Re: Maybe work for Mission Artists
I don’t know. Why not give it a try?
Lydia L. Chavez
On Dec 9, 2013, at 12:06 PM, Megan Wilson <email@example.com> wrote:
Many journalists have written insightful articles as to why these buses are helping to create a greater disparity/divide between the rich and everyone else in San Francisco; one of my favorites being Rebecca Solnit’s “Diary” from the London Review of Books. I find MissionLocal’s posts about this contest and its deeper implications lacking this same level of thoughtfulness, which is disappointing for a project out of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Sadly, “I don’t know. Why not give it a try” seems more in line with the current direction of pop journalism that focuses more on hype and sound bytes and less on substance. It’s disturbing that a school of journalism at one of the country’s most prestigious universities is grooming its students towards the direction of publications such as the PuffPo, which is driven by its corporate interests.
From: Lydia L. Chavez <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Megan Wilson
Sent: Monday, December 9, 2013 5:51 PM
Subject: Re: Maybe work for Mission Artists
I would love to see some subversive ideas. We have and continue to cover what is happening in the neighborhood at a level far beyond any other publication. Could we be better. Always. We welcome your ideas. Best, Lydia
On Dec 9, 2013, at 10:46 AM, Rigo 23 <email@example.com> wrote:
you seem to not be paying attention to what we are all writing – maybe this might make it clearer:
WE DO NOT HAVE SUBVERSIVE IDEAS WHICH WE ARE TRYING TO SELL TO CORPORATE INTERESTS FOR 500 Dollars;
WE ARE NOT HOPING TO HELP THEM BETTER BLEND INTO OUR NEIGHBORHOODS; WE ARE NOT LOOKING TO SELL
“COOL CAMO” FOR CORPORATIONS.
- SO WHY GIVE IT A TRY ?
The redundancy of the text is intentional,
and please spare me future such opportunities,
On Dec 9, 2013, at 6:20 PM, John Jota Leaños wrote:
Yes, well said Rigo and Megan.
I just met with a PhD candidate in Sociology at UCSC who is doing a documentary film about the buses in relation to community transportation, urban civic engagement and tech culture. She is fascinated by the move to decorate the buses that were consciously designed to be white, nondescript, anonymous. The tech workers she has interviewed — who she described as mostly white male who believe they are “smarter than everyone else” and “doing the world a great service” — are aware that the bus shuttles are contentious in the community (the Mission, Santa Cruz, etc… just look at the comment section to Lydia’s original article).
Why would conscious community artists want to contribute to a dynamic that would only lend itself to corporate co-optation? For $500? FYI for Lydia – the artists in this email chain are all established and have made careers out of giving subversive ideas a try, our work has been censored, we have received death threats because of our art, we realize what we are up against. Maybe Mission Local doesn’t?
I call for a withdraw and/or reconsideration of this project, Lydia, and a recommitment to a journalism that considers and seeks to understand the nuances of such political and aesthetic interventions.
On Dec 9, 2013, at 6:20 PM, Jet Martinez wrote:
Very well said jjl rigo and Megan. I think tone deaf covers it all. Again I get that this is trying to be an olive branch but it’s really coming off as camoed by said branches. I have done work for tech companies….. Guilty. But this feels different. This feels like a way to use the same artists who are being displaced to fix the attrition these buses are creating in our communities. The mission is sucking more and more because it is getting filled up by people who do not participate in the community except to walk around like rich drunk asshes on the weekend. This is a scarlet letter for any artist involved.
Love you all jet
On Dec 9, 2013, at 4:29 PM, Lydia L. Chavez wrote:
John: I respect your views. I don’t foresee getting a submission from you. I do, however, want to clarify something that was apparently unclear in the announcement. We offered $500 because it was an unofficial contest and that was at least a gesture for someone willing to submit to a contest that was unlikely to end in a real commission. I understand that any artist would expect more for a a real commission.
New York Times Used as Marketing Tool for 5M / Forest City Enterprises
On December 13th the New York Times published the following Op-Ed / marketing piece by Allison Arieff, editor and content strategist for SPUR:
What Tech Hasn’t Learned From Urban Planning by Allison Arieff
SAN FRANCISCO — The tech sector is, increasingly, embracing the language of urban planning — town hall, public square, civic hackathons, community engagement. So why are tech companies such bad urbanists?
Tech companies are scrambling to move into cities — Google will have a larger presence here. VISA and Akamai have ditched the suburbs to come here. Tech tenants now fill 22 percent of all occupied office space in San Francisco — and represented a whopping 61 percent of all office leasing in the city last year. But they might as well have stayed in their suburban corporate settings for all the interacting they do with the outside world. The oft-referred-to “serendipitous encounters” that supposedly drive the engine of innovation tend to happen only with others who work for the same company. Which is weird. Read more ….
A FEW POINTS TO NOTE ABOUT THIS OP-ED:
1) The piece is an Op-Ed by the author Allison Arieff who works for SPUR, a pro-development, pro-gentrification organization;
2) Arieff devotes a good portion of her op-ed to highlight 5M Project: “a mixed-use project at San Francisco’s 5th and Mission that is determined to be a public asset as much as a private sector one. 5M shows that tech (and non-tech) companies can become an essential part of the urban fabric in a way that satisfies employees and their neighbors. The project houses tech companies (most recently, the mobile payment company, Square, which is moving down the street; their space will be taken over by Yahoo engineers) but also The San Francisco Chronicle. This is a much more outward-facing endeavor: With weekly food trucks at lunchtime, numerous public events hosted by their tenants, which include TechShop, HubSoma (a co-working space/tech incubator), and Intersection for the Arts (a gallery), 5M builds on the vitality of public space and the people who activate it.”
3) 5M Project is Forest City Enterprises, a $9-billion publicly traded corporation that often uses eminent domain to displace residents, including the infamous Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. Check out one of the trailers for the film “Battle For Brooklyn” about the project here:
4) Alexa Arena, director of Forest City Enterprises / 5M Project in San Francisco is a Vice Chair on the Board at SPUR where the author of this op-ed, Allison Arieff works – so this article appears to really be part of 5M / Forest City Enterprises’ marketing campaign.
5) While Arieff makes some good, valid points regarding the tech sector’s colonization of public space, her op-ed lacks a deeper analysis of the overall impact on the greater community – those who are housing unstable and who are low- and middle- income and how projects such as 5M Project/ Forest City are actually a considerable part of the problem and the colonization of public space, helping to displace longtime residents – especially communities of color and immigrant populations and strongly contributing to the gentrification of San Francisco.
6) In addition to the South of Market neighborhood Forest City is also working to gentrify the Bayview / Hunter’s Point neighborhood through the same tactics that Afieff outlines here – by appearing to be a part of the community and investing in it, when in fact the ultimate goal is pure profit for the corporation’s stock holders.
San Francisco Left Its Heart …
Several folks have contacted Clarion Alley Mural Project in the last few months to let us know that they had been harassed on the alley for money by guys with “druggie auras” – and in some cases paint cans, and who at times have become verbally aggressive and have made visitors to the alley nervous and uncomfortable.
CAMP is, and has been aware of this situation for sometime. Here’s the deal – these guys (and so far, all we know of and have heard about are men) are homeless or housing unstable and part of the street community. They really aren’t “bad people,” rather the opposite – at heart they’re very kind and really do care about the alley and the murals – as the space is part of their home and it is their community. However, they’re struggling and often desperate because they are in pain – physically, emotionally, and/or mentally … or they’re hungry … or cold … or in desperate need of medical care. Some are addicted to drugs/alcohol … and some are recovering from addiction … or are seriously trying to get help. So far we aren’t aware of any incidents in which anyone has become physically violent. At least one of them is formally part of CAMP – and often helps with maintaining the murals on the alley. In fact, he’s one of the primary folks who regularly repairs murals and cleans up tags – as he’s an artist and he cares about the alley because it is his home/community.
However, from a broader perspective, these guys reflect a much deeper concern – one that’s become especially glaring in San Francisco – the growing divide and disparity between the rich and everyone else. San Francisco’s “leadership” is catering heavily to the wealthy – in every way, shape, and form – and leaving everyone else struggling, and often desperate, and many on the street with NO alternatives. Many of the city’s services have been closed, or whittled way down. There’s a sit/lie ordinance in place, which is a direct attack on the homeless/housing unstable. The city supervisors recently voted to close the parks at night; they’ve voted to give huge tax breaks/exemptions to the very companies who are in part responsible for driving housing costs way beyond what middle and lower income people can afford – driving many folks to housing instability; they did nothing to oppose the closure of the chess games in mid-market; and most have supported (directly or indirectly) the developers and corporate interests that are destroying San Francisco’s middle and lower income residents, its longstanding creative culture, its non-profits, its city services, its infrastructure … its soul.
Sadly, San Francisco is becoming a city that invests heavily in shit – literally – as it continues to cultivate a culture that spends much of its money on high-end restaurants and boutique foodie ventures so that its new 1% residents are blowing hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars in an hour or less – so they can just shit on the rest of the city … while many of the folks they’re pushing out are on the streets and starving …
How Clarion Alley Mural Project Met Developer Dan Safier and The Prado Group
With the clink of champagne glasses, kudos to the development team and its community partners, and the cutting of a red ribbon, the new housing development at 38 Dolores St. had its grand opening celebration on Nov. 14, a couple weeks after the Whole Foods on its ground floor opened its doors to Market Street.
In many ways, 38 Dolores is pretty typical of the new housing opening in this part of town these days. It took seven years to complete the project, “on time and under budget in a way this community can be proud of,” developer Dan Safier of The Prado Group told the assembled crowd. Read More …
This past summer a group of business execs, all clad in expensive black suits rolled into Clarion Alley with a camera crew. As is the case when private tour groups (often part of larger foodie or boutique packages) appear on the alley with little or no connection to the community’s history or struggles, these folks looked ridiculous. Surrounded by murals, most with messages of social and political dissidence (Malcolm X, homelessness, queerness, solidarity for those being forced out by the forces of gentrification, “Tax The Rich”) and standing amidst the strong scent of urine, scattered debris, artists painting, and a small community of homeless vets asking for change, this group could not have looked more out of place. Mesmerized by the space, they were scurrying about scouting for areas to film while excitedly discussing how they’d recently discovered this “magical alley.”
As one of the artists painting on the alley that day and one of the organizers of the overall mural project, I casually approached the man who appeared to be in charge of the team of 1% interlopers and asked what they were filming. He replied that it was for his business’ Website. I pressed for more information and he asked who I was. I introduced myself and told him that I was an organizer with Clarion Alley Mural Project then asked if he had a card. He didn’t, but introduced himself as Dan Safier and his business as the Prado Group. He’d never heard of the Clarion Alley Mural Project.
With confirmation that this was in fact a corporate shoot, I informed him of CAMP’s policy of “no commercial, for-profit, and/or corporate” usage of the murals. Like most folks who hear this, he didn’t understand what I meant since the alley is a public space. I further explained the project’s 20+-year history and that as a volunteer-run, non-profit organization, a committed and revolving group of us have collectively donated tens-of-thousands of hours over two decades organizing, managing, and maintaining the murals on the alley and hosting an annual free public block party with two stages of various bands playing for a day in celebration of the communities that CAMP serves. I reiterated that as a community project, the murals are free for enjoying, but not available for use in commercial, for-profit endeavors.
Everything I said seemed foreign, or rather silly and flowery to this group, as they had varying degrees of smirks on their faces while I gave them some background on the “magical alley” they had discovered. Mr. Safier then wanted to know how the project’s policies were enforced. I reiterated that CAMP is a non-profit organization. He pushed further – who is in charge? What the address of the project’s website? Where are our offices? At that point, I realized it would be easiest and take up less of all of our time if I would just speak in a language that he and his “team” were familiar with: “We register our works with the U.S. Copyright Office and we have an attorney, that’s how we enforce our policies.” Team Prado Group huddled to discuss and then packed up and left.
It was yet another moment that has become all too familiar in San Francisco; a moment of contemporary colonialism in which a privileged few have discovered a new space that they want to claim as their own via the image it can provide as their marketing tool for profit. A space, that rather than getting to know the background of, and giving the respect due to those who have put the time, energy, and love into to creating it’s allure, is viewed as a disposable commodity to use and exploit. It seems those messages of dissent, permeating wafts of urine, piles of debris, mangy-looking artists, and the men and women who once wore a uniform in the name of a country they would die for, but are now forced to beg for change in to survive – are all “magical” if they can provide the gritty backdrop for a bunch of greedy developers to sell their gentrification projects to other shallow, greedy kin. Otherwise, these “magical” elements are just nuisances and impediments to be discarded and destroyed.