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  • I visited the Mission District last night with my birth daughter Tatiana.

    She noticed almost immediately that I was making commentary on every piece of evidence of the changes in the neighborhood, of the kind of people there, my feeling of, for a lack of a better word, bitterness, just being in San Francisco.

    Once upon a time, from 1976-78, I was a housing activist, focussed on redevelopment and gentrification in San Francisco. My organization, the Tenant's Action Group, had an office at 16th Street and Valencia. The year before, a landlord had set his residential hotel on fire, the Gartland, and 14 people had died. The coming of BART through the neighborhood had put such tremendous upward price pressure on the housing market, that property owners were resorting to anything to get the poor people out. We worked with tenants who were being evicted from their $200/month hotel rooms. Many of these folks would later become the small army of homeless scattered around the Tenderloin, SOMA, and the inner Mission neighborhood where we were based.

    We fought. We worked for change. We held our hands against the dike of economic determinism. Along with thousands of other activists we managed to sustain something unique about the neighborhoods of San Francisco – the mixed income nature of many, many parts of the city. But this last decade, or the last two, the idea of a mixed income identity is slipping away in the Mission. You feel the strong Latino and working class identity of the place just can't survive. Stores and restaurants clearly meant for people with lots of disposable income are now in the majority, the streets are filled with their customers. So it goes with gentrification.

    I am no more than a tourist now anyway, but it still bothers me.

    I have recently found myself an apartment dweller, after two decades of home ownership. I went out attempting to find something comfortable, but affordable. As I was pushed out of San Francisco in the dot.com 90s for the East Bay, I was pushed out of my Berkeley-Albany neighborhood to the outer edge of Richmond. Every few miles out Hwy 80, the rent dropped another 5%. 8 Miles later I found something that worked, still profoundly expensive by my standards, but workable.

    And funny, the 541 unit apartment complex, a recent corporate invention of the first order, is the most diverse place I have lived for a long time, perhaps since my time in the Mission in the 1970s. I would not be surprised to find neighbors with San Francisco stories, with Mission stories, in their background.

    We exited 24th street after a nice meal, and passing by the Galleria de la Raza, I saw a packed room of Latinos enjoying a literary reading.

    I was happy to hear all the laughter.
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