The Gentrification of our Livelihoods: Everything Must Go… by Megan Wilson

We Lose Space, Installation by Megan Wilson and Gordon Winiemko, San Francisco Art Commission Grove Street Gallery (across from SF City Hall), San Francisco, CA, 2000, photo by Megan Wilson

New Feature on Stretcher:

Preface: When I began researching and writing The Gentrification of our Livelihoods in early March 2014 one of my primary interests was the impact that the collaboration between Intersection for the Arts and developer Forest City’s creative placemaking 5M Project is having on the existing communities that have invested in and called the South of Market home prior to the tech booms. Having worked with many community-based organizations within the SoMa community for the past 18 years, I’ve had deep concerns about the development’s impact for the neighborhood and its impact on the future of Intersection.

However, I would not have predicted the announcement that Intersection made on May 22nd to cut its arts, education, and community engagement programs and lay off its program staff would come as soon as it did. What began as a reflection on the shortcomings of creative placemaking as a tool for economic development and its implications on gentrification and community displacement has become a cautionary tale for arts and community organizations to question and better understand the potential outcomes of working with partners whose interests are rooted in financial profit.

Over the past two months I’ve spoken with many of the stakeholders involved with the 5M development, as well as the creative placemaking projects that are helping to shape the changes in the culture and landscape throughout San Francisco, these include: Deborah Cullinan, former Executive Director, Intersection for the Arts; Jamie Bennett, Executive Director, ArtPlace America; Angelica Cabande, Executive Director, South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), Jessica Van Tuyl, Executive Director, Oasis For Girls, April Veneracion Ang, Senior Aide to Supervisor Jane Kim, District 6 and former Executive Director of SOMCAN; Tom DeCaigney, Director of Cultural Affairs, San Francisco Art Commission; Josh Kirschenbaum, Vice President for Strategic Direction, PolicyLink, and an anonymous source within Forest City Enterprises … Continue Reading

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This Isn’t the Tech Disruption They Asked For

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Tow Away the Google Bus

An anonymous addition to curb paint at a public bus stop used by google buses.

Tow Away Google Curb Paint

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Clarion Alley Mural Project’s “Wall of Shame & Solutions”

Wall of Shame & Solutions, Christopher Statton, Megan Wilson, Mike Reger, Clarion Alley Mural Project, 2014. Photo by Steve Rhodes.

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 & Solutions, Christopher Statton, Megan Wilson, Mike Reger, Clarion Alley Mural Project, 2014. Photo by Steve Rhodes.


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
Ellis Act Relocation Bill & Support the Anti-Speculation Tax and Support the SF Community Land Trust

SHAME: “Google Buses” / SFMTA
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
End Corporate Welfare and Tax Them and Make Them Pay Their Fair Share

SHAME: Uber, Lyft, Sidecar etal.
Regulate & Tax

SHAME: Airbnb
Regulate & Tax

SHAME: Corporate Community Benefit Agreements
Just Say “NO” – Make Them Pay Their Fair Share

SHAME: Closure of Chess Game in Mid Market
Bring Back The Public Chess Games

SHAME: SF Sit/Lie Ordinance
Repeal Sit/Lie

SHAME: Closing SF Public Parks at Night
Re-open The Parks at Night

Wall of Shame & Solutions, Christopher Statton, Megan Wilson, Mike Reger, Clarion Alley Mural Project, 2014. Photo by Steve Rhodes.


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.

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Google Glass War San Francisco

Together We Can Defeat Capitalism responds to the Google Glass controversy in Francisco with Glass War!


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Google Graffiti seen in San Francisco (or soon will be)

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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 ….


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.

Posted in "What Tech Hasn't Learned From Urban Planning", 5M, Alexa Arena, Allison Arieff, Battle For Brooklyn, CAPITALISM, COLONIALISM, Colonization of Public Space, CORPORATE BRUTALITY, Displacement, EVIL CORPORATIONS, Forest City Enterprises, Gentrification, GREED, INCOME INEQUALITY, New York Times, San Francisco, SPUR, TAX THE RICH, Tech, Urban Planning | Leave a comment

How Clarion Alley Mural Project Met Developer Dan Safier and The Prado Group

Developing Divisions – by Steven T. Jones, SF Bay Guardian

38 Dolores Street, San Francisco Gentrification Project by 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 …

How Clarion Alley Mural Project Met Developer Dan Safier and the Prado Group
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.

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read: ‘Sleepwalking to Extinction’: Capitalism and the Destruction of Life and Earth

This recent Adbusters article makes the case that we are at the most crucial point in human history… and that we we need a paradigm shift. And guess what we have to shift away from: capitalism. And this piece really makes a good start at challenging every reformist plan in the works… including the failed COP negotiations. It is time to power down.

“If there’s no market mechanism to stop plundering the planet then, again, what alternative is there but to impose an emergency contraction on resource consumption?

This doesn’t mean we would have to de-industrialize and go back to riding horses and living in log cabins. But it does mean that we would have to abandon the “consumer economy” — shut down all kinds of unnecessary, wasteful and polluting industries from junkfood to cruise ships, disposable Pampers to disposable H&M clothes, disposable IKEA furniture, endless new model cars, phones, electronic games, the lot. Plus all the banking, advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc. We would have completely redesign production to replace “fast junk food” with healthy, nutritious, fresh “slow food,” replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion,” bring back mending, alterations and local tailors and shoe repairmen. We would have to completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, housewares, furniture and so on to be as durable and long-lived as possible. Bring back appliance repairmen and such. We would have to abolish the throwaway disposables industries, the packaging and plastic bag industrial complex, bring back refillable bottles and the like. We would have to design and build housing to last for centuries, to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable. We would have to vastly expand public transportation to curb vehicle use but also build those we do need to last and be shareable like Zipcar or Paris’ municipally-owned “Autolib” shared electric cars.”

Read the rest of the article here.

And – what would need to happen first, is for everyone to understand that they would have a way to make a living before this power down occurs. That way, we could move forward doing what is necessary to keep life on the planet alive for future generations instead of keeping profits alive for corporations while heading off the cliff. Leave it to artists to come up with a plan that might just work.

German-born artist named Enno Schmidt is one of the generators of Switzerland’s proposal to pay people for being alive. With the vast numbers who are thrown out of the labor market by increasing productivity (produced by the workers… by the way…) and the corporations and 1% holding onto the virtual cash that has been produced  by workers over the last century, those entities unwilling to invest in real employment, a real solution has to be developed. Read about the referendum in Switzerland that will pay people for just being alive. And think about how we could begin to change our system … to stop all production that uploads carbon into the atmosphere… with this as a start.

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Twitter IPO

I was overcome with a feeling of nausea when I read that the twitter IPO has created 1,600 new millionaires – the bulk of these most likely in San Francisco, twitter’s headquarters and the city where I live. My feelings about twitter’s IPO is only matched by revulsion at the site of the Google, yahoo, box, and other technology company buses ferrying their employees down to Silicon Valley.

Arround the turn of the millenium, the dot com bubble resulted in a major change in the demographics of San Francisco, with many lower income people (including many artists) evicted from their apartments to make way for higher rents and the tech workers who could afford them. The bubble burst but now we are seeing much larger changes in San Francisco, because it’s not a burstable bubble any more it is the new long term reality. Those of us who have erected barricades at the doors of our rent-controlled apartments are among the few lower income (by San Francisco standards) residents who can live here. And if we leave, we can never afford to return. But, really, who wants to live here any more with the evil speeding black buses, the hoards of technocrati maruading down Valencia Street on Saturday night, the breathless adulation of everything tech-related? The income and reality gap is huge. The other day I walked past the line for the Google bus on 24th Street and a homeless guy was lying face down in front of them, oblivous as they stared into their smartphones. I checked on the man to see if he was OK, and he grunted an affirmative reply. The scene is emblematic of what is going on in this city, if not globally.

But, where does all the money come from? How can twitter be a viable business where massive fortunes are being made? What is it selling? The chilling answer is that we are the commodity, we are the product. Twitter’s (and facebook’s, and google’s) massive database of users is what is worth the billions of dollars of its IPO. The social network connects more of us to the database, and the number of users increases exponentially. As Guy Debord writes in the Society of the Spectacle, “The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as society itself, as a part of society, and as a means of unification.” The more we are connected, the more we can be manipulated.

It’s nothing as blatant or as simple as advertisements on twitter pages. Rather, twitter will be selling us to other media outlets which rely on advertising, like TV. I just read an article in Fast Company that presenting twitter’s strategy to do exactly that. And, you can read about it straight from twitter in a promotional piece that reads like a parody of Orwellian mind control.

And what is being advertised? Cars, hair color, detergent, target, Home Depot, etc, of course, but it’s the perpetual idyll that consumption is still the inevitable path to happiness that’s the important overall message – exploitation of labor and the environment be damned. Social networks are a mobius strip that appear to turn the world upside down but take us back to where we started. There are reports that twitter has been used for revolutionary purposes (for example in Iran, Egypt and Libya), but I would argue  that reports of the importance of such uses are exaggerated (see for example this report, and this one) and that rather, twitter represents a further stage of the capitalist revolution, in which we become even more fully integrated into the spectacle.

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