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What Happens if They Stop all the Ellis Act Evictions and the Hyper-Gentrification of San Francisco?


Look outside. Did you see the bombs drop this morning? Did you hear the bullets sizzle? Did you cover your ears to protect yourself from the screams of chaos and desperation? Did you smell the smoke? San Francisco is at war right now. Literally, no, but I wouldn’t reduce it down to hyperbole either. Evictions are not peaceful, they are aggressive with clear intention. Businesses being threatened. Cultures and long established neighborhoods and communities being erased, reduced and replaced. This is nothing casual. The people leaving with their bags, memories and broken hearts are not smiling through their evacuation – this exodus at gunpoint. But, what I love so much about San Francisco, historically, is the spirit of justice and the spirit of the fight. Right now the citizenry of San Francisco is in the fight of its life.

Every day I read an article about a protest, rally or serious encounter and I smile to myself. “You fight San Francisco…” I’ve seen an elderly woman stare down a Google bus like it was a tank in Tiananmen Square, I’ve read about rallies for bookstores and bars and protests about evictions. San Francisco – you are fighting! And I love seeing people come together, talk, argue, organize and figure out. The love expressed through your balled fists and breaking voices is beautiful, but as I observe the landscape there is a question that sours my stomach to even ask, but I must. What happens if they stop all the Ellis Act evictions and the hyper-gentrification? What then? What happens if you win?

The question of what everyone is fighting for seems simple enough. “We’re fighting for justice. These evictions are unfair and predatory.” “We’re are fighting for our communities, culture and the soul of San Francisco” “We’re are fighting for our rights to live here in this beautiful city, our home” Yes, but alongside that there is the parallel of “This city isn’t San Francisco anymore”. I’ve read just as many articles and had just as many conversations about evictions, Google Buses and the new Tech wave, as I have had about book/music/art stores and bars closing. Or the music and art scene disappearing. Or personalities of different communities changing and diversity being nonexistent. Or the culture of neighborhoods being disrupted by Air BnB tenants who care nothing about the area. Or neighborhood vibes changing because music venues/bars are being shut down early because of new families that’ve moved in. People have felt naturally disconnected and I’ve wondered what keeps them there?

Talk to people, read the stories and study the climate and you will feel the visceral and pervasive attitude of “we don’t want you here” by both sides. I always wonder how, with all the evictions and attacks on livelihood, people even feel safe in SF. It feels obvious that the ominous ‘they’ want you out and will do whatever possible to do so. I read about businesses being harassed by purchased police and inspectors to close or sell and I feel that even if Ellis Act evictions stopped that they would do something to get people out. Rent checks will mysteriously ‘bounce’ or someone would get evicted due to some other fraudulent loop hole. Even if the people fighting do triumph – I have a strange feeling that many would eventually move voluntarily because they simultaneously feel SF isn’t the city they fell in love with anymore and isn’t worth it’s impossible price of admission.

I must echo that I love and support this fight. The fight for establishments to remain open, the fight for the arts to survive, the fight to stay ‘weird’, and character of SF to remain, but if this is the direction San Francisco is going, those efforts will become nothing more than the food court and entertainment for the monied population. I’m no proponent of quitting, but if, by the admission of many, San Francisco is truly lost and not San Francisco, then what do you gain if you win?

What are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments below. 

photo from SF Gate

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Jamal Frederick - Second Hand Scribe

Jamal Frederick - Second Hand Scribe

Born in all the jazz that is Fillmore, San Francisco, Jamal has moved all around the beautiful Bay Area. Currently living in the SF diaspora, the married Jamal raises babies, makes cocktails and writes. He is currently working on multiple projects with the most recent being his San Francisco-centric cocktail book: Souvenir. Follow him online, find him, try his drinks, read his writing and have a good conversation with him, he needs adult company...

  • Nathan

    Informed people can more adequately defend their rights (and thus their culture). This organization confronts the situation from a legal standpoint. They offer free legal advice in many circumstances. Many of the tactics used in these evictions are not exactly on the up and up.

  • Barbara Saunders

    Jamal, I have the same questions. I moved here from the suburbs of New York, looking for a lifestyle I believed I could find or create here. That dream of mine matched the usual stereotypes, that San Francisco was a haven for artists and misfits. I wonder, though, why not chase that dream elsewhere, in another city with the cheap rents and colorful migrants who are no longer here? And honestly, what makes coming to SF to be a “misfit” nobler than coming here t be a tech millionaire?

  • Echoballerina

    Amen to this whole article. I was born and raised in SF. I work there still as a teacher. But I can’t afford to live there. I can’t afford to pursue art there. I have to commute a total of 3 hours every day. Many of my favorite places and people have left the city due to hyper gentrification. But the worst thing? The city has started to cease being a place that drew the very people that made it: Artists, misfits, eccentrics, etc. And that breaks my heart the most.

  • Sabbie

    Been here 20 years. It’s just not worth it anymore. The city is visually beautiful and the weather is great, but lots of the good stuff is gone and the cost is outrageous. If you haven’t traveled in a while, visit one of many other decent medium sized American cities and then do the math. Heck even Oakland is better.

  • Charles Daly

    Great piece, Jamal.

  • sugarntasty

    Not confound where able get “Ellis Act” upon ballots 2017 never concede. Stay abreast the policies renters,looking upon continue ask your board of supervisors approval renters rights. Prior residents where,impartial upon housing ordeals which been revealed not conceal by Ed Lee,whom plea offer how many? Unlimited amount of increase evictions due, Ellis Act problem once repealed,economics shall mglobal firms continue. Prosper in San Francisco absolutely there,entangled getting REITS pass increasing high yields I recommend hold forum. SFCED,BOMA S.F,NAIOP,SFAA and ARCE. Opposition why policies disfavor renters rights think twice,residents eager to enjoy pleasures of new economic era. Everyone has right fair housing “gentrified polices disfavors this ideal tenant employed high yield firms. Haven’t learn facts of gentrification many don’t under the new social order of San Francisco to become global hub of international cartels. Whom industries banking,insurance,lawfirms,telecommunication,shipping firms,IT and new media…treasure gain abundance in revenue. What to due lobby housing,employment and improved social services Ed Lee,Scott and London Breed expects. Taxes lesser civil involvement this unfair yes we care housing essential ask BOMA.S.F inform. Renters of housing options in the future! Presently new developments REITS residential 25 to 35% inclusion of BMR units. NAIOP gotten around this demand for H-REITS and Class AAA office majority downtown with “social frowns” become diamond and platinum or profits!