By Peter Lawrence Kane
Finally, we have a concrete plan to fight gentrification that doesn’t feel like a group of college-educated white people who arrived in the Mission in 2006 singling out a group of college-educated white people who arrived in 2013. Instead of searching for the right enemies, there is a proposal for a Latino Cultural District, centered on 24th Street from Mission Street to Potrero Avenue, called Calle 24. SF Gate noted that while this is technically only a rebranding of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association, it’s also a push for greater visibility, putting the neighborhood’s history, murals and thriving commerce to the fore – with possible legislative changes like zoning adjustments ahead.
Naturally, it comes with an assist from District 9’s Super-duper-visor David Campos. Seventy-seven of the 130 businesses in the proposed zone are Latino-run, making it the densest such cluster in San Francisco. There are custodians of the Mission’s cultural heritage like Precita Eyes and the Brava Theater Center, but also dozens of other merchants, many of them dating from the 1950s or even earlier, from offbeat bakery La Victoria to the retro Mexican diner La Torta Gorda. Organized efforts such as street protests and boycotts have a role to play in social justice crusades, but simply dining out a little bit more can do a lot to stabilize a rather besieged community, and as an added bonus, it’s an anti-inflammatory that doesn’t necessarily divide everyone along ethnic or I-got-here-before-you lines. Hopefully, Calle 24 will make that even smoother.
Just because you can’t stop a tsunami doesn’t mean you can’t build good seawalls, and while Calle 24 isn’t a solution to everything, it is a beachhead. For too long, the Mission has been on the defensive as Ground Zero for sweeping homogenization and displacement, but that may be changing soon. Beyond Calle 24, City Attorney Dennis Herrera has begun cracking down on landlords who Ellis Act-ed tenants – some of whom were disabled – only to turn their desirable units over to short-term vacation rentals. Add to that legislation –already enacted at the city level and proposed at the state level – designed to keep people in their homes, and it’s clear that there’s no cause for helplessness or despair. The Mission might still be the Mission yet.
Photo by Eric Wagner via Flickr