This Saturday, October 4, residents of the Mission District marched to demand affordable housing, and a stop to the evictions happening in their neighborhood. The Plaza 16 Coalition, a group of Mission residents, businesses, and community organizations, were responsible for organizing the “No Monster in the Mission” march.
This year marks the second incarnation of the protest. According SFPD Sgt. James O’Malley, this year’s turnout was much better, with nearly 300 people coming out to participate. This number was made even more impressive when you factor in the fact that it was 85 degrees, there was a Giants game was on, and the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival was in full swing.
A colorful crowd gathered at 24th and York Street, where the protest was set to begin. Many attendees brought home made signs, and wore shirts with political slogans across the front. A list of demands being circulated cited new luxury housing developments planned for the Mission as a major reason for the protest. This list urged the city of San Francisco to “declare a state of emergency due to the housing crisis” which would put an immediate moratorium on all current evictions.
Along with the chants, speeches and sign making that are to be expected at any protest, there was a bit of Mission flair. Live music, Mayan dancers, free food and a group of drummers leading the procession added to the energy of the march.
Music was provided by a band of local musicians who do not normally play together, but who joined forces because of their mutual love of the Mission. Among the artists piled on to the truck serving as a mobile stage, was Ramon Garcia, a Mission local who was born and raised in the neighborhood.
Garcia said that when one of his fellow musicians heard his song La Mission, “He said ‘Hey this song is beautiful, this sounds like the new anthem of the Mission District. So we said let’s do the song, and perform it on this truck today” The sound of their music attracted the attention of people passing by, many of which stopped to record some of the action on their phones.
Although the official agenda of the protest was anti-eviction, a lot of the discussion centered around the 351 unit housing project that is being proposed on the corner of 16th and Mission Streets. One of the protesters Jailene Medina got involved with the march through John O’Connell High school’s Good Samaritan program. “We wanted to come to support the people that are being evicted, and we do not want to see no building on 16th and Mission that will cover up the playground for the kids at Marshall Elementary.”
Another goal of the march was to raise awareness about Proposition G in the upcoming November election. Volunteers for the Yes-on-G campaign circulated through the crowd, gathering signatures for their petition, while others carried banners, waved signs and wore shirts plastered with the Yes-on-G logo.
Fernando Marti, co-director of the counsel of community housing organizations, and volunteer on the Yes-on-G campaign, was among those who participated in the march. When asked about how Prop G would effect the Mission, he said “This is one of the hot spots where the evictions are. So if Prop G is able to stop the speculation, we know that 75% of Ellis Act evictions happen within the first year of somebody buying the building, usually to speculate, to flip the building. We think it’ll stop a lot of the evictions here in the Mission.”
Mission Cliffs, a climbing gym tucked away on Harrison and 19th Avenue, has been serving the San Francisco climbing community since 1995. It was the largest climbing gym in the city last year, and has since expanded to nearly double its previous size.
Even with their ample space, the gym is almost always packed to the gills, with little to no room between climbers. Belayers line the walls of the gym, standing side by side and conversing as they help their partners up the wall.
Though going to the gym is not a social activity for most, the environment at a climbing gym tends to promote conversation amongst climbers.
The website for Mission Cliffs boasts the motto, “We are not just gyms. We are communities.” and there are many who agree wholeheartedly. It’s a place where people come, not only to work out, but also to make friends, and get pointers on their technique.
“The feeling that I always got from the get go, when a buddy of mine got me into it, was that at climbing gyms people are really friendly.” said avid climber Ian Heung, who was visiting the gym with his wife after Sunday church service.
“They want to support you with getting through it, because a lot of it is just problem solving…So I think because of that nature of working out here, it’s not just like one person next to me lifting weights, and there’s no connection there, there’s definitely a communal aspect. For my wife and I actually, the second date we went on was climbing. It was her first time, and I think that trust, having to rely on each other, partner up, it lends itself to socializing and supporting one another.”
Adults aren’t the only ones who love the climbing gym. Unlike most work-out facilities the Mission Cliffs is incredibly kid-friendly. First time climber Chancey brought his five-year-old daughter to the gym with him, saying “My daughter loves climbing, she loves the jungle gym and the monkey bars, she climbs trees, she climbs everything, so we thought we’d give rock climbing a try. She’s doing really great today, she’s loving it.”
Another way that kids get to enjoy the gym is by holding birthday parties there. Gary Evans, whose six-year-old daughter was attending a party at the gym said “Kids love to climb naturally. I can’t keep her off the furniture, can’t keep her from climbing the pole outside, and also just out on the playground. It’s just what they love to do.”
When asked why climbing lends itself to being social Clark Bledsoa, a Mission Cliffs employee of almost a year said “It’s really easy to do in groups. Climbing is one of the rare sports where mentorship is paramount. I see people I signed up a couple months ago, and they’re bringing in their friends, and teaching them how to do everything. So the whole student teacher dichotomy is very prevalent in climbing because it’s necessary. That’s how knowledge gets passed down, and I think it’s one of the coolest things about it.”
In 2012, Forbes named the mission district of San Francisco the second best neighborhood for hipsters in America. Known for its happening night-life, trendy coffee shops, and consistently sunny weather, it’s understandable what all the fuss is about. On top of its newly acquired bougie atmosphere, the mission has a rich history of Latino culture, making it a mix of eclectic influences. Unfortunately, notoriety comes with a hefty price in San Francisco, and the rising cost of rent in the Mission is driving the working class out.
Life time local 24-year-old Tifini Fuentes said she’d like to see more of the residents that she remembers from the mission returning, while 24-year-old Google employee Sena Shellenberger, who’s been living on Mission street since January said that she believes that the mission is becoming gentrified, and she thinks that she’s a part of that transformation. In the end, I believe that Colleen Killelea, a 30 year old San Francisco local that I spoke with, put it best, “There’s a lot more yuppies than there used to be, and a lot fewer Latinos than there used to be.”
Yes, the mission is known for it’s trendy eateries, and recently expensive rent, but what do San Francisco locals really have to say when it comes to the mission? To find out, I headed to one of the mission’s landmarks, Dolores Park. It’s a magical place where the sun always shines, children play all day, and hordes of day-drunk adults go picnic hit on each other. It’s a giant melting pot of dog walkers, drug dealers, tourists, families and people trying to get their tan on.
Three year San Francisco resident Carl Nicita said “I like the culture, and that there’s good mexican food”. Because the mission has its roots in Latino culture, everyone knows it’s the best place in the city to get authentic Mexican food. Visitors who are low on cash, or in a hurry will also find that the taco trucks are a valuable addition to the neighborhood.
Richie Scialabba of the Inner Sunset said “I love the food, especially the burritos. I also like it because the weather is usually significantly better than in the sunset, which is usually buried in fog. It’s a like a different state, which is really cool.”
Aside from the weather and smell of delicious Mexican cuisine, one of the first things you’ll notice in the mission are the murals. Art covers almost every crevice in this part of town, from large commissioned pieces, to tags and street art done by locals. There is a strong sense of Latino influence in most of the murals in the mission. The Women’s building, the Mission Cultural Center, and many more buildings have large colorful paintings adorning their outside walls. The bright light that the murals cast is felt where it is needed most. In many of the small alleyways of the mission, artists have been commissioned to line corridors with paintings. Through this art, the once dingy, spooky alley is transformed into a safer feeling, tourist attracting gallery.
This brings me to one of the other most prominent parts of the mission, the homeless population. When asked about what bothered them about the mission, people were quick to mention the local transients. 26-year-old San Francisco resident Dean Ramadan, mentioned how aggressive some of the homeless people can be, while Carl Nicita pointed out the fact that many of the people who live on the streets of the mission tend to gather at the Bart station on Mission and 16 street. The large number of people living on the streets of the mission gives parts of the district a distinct aroma, one which locals were not afraid to comment on.