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Indybay Feature
Hundreds Rally Around Housing Issues
by Andrea Buffa (ma [at] igc.org)
Thursday Oct 5th, 2000 10:02 AM
Hundreds of costumed artists and activists rallied at City Hall on Wednesday to get the Board of Supervisors to take action to halt the displacement of San Francisco’s nonprofits, artists, and low-income tenants.
Hundreds of costumed artists and activists rallied at City Hall on Wednesday to get the Board of Supervisors to take action to halt the displacement of San Francisco’s nonprofits, artists, and low-income tenants. "In the Mission district, artists, nonprofits, and Latino working-class families are facing the highest eviction rates in the country,"novelist Peter Plate told the crowd. Plate is an activist with the Mission Anti-Gentrification Coalition (MAC), which is calling for a moratorium on live-work lofts and new office developments in the Mission.

Krissy Keefer of Dance Mission—one of the numerous dance groups that is facing eviction—emceed the spirited event. She pointed out that many artists also work at nonprofit organizations, and that those two groups need to join together with tenants to stop the gentrification crisis that is threatening the diversity and culture of the city. "If you love San Francisco, vote yes on L," Keefer yelled into the microphone. Proposition L would halt new office development in the Mission and South of Market neighborhoods, and ensure that dot-com businesses are not exempted from regulations that limit new office space development in San Francisco.

The rally was scheduled to coincide with the meeting of the Board of Supervisors Finance Committee, which was to consider a proposal from arts groups. The proposal included the following components: allocation of $1 million to supplement rents for nonprofit arts organizations, artists, and others facing eviction or threats of eviction; development of multi-use buildings run by the city to house nonprofit arts and community service programs; and formation of a task force to develop a long-term strategy to mitigate the displacement of San Francisco’s nonprofit sector.

Television cameras weaved through the crowd, attracted by the festive atmosphere. Artists wore Mardi Gras masks, feather boas and ballet tutus, Flamenco dancers performed, and activist carried signs that read "Wake up San Francisco: No Art = No Soul." But the mainstream media is a little bit late in noticing that the dot-com development craze has crashed like a tidal wave over San Francisco. Already thousands of low-income people, important community organizations, and grassroots cultural institutions have been swept away in its wake.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco political establishment has done close to nothing to save the culture and diversity of the city. Tom Ammiano spoke at the rally outside of City Hall, but it takes more than one supervisor to pass the legislation that is needed to put the breaks on gentrification. Activists have taken matters into their own hands by putting Propositions L and N the ballot, but still the Mayor and the Supervisors are dragging their feet. As one performer expressed to the crowd on Wednesday, "The Board of Supervisors wants to quantify how evictions will affect the city. But this isn’t just about numbers. What’s running through my head is not numbers. It’s words like meaning, purpose, community."
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