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Petition drive succeeds! Rally today

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
1:15 PM - 2:15 PM
Event Type:
Press Conference
Location Details:

Join us on the steps of City Hall at 1:15 today, Wednesday, Aug. 30, for a rally and press conference.

Because hundreds of you collected over 30,000 signatures ... we will CLAIM THE VICTORY today, the deadline for submitting the referendum petitions to stop San Francisco City Hall from redeveloping and "repeopling" (the Redevelopment Agency's term) Bayview Hunters Point, a predominantly Black neighborhood that's 91% people of color.

Join us on the steps of City Hall at 1:15 today, Wednesday, Aug. 30, for a rally and press conference. Come celebrate our power!

Willie Ratcliff said all along that this petition drive was not just to stop the Redevelopment Plan but to demonstrate Black Power and win some respect at City Hall, which thinks nothing of sweeping us out the door of San Francisco like dirt. Our brothers and sisters in New Orleans are demanding the right to return, and Blacks in every city must demand the right to live - and thrive and determine our own destiny - in neighborhoods where we have put down roots for generations. No more land grabs! No more ethnic cleansing!

As a small sign of success in our quest for respect, here is today's top editorial from the San Francisco Chronicle:

To rebuild a neighborhood
Wednesday, August 30, 2006

WILLIE RATCLIFF and Brian Murphy O'Flynn are unlikely candidates to pose as the saviors of the Bayview-Hunters Point area. Architectural designer O'Flynn doesn't even live in the neighborhood, and Ratcliff, publisher of the struggling Bay View newspaper, is known as a radical who never saw a lost cause he didn't like. But as the lead organizers of a campaign to call for a voter referendum on the Redevelopment Agency's plan to begin improvement work on 1,300 acres in Bayview-Hunters Point, Ratcliff and O'Flynn have created a real threat to the city's plans. Today is the signature-gathering deadline for their petition, a deadline they expect to meet, and, in November 2007, San Francisco voters may well choose to side with them.

Their war against City Hall is not altogether fair. The ghost of the Redevelopment Agency of yore, the agency that destroyed the Fillmore District and bulldozed thousands of single-room occupancy units in the South of Market area, has disappeared. In its place is a Redevelopment Agency that developed the Bayview-Hunters Point plan over the course of 10 years and some 600 community meetings -- without the active participation of the people who are now trying to shoot down the project.

Though they denounce the Redevelopment Agency's plans as a "takeover" and a sop to big developers, Ratcliff and O'Flynn have no detailed alternatives of their own to help these fraught neighborhoods. They're aiming at the wrong target -- but because the city has neglected the area for so long, there's little else to aim at.

In May, the Board of Supervisors passed the massive redevelopment plan, which includes an increase of approximately 3,790 housing units, a $60 million-plus economic development proposal and a $30 million-plus beautification program. "Just in terms of the amount of money it's going to make available to the neighborhood, it knocks everything else out of the box," said Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, a supporter of the redevelopment whose district includes the affected area. "This community has been making these plans for 30 years."

Apparently, some people still feel left out, or don't believe that the Redevelopment Agency will be responsive to their needs. The petitioners have picked an excellent target in the agency -- it has a sorry history, and universal hatred of eminent domain is an additional rallying point in an area with high homeownership rates. "A zebra never changes its stripes, and neither does the redevelopment agency," said Ratcliff.

But we'd argue that the agency -- whose Bayview-Hunters Point plan does not authorize the use of eminent domain for residential property -- recognizes its own history and is loath to make similar mistakes. "The whole business about the old days, that's just crap," said Buck Bagot, who has served both as an anti-redevelopment activist and past president of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Commission. "We won a lot of fights with redevelopment. There's not much they can do anymore."

What redevelopment can -- and will -- still do, however, is speed up a continuing gentrification process. That's what this petition is really about -- a battle about why the city has officially disregarded Bayview-Hunters Point, and the residents' anger is justified. The city's first redevelopment zone in Bayview-Hunters Point didn't do much for the residents; how will a new one be any different? The neighborhoods are still regarded as an extralegal zone in the city, an area where terrible crimes can be permitted every day with little fear of prosecution. The fact that five murders occurred in San Francisco's southeastern neighborhoods on a single night this week should be met with mass outrage, but it hasn't been -- and we're willing to bet that many of them will go unsolved.

This inattention extends to matters of employment and housing, although those problems can't be solved by the city alone. The federal government has abandoned its commitment to affordable housing, and employment is a problem that transcends government answers. But it would serve those Bay Area residents, who believe that the Bayview's poverty is self-inflicted, to recall that the neighborhood once enjoyed high employment and a high-quality of life thanks to the proximity of a thriving shipyard that offered blue-collar workers a dignified living. Those kinds of jobs are hard to find in America these days, and as more and more jobs disappear to globalization and technology, the challenges of the Bayview may come to look more familiar to us all.

Critics would argue that simply allowing the composition of the neighborhood to change, as it will under redevelopment, will eventually take care of these issues. But that's an unduly risky and hard-hearted approach for a city that likes to prides itself on the vibrancy of its diverse neighborhoods.

This one is calling out for the attention and respect it deserves.

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Added to the calendar on Wed, Aug 30, 2006 11:21AM
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