Saturday, November 15, 2014

SRO

Truthout's article on San Francisco single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels portrays the battle for low-income housing as a challenge that tenants and organizers are struggling with in a city where "wealth inequality is on par with Rwanda's." As San Francisco Tenants Union advocate Ted Gullicksen remarked before his passing in October, "They are the most affordable housing in San Francisco," and "Any pressure on that housing stock needs to be vigilantly fought back."

In the summer of 2000, as rent control repeal loomed in the form of a slumlord-backed ballot initiative, I met Gullicksen at a ParkMerced tenants meeting held at San Francisco State University. Working with these tenants of one of the largest residential apartment complexes in the Western US (3,482 units), Public Good Project's research director Paul de Armond and I advised the tenant organizers Gullicksen was recruiting for the electoral battle that fall.

As a Bay Area tenant, myself displaced in 2011 by skyrocketing rents, it seemed that at best we might have delayed homelessness for San Francisco's 30,000 SRO tenants for a decade. While an important achievement at the time, today's challenge is to convert and upgrade these "last resort" housing units (where kitchens and bathrooms are shared) to co-ops, where safety codes are enforced and slumlords no longer control tenants' lives.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

City Sights

San Francisco photographer Fred Lyon has a new book: San Francisco, Portrait of a City 1940-1960.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Displacing Humanity in the City of Love

The displacement of low-income tenants and the attack on City College of San Francisco are connected. As the city with the most expensive rents in the US, San Francisco real estate is a valuable commodity; conversion of public benefit properties like rent-controlled apartments and college campuses to speculation sites is a logical market-oriented solution. This logic, unfortunately, means that San Francisco's cultural creativity and diversity will soon be gone.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Fillmore

David Johnson, Fillmore District photographer, captured on film.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Cannabis Fair

Legalizing cannabis in Washington and Colorado was a great idea, as far as it goes. It's quite an improvement over medical dispensaries, that require a physicians approval.

Still, licensed retail cannabis stores have a long way to go in providing affordable and accessible marijuana to those who need or want it. Consumers that live in small towns or rural areas might have to travel a couple hundred miles round trip to keep themselves supplied.

Colorado converted medical dispensaries to full-service retail outlets, thereby bypassing the onerous regulatory red tape imposed in Washington, where prices in non-metro areas are double the prices in Seattle, and four times that of the black market. While supporting public services with cannabis taxes is fine, it won't work if the legal price is so out of whack.

Someday, when cannabis fairs and festivals are the norm, and cannabis lounges dot the urban landscape like cocktail lounges do today, we'll wonder why it took so long. The answer, of course, is to be found in Puritanism and government corruption.

But who wants to talk about that, when there's so much fun to be had?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Milk Stamp

The Harvey Milk stamp was issued today by the U.S. Postal Service.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Connecting with Their Dreams

In the Fall of 2004, I volunteered at 826 Valencia, a non-profit in the Mission District that teaches writing skills to K-12 kids in San Francisco. One of the 826 in-school programs is tutoring high school seniors on their college application essays. For first generation English-speaking teenagers, learning to express themselves in a compelling way -- despite their grammatical limitations -- is perhaps their greatest challenge.

Working with students at Galileo Academy, I found that one way of connecting with their dreams was to read their stories about themselves, their families and peers. It's where they reveal their aspirations, anxieties and aptitudes.

As I wrote afterward in Galileo Glory, discovering the meaning of life at sixteen is a burden that needs to be shared.