I just turned 56 on March 11, and find myself paying closer attention than ever to what kinds of things get remembered, forgotten, overlooked, and flushed from public consciousness.
Living through this period, with another jaw-dropping wave of evictions devastating my circle of friends and acquaintances throughout San Francisco, the displacement of long-time residents is one obvious example of historic phenomena that get systematically flushed from the public record. I went to a discussion about the recently passed Proposition C Housing Trust Fund at SPUR a couple of weeks ago and there was nary a mention about the eviction crisis. Other politicians are trying to throw gasoline on the fire by passing a special ordinance to allow 2,500 units of “tenancy in common” apartments gain immediate condominium status. If it passes without the multi-year moratorium on condo conversions demanded by tenant activists, the wave of evictions is sure to accelerate beyond its already frenzied pace.
I consider my own building’s fuse to have been lit with the commitment of our landlady to state conservatorship… it’s probably only a matter of time before we’re evicted too, but with luck, maybe we can last another 2 years, or even 10! And we’re going to make our best effort to set up a Community Land Trust option for this building, so that maybe, just maybe, we can figure out a way to stay in San Francisco.
It would be a pity to be evicted from the city after working on San Francisco history for nearly two decades. Back in the first Gulf War era I felt strongly the amnesiac culture when friends I’d marched alongside couldn’t remember that we’d been part of a large anti-war movement in 1990-91. Now we’re at the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War and the media is mostly still repeating the history-flushing lies they promulgated at the time—that no one knew that the government was deliberately lying to get us into war. Actually San Franciscans shut the city down because tens of thousands of us knew perfectly well the venal lies that were hurtling us down a barbaric path. A decade later we can say “we told you so,” but it’s an empty effort, gaining no traction or amplification, and thus practically invisible, probably forgotten even by many of us who were in the streets in March 2003.
I popped in to the charming Canessa Gallery on Montgomery Street (the site of the original Black Cat Café in the 1950s, home on the ground floor to Jose Sarria and the first open gay scene in the City) where the Living New Deal Project is hosting a modest exhibit of New Deal art, including these recently made posters about the Post Office. They’ve been campaigning to save the many post offices around California and the country that are getting privatized and closed, and losing their architectural and artist treasures in the process. They are also promoting the idea of a New Deal Museum in the Presidio, so if you’re someone who likes to comment on such proposals, it’s open at the Presidio to chime in with your support.