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Pigeon Palace, My Home, but for how long?

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Hi friends, neighbors, readers,
My home of almost 12 years in the Mission has been put on the market. The sellers seem intent on getting to an auction where the richest bidder will get our building. This in spite of the fact that we have organized ourselves into a nonprofit ready to assume control over the building through the aegis of the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT). The SFCLT has put a hefty offer on the table as of over 10 days ago, but the Conservator, Tom Lucas, and his lawyers working on behalf of trustee Patricia Gustafson, have spurned our proposals and insist on trying to wrest maximum money from this, in clear opposition to the stated wishes of the landlady, Frances Carati, who maintained this lovely old Victorian as an affordable home for all of us for years. I am taking advantage of my blog here to post several documents below as an online resource beyond our current reliance on a Facebook page (what a disaster that so many people use Facebook for so much of their online communications! but one we can hardly buck at this point, certainly not alone).

Pigeon Manifesto

Friends and neighbors,

We are Adriana Camarena & Chris Carlsson, Carin McKay, Ed Wolf & Kirk Read, Keith Hennessy. We are long-term Mission residents: artists, activists, health care workers, and micro business owners, engaged in local queer and activist cultures for 10, 20, 30, and 40 years. Our six-unit building is called the Pigeon Palace, after the hearty rule-defying birds loved by our dear landlord Frances Carati. But oh shit! Our home is for sale! And the vultures are circling. If we get evicted, we lose not only our home, we lose our city. Like most of you, none of us can afford anything close to market rate housing in San Francisco. That is why we, the pigeons, are fighting back!

With the Mayor’s help, The San Francisco Community Land Trust is trying to buy the building to prevent our displacement and provide affordable housing forever. But the people entrusted to manage the sale seem hostile to the idea of tenant ownership and instead are seeking to maximize profits, thus defying the long-stated wishes of the owner.

We need to protect affordable housing for low-income people and support initiatives to generate more options that are way below market rate. Public ownership and collective ownership are necessary to fight the dictatorship of capitalist profit and the trance of private property. Another world is possible. We need to re-imagine and insist upon alternative economic models that would keep working class people, Latino families, queer families, artists and activists, teachers, nurses, and non-profit workers in the Mission. The exodus to Oakland and further points east has already heightened the gentrification crisis in the East Bay.

We call on friends, neighbors, and the City to help save our homes, to transform the Pigeon Palace into a community land trust, with affordable housing forever.

Thank you.

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What is the Pigeon Palace?

The Pigeon Palace is a non-profit organization founded by the tenants at 2840-2848 Folsom St, in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. Our goal is to further our landlord’s decades-long practice of providing affordable housing to low-income people; in her words, “refusing to choke anybody.” Our landlord Frances was a fan of pigeons. She scoffed at people who considered themselves better than these resourceful birds and she often pointed out the pigeons’ ability to survive hatred, violence and almost any effort to limit their free movement. We are determined to stay in the building at a cost that doesn’t choke anybody. We have been working the San Francisco Community Land Trust to buy our building. If they buy the building, 6 units of affordable housing will be saved forever.

What is SFCLT, the SF Community Land Trust?

The mission of SFCLT is to create permanently affordable, resident-controlled housing for low- to moderate-income people in San Francisco through community ownership of the land. They do this by acquiring apartment buildings at risk of eviction and convert them into resident-owned cooperatives. Currently SFCLT has five properties in its portfolio and is rapidly expanding. When a privately owned building is transformed into a community land trust, the building is pulled out of the capitalist market and can no longer be sold or rented for profit, nor participate in the profit speculation that drives gentrification, displacement, and eviction. More info at: www.sfclt.org

 

Kissing-Birds-Pigeonseviction zone sign__2150Our neighborhood is at the epicenter of a wave of evictions. We are fairly capable folks, able to broadcast our plight and seek support far and wide, but most of the evictions are happening to people who have few if any resources. We stand with our neighbors and friends who have endured this tidal wave of displacement. We refuse to go quietly. If we cannot establish a Land Trust at this building we are determined to put up a fierce resistance to anyone who tries to evict us from the City we’ve lived and worked in, making enormous cultural and political contributions to, for well over a 100 years combined.

Here are the capsule biographies of Pigeon Palace residents:

The Pigeon Palace tenants have lived and worked at the frontlines of AIDS services, art and culture, and neighborhood activism for 10, 20, 30, and 40 years. Well established in San Francisco, they are innovators, protectors, and ambassadors of San Francisco Values. Each and all would have already been displaced, evicted from the city they have helped to nurture and inspire, had they not been the beneficiaries of below market value rent. We invite you to read their brief bios and to note the many projects and activities that would never have been possible had these tenants had to pay “normal” rents or had been forced out of the city. The affordable rents they’ve enjoyed at the Pigeon Palace are precisely what made possible this remarkable range of social, cultural, and political activities that have enriched San Francisco for decades.

Ed Wolf

Ed Wolf moved to San Francisco in 1976. He attended San Francisco State University to begin work on his MFA when the AIDS epidemic arrived in the city. He’s been working continuously in the HIV/AIDS field since 1983, as chronicled in the award-winning documentary “We Were Here”. He’s worked for numerous non-profit organizations in the city, including The Shanti Project (where he worked on the AIDS unit as San Francisco General Hospital), as well as the Metropolitan Community Church, California Pacific Medical Center, and the UCSF AIDS Health Project, among others. Ed has a strong network of comrades and colleagues who survived the AIDS epidemic here in the city. In the last 5 years he has had 5 major knee operations, the last two involving total knee replacements. His ongoing progress is being provided by several doctors here in the city.

 

Adriana Camarena

Since moving to the Mission District of San Francisco in 2008, writer, researcher, and activist, Adriana Camarena has been documenting the stories of the Mission District’s traditional residents: migrants, homies, mammas, homeless, and radicals to name a few. Her project, Unsettlers:Migrants, Homies, and Mammas in the Mission District of San Francisco, relies on a number of storytelling media to collect the narratives of Mission community residents and the sense of place of this former working class and rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Her stories connect past and ongoing histories of forced displacement, policing, violence, and resistance of the Mission District. In the process of collecting these stories, the storyteller transformed into a neighbor and community organizer, scathed by the same violences experienced by her storytellers. In 2014, Camarena became a community advocate against police brutality by working closely with the Nieto Family, whose son Alex Nieto, was unjustifably killed by SFPD on Bernal Heights. Less than a year later, on February 26th, SFPD unjustifiably gunned down a 21-year-old Guatemalan immigrant—Amilcar Perez Lopez—across the street from the Pigeon Palace. Camarena is part of the block support group who together claim justice for Amilcar.

 

Chris Carlsson

Chris Carlsson, co-director of the “history from below” project Shaping San Francisco, is a writer, publisher, editor, and frequent public speaker. Carlsson moved to San Francisco in 1978 after growing up in the East Bay, and took up residence in the Mission District in 1987. Since early 2004 he has lived in the Pigeon Palace. Carlsson was one of the founders in 1981 of the seminal and infamous underground San Francisco magazine Processed World. In 1992 Carlsson was one of the co-founders of Critical Mass in San Francisco, which not only led to the boom in bicycling locally but spread across the planet and has been the incubator for transformative urban movements in hundreds of cities, large and small, worldwide. In 1995 Carlsson and his colleagues began work on “Shaping San Francisco”. In the 20 years since then Shaping San Francisco has grown into a multi-faceted project consisting of an incomparable archive of San Francisco history at Foundsf.org, award-winning bicycle and walking tours, and ten years of Public Talks covering history, politics, ecology, art, and more (see shapingsf.org). Carlsson has written two books, including a novel set in a future “post-economic” San Francisco (After the Deluge, Full Enjoyments Books: 2004), and edited six books including three “Reclaiming San Francisco” collections with the venerable City Lights Books. He redesigned and co-authored an expanded Vanished Waters: A History of San Francisco’s Mission Bay after which he joined the board of the Mission Creek Conservancy; he also serves as an advisor to the Shipyard Trust for the Arts at Hunter’s Point. He has given hundreds of public presentations based on Shaping San Francisco, Critical Mass, Nowtopia, Vanished Waters, and his “Reclaiming San Francisco” history anthologies since the late 1990s, and has appeared dozens of times in radio, television and on the internet.

 

Keith Hennessy

Keith Hennessy has lived in San Francisco since 1982 and has worked in the Mission for 33 years. A pioneer of queer performance and activist dance since the 80s, Hennessy is one of the most prolific and widely touring of West Coast performing artists. He was a member of the legendary Mission-based performance troupe Contraband (1985-94) and he co-founded 848 Community Space and CounterPulse, vibrant SF centers for experimental dance, and socially engaged performance. Since the early 80s, Hennessy has been involved in Bay Area left and progressive activism, from ACTUP to Occupy, against foreign wars, police brutality, and institutionalized racism and homophobia. In 2000, Keith co-organized the Festival of Resistance which drew over 2000 people to protest the eviction of Dancers’ Group during the first dot com wave of gentrification. In 2008, Keith collaborated with a group of young performers, aged 16-24, including those formerly arrested and incarcerated as youth, to make Delinquent, a poetic challenge to the prison industrial complex. Keith has taught extensively in local universities and independent studios, mentoring multiple generations of artists and activists.

 

Carin McKay

Carin McKay grew up in Northern California and has called San Francisco her home for over 23 years. A community organizer of 19 years, chef, nutritional educator, and small business owner, Carin has cooked food for tens of thousands of people at community events in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. She is the author of the cookbook “Culinary Magic at Regenerative Design Institute.” She has created farm-to-table events at CounterPulse and led after-school culinary programs at the Excelsior Community School via Project Ole, as well as taught cooking classes in the Mission and Marina. She was a member of Clown Conspiracy, a San Francisco street performance troupe, and has been inspired by 848 Community Space, Cellspace and Food Not Bombs.

 

Kirk Read

Kirk Read has lived in the Mission for 16 years. He is an author and performer who has curated hundreds of free public art events in the city. He was the founder and director of Army of Lovers, which commissioned artists to create work about public health issues. He was a co-founder of the Gay Men’s Health Summit, which led to dozens of conferences on gay men’s health around the world. He has worked as an HIV counselor and phlebotomist at St. James Infirmary, where he was one of the early volunteers. He is currently a nursing student and is doing his clinical practice at San Francisco General Hospital, where he hopes to work as a public health nurse.

 

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6 Responses to “Pigeon Palace, My Home, but for how long?”

  1. 1
    Patrick:

    As the survivor trustee on my mother’s living trust, I was under an obligation to obtain the highest and best offer of the sale of her home. You can characterize that as “trying to wrest maximum money” but my obligation was to the trust’s beneficiaries–myself and my siblings. By obtaining the highest offer it also indirectly benefited the neighborhood, Obtaining a higher the sale price will help lift the property values of the other houses in the neighborhood because it will be used as a comparable value when they sell their properties. Unless the property owner expressly stated that the tenants had right of first refusal to buy the property, the trustee is legally obligated to obtain the highest best offer.

    You talk about alternative economic models that sound an awfully lot like socialism, and where ever that has been tried it has been a major FAIL. I’m sorry that it took this for you to wake up and smell the coffee. I had a similar experience to you when my landlord, who also kept rents down could no longer afford to keep the property and sold it. The new owners started to make noises that they might need to evict me to make improvements and/or to move into my unit, so I moved to another building. A few years later, the same thing happened, so I bought a condominium.

    Sorry that economic realities are forcing an end to your extended adolescence here in San Francisco.

  2. 2
    ccarlsson:

    Well Patrick, thanks so much for your condescension and know-it-all self-satisfaction. You might find it odd to know that the actual battle has become between the Land Trust who are willing to offer considerably more than the current price, and the Conservator (and his lawyers) who is in an inexplicably giant hurry to sell to a no-contingency lower bid. (Are they friends with the buyer? are they perhaps a silent partner in a real estate deal? How did the Conservator become a millionaire after being a social worker for Adult Protective Services before becoming a state-sanctioned elder conservator?)… and my talk of alternative economic models goes way beyond the tepid accommodation that most things calling themselves “socialist” are proposing… I’m interested in the full abolition of wage-labor, private property, and the absurdity of modern life as we know it. Platitudes and self-congraulatory pabulum from people like you are exactly what is sinking San Francisco… promoting the further escalation of already over-the-moon real estate values is, as I called it during my brief words at our demo, being fully in the “trance of private property, our dominant secular religion.” And isn’t it always the easy fallback to characterize someone nearing 60 as enjoying an “extended adolescence,” as though “adulthood” is defined by the thoughtless sleepwalking that makes possible this barbarism that is devastating the planet and a huge number of people living on it. Really you should be ashamed at the poverty of your own thinking, and probably at the poverty of your shallow, narrow life, defined as it is by your twisted notion that rising property values actually benefits a neighborhood.

  3. 3
    Patrick:

    The information regarding the conservator’s self-dealing actions was glossed over in the Hoodline article, and if true, are a much better argument against the sale than your half-baked economic theories, since the conservator is apparently not acting in the property owner’s highest and best interest.

    Being a student of history, you are probably aware that there was another group who proposed “the full abolition of wage-labor, private property, and the absurdity of modern life as we know it”. How did their brand of Marxism-Leninism work out for the Soviet bloc, North Korea, China, Cambodia, etc? Over 100 million dead. Not so good…

    You say that I am what is sinking San Francisco. Well, I’m sure that the Californios who lived in Yerba Buena thought the same of the 49’ers. And the Ohlone people thought the same of the Spaniards. Things change. You have to adapt or…

  4. 4
    Solange:

    ” I was under an obligation to obtain the highest and best offer of the sale of her home. You can characterize that as “trying to wrest maximum money” but my obligation was to the trust’s beneficiaries–myself and my siblings.” I was under an obligation to maximize profit for myself and my siblings. Actually that’s optional. People can do what they want with their assets. We gave some of our parents’ away.

    And some forms of socialism failed; others throve for centuries and millennia; and it’s not hard to look at capitalism as the most epic fail ever, as it continues destroying individual lives and the entire climate for the sake of short-term profit for those who are already wealthy.

    But whatever….

  5. 5
    ccarlsson:

    I’ve been adapting to life in San Francisco since 1978, so my resilience and adaptability are not the issue. My wealth is. As for your tired, clichéd idea of what a radical difference might be, there’s no particular reason to beat this to death here… but half-baked? You point to some of the most tyrannical regimes in history, all fully dependent on the exploitation of their populations through the mechanism of wage-labor, all of whose regimes arrogated for themselves the perks of “private property” in their statist form… why do you suppose it has been so seamless for China’s Communist Party to become the chief beneficiary (and by some accounts, benefactor) of the global capitalist order?… Yes, I am a student of history, and the narrowness of your Manichean view of history would be breathtaking if it weren’t so common to Americans who have no sense of history or philosophy, beyond genuflecting to the “Constitution” and patting themselves on the back for the Civil War and WWII… There are many other radical possibilities, as Rebecca alludes to, that have lasted millennia, that are at the root of our lives even in this perverted social order, that are potentially the basis for a radical, ecological, and humane reorganization of life… That is what I have spent my life working towards, not this profoundly inadequate social order, nor the many versions that were even worse…

  6. 6
    Jeanne Marie Hallacy:

    DEAR PIGEON PALACE
    WE CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORY WITH YOU! WE ARE PURPLE HOUSE -THE FIRST
    SFCLT HOUSE IN SF. WE’RE HOSTING AN OPEN HOUSE ON SUNDAY 20 SEPTEMBER
    AND WOULD LIKE TO WELCOME YOU!
    WE HOPE YOU CAN JOIN US!

    https://www.facebook.com/events/126956734312843/
    JEANNE
    jeannemariehallacy@gmail.com
    415 688 1962

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