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What set this neighborhood apart from many others was the people, art, food and history, rhythm and beat — A diverse people that have brought their customs and traditions of Latin America into a few blocks of San Francisco are now being displaced with the high-tech companies coming in and taking over the properties.
For more than 50 years the Mission District has been characterized by its Latino-based roots and colorful culture; however, little by little this neighborhood has been changing from the effects of gentrification.
For many residents, gentrification is about the displacement that is occurring. Displacement in the Mission is about a rich culture and traditions that many working-class Latinos celebrate being quickly pushed away by the dot-com boomers in the area.
“I’ve seen different changes in the Mission. We’ve had different waves of folks coming in and out of the neighborhood,” said Erick Arguello, leader of Calle 24, a Mission District-based merchants association. “But the difference from now is that it’s a class difference. Before we had the artists coming in, the bohemians, we had culture coming in, the revolutionaries, and we were all working-class, and these people weren’t displacing anyone.”
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Mission was home to the Italian and Irish communities. However, after World War II many people returning from the war were granted the G.I. Bill and left for the suburbs to buy homes with what the bill provided. When people left the neighborhood, many buildings, businesses and homes in the Mission became vacant or cheap to purchase or rent. The Latino population settled into the neighborhood during World War II, and made it their home.
However, the Mission has been changing for the past few decades again. According to American FactFinder census.gov, the Latino population has been decreasing. In 2000, the census recorded that 46.1 percent of Latinos were living in the Mission District, and 52.4 percent of Whites were also in the neighborhood. In 2010, the percentage of Latinos dropped to 38.4 percent while the percentage of Whites increased to 58.5 percent. And finally, as of 2012 the census recorded that the percentage of Latinos in the Mission had considerably dropped to 36.4 percent while the percentage in Whites had increased to 66.6 percent.
“It makes me angry to see the culture leaving,” said Valerie Abea, the liaison for Indigena Health & Wellness Collaborative at Instituto Familiar de la Raza in the Mission. “For the gentrifiers, better known as ‘gentri-fuckers,’ it’s just a fad for them to be in the Mission. As soon as this fad is done, they’ll leave.”
“They’re like vultures, they come in, they take, destroy and they leave…. I don’t think this will be long term. As soon as the gentrify everything, they’re going to realize it’s just one more piece of San Francisco that they ruined and won’t want it anymore and leave.”
Various local shops in the neighborhood have had to close down because they weren’t able to compete with the influx of rich and savvy hi-tech companies and people coming in. Other stores have remained firm, however, with the pressure of getting bullied. Businesses such as G.G. Tukuy and Libreria San Pedro have had to endure bullying practices. Several prospectors offered $100,000 to the owner of the property, the adjacent St. Peter’s Catholic Church to evict those two businesses.
“Supervisor Campos worked a lot to improve the Mission,” said Cesar Oyagata, owner of C.C. Tukuy Indigenous Arts and Crafts store. “More police patrols were brought in, and more attention was given to this neighborhood. In other words, this was cleaned out, and after that, many White people started to come into our neighborhood. When that happened many of the opportunities for people with low income and resources were shut off.”
However, after a circulated petition with more than 3,600 signatures, and pressure on the Archdioscese of San Francisco, the offer was not accepted.
“The local community can’t compete with that money, and so we’re the ones that are in the losing end of it, said Arguello. “A lot of them come here not really thinking about that, a lot of them are fresh out of the universities. From talking to them, many of them just come here to work and make money and they’re not really thinking about the impact that they’re making on the rest of the community.”
“All the outcasts and runaways have come to San Francisco, said Ricardo Padilla, a San Francisco State University graduate and San Francisco resident. “But now it’s the people with the trust funds and stocks. It’s all good but don’t mess the community up.”
“Don’t take that specialness out of the city. If I were that Facebook guy, Mark Zuckerberg, I would help some of these people out in the Bay Area. You see a lot more greed. People don’t put back into the community.”
What is difficult for many small businesses is that many of the rents are rising on 24th St. and the commercial spaces don’t have rent control and no relocation fees meaning that these people lose their full investment when they can’t afford to pay rent.
“Instead of putting people first, they are putting money, profit and greed first,” said Irina Kurtsevaya, a student at City College of San Francisco. “These people coming in aren’t even trying to understand the people that they’re replacing.”
However, others view gentrification differently. Some people find the neighborhood safer than before and wealthier from the people moving in.
“The difference I see is that more American shops are coming in,” said Marisol Torres, a flower vendor in the Mission for 14 years. “I think it’s beneficial because there’s a better economy, and safer. I’ve never had a scare, everything is good here.”
However, despite gentrification, there are still many shops that are owned by Latinos. Arguello says that despite the bullying and millions of dollars offered to the owners, they simply aren’t selling. Lastly, 55 percent out of 118 properties are owned by Latinos, 74 businesses out of 130 are owned by Latinos and the rest are owned by people of Asian or Middle Eastern descent.
“The Latino community is entrenched here,” said Arguello. “For a lot of us, we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”