VIDEO: Muni After Hours

Photo by Chris Carlsson

En Español.

Muni driver Roger Marenco is much more than meets the eye. Immigrating to the Mission from El Salvador as a teen, Marenco has been a bold presence in local and city-wide politics ever since. His latest project, commissioned rotating murals along a stretch of South Van Ness between 24th and 23rd, captures the strife and resilience of the Mission.

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  1. Tired of Bigotry

    The message here seems to be that it’s OK to move here if you’re not white and not OK to move here if you are white.

    How is this an acceptable position?

    • John

      Yes – it’s part of a broader set of inconsistencies and hypocrisies that are common in SF.

      When Hispanics replaced whites in the Mission it was “adding to diversity”. But when whites replace Hispanics it is gentrification, or even ethnic cleansing.

      In the upside down, topsy-turvey, ass-backwards world of political correctness, having poor non-white people here is “good” but having successful white people here is “bad”.

      I know what you’re thinking. That’s racism. And you’re right, but racism is apparently permitted as long as it is directed at whites.

      Or, apparently at Asians whose “model minority” status makes them as bad as worse, as they do not support the “non-whites are victims” model that guilt-ridden, shame-infested white liberals appear to need as much as mother’s milk.

      A variation of inverted snobbery.

    • Nate M laughing at the oppressed white person

      Its ok for anyone to move to SF. The city has always thrived on new kinds of people infusing it…beatniks, hippies, gays, latino immigrants, punks, etc.

      I grew up in San Francisco and recognized the cultural value of people coming into the city to find themselves… San Francisco was a sanctuary city for people who couldn’t be themselves in Texas or in civl war ravaged places like El Salvador. These people added cultural value. They were my neighbors, friends, community.

      This is quite different than the monoculture that is migrating here today to get rich on the tech gold rush, at the expense of shutting all the other people out who came to San Francisco because it was special.

      And it sucks in San Francisco now. New interesting people of all creeds (including whites) can’t afford to move there anymore, and a whole lot of the great people who added life to the city got pushed out or just got fed up with all their friends and family leaving and bounced too.

      • John

        Disagree, Nate. The folks you cited as coming to SF (beatniks, hippies, gays, latino immigrants, punks) did not come here to contribute anything. They came here (to use your own phrase) to “find themselves”.

        Well gee, has it occurred to you that this city also needs people who can contribute, and not just people who feel immature and struggle to fit in?

        We are not a giant sanatorium for the disaffected and unstable. We need people who can contribute to the tax base a lot more than we need some self-absorbed loner who is struggling with his existential angst.

        To rephrase your point, SF used to attract losers and now it attracts winners. That’s progress. Bring it on.

        • Z

          I think you’re way off base with several of your statements here John.

          It’s quite incorrect for you to suggest that people belonging to those groups haven’t contributed anything to SF. Beatniks, hippies, and punks made significant & celebrated contributions to literature, music, and art. Those subcultures remain influential to this day. Two of the neighborhoods those groups resided in (North Beach & Haight Ashbury) draw in thousands of tourists each year partly because visitors want to see the places where these groups thrived decades ago. Those tourists spend money when they come here, which helps out local restaurants, retail stores, etc.

          Latino immigrants helped to create a vibrant community in the Mission District with their own restaurants, shops, and cultural centers. Their success at doing so attracted many others to the neighborhood and helped make it the hot destination it is today.

          The LGBT community has made countless contributions towards advancing civil rights not only in this city, but throughout the entire country. The Castro is one of the finest districts in SF with excellent small businesses and cultural institutions, run by many people who came to SF to find themselves. A significant percentage of those people also own homes and contribute to the tax base.

          SF has always attracted a large number of crazy characters. It’s a part of this town’s history. It has also attracted a large number of “regular” folks over the years, many of whom came here for career-related reasons. Are those people “losers” too?

          The colorful nature of this city and it’s creative history are what made it appealing to the tech companies who are currently making gobs of money here. They weren’t drawn in by visions of bitter landlords sitting in their tiny offices counting rent checks. Understand?

          • John

            The “regular” folks pay for stuff. That allows us to have a small number of eccentrics, fine.

            But when there is a vast underclass draining the fiscal viability of our town, it’s a concern.

            My own personal feeling is that we have too many people wanting handouts just because they think they are “cool”.

          • Z

            With the exception of the most down and out members of the homeless population, everybody pays for “stuff” here John. Rent, food, bus fare, sales tax, art exhibits, concerts, etc.

            From what I’ve seen recently, the fiscal viability of SF is experiencing an upward trend. Unemployment is down, there’s been more new construction, new small businesses are appearing, and we host a company that just successfully completed an IPO. The SF-based firm I work for had an excellent year. I’m not seeing much evidence of a vast underclass threatening this city’s continued success.

          • John

            Some people give more than they take, and some take more than they give.

            The problem i have with turning SF into a theme park for weirdo’s is that the rest of us have to subsidize them.

          • Z

            Do you realize that many successful people here in SF have been considered “weird” for most of their lives?

            For example, it wasn’t too long ago that society thought of computer programmers as strange, eccentric, “nerds”. Some of those people moved here to SF where they found an open, creative environment full of like-minded people working in a variety of different mediums who accepted their quirks and helped them to flourish. Many of these programmers are now very wealthy and deservedly so in my opinion.

            Do I think that every single quirky person who moves here because they didn’t fit in elsewhere has the skill set and talent to become successful at what they do? Of course not. But I think it’s a mistake to ignore the important role the creative community has played in attracting great people and companies to San Francisco. This is something worth maintaining.

        • Nate M


          The Jack Kerouacs, Allen Ginsbergs, Jerry Garcias, Jannis Joplins, Harvey Milks, Rene Yanezs, Black Panthers, Matty Luvs, the dude featured here in this video and the hundreds of thousands of others who came here, found themselves and created a diverse, vibrant and thriving city.

          Then leaches like you came like a virus and sucked the soul out of the city, until it became intolerable and too expensive to live in.

  2. Don

    Here’s where some of that “bigotry” might come from: the same fear and defensiveness that (ahem) real bigotry comes from. Marginalized groups end up settling where no one else wants to, in unvalued areas. I assume Hispanics moved into the Mission because the Mission was a working-class neighborhood far from what were then SF’s centers of power and wealth, just as hippies colonized the Haight and gays the Castro. (I suspect to some extent at least two of these neighborhoods were also undergoing a concurrent depopulation as working class whites moved to the suburbs.) All of these neighborhoods are changing again as wealthier/whiter/straighter people move in. Neighborhood flux is normal even when it’s painful; it’s how a city breathes. But the existing populations, especially if they are still marginalized, experience it as an injustice: we moved here because you didn’t want this and you didn’t want us. Now you want this and you still don’t want us. (Serving as local color or as a badge of your own, possibly self-induced marginality – common in any first wave of young white “invaders” to a nonwhite neighborhood – doesn’t count.)

    To an existing community in a neighborhood they made for themselves because they weren’t allowed elsewhere, relatively wealthy white people have what looks like infinite choice in selecting a home (choice that was denied to them, or to their parents or grandparents) and by choosing the Mission, for example, they are in effect further limiting the historically restricted choice of the much poorer, less privileged existing residents. This would of course breed some resentment, especially as we pretty much all now how this will turn out – barring any upcoming epic crashes, the Mission will become whiter and richer, and its poor people will be moving out of the city.

    We don’t live in a post-anything society. The deck is still stacked, all things aren’t equal, it’s not a level playing field, and if you can’t see the hill, you might be on top of it. What seem like the same circumstances – people of X race/class are moving into a neighborhood lived in by Y race/class – can have remarkably different consequences. That’s neither good nor bad, and is certainly not “racism directed at whites”, it’s observable fact. If the rents in Pacific Heights were to precipitously drop because a bunch of poor people moved into the place on the corner and made it a fashionable poor-person hangout, it wouldn’t leave the neighborhood’s rich people no alternative but to move to Vallejo or Hayward. They could still afford Pacific Heights; they could choose not to, but the choice would be in their hands, not the market’s.

    • John

      Don, there is some pretty precious stuff there.

      You defend the gays taking over the Castro and displacing the hetero-sexual working class folks who were there before. But did you know that the Castro is the white’ist neighborhood in SF? (It’s true – look it up).

      See that upsets your politically correct applecart, as reality often does. Unlike you I do not regard neighborhoods as belonging to any one race.

      Your attempt at furnishing an equivalence between being white and being wealthy is also off the mark. Asians score higher than whites on many scores including average income, but you dare not say anything against Asians, and stick to the “safe” scapegoat, whites.

      I know you tried to avoid it but your post reeks of an unfortunate blend of political correctness and thinly disguised, anti-white racism.

      • Don

        Well, John, that’s some pretty jumpy stuff back at ya. But I’ll certainly allow that my post shifted several times between specifics – this started in the Mission, after all – and generalities. But you’re applying value judgements where I didn’t make them.
        I didn’t defend the gays taking over the Castro. I observed that it happened. It did, and it is now losing some of its gay-ghetto exclusivity as more double-wide strollers move in. The fact that most of the gay men who colonized the neighborhood were (and are) white is immaterial to their status at the time as a “marginalized group”. (I am assuming, by the way, that “white’ist” means “most white” and is not referring to some right wing white-rights movement catching on amongst the Castro’s population.)
        That gays are “losing” the Castro to whatever extent they are is normal. As I said, with no value judgement, cities change. Neighborhoods shift populations and identities. Sometimes this is painful, sometimes not. But when there are sides, and one of them feels like they’re losing something they can’t get back (possibly because they are), that side will be fearful and possibly angry. Noticing this does not make me an anti-white racist, even when the specific instance appears to have a racial component, and one of the races involved is white, and the white people appear to be kind of dickish and entitled. Pretending it’s not there to notice, though, does make you seem a little … dickish and entitled.
        (I described these shifts as a city’s breathing mechanism; to extend the metaphor too far, I think what many longtime residents are afraid of is that San Francisco has taken far too large a breath, and they are about to be blown away. I think they’re right, but I live in Oakland and I’d love you all to move over here with us.)
        I’ll partially own some of the conflation you’ve taken such offense at of “wealthy” and “white”; It’s largely coming from my reversion to a specific; that is, to what I see happening in the Mission – but I’d also like to reiterate that I didn’t say “wealthy”, I said “relatively wealthy”. I also dropped “white” outright in my last paragraph; I said “X/Y race/class” and “rich/poor”. You are free to insert “Asian” wherever you like and shop around town to see where it fits; you seem prone to that already but I have no idea why. (Since you seem awfully touchy about “successful white people” getting blamed for stuff, you are also free to find an example of “successful black people” displacing poor whites in a formerly marginal urban neighborhood. Go ahead, I’ll wait.)
        In the Mission (the specific) the influx of relatively wealthier people looks pretty white to my eyes, but in economic terms it’s really their money that matters, not their color, and it’s the market imbalance their money creates that matters, not the fact of its possession.
        Finally, re your original post, can I remind you, if you were ever aware of it, that “successful” and “poor” are not actually antonyms? You can be both, just as you can be a rich failure.

        • John

          Don, my overall reaction is that you are too invested in seeing people as members of a class rather than as individuals.

          That often happens in politics because it is a favorite habit of ideologs to first classify and categorize people, and then make relative value judgments about them.

          I’m not soc aught up on gay vs straight or white vs non-white because i don’t find those classification concepts useful. (Or in the case of race, even valid).

          Put another way, I am deeply suspicious of identity politics, and all the card playing that goes with it.

          Like you, I am merely an observer of transitions. But I suspect that I invest even less in the significance of them than you do. If some classes of people decide they are happier in Oakland then Sf, I do not regard that as politically significant.

          It just “is”.

          • Don

            I’m afraid my essential point still stands, and thanks for clarifying it for me – only privileged groups get to “decide they’re happier” elsewhere. Those who leave their neighborhood because they can’t afford it any more rarely consider it a happy decision.

          • John

            Sorry, don, but I just do not see the distinction you are trying to make.

            Americans have always been free to live where they want and historically have often relocated to better themselves. Our social and geographical mobility has helped define our success as an economic power.

            As noted, I think it is misguided to focus unduly on a fuzzy notion like race anyway. Americans in particular are a mix of peoples and ethnicities, and that trend is increasing.

            But I see little difference between (say) Hispanics choosing to move to the Mission and Hispanics choosing to leave it. It’s just part of the natural ebb and flow of neighborhoods.

            In 50 years time, the whites may all have left again and the Mission becomes an Asian neighborhood. so what?

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