Unsettling change, class strife and national headlines. 2013 marked a distinct “before” and “after” for the Mission District. Before we start reporting the stories that will define 2014, Mission Local examines the year that set a new path for San Francisco’s oldest neighborhood.

1. “The Google Bus”: Icon of Conflict

Activists take swings at a piñata in the shape of a Google bus May 5 at the 16th and Mission BART plaza. Photo by Tay Wiles.

They’ve been riding through the Mission for years: blocking Muni stops, shuttling tech workers and generally gleaming in their double-decker brilliance. But 2013 was the year in which the neighborhood shouted back at Silicon Valley’s private transport system. With a piñata- smashing protest in May and the recent rounds of bus hold-ups on 24th Street (armed with just posters), the buses have become a stand-in for a larger trend: the stratification between rising tech wealth and SF’s struggling working and middle class. The growing backlash has thrown the Mission into the national media spotlight with op-eds in the New York Times, New Yorker think pieces, literary jeremiads and Al Jazeera documentaries. As both a historic hotbed of activism and an attractive hood for tech workers commuting South (Mark Zuckerberg bought a house here this year), the Mission is the city’s epicenter of the rising conflict.

2. Longtime Businesses Struggle to Stay Open

Cafe Que Tal’s doors locked for good after 20 years of serving the Mission. Photo by Nilanjan Nag.

With landlords raising commercial rents, changing Mission demographics and all but the wealthiest consumers struggling to part with major cash at their neighborhood haunts, many longtime businesses found themselves forced to close shop this year. Cafe Que Tal shuttered when its owner was offered a buyout of twice the monthly rent. Encantada Gallery’s landlord evicted the longtime Valencia tenant selling Frida Kahlo wares. Even when Adobe Books held a crowdfunding campaign to fight its rent spike, they were still pushed out of their 16th Street location and onto the more mom-and-pop-oriented 24th.

3. Residential Evictions Through the Roof

Rene Yañez stands in front of his 3D piece, part of Illuminations: Día de los Muertos 2011 exhibit opening Oct. 7 at SOMArts Cultural Center Bay Gallery. Photo by Christy Koshaba.

Evictions rose 26% from the previous year, according to the rent board — and the Mission had the city’s second highest amount of both no-fault and for-cause evictions. With its heavy dose of rent-controlled stock and home sales prices soaring, the Mission was one of the most impacted neighborhood in the city. The pending Ellis Act eviction of cultural icon and Mission “royalty” Rene Yanez emblazoned a high-profile human face on the troubling effect of gentrification on the Mission’s old guard. Yet 2013 also proved the community wouldn’t go without a fight. Two rallies marched along 24th Street to protest evictions with coffins and megaphones, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project tracked Ellis Act oustings and painted street stencils in front of impacted houses. Mission Supervisor David Campos introduced legislation to curb landlord harassment and restrict evictions — even calling for a “state of emergency” moratorium.

4. BART Drama

A sign at a Mission Street bus stop warns commuters about crowding during the July BART Strike. Photo by Molly Oleson.

Two BART strikes frustrated Bay Area commuters for a total of eight days this year. Riders in the Mission saw two stations shuttered for days and MUNI buses bursting with passengers (the tech buses kept on rolling). The Mission’s 16th Street BART Station was also the backdrop to one of the most viral stories of 2013: the “Naked, Spitting and Pissing Man,” as he was dubbed in headlines, doing backflips in the buff and terrifying passengers. Mission Local interviewed the man himself, Yeiner Pérez Garizabalo, who turned out to be a young circus performer struggling with mental health issues.

5. Chain Gang: Mission Formula Retail Fights

Dema Grim (center) one of the members of the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association celebrates on October 10, 2013 after the Board of Appeals grants her group a rehearing of their appeal of Jack Spade’s building permit. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.

When word got out that Adobe Books’ former landlord refused to renew their lease because of plans to rent to luxury retailer Jack Spade, merchants on Valencia Street issued a rallying cry: keep the Mission local. What came next was a debate that divided the neighborhood about whether the store owned by parent company Kate Spade should fall into the city’s definition of chain stores — which must get a special permit to open. After three hearings at the Board of Appeals, a Jack Spade rep’s tone-deaf quote about loving gentrification, and a “Jack Off” fundraiser and petition, the retailer abandoned its plans for 16th Street. Now that Australian perfumer Aesop plans to move onto Valencia and the Board of Supervisors is working on more citywide legislation, prepare to keep hearing the words “formula retail” in 2014.

6. Campos Runs for State Assembly

District 9 Supervisor David Campos rides the 49 Mission/Van Ness bus to City Hall Thursday with more than a dozen children. Photo by Chris Sanchez.

Following the path of his political mentor and former District 9 supervisor Tom Ammiano, Mission supervisor David Campos announced his intentions to run for the California State Assembly in 2014. Campos marked his official bid with a ride on the 49-Mission with neighborhood children, a nod to his legislation that lets low-income kids ride free on Muni. Campos’ recent political battles have focused on curbing evictions to prevent San Francisco from further becoming a “Tale of Two Cities.” The upcoming race will certainly be a “Tale of Two Davids,” with Campos facing off against fellow supervisor David Chiu. It’s a race that the Chronicle argues will test city voting patterns, with a gay liberal Latino facing off against a liberal Chinese American.

7. Fancy Schmancy Development Arrives

Demolition site where Giant Value used to stand. Photo by Molly Oleson.

The Mission’s displacement battles stem from the habanero-hot real estate market. Developers are getting down to business in the neighborhood, their visions rising to new heights than previously seen in the low-slung neighborhood: towering cranes are rotating above Mission Street and beams for new market-rate condos are rising from the vacant hole where Giant Value used to beckon with dollar specials. This year saw the opening of the upscale apartment development Vara next to the Armory on 15th Street, preliminary plans for a glass high-rise of apartments above the 16th and Mission BART plaza and construction for an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema that will renovate the blighted New Mission Theater.

8. Hollywood Gives the Mission its Closeup

Filming notice posted along 21st and Harrison. Photo by Andrea Valencia.

The San Francisco Film Commission’s rebate program has been particularly good to the Mission this year. From September to November, it seemed like you couldn’t walk down 24th Street without tripping over the lighting cables of an HBO crew filming its new show Looking, including scenes staged in iconic Mission locations like Doc’s Clock, Esta Noche and Dolores Park. The Mission provided a backdrop to Amazon’s direct-to-streaming show Betas, a comedy about app developers, and an indie film called Quitters. Yet due to the churn of real-world change in the barrio, some of those locales now only exist on film. New Central Cafe, a location filmed by Woody Allen in this year’s Blue Jasmine, shuttered its doors in August.

9. Murders Down the Block From $10 Cocktails

Guns given up at gun buyback night in August. Photo by Molly Oleson.

While the police report that homicides were down in the Mission this year by 33 percent, according to SFPD’s latest numbers from October — aggravated assaults and robberies rose in 2013 by 10 and 32 percent, respectively. The main draw: smartphones. Underlining the increasing disparities in the neighborhood, a man was shot and killed just blocks from where Jack Spade was battling to move in on 16th Street. Maurice White was killed in December on the same street that hosts Mission Mercado’s weekly farmer’s market. It was also a mixed year in community and police relations: SFPD helped facilitate a successful gun buyback program, but a video of a clash between residents of Valencia Gardens public housing and police showed problems of the hood remain right alongside the influx of new moneyed residents.

10. The Tamale Lady Gets Ousted

Mural of Tamale Lady on Clarion. Photo courtesy of Tamale Lady Indiegogo page.

There is hardly a tale more symbolic of the changes in the Mission than that of the Tamale Lady, Virginia Ramos. Zeitgeist, the thronging, punk biker bar kicked out the equally beloved and underground Mission icon who had peddled her unregulated tamales in its beer garden for years — saying her hearty husk-wrapped snacks were un-permitted and not up to code. The ouster kicked off a social media firestorm, and supe David Campos swooped in to start an Indiegogo campaign to help the vagabond entrepreneur open a brick-and-mortar restaurant (even advertised in a promotion by Uber town-car service). Though Ramos fell far short of her $50,000 goal, neighborhood artists installed her in one stable location: a large-scale mural in Clarion Alley reading “Viva La Tamale Lady!” The community response says a lot about this both gentrifying and feisty corner of San Francisco — and we hear from those close to her that there’s a big announcement “in the works.” The resolution of her story will be symbolic of whether long-time Mission legends can become a part of the neighborhood’s future — or be relegated to the scenery commemorating what was.

Tamale Lady to Open Own Shop with Your Help
Tamale Lady Mural in Progress

What a year. Any stories you think we missed? Any predictions for next year? Let us know in the comments, and see you in 2014.

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. The Senate never voted on the public option. The bill that came to the floor didn’t have it. If it had, it would have been difficult for the Democrats to look their constituents in the face after having voted against at their masters in the insurance industry’s will. It was dropped from the bill in the Dem-run committee. Had Obama and the Senate wanted it, it would have been a “slam dunk.”

    Here’s something you probably won’t comprehend: I blame the Dems more than the GOP for the shitty state of things. The GOP are pure batshit crazy. The Dems present an illusion of sanity and reason to lure the sucker liberals in, when in fact the Dem party functions as “gatekeepers/” That is, they present the leftward limit of permissible political discourse, even though they are to the right of Reagan on almost every issue. The Dems are nothing but a Trojan Horse, to ensure that the rabble are kept at bay and can’t get their hands on the trillions of dollars Wall St has stolen.

    1. A broader way to say the same thing is this:

      In order to have a make-believe democracy, you need to have 2 make-believe parties (the Democrats and the Republicans) who make believe they are opponents.

      In fact, it’s all a theatrical production… Written and produced by Big Business, in association with executive producer International Billionaire Class.

      The purpose of this play is to disempower the little people by tricking them into believing that they have some input in the affairs of the nation.

      This scam will continue until the public stops voting for these 2 fake, wholly-owned political parties.

      1. If you think the silent majority of little people are duped by the current duopoly, why haven’t any of you forged a third party that can tap into what you claim is a great disenchantment?

        I prefer to believe that the people are happy with the current politics, else they would not keep voting to uphold it.

          1. Maybe so, but there is no reason to believe that the 50% who don’t vote think any differently than the 50% who do.

  2. Two Beers is right. Considering all the folks that live in the Mission that cannot afford housing and health insurance, you would think that Obamacare would be a big deal. This is a law that is giving a large portion of these folks access to “affordable” healthcare. Why is the Mission Local not promoting this law to get folks in the Mission insured? Why do you think they are NOT promoting this? Is it that they just don’t understand the law/benefits or they don’t just don’t care? This law should be a HUGE deal for anyone that is poor and not currently insured. As stated in the initial post, if you are poor, you get a gigantic benefit. It should be a no brainer to sign up. Am I missing something? No joke, it’s an actual question.

    1. You didn’t read my post,. I think Obamacare is a disaster: it’s a mandate forcing people to buy crappy and expensive private insurance, when single payer is vastly preferable.

      Methinks you’re trying to derail the discussion away from the banker/developer/landlord/realtor complex that is using the tech bubble to inflate the cost of housing in San Francisco.

        1. Don’t be a clown, John. Read his first post. He’s a virulent racist and elitist.

          Once again, you use erroneous nitpicky sophistry instead of using actual logic.

      1. That’s a battle that was fought and lost in the public arena. The people and their congressional representatives rejected the public option, both on grounds of the extra costs and because of the death panels that that would necessitate.

        The residents of the Mission can attend SFGH free of charge, as I understand it.

        1. Polls show a majority of citizens support single payer.

          Likewise, the vast majority of citizens wanted legal action taken against Wall St for its well-documented fraud leading to the GFC. That nothing was done doesn’t indicate that Congress fulfilled the will of its citizens, but instead, that Congress subverted the will of its citizens. You conflate action or inaction by Congress as somehow fulfilling the “will of the people,” when in fact, Congress consistently blocks “the will of the people.” You must be happy with that, because your views don’t frequently align with the “will of the people.” The “will of Wall St,” now that’s another story.

          (btw, both parties are complicit in the coverup of the greatest financial crimes in history.)

          “The residents of the Mission can attend SFGH free of charge, as I understand it.”
          -Well, you understand wrong. But even if they could, don’t you realize how much more it costs the hospital to handle non-emergency patients in the emergency room?

          But….”death panels”??!! Really, John? You really just gave yourself away as a FoxBot.

          1. I’m not familiar with the poll you claim but, in any event, the way such questions are phrased is key.

            For instance, if you ask people whether they want unlimited free healthcare on demand, they will no doubt say that they do. Likewise if you ask them if they want affordable housing or anything else. But these are bogus questions.

            A better question is to ask them how much more tax they would be willing to pay so somebody they do not know or care about gets free healthcare and you get a very different answer.

            What we do know is that the Tea Party went from nothing to the fastest growing political party in US history because the people were angry about ObamaCare and, in particular, it’s “free everything for everyone” public option.

            Congress simply saw which way that wind was blowing and voted accordingly, even though the Dems had a majority in both chambers at the time.

            Providing free care for another 45 million people cannot possibly be cheaper than the current situation. And the people wanted that but were not willing to pay it.

            The “death panels” were a reference to bureaucrats having live or die decisions. That is essentially what you get with socialized healthcare.

          2. The polls show that people support “universal” health care. Yes, it can be phrased different ways. If make it sound like the gummint is going to ration care care and kill gramma, people will say no,. If you ask them if they would like care as it is in Canada, Europe. Japan, or every other industrialized democracy, they say “yes.”

            Single payer health care. as proven in every country where it exists, is vastly cheaper, so taxes won’t be higher.

            Get the fatcat drug and insurance company bloated pay, bureaucracy, and bonuses out of it, and health care would be so much less expensive that the savings would pay for deficit.

            Don’t you want to reduce the deficit, John?

          3. Those other nations have cheaper care because everyone is in the single-payer system.

            But in the US, people with insurance do not want to give that up for some government model. So the idea here was always to let folks keep their existing cover and doctors. And give “universal” care to the other 45 million.

            So it would cost even more in the US because we would have to retain a dual system.

            Adding 45 million people into a new plan has to cost more, and the majority of voters do not want to pay more tax.

          4. It’s a non story as we already have healthy SF. An uninsured friend recently had his appendix out at SFGH. The cost? $50,000. He paid $1.

          5. Rickshaw, it’s not a “non story” when someone gets a 50K operation for a buck. It’s an outrage because it is the rest of us who paid for that.

            But in any event, it was my understanding that programs like HealthySF may well be cancelled under ObamaCare. HealthySF is for the uninsured and, under ObamaCare, everyone will have to carry insurance.

            That part of ObamaCare is a good thing.

        2. btw, Congress didn’t reject the public option: Obama never “put it on the table.” His phony support for it is yet another one of his seemingly endless lies.

          1. The Senate voted on the public option and it might have passed but for Liebermann. I don’t like him much but he did the right thing there.

  3. 11.) Three people die in accidents on South Van Ness while MTA does nothing to slow the traffic speed or volume.

    1. What ObamaCare is Really About

      I’m a 54 year old consulting engineer and make between $60,000 and $125,000 per year, depending on how hard I work and whether or not there are work projects out there for me.

      My girlfriend is 61 and makes about $18,000 per year, working as a part-time mail clerk.

      For me, making $60,000 a year, under ObamaCare, the cheapest, lowest grade policy I can buy, which also happens to impose a $5,000 deductible, costs $482 per month.

      For my girlfriend, the same exact policy, same deductible, costs $1 per month. That’s right, $1 per month. I’m not making this up.

      Don’t believe me? Just go to http://www.coveredca.gov/ , the ObamaCare website for California and enter the parameters I’ve mentioned above and see for yourself. By the way, my zip code is 93940. You’ll need to enter that.

      So OK, clearly ObamaCare is a scheme that involves putting the cost burden of healthcare onto the middle and upper-income wage earners. But there’s a lot more to it. Stick with me.

      And before I make my next points, I’d like you to think about something:

      I live in Monterey County, in Central California. We have a large land mass but just 426,000 residents – about the population of Colorado Springs or the city of Omaha.

      But we do have a large Hispanic population, including a large number of illegal aliens, and to serve this group we have Natividad Medical Center, a massive, Federally subsidized county medical complex that takes up an area about one-third the size of the Chrysler Corporation automobile assembly plant in Belvedere, Illinois (see Google Earth View). Natividad has state-of-the-art operating rooms, Computed Tomography and Magnetic Resonance Imaging, fully equipped, 24 hour emergency room, and much more. If you have no insurance, if you’ve been in a drive-by shooting or have overdosed on crack cocaine, this is where you go. And it’s essentially free, because almost everyone who ends up in the ER is uninsured.

      Last year, 2,735 babies were born at Natividad. 32% of these were born to out-of-wedlock teenage mothers, 93% of which were Hispanic. Less than 20% could demonstrate proof of citizenship, and 71% listed their native language as Spanish. Of these 876 births, only 40 were covered under [any kind of] private health insurance. The taxpayers paid for the other 836. And in case you were wondering about the entire population – all 2,735 births – less than 24% involved insured coverage or even partial payment on behalf of the patient to the hospital in exchange for services. Keep this in mind as we move forward.

      Now consider this:

      If I want to upgrade my policy to a low-deductible premium policy, such as what I had with my last employer, my cost is $886 per month. But my girlfriend can upgrade her policy to the very same level, for just $4 per month. That’s right, $4 per month. $48 per year for a zero-deductible, premium healthcare policy – the kind of thing you get when you work at IBM (except of course, IBM employees pay an average of $170 per month out of pocket for their coverage).

      I mean, it’s bad enough that I will be forced to subsidize the ObamaCare scheme in the first place. But even if I agreed with the basic scheme, which of course I do not, I would never agree to subsidize premium policies. If I have to pay $482 a month for a budget policy, I sure as hell do not want the guy I’m subsidizing to get a better policy, for less that 1% of what I have to fork out each month for a low-end policy.

      Why must I pay $482 per month for something the other guy gets for a dollar? And why should the other guy get to buy an $886 policy for $4 a month? Think about this: I have to pay $10,632 a year for the same thing that the other guy can get for $48. $10,000 of net income is 60 days of full time work as an engineer. $48 is something I could could pay for collecting aluminum cans and plastic bottles, one day a month.

      Are you with me on this? Are you starting to get an idea what ObamaCare is really about?

      ObamaCare is not about dealing with inequities in the healthcare system. That’s just the cover story. The real story is that it is a massive, political power grab. Do you think anyone who can insure himself with a premium policy for $4 a month will vote for anyone but the political party that provides him such a deal? ObamaCare is about enabling, subsizdizing, and expanding the Left’s political power base, at taxpayer expense. Why would I vote for anyone but a Democrat if I can have babies for $4 a month? For that matter, why would I go to college or strive for a better job or income if it means I have to pay real money for healthcare coverage? Heck, why study engineering when I can be a schlub for $20K per year and buy a new F-150 with all the money I’m saving?

      And think about those $4-a-month babies – think in terms of propagation models. Think of just how many babies will be born to irresponsible, under-educated mothers. Will we get a new crop of brain surgeons and particle physicists from the dollar baby club, or will we need more cops, criminal courts and prisons? One thing you can be certain of: At $4 a month, they’ll multiply, and multiply, and multiply. And not one of them will vote Republican.

      ObamaCare: It’s all about political power.

      1. Single payer socialized health care would largely solve all of these problems without forcing you to harbor misguided prejudices against people poorer than you, apparently including your girlfriend.

        1. If we want a single payer system, we would have to raise taxes on everything for everyone by 10-15%. This includes income tax, sales tax, estate tax, etc… Just like France, if you make $45000 er year, you would need to pay 45% tax. If we do this, then we can have health care for all just like in the other “first world/industrialized” countries. Do people making $45000 per year want to pay 45% tax to have this? Right now in America they pay about 20% tax at that income level. If we want single payer, let’s have the debate and be honest about the cost.

          1. You are a consulting engineer. Do the math, but don’t forget the money people pay to insurance companies largely for nothing. In your example, you pay $10,784 per year in premiums and deductibles on your income of $60,000 before you receive any actual healthcare. That’s an 18% tax to subsidize insurance company profits for nothing in return.

          2. With single payer,you:

            1. eliminate the waste of duplicate administrative bureaucracies;

            2. you gain massive economy of scale in drug purchasing;

            3. you eliminate the profit overhead of insurance companies, with their bloated executive pay and fatcat bonuses;

            4. eliminate the high cost of the impoverished using emergency room facilities for non-emergencies.

            5. eliminate high deductibles, which render most insurance useless for anything other than catastrophic illness

            In short, single payer is much cheaper — and far more effective — than private insurance.

            Obamacare is horrendous — it’s just a government-mandated gift to the insurance industry.


          3. Further, the US currently pays twice per capita as the next nation, which is Germany. But Germany has 100% enrollment, and the US has millions of people uncovered — and millions will remain uncovered under Obamacare. Also, Germany has much better outcomes than the US, for half the price

            All other industrialized democracies have a form of nationalized care, with few exceptions, such as Switzerland, which has universal private insurance that is standardized, uniform, highly-reguilated, and can only charge what the laws allow.

            Most other countries pay a fraction of what we do (and will, under Obamacare), yet have 100% coverage and better outcomes (eg infant mortality, longevity, etc).

            The US at this point is not much better than a third-world nation, and getting worse, thanks to our thrity-year neo-liberal austerity regime that has proven incompetent, corrupt, and devastating to the economy as a whole.