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. Housing rights activists organized an "anti-gentrification block party."

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.

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.
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 July Strike. Photo by Molly Oleson.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

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.