Trump, NIMBYs, Illegal Clubs, and Drag Queens: Top Stories of 2016

Trump and tattoos, homophobia and housing, billionaires, fires, prostitutes, and gambling — the Mission did not disappoint this year in its ability to serve up both tragedy, humor, and all the news in between. Mission Local was there to capture it all, from the Trump supporters kicked out of Zeitgeist bar to the news that Silicon Valley venture capitalists were funding a homeless tent ban — news we broke that went national in the following days.

Housing projects were approved and delayed, tenants were evicted, homeless encampments were dismantled and displaced, and young men and women were shot and killed.

There was another horrific fire: a five-alarm blaze that destroyed the corner of 29th and Mission and displaced dozens of residential tenants as well as long-time businesses like Cole Hardware and the 3300 Club. We devoted weeks to follow-up coverage that discovered the city failed to house all of the fire victims — as Mayor Ed Lee had promised. That reporting was a swift kick in the rear for city officials, who moved quickly to find homes for the remaining displaced.

Through it all, our traffic increased, from just under 3 million page views for the year to 3.4 million. Increasingly we worry about sustainability and we launched a membership drive to bring our reader members up to 400. Right now, we are at 140.

We rely on those memberships. Without your help, Mission Local would not be able to provide daily updates on the Frisco Five hunger strike or immediate reporting on the shootings, fires, protests, and other events that routinely occur in the neighborhood. If you value a news source dedicated solely to the Mission, please sign up for a membership and start giving. We won’t last without your support.

Here are some of our most popular stories this year, sorted by category.


Illicit Nightclub with Booze, Drugs Operated at Mission Hacker Hostel” by Laura Wenus — An undocumented immigrant tech worker starts a hacker hostel slash illegal late-night party in the Mission, drawing concerns from neighbors and resulting in at least one scuffle with his own bodyguards. Troy Do says he was pistol-whipped and robbed by the ex-military men after firing them for not removing gang members from his booze and drug-fueled parties. The whole thing was shut down soon after complaints brought the cops, and Do has left California.

Mission Tattoo Parlor Tagged for Trump Ties” by Laura Newberry — A San Francisco tale of Trump drama: A tattoo parlor in the Mission District is defaced and called out on social media after it’s revealed the boyfriend of the male shop owner is a Trumpista, controversial anywhere in the city but damn toxic in the Mission. Posts comparing Hillary Clinton to Hitler and touting Roosevelt quotes instructing immigrants to learn English did not go over well, and unknown perps tagged “Fuck Trump” on the tattoo shop’s facade. It continued a month later when a rock was thrown through the shop’s window.

Locals Flock to Dolores Park to Celebrate 4/15” by Laura Wenus and Laura Waxmann — Frisco Day, it was branded by organizers, a “direct response to gentrification” that brought San Francisco natives to Dolores Park in an attempt to “reclaim” it for those who have been pushed out due to gentrification. “Mission Dolores is a symbolic place because we feel like it was taken from us,” said Oscar Salinas, a local activist. “Over the years it was beautified, but not for us.” The normal, mostly white young crowd of park-goers sat on the rolling green hills as a smaller crowd of natives wearing 49ers gear and orange clothing gathered around Aztec dancers and their incense in a “celebration of love” for old San Francisco.

Restaurant Reviews by Maria C. Ascarrunz — The Mission Beach Cafe, Californios, Cafe La Boheme and more were reviewed this year in one of our more popular culture series, the restaurant reviews of new and old eateries in the neighborhood. Maria dives deep into the dishes, from the rabbit pot pie at Mission Beach Cafe to poc chuc, the signature dish at the Poc Chuc restaurant on 16th Street. Readers seemed to love having their local diners reviewed by us — though we admit our photos of the food leave something to be desired…

Modern Times Bookstore on its penultimate day, November 14, 2016. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Modern Times Bookstore on its penultimate day, November 14, 2016. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Business Closures — We had a rash of business closures this year that collectively were some of our most read pieces. The vegan restaurant Herbivore, a mainstay for 19 years, closed in August; the neighborhood Goodwill announced it would shut down; and El Majahual, the Salvadoran-Colombian restaurant, also announced it was done. The leftist bookstore Modern Times also closed its doors after 45 years in the neighborhood, shuttering just a few weeks after Trump’s election. We also discovered that businesses on Valencia Street as a whole were having a hard time in the face of online retail land high rents. Not even the high-end boutique shops on the Mission’s glitziest street are immune from gentrification.


In Stunner, City Strikes Down Major Mission Project” by Joe Rivano Barros — Housing is always contested in the Mission, where activists worry new developments will further gentrify the neighborhood, but it’s rare for City Hall to vote against new projects. But during a dramatic meeting in November, after activists on both sides of the project invoked Trump, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to delay a major project and instructed city staff to study the effects the project would have on gentrification in the Mission. It was a rare win for Mission activists and bodes ill for other developers hoping for speedy city approval.

Community Meeting on New Mission Housing Turns Ugly” by Joe Rivano Barros — Not all voices in housing meetings are unified. Some are leftist activists hoping for more affordability, others are genuine NIMBYs concerned about heights and shadows. Others are homophobic, as shown during a January meeting for a modest Mission Street project that saw one woman tell “gay man back there” to “go back to the Castro.” It was a shocking moment, and a rare one as far as neighborhood meetings go, but it made for a compelling glance into development battles in the Mission District.

Neighbors Double Down Against Mission Affordable Housing” by Joe Rivano Barros — The perfect NIMBY story: Group of homeowners on Shotwell Street continue their opposition to a fully affordable senior housing development coming near their million-dollar properties. The issue was the project’s height: at nine stories, it would cast a shadow over their homes, would be out of context in the low-lying residential area, and would bring in too many residents and too little parking, clogging nearby streets. But the game was up when a resident said there were too many low-income projects in that area of the Mission, and the group agreed. Affordable housing in San Francisco, they seemed to say, was good — but maybe not near their homes…


Man Stabbed, Ten Robberies in Mission” by Jen Cohen — Our most read story this year was a monster recap of crime over one weekend in October. We often write summaries of the crimes and misdemeanors that happen in the neighborhood (as given to us by the police), and they’re often popular, but this list took the cake — a stabbing (non-fatal) and ten robberies that occurred over the first weekend of October, along with some shots fired, a suspected explosive device, and a hot prowl burglary. We’re glad to do the public service of announcing crimes, but this took us by surprise. No love for our daily coverage of the Frisco Five hunger strike or in-depth homelessness investigations? If it bleeds, it leads, we suppose.

19 Hospitalized After Eating Substance at Women’s Building in Mission District” by Joe Rivano Barros — Our second most-read was a tale of poisoning by edible marijuana: 19 people were hospitalized after a party at the Women’s Building turned south when several adults and children (the youngest a 6-year-old) were hospitalized after accidentally eating ring-shaped pot candy. The story was eye-grabbing (though it required little reporting) and prompted a press conference where one official said it was the largest incident of marijuana hospitalizations.

The gambling den at 133 Lilac St. as seen from Lilac Alley. The Lilac Alley address is the back of the old Fizzary building on Mission Street. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

The gambling den at 133 Lilac St. as seen from Lilac Alley. The Lilac Alley address is the back of the old Fizzary building on Mission Street. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Gambling and Prostitutes Thrive at Mission Street Den” by Joe Rivano Barros — The story that keeps on giving: An illegal gambling den that took over a Mission Street storefront in 2015 (and was the site of several complaints and a shooting then) reopened in the same building a year later, brazenly evading police shut down. Neighbors spoke to us anonymously, fearing retribution from the den’s owners, but described late-night parties, prostitutes, and parking problems on residential Lilac Alley for months. The police, neighbors said, were completely unresponsive.

Young Woman Shot, Killed on South Van Ness” by Laura Waxmann, Jen Cohen, and Joe Rivano Barros — The seventh Mission homicide of 2016 also claimed the neighborhood’s youngest victim: Lisa Williams was just 21 when she was gunned down at 3 a.m. in December, a week after another murder in the neighborhood. Williams was likely a prostitute working on the block, and some friends ran into a nearby homeless man’s tents following the first shots, later saying that the shooting went on for some time. A vigil was held the next night with a unicorn doll, balloons, and pictures of the young woman lit up by candles.


Billionaires Back Bid to Ban Homeless Camps” by Rafael Roy — No need to wait for Trump for big money in politics: Mission Local reported a month before the November election that Silicon Valley venture capitalists were funding a homeless tent ban with some $50,000 in contributions each. The story of billionaires bankrolling what many advocates called an anti-homeless ballot measure was picked up by multiple outlets, from the Guardian to Breitbart, though they always seemed to forget to credit us for breaking the news…

Drag Queens React to Homeless Sweeps with Food and Clothes” by Joe Rivano Barros — In the wake of the Superbowl, and during a cold winter last February, homeless tents began sprouting up all along Division Street under the 101 freeway, bothering local businesses, residents, and newspaper columnists. The homeless said they were being forced from downtown to make room for the football festivities, prompting a group of drag queens to gather food, clothes, and other necessities and hand them out to the needy for free. “I am super angry at the Super Bowl pushing the homeless where they have nowhere to go,” said one drag queen, Jolene, who also works in the tech industry — San Francisco incarnate.


Five Alarm Fire Displaces Dozens at 29th and Mission” by Laura Waxmann and Joe Rivano Barros — The Mission is plagued with devastating fires year after year, and 2016 was no exception. The five-alarm fire that consumed a city corner and displaced at least 41 residents and six businesses required months of follow-up coverage that unearthed an unresponsive housing start-up that managed the property and failure by the city to house all of the low-income tenants burned out of their building.


Officer Involved in Shooting Could Face Discipline for Facebook Comment” by Laura Waxmann — Roger Morse, one of four San Francisco police officers who shot and killed Alex Nieto on Bernal Hill in March 2014, may be in hot water for improper conduct after he made an inopportune Facebook post. Morse wrote “Smiling. Ugh how about burning down his house and tazing his friend who pressed charges” on a Facebook article the day he was cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting death. While he was likely referencing incidents where Nieto burned a book and tased a friend, Nieto’s family and friends didn’t see it that way — and the Office of Citizen’s Complaint, which investigates complaints against officers, found something missing in his conduct as well.

Arrests, Chaos as Supporters of Hunger Strikers Clash with Sheriff’s Deputies” by Joe Rivano Barros and Laura Wenus — It was the capstone to a weeks-long ordeal: After 17 days without food, a group of five hunger strikers known as the Frisco Five, who had been camped outside the Mission police station calling for the firing of Chief Greg Suhr, were sent to the hospital, ending their fast. That night, groups of protesters assembled within City Hall and refused to leave, prompting sheriff’s deputies to force them out in a violent clash that saw several reporters manhandled and 33 protesters arrested.

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