Supervisor Ronen, Galeria director Rivera, and protesters address Galeria's landlords in Nob Hill on Nov. 3, 2018. Photo by Julian Mark

At around 10 o’clock on Saturday, the corner of Pacific Ave. and Hyde Street seemed like a typical Nob Hill morning: early risers strutted around in workout garb, postal workers pushed their bags, and a corner market stocked its supplies.

Then, all of a sudden, the quaint scene received a visit from the Mission District. Around 20 demonstrators — joined by the Mission’s City Hall supervisor, Hillary Ronen — gathered in front of the listed address of the owners of the building where Galería de la Raza, a venerable Latino arts institution, has spent 46 years and may very well have to leave.

Cumbia music blasted out of a PA system and demonstrators, letting out intermittent gritos, waved signs reading “We stand with Galería” and “GBA Realty, El Pendejo.”  

Negotiations for a new lease between the gallery and the Lily Ng Family Trust (and its representatives at GBA Realty) crumbled late last week. The trust purportedly walked away from the table when the gallery’s leadership refused to sign a two-year lease that would make it liable for all government-mandated building improvements — work that an initial assessment pegged at over $1 million.

The gallery was subsequently served with a three-day pay-or-quit notice, which is essentially an eviction notice. The gallery’s representatives say they have not been able to speak directly to members of the trust, only members of GBA Realty, the building’s property managers.

“I don’t know if you can hear us — those of you who control the trust — but we’re not going away!” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen through the PA system, speaking up to the legal address of the trust (where it receives its tax bill).

“We are going to fight every step that you take to displace this organization that has been paying you rent for 46 years,” Ronen continued. The supervisor, who represents the Mission, hosted the failed negotiations that she has repeatedly called “unfair.”

By around noon, no one had stepped out of the residence on Pacific Ave. Some passersby shook their heads in annoyance before retreating back into their homes, while others drove past and honked in solidarity. One woman, showing her support, passed by in her minivan, waving a shoe out the window.

But interfacing with the members of the Lily Ng Family Trust was not necessarily the point of the day. “We’re not hoping to see anything,” said Ani Rivera, the executive director of the gallery. “We’re here to show them what Galería is about and the community they’re displacing.”

“Galería represents a lot to many different people,” she continued.

That appeared to be true.

Sunny Angulo, a legislative aide to Supervisor Aaron Peskin, turned out to the demonstration, although not necessarily as a representative of the District 3 office. Instead, Angulo showed up as a longtime patron and participant of the gallery. “I saw my first La Lunada (at Galería) in my 20s,” Angulo said, referring to a monthly poetry reading and open mic held at the gallery on the full moon.

“It has so much significance,” she continued. “It’s not just a Latino or Mission thing — it’s a San Francisco treasure.”

Chris Pimentel, a volunteer at the gallery, was holding a sign that read: “46 Years, Protect Galería.” Five or so years ago, he left the Bay Area for Seattle for a period of time. “I wasn’t taking very much with me — just my dog and my Kitchenaid mixer,” he said. “But I stopped by the Galería (before I left) and wanted to take a piece of San Francisco with me.”

He obtained a “Ghetto Frida” piece by Rio Yañez, the son of one of the gallery’s first artistic directors, Rene Yañez. “It was the first thing when I saw since I entered my house up there,” he said. “It just took me back to being in San Francisco.”

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. I would just call police nonemergency # with complaints about noise and an unpermitted demonstration using amplifiers. Shame on Sup. Ronen for breaking the law.

  2. Wow, if I was their landlord, I wouldn’t want to deal with them anymore, either, after this harassment campaign! Asking a BUSINESS to start paying more rent after 40 years of only tiny increases is completely fair, and insisting that they upgrade to a WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE space 27 years after the ADA became law is far from unreasonable (doesn’t cost the “up to a million dollars” this paper claimed). I get that a lot of people feel sentimentality about this business, but if they want it to stick around, they should spend more money there, not expect the building owner, who also has a business to run as a landlord, to subsidize what is essentially a failing business.

    I’m surprised that Hillary Ronen has so much time to fight some of her district’s business owners on behalf of some of its other business owners, rather than spending her time trying to figure out how to fix all the problems in the Mission, such as car break-ins, feces on the street, vandalism and tagging, people illegally renting out rent-controlled units and BMR units as Airbnb rentals, giant encampments blocking sidewalks and making it impossible for wheelchair users to pass, and helping pave the way for new housing that meet but do not exceed legal height requirements.

    But no, she’s engaging in personal harassment for one business’s gain. Some of us in the neighborhood watch this and shake our heads, because we know this is wrong, and it’s pandering to a certain demographic of her constituents in hopes they’ll keep her in office… Even if it’s unethical to harass a business owner at their home as a rent negotiation tactic!

  3. Let me get this straight – the landlord subsidized their rent for decades. The government is requiring them to do $1 million in work on the building, and now the government representative (I.e., Hillary Ronen) and crew (Calle 24, etc) say they shouldn’t raise the rent to market rate to help pay for the work. Keep in mind that at La Raza’s $4,000 per month rent, it would take 20 years to pay for the govt required work… And that doesn’t include maintenance, utilities, taxes, etc., much less any sort of profit.

    So basically La Raza wants a free ride for 20+ more years from someone who’s been subsidizing them for decades, and if they don’t get it they will go make a Cumbia racket for the landlord and their neighbors.

    Sure, La Raza is a worthy organization… But why should this individual landlord be required to support them? If La Raza is as popular and loved as it seems, can not “the community” support their own organization? if Ronen wants to support this organization, why not subsidize the $million dollar expense imposed on the landlord by the government? It’s ironic that the people and groups vilified the most by the community are then expected to dole out money to the community, which will be gladly accepted.

    1. The landlord got their rent for 46 years. On time .They OWN the building. Why should the renter foot the bill for repairs. On top of paying rent and they have rentals above the gallery

      1. Nicaman – good point! The landlord OWNS the building, so they should be able to set the rent amount that makes sense given the expenses.

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