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.”