Poll workers awaiting voters. Taken Sept. 14, 2021 by Annika Hom.

A Mission history of in-house democracy

So, it’s no Paul Revere’s midnight ride, but Magdalena Uribe did rise before dawn for her own act of patriotism. As she’s done for years now, the monolingual señora stepped out in pajamas at 6 a.m. the day of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election and unlocked her garage door to let poll workers in. 

Scores of San Francisco homeowners do the same for voters in every election. State policies require one polling place per precinct with more than 250 voters, and “private residential garages are the only facilities available to host in a particular precinct,” said Matthew Selby, from the Department of Elections, in an email. 

During the recall, 31 garages became polling places for the first time. They joined an ever-changing cast of some 200 garages that serve as polling places each election, according to the Department of Elections. The Mission featured at least six garage polling places this year. 

Uribe’s unassuming house on Bryant Street near 21st Street has opened its garage for 22 elections since 2005. Officials “were looking for places. They asked, and I wanted to help. It was a long time ago,” Uribe said in Spanish.

A home a few blocks up the road on 22nd Street has hosted 26 elections, but  it’ll take quite a few more years to usurp the current record-holder, the late Elisa Kennedy, who started hosting a polling place in her garage in the 1940s and kept it up until 2012. That’s when she won the title for “longest-working poll worker” in the state. For 30 of those years, that garage was in the Mission, before she moved to the Sunset.

Today, this tradition continues to connect the community, like Revere. While working Uribe’s poll station, she discovered the other volunteer had lived next door for years.

“We have a lot of long-term polling place hosts that absolutely love it,” Selby said. 

Something for your troubles

When a vandal breaks a window, a business owner must break the bank. 

It’s no secret that San Francisco businesses endure their fair share of vandalism, leaving entrepreneurs to survey the damage on both their storefront and their pocketbook.

So, Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar launched a storefront vandalism relief grant program, which promises up to $2,000 for storefronts vandalized since July 1, 2020. About $1 million in initial funding kicks it off. 

Just months ago, a group of people broke into Manny’s, a civic space, restaurant and bar at 16th and Valencia streets, said owner Manny Yekutiel. The perps stole a safe, and left the business down and out about $8,000. In June, vandals struck again and graffitied “Zionist pig” on the wall. 

Yekutiel is happy to see the new fund, and thankful to the Breed and Mar, but he won’t apply, due to his position on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors. 

Still, it’ll help out neighboring businesses who also have been targeted. Xanath Ice Cream was hit in 2019. Money Mart was broken into last May. 

The $2,000 is helpful, but in several cases, it’s probably “not going to cover the cost” of necessary repair, Yekutiel added. Fixing windows without graffiti film, or repainting graffiti 10 or 15 times a year, could cost as much as $15,000. 

Purchasing floodlights or security cameras, which the money can also be used toward, can deter break-ins, Yekutiel said.

As the city reopens, Yekutiel thinks higher commercial traffic may discourage crime. 

“My hope and my expectation is that there will be less of this kind of street vandalism, because more people will be on the streets,” he said.  

Color me engaged

It’s time to curb your enthusiasm. (One Larry David reference to honor his viral meme/photo with Timothée Chalamet.) 

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will hold a hearing on color-coding the curbs, which transform some parking spaces into special zones like “passenger loading” for commercial or institutional spaces. 

On the docket is: Adding a passenger loading zone at Mission Preparatory School on 1050 York St. during school hours, which takes up four parking spaces. 

Other impacted areas include the Sheffield Convalescent Hospital at 1133 South Van Ness Ave., Brick and Mortar at 1710 Mission St., and 3599 20th St., near Valencia Street, each affecting parking spaces.

Want the agency to go full speed ahead or hit the brakes? Spill at the hearing on Friday, Sept. 24, at 10 a.m. or email beforehand at ccp@sfmta.com

Housekeeping: What you missed, and what I’m reading

From us, to you, with love: 

From us, to you, with love: 

From me: The city is losing residential care facilities fast, thanks to the high cost of maintenance. Meanwhile, land use protections are on the way. 

Anlan Cheney reveals that Ariel, the homeless man offered services during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pre-recall media  event, is back on 19th Street. Learn why.

Eleni Balakrishnan highlights Juri Commons Park’s revamp, which disappointed some.

Joe Eskenazi follows up on the San Bruno Avenue illegal apartment, AKA that “janky duct-tape and bubble-gum solution” lookin’ ass. Plus, my fave: His eulogy for SF Weekly and alt-weeklies, key community resources that are presently extinct in San Francisco. Grab the tissues.  

What I’m reading: 

This New York Times analysis from Conor Dougherty suggests that previous governors’ failures to enforce state housing laws have exacerbated the state’s housing woes. Gov. Gavin Newsom is different — and, after dodging the recall, his team may shake things up. 

A fantastic and expertly done piece via Austin’s local NPR affiliate details that city’s struggle to build an affordable house in a wealthy area, over the objections of obstinate neighbors. They sued, stating the city of Austin wasn’t recognizing its private deed restrictions — yes, the tool commonly used in the ‘40s to ensure Black residents couldn’t move in.  

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Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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