The Drawing Room art studio and gallery at 3260 23rd Street closes. Photo taken by Annika Hom, Jan. 21, 2022.

It’s back to the drawing board. 

After three years on 23rd Street, the Drawing Room Gallery will move from its Mission spot to somewhere else in the city, said its owner, Renée DeCarlo, because of deteriorating conditions, like trash and drugs on the block. She will uphold a previous arrangement to host a temporary art space on Valencia Street, which runs until April. 

“I’m so sad, because I thought another three years for sure; it has been my sanctuary,” DeCarlo said of the 23rd Street location. By Friday, she had already begun packing up the community garden plants. “Moving my planter boxes is killing my soul.”

The decision to leave 23rd Street became clear last week, DeCarlo said, when a Mission High School intern and her mom visited the gallery. In a deal with the school district, three seniors would be paid to be DeCarlo’s assistants and learn to run a gallery. When DeCarlo attempted to give a tour of the neighborhood to the intern and her mom, they arrived to find a pile of dozens “of heroin needles” nearby, DeCarlo said.

The alarmed mother pressed the artist regarding whether her daughter would be safe, and DeCarlo couldn’t say so with certainty. 

“I can’t guarantee that she can never see that again,” DeCarlo told her. Following the block’s consistent trash and detritus, the needles became DeCarlo’s personal tipping point. “The needles really did it for me. It was done for me. So I called the property and said, ‘I’m really sorry.’”

It’s one example of how conditions have plummeted on 23rd Street, thanks to reduced and inadequate services during the pandemic, the artist said, and which neighboring Pedritos staff confirmed. Already, the block receives little foot traffic. Then, during the pandemic, DeCarlo said helpful resources like public toilets disappeared, causing an uptick in defecation outside her storefront. 

She called 311 over trash and disturbances daily; recently, someone shattered a pallet of fluorescent tubes on the sidewalk, creating a “blanket of glass” that people were forced to walk through. Another time, a woman lay unmoving in the same position for three days. It’s unclear if she was dead — or sleeping, which other neighbors believed. 

“I called 311 for that woman,” DeCarlo said. “They never came.” 

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Instead, DeCarlo is looking for another space on Clement Street, where she said rent is cheaper. She said a lot of artists are moving there, to her surprise. “They’re eating and talking and not stepping over poop or needles or trash,” DeCarlo said. 

Meanwhile, she plans to host one final exhibition at 23rd Street and a “goodbye party.” That party will feature an exhibition celebrating 85-year-old photographer Ivan Spain who, for a while, has “been wanting to do a show on 23rd Street.” DeCarlo is happy to oblige, but Spain must manage without her; by that time, DeCarlo will already be overseeing a temporary space on Valencia Street. The owners handed her the keys on Friday. 

Before DeCarlo decided to move out of 23rd Street, the plans to host art shows at 780 Valencia St., between 19th and 18th streets, were already in motion, she said. She signed up for another initiative with pop-artist group Curated State, the INSIDE/OUTSIDE PROJECT, that sought to revive vacant spaces with artwork. 

“This building has been vacant so long, and the owners really want to build it and open it,” DeCarlo said. “The space at 780 Valencia was given to me to activate, and in an attempt to restore my business.”

The gallery will run seven days a week, and will kick off with an opening reception party on Jan. 29 for the new Bay Area art show, “TIDES OF CHANGE,” which highlights climate change themes and works of over 50 creators. Following that is the “WOMEN RISING 2022” exhibition. DeCarlo invites women artists to submit work. 

This can boost her revenue, though investors continue to help her pay rent, too. The money she makes helps sustain her family of two teenagers. The Drawing Room is also partially a nonprofit now, adding a new way for people to donate. 

DeCarlo wished the block on 23rd Street could improve, so she could remain. She rattled off ideas like painting the streets, beautifying the vacant storefronts, and installing more trash cans and public toilets. There should be more mental health and unhoused services for the populations who need it, she added. 

Still, as the Drawing Room shifts and eventually moves on, DeCarlo will look for other ways to keep her Mission community close. In previous stories, DeCarlo recounted how when she broke her tibia last March, 35 others rushed in to oversee the Drawing Room for six weeks. 
“I didn’t even ask them. They just did it,” DeCarlo said. “And that’s huge to me, because that means that they want to make sure this doesn’t disintegrate.”

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REPORTER. 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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17 Comments

  1. Wah-wah. All of us residents of the Mission deal with this issue every single day. 23rd Street between Mission and Capp is not among the places in the area with the worst unhoused problems. Yes, painting the streets, beautifying the vacant storefronts, and installing more trash cans and public toilets would be nice but would do nothing to solve the problems. Yes, [ten times] more mental health and unhoused services for the populations who need it would be very helpful. However, SF and the Bay Area needs more housing in the lower income range, but it is very costly. The majority of voters and politicians do not want to to raise taxes (income, wealth, transfer, etc) to accomplish these goals.

    1. Did you actually say “wah-way” to this business owner? Also, are you implying that people in the Bay Area don’t pay enough in taxes? Housing in the Bay Area is super expensive. We also pay per capital 2 times as much as New Yorkers and 3 times as much as Angelinos for homeless services. Waiting for adequate low income housing for all in order to solve our homelessness crisis, our mental illness crisis, and our drug crisis is really a fools errand. It is too expensive and, even if we had the money, we are decades away from having that sort of housing inventory. And if we keep losing our tax base to the suburbs and other cities, we
      Won’t be able to afford even what we pay now. In the meantime, people and businesses will continue to flee the neighborhoods where these crisis are the worst or they will just leave our city altogether. Instead of your condescending remark to this business owner, perhaps you should be making demands of the Superviser Hillary Ronen to do something for her district that will actually help the taxpayers, the small business owners, and the residents who live and work in the Mission. Shelter beds with mental health and drug treatment access for all who need it; Expansion of acute mental health and drug treatment facilities; The ability to apply consequences for illegal actions such as theft, selling stolen goods, selling drugs, repeated drug overdoses, damage to property, public indecencies (public nudity, defecation/urination/etc.) either with loss of access to services, and mandatory treatment/counseling.

      1. Exactly. Giving even more money to dysfunctional humans in the Mission won’t clean up one pile of poop. Being paid to live on the streets creates people living on the streets. Grownups who can’t take care of themselves, need to be in supervised living spaces, not allowed to roam around the Mission ruining the lives of the vast majority of people who live here, work hard, act responsibly, and love and respect the neighborhood.

    2. To hell with more ‘services’ which are nothing more than a front for the continued corruption of the so-called progressives. People need to be rounded up and put into a facility where they are forced to get clean—far away from the City.

    3. I concur with some of what this writer states. However, it is misleading to suggest the “majority” of San Francisco voters do not vote to raise taxes to support affordable housing, or provide additional mental health and other services to address the factors contributing to “unhoused problems”. We have indeed voted to raise taxes and/or tap public revenue streams to fund services for our homeless residents, as well as increase the supply of permanent supportive housing, emergency shelter, and transitional housing. One example is Proposition C, which passed with 61 percent of the vote in November 2018, and established a tax on companies with gross receipts exceeding $50 million. The revenue generated through this tax was projected to raise an estimated $300 million a year to address homeless housing needs and services. The measure was challenged in California courts by “anti-tax” groups, but voters prevailed when the measure was upheld. Additionally, the Bay Area Council’s June 2021 report “Bay Area Homelessness: New Urgency, New Solutions”, notes that since 2015, the Bay Area has raised over $3 billion through successful local, voter-approved measures to provide funding sources for transitional housing, permanent affordable housing, and homelessness prevention services. San Francisco’s record of successful ballot measures for these purposes includes: $310 million (2015); $300 million (2018), and $600 million (2019). The political will of the voters to address homelessness and its contributing factors is there, but the many-cogged wheels of City bureaucracy seem to slow any evidence of progress to a mind-numbing slog.

  2. A friend’s car was stolen last week from 22nd St & Valencia. SF Sheriff located it today in a routine sweep of a homeless encampment in the Bayview. The car was filled with personal garbage, littered with drug paraphernalia, and vandalized beyond repair. The deputy said that the perp in custody would likely be freed in 48 – 72 hours after DA’s office lowers the charges to a misdemeanor. Just another day in The Mission, apparently.

  3. I would argue that with the hundreds of millions of dollars ($300,000,000.00) being pumped into the non-profit “let ‘um live and shit on the street” industry we’re already spending plenty of tax dollars (add in the Salesforce prop. money too).

    The street level problem is people who say “wah-wah, we deal with it every day” – those who accept bodies and needles as what they want in their neighborhood. It is not acceptable that a high school kid is afraid to walk the street to get to a job. It is not acceptable that we “expect” our streets to be filled with addicts and shit.

    Housing is the answer for people who want to be part of our world…..for addicts I think the answer is some what harsher.

  4. I pass by this shop on 23rd every day when I walk with my children to and from school. The sidewalk conditions have been very bad. I have called 311 multiple times myself to report human excrement and dangerous broken glass all over the sidewalk.

  5. Hey, maybe Hillary Ronen can locate her community office into this just vacated space.
    Get a taste of what reality is vs. being perched in her multi-million dollar aerie up on Bernal.

  6. I live on Clement, it’s a bit nonsensical to say somehow this street is immune to trash and needle paraphernalia. Especially being so close to GG park.

  7. What did it for me, was sun baked diarrhea all over my front door. I’m not about to spend the rest of my life in a dystopian toxic waste dump. There are far better and more sane places on this planet.

  8. People were shitting at our place on Mission 60 years ago when it was hobos not homeless and drunken sailors not druggies. The difference today is population density, something both realtors and politicians want to increase even more.
    Feinstein’s Manhattanization has caused sinkage and now sea levels are rising.

  9. I’ve been here on 23rd and Capp for 3.5 years and have built a family of neighbors, artists, business owners and people who pass by that have made this space unique. People like to see the windows illuminated with art – made by people they may know. I believe art has the power to heal – but, last year was a tremendously hard time to survive as a self-employed artist trying to support other artists. It’s difficult to get people visit the space if they don’t feel safe to come to this street or park nearby. This is our city – and what does that mean? It’s disheartening what we’ve become accustomed to and somewhat desensitized to the current situation here. My studio – where I am every day to make art, reflecting on what I see, has shifted more to human suffering and vulnerabilities that are unimaginable, than happy visitors popping in to see what’s going on inside. People aren’t looking up anymore – they are looking down at the ground because they don’t know what they may step in or on. I don’t feel safe at night anymore – which is when I used to open my doors and welcome people in talk about life and art, and how we make it. I don’t do that anymore. I also pay REAL rent and I can’t afford it and the owner can’t afford to lower it. Our property management company, 2BLiving, to help this business survive, offered to temporarily donate a beautiful space on Valencia to activate with art shows – like I did prior and during COVID on Mission street. A building owner, a property management company and an artist working together to make change, to help elevate our neighborhoods and morale, and to give opportunity to those that need it – through art. I think that is a pretty amazing story.
    This is the only way my business will not just survive, but thrive and in the way that I want it to. My internship program can’t exist on 23rd St, so I must find a new place. I want my patrons and students to be safe, and I also want to empower more artists by sharing the space I get access to open up. I can also give better exposure to artists and gain opportunity on Valencia street and in a space that can accommodate more of everything. I am moving – to 780 Valencia through April, and then who knows. I have built a home here in the Mission amongst you and hopefully I will find a new permanent space here soon. In the meantime please come by 780 Valencia and meet me, see some great art, and help this community thrive! The TIDES OF CHANGE, our first show at the Valencia location, opens this Saturday from 11-8, with the artist reception from 4-8 and will feature 65 artists.

  10. Where is Hillary Ronen and what is she doing to improve the Mission? You don’t hear anything from, or about her, anymore. She doesn’t seem particularly involved in addressing the problems of her district.

    1. In Hillary’s mind, she is improving the Mission—by channeling funds to her cronies in the homeless addict industrial complex, who in turn contribute said funds to her campaign coffers. And it wouldn’t surprise one bit me that a decent amount of that money finds its way into her bank account as well. These people are all utterly corrupt. VOTE THEM OUT!

      1. Jimmy,

        I think Ronen is the best supe.

        She and the guy from 5 … Dean Preston.

        Her whole family is all in for D-9.

        Her husband, Francisco Ugarte was brought on by Adachi and Gonzalez to run the Immigrants Section of the Public Defender’s Office.

        Francisco sat first chair to Gonzalez when they won the Zarate case which was the biggest case in San Francisco over the last decade.

        I clean Mission alleys for an hour every Sunday morning out of Manny’s at 16th and Valencia and a friend in the Mayor’s office says what we do is:

        “like pushing a snowball up a hill against an avalanche”

        The homeless should ALL be housed on Treasure Island as the City’s contract with the Feds stipulated when we took control of the place.

        When I first suggested this in 2000 Peskin got onboard and Willie just steamrolled us.

        I suggested using the barracks and mess halls and dispensaries and brig for homeless Willie laughed and hired the homeless to tear down what would have been their homes.

        He thought it was funny as hell.

        All development plans for TI should be canceled and a State of Emergency declared to move the homeless and their soup kitchens and dispensaries ALL to the island.

        There is room.

        Go Niners!

        h.

        1. “I think Ronen is the best supe.”

          The conditions on the ground in her district say otherwise. If this is what passes for acceptable, then she and all of the City’s elected officials need to do some deep, deep, deep soul searching. The current state of the Mission and other neighborhoods severely impacted by the pandemic and the opioid/meth/fentanyl epidemic can only be described as an utter abject failure. The Hard working, tax paying residents of our neighborhood deserve better and should demand it. Enough is enough.

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