A man in glasses and a bowl serves a bowl of chili crisp to two folk outside his garage.
Anand Upender serves chili crisp he made at a York Street pop-up to Mission residents Christopher Tai and Jennifer Ng. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June 2022.

The history of the Mission weighed on Anand Upender as he toured his soon-to-be apartment on York Street, a six-bedroom house where he and five friends would be moving in. 

Though he was only replacing tenants who shared his background — a group of friends who were writers, counselors, and techies — Upender wished to be conscientious to the neighborhood. He wanted to know: “What do you do to give back?” Community engagement? Volunteer work?

He knew some of the neighborhood’s history of gentrification, of how the working class Mission has endured and been changed by successive waves of newcomers. Professionals began arriving in the 1990s and then late in the decade, the first Dotcom Boom hit and sent housing prices soaring in ways that pushed many low-income Latinx residents out. From 2010 to 2020, the neighborhood’s Latinx population fell by 14 percent

He and his roommates didn’t want to be “the kind of transient young people who move through cities” quickly, never alighting long enough to look around and become involved. 

That’s why he asked how he could give back.

The former tenants, also a group of six friends, said they chose a combination of donating to charities and volunteering at a food bank. 

Upender decided his community engagement would take a different form, more in his style: He’d open a neighborhood coffee pop-up in his garage. He bought ceramic mugs from Community Thrift and Salvation Army on Valencia Street, purchased beans at L’s Caffe on 24th Street, and moved the espresso machine to his garage. As Upender learned from his Indian grandmother — what connected folk better than food?

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In September, Upender knocked on the door of Eddie Machtinger, 54, and Willie Ablao, 52, and invited them to the first iteration of his York Street Coffee pop-up. I’ve just moved in, he explained, and want to meet my neighbors. 

“We came, and it was really sweet and neighborly,” Machtinger recalled. Slowly, more neighbors stopped by.

Terri Massin was one. The 70-year-old has lived on York and 25th Streets for more than three decades, and one morning last September noticed the young Indian man running a coffee stand in his garage. Massin had  already drank a coffee that morning, but curiosity compelled her to have another. 

“I love coffee, and they were so friendly,” Massin said of the first pop-up. She learned that she couldn’t take a cup of coffee to-go — a rule Upender enforces to ensure folk stick around and actually get to know each other. “I love that concept of, ‘we want you to stay and talk to us.’”

York Street Coffee pop-up. Photo taken by Annika Hom. June, 2022.

Soon, Upender started hosting coffee in his garage every other Saturday. “The pop-up is my outlet for collaborating in the city and engaging my neighborhood,” Upender said. “There’s something here about fully engaging with everyone around me that feels necessary — to be living and building community.” 

By noon one Saturday, at least two dozen people had shown up. Most were twenty-somethings, but there were also older guests and a mix of York Street and non-York Street residents. Folks stay for hours and make lasting friendships, enjoying delectable cups of coffee. One girl made her “entire social circle” from these events, she once told Upender. 

The coffee is donation-based – pay-what-you-can. 

Does the pop-up give enough back to the Mission? Upender tries. The event uses beans from local groceries or coffee shops like Grand Coffee, and collaborates with other small entrepreneurs or businesses. One pop-up was at Evolved SF gallery on 24th Street, and another featured Whack Donuts!, the city-based, Black-owned business that sells donuts regularly in the Mission. 

On some Saturdays they fundraise for charity. On July 9, York Street Coffee teamed up with Bird and Bear Coffee and a community member Dan Swann and raised $2,000 earmarked for abortion access. Another is planned with the creative women collective The Ruby on 23rd and Bryant streets on August 5. 

Still, his role in the Mission is something Upender wrestles with. He hails from Maryland, and up until last year, worked as a UX designer. He made enough money to be able to quit his tech job to switch career paths and “fully commit” to food. Upender knows that’s not a financial decision everyone can make. 

“Was Upender adding to the community, or ignoring what was there? To find out, he investigated.” 

Anand Upender, 24, founder of York Street Coffee pop-up and York Street resident. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June, 2022.

He now works part-time at the Mission-based food nonprofit La Cocina, Farming Hope at Manny’s, KitchenTown, and the pop-up. When I ask if he feels this recurring coffee pop-up is enough to mitigate his “transient-ness,” Upender rubs the bridge of his nose and pauses, thinking hard. 

“I think I still always wonder if the pop-up is like a supportive or hurtful force to the neighborhood,” Upender said. 

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Some in the neighborhood wondered that, too. 

Transplants, at times, “act like they can do whatever they want,” said 69-year-old Richard Segovia who lives in the Latin Rock House at York and 25th streets. It’s the home dedicated to Mission Latin Rock stars like Carlos Santana, and presently operates as a free music center for local kids. From his large window, Segovia could see folk lining up outside Upender’s garage for coffee.

Segovia was suspicious. He had watched the coming and going of many a new tech neighbor. 

Segovia’s mother was born on Treat Avenue in the Mission in 1919, and he moved into Latin Rock House 59 years ago. He remembers when Harrison Street had four lanes and the Potrero Center shopping mall was Seals Stadium. 

Richard Segovia in the basement of his Latin Rock House and music center. The ceiling is full of photographs of musicians, Segovia’s students, and other stickers. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken July 2022.

He has watched his Irish and Russian neighbors on York Street get replaced by Latinx residents, and then yuppies, then “Mexican yuppies,”  he said. Then came the hipsters and their coffee shops, and now the techies and their coffee shops — Segovia believes the Mission has enough coffee shops already. 

So Segovia stopped by Upender’s York Street Coffee, as the garage pop-up would later be named, to investigate. 

“They’re good people and not doing anything wrong,” Segovia said, but he remained skeptical. “What do the coffee shops on 24th Street think?” Did the money ever go to neighborhood institutions like Brava Theater or Mission Cultural Center for the Arts? Was Upender adding to the community, or ignoring what was there?

Weeks later, Segovia decided to follow up with Upender on a Zoom call.  Segovia nodded approvingly when Upender said he donated money toward reproductive rights, but asked: “What about these places here, in the Mission?” 

Not yet, Upender said, but he agreed with Segovia that he should invest back here. Mission nonprofits would be next. 

“Your heart is in the right place,” Segovia said. “It’s not about the amount of money, it’s about putting your foot in the right direction.” 

To the elder, that direction is back in the Mission. 

“You guys have music parties, right?” Upender asked. Maybe for a Mission fundraiser, they can team up? Segovia agreed. They’ll plan it at Pop’s Bar. 

And if anyone gives Upender trouble? “I got your back,” Segovia assured him.                                                      *                                                  * *

There are some things coffee can’t fix. “York Street Coffee won’t “be able to recreate, for people in the Mission, what has been lost. But they’re doing their best,” Machtinger said. Upender and his roommates are “doing their part, in a determined way.” 

“It’s far better than the alternative, which is a bunch of tech kids hanging out with each other and not paying attention to it at all,” Machtinger added. “Now it’s something we look forward to.” After 20 years in the neighborhood, he and Ablao are meeting new friends at the pop-up. 

Though York Street Coffee can’t fix the loss of neighbors and the separation that some new neighbors maintain, Massin believes Upender’s enterprise does fulfill the need for community connection. At one Saturday pop-up, Massin made a new friend at the pop-up — her 39-year-old neighbor, Melanie West. 

The pair hung out with Abbey Cliffe, a pretty twenty-something who rocks a pixie-cut, and discussed matters important to the block: “Did you hear about the warehouse down the block that’ll turn into condos?”  “Have you ever seen that woman who calls herself the Duchess on York Street?” 

Upender took a break from cooking chili crisp in his garage, and sidled up to join the conversation. He has seen her. And she stopped by the pop-up once to introduce herself. 

York Street Coffee is having its next pop-up on Aug. 5 in collaboration with The Ruby SF. Funds go to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Find wine from Lula and Brown Estate, and ice cream inspired by Jennifer Ng’s Ice Cream Travel Guide.

5:30 to 8:00 p.m. York and 25th streets. 

Clarification:This article has been updated on August 1 to reflect that Farming Hope is at Manny’s, and not the same as Manny’s.

Terri Massin, center, talks with neighbor Melanie West, left, for the first time at York Street Coffee. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June, 2022.

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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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  1. Great article Annika! As a side note – Farming Hope (also a great Mission organization) is an independent non-profit that leases the bar and restaurant space @ Manny’s!

  2. The population of SF increased by less than 1% a year for the last 20 years. Dumbasses like Ronen, Campos, Calle24 opposed as much housing as possible being built in the mission. They were proud to stop the “Monster in the mission” — 331 units

    As a result, the people who get first pick of housing are the richest and everyone else has to move. That’s why the hispanic population dropped — no housing left over for them because the supervisors and neighborhood association didn’t want housing. This is the result of the actual government policy in the Mission for the last 20 years.

    In reality, the population growth was so small, only a few apartment buildings like “Monster in the Mission” needed to be built every year to accommodate the population growth. And there are so many vacant lots, burned out buildings, and derelict buildings where new apartments could have been built without displacing folks

    This is what happens when you have incompetent and delusional supervisors running the Mission

  3. How about an article on the owner of this property, the coffee dude’s landlord, Remberto Sainez? He’s a long-term Mission landlord with a . . . colorful litigation history.

  4. My parents, both Irish immigrants, met in the Mission in the late 50’s when the neighborhood was primarily filled with Irish and Italian immigrants and natives of the same. Once they made enough money to buy a home they moved to the Sunset where it was more family friendly. I lived on Fair Oaks 40 years ago and only then was the neighborhood beginning to be a Latin hub. Taqueria San Jose was the only burrito joint then. Nobody has the right to claim ownership of any district. The gentrification argument is strictly used by the so called “ non – profits “ to secure political power and taxpayer funds,

  5. a well-written piece featuring someone trying to bring something positive to the community! nice to see something nice.

  6. Farming Hope is not Manny’s. How about Farming Hope at Manny’s. Also, why add “pretty” and “rocking a pixie cut”?

  7. Why are these the only options for the Mission? I grew up in the Mission and so did my father – what is was at that time was diverse in all – not just culturally, but economically. Lower income families from all cultures lived, worked and raised their children in those neighborhoods. These techies can afford to live anywhere in SF, why continue to drive rents up only to see your neighbors forced to relocate? Bougie and self serving.

  8. The irony is that Segovia (whose heart is surely in the right place) charmingly exclaims “[if anyone gives you trouble] I’ve got your back.” When in reality, the only people giving anyone trouble are neighbors like Segovia; going around “investigating” who the new neighbors are and what they’re doing on their own time while jumping to conclusions and stirring up misleading chatter.

    I’ve lived in the Mission for over 15 years now, and I love the OGs and neighborhood characters’ sense of pride for the most part, but they really seem to be blind to the real underlying neighborhood issues.

  9. I think most longtime Mission residents have a much more nuanced view of the world than is portrayed in this article.

  10. “Gentrification” is just a pejorative slur on community improvement. And please tell us why it’s okay for any person at all to cross the border into the USA, but not for any actual legal citizen to cross into the Mission? I see a class of people who just hate on the more advanced class. I see dystopia and envy. FYI, I came to the Mission in 1981 and welcome the smart creative people who make things happen. Oh, I’m not referring to Honduran drug runners. Talk about people with no redeeming value.

  11. “From 2010 to 2020, the neighborhood’s Latinx population fell by 14 percent.”

    Yes but the same source (US census) also identifies that the Hispanic population in the city went up over the same time period by 12.3%. So it is far from the case that Hispanics are being driven out as implied. More that they now feel more comfortable in other areas of the city and no longer feel that they can only be in the Mission. Assimilation if you will.

    So isn’t that a healthy thing? And not something that an owner of property in the Mission needs to feel guilty about?

    1. Just what I was going to mention – it’s an incomplete framing of the change that took place. The Mission, Excelsior, Outer Mission became less Hispanic while the Bayview, Mission Bay, Potrero Hill, and many other neighborhoods on the north / west part of town increased their shares, leading to an overall increase in population. So why is the composition of the Mission in isolation such a fixation for progs? Given their lamentation over persistent residential segregation, you would think increased integration would be celebrated.

  12. “Transplants, at times, “act like they can do whatever they want,” said 69-year-old Richard Segovia” — that’s rich coming from the guy who illegally chopped down a few street trees to provide a better view of his mural