Ian James at Ian James Made. Photo taken by Annika Hom. Taken Dec. 8, 2022.

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Happy December, y’all. A few of our lovely reporters are making moves and winning prizes. Consider supporting our work today; we count on you. 

This week’s report features a local biz, state expectations, and city citations. Let’s get a move on, shall we? 

Tagged and flagged 

Talk about the writing on the wall. 

This past Wednesday, the city cited three Mission Street businesses between 21st and 22nd streets for visible graffiti blight. Mission Local was unable to reach owners for comment by press time.

City law deems graffiti illegal. The Board of Supes temporarily halted graffiti fines in 2021 during the  pandemic, but reinstated the ordinance in April of this year. From July to December, 2022, Public Works filed 900 notice of violations for graffiti, according to the city

Any property owner who is cited by the city must scrub off the markings within 30 days, or fight the violation in a hearing. If the deadline lapses, a $362 fee could arrive. If graffiti still remains 15 days after, the city may levy a $400 fee on the owner, and issue a $1,000 fine for each day it remains. 

Understanding that some folks may not be able to afford to fix the vandalism, the city recently rolled out a two-year pilot program to abate the vandalism in commercial corridors free of charge. Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Myrna Melgar launched the pilot in conjunction with city departments, and the city allocated $2 million to fund the program this and next fiscal year. 

To qualify for the new graffiti abatement pilot program, an owner must report graffiti to the city through 311 requests. The tagged property may not include a mural or be a property under construction. 

Before the pilot, the city also offered to clean up the graffiti, but warned owners that they might receive a $500 (or more) service bill. The city also offers to provide free paint to property owners who promise to clean up the graffiti within 10 days of accepting it. 

According to Public Works, the department spends $20 million a year remediating graffiti, and data shows that that department graffiti service requests have gone up and down throughout 2022. 

From July to September, 2022, (September is the most recent data available), Public Works dealt with approximately 4,350 graffiti service requests, on average. Of late, Public Works has abated requests on-time — 48 hours for public properties, and 72 for private ones — for just under 40 percent of the requests. 

read more mission moves :

Can SF meet the state’s requirement to build 82,000 homes?

The Planning Commission on Thursday held its last informational meeting regarding the San Francisco Housing Element, a document that will dictate the plan for the city to develop 82,000 units of housing in the next eight years. 

The Housing Element is a state-mandated document that, if not abided by, may result in penalties, such as loss of funding and slowed approval of certain projects. The Housing Element will be introduced to the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 10, 2023, though, based on a hearing it held last month, they won’t be too happy; some said not enough affordable housing will be built. The looming issue? Funding constraints. 

The Planning Department aims to get the Housing Element approved by the mayor, signed, sealed, and delivered by Jan. 31. 

However, as the Chronicle reported, the city has only identified eligible sites for developing 52,000 units — an approximate 22,000 unit shortage. Yikes. 

Check it out for yourself here, and read Housing Element background here

Ian James made: Securing the bag

Bags by Ian James. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken Dec. 8, 2022.

Ian James brought his eponymous enterprise of selling handmade leather goods from Bernal Heights to the Mission four months ago. Now, 303 Valencia St. is awash in leather configured in any way one can imagine: Wet-sculpted and dyed for lamp bases, sewn and embossed as guitar straps and, of course, in the form of his popular handbags. 

“I still want the craftsmanship,” James said. “​​It is really cool to, like, bring a thought into the world and see it from like, you know, whatever this is — ” he motioned to a pile of leather — “to, like, the shelf.” 

His shop allows him to market his own goods, as well as his friends’. There are candles from Often Wander on Valencia and 16th streets, and prints from a dear friend. 

It’s the holiday season and busy. James’ friend, who sells his collection of crystals at the shop, stopped in on his bike, carrying a mug of tea, and took a seat in the back to doodle. 

I sat by James’ work table as he swished his bright cobalt skirt to an Ariana Grande Christmas cover, handing customers pre-orders. An elderly woman picked up a gift for her friend: A vermillion leather-encased vase that, through its rippled-texture, evokes a tulip. 

Each hide “lives” in its own “home,”James tells me. He points to the cylindrical containers where he keeps his supplies, categorized by color. Across the room are green cabinets with finished products, and the sewing machine that has survived four moves in eight years. 

Ian James vases. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken Dec. 8, 2022.

James dropped out of New York fashion school in 2013 and, like many artisanal and millennial creators, he launched his business through Etsy. He kept at it full time until 2016, then pushed handbags as a side gig while he went corporate. 

Work as an events manager brought James to San Francisco in October, 2019. The pandemic ended that job, but he left with a severance that helped fund his first store in Bernal Heights, which opened May, 2021. 

James outgrew the space and moved to Valencia Street, adding another queer-owned business to that corner. James hasn’t looked back since.

The craftsman can’t pinpoint his first fashion influence, though his grandmother was a master seamstress. “She tried to get me to sew, and I was like … ‘I hate this,’” he laughed.  

He turned to fashion in high school, in part to distinguish himself. 

“When you’re one of few [people of color], you’re like, ‘the Black kid.’ But I want it to be, like, the fashionable one, you know? I didn’t want to be just like –eh- that,” James said. 

In his store at least, the 30-year-old is not reduced to society’s labels. He is Ian James, the shop owner with the one-of-a-kind leather handbags. 


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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. Getting free paint from the City to cover grafitti won’t help when your windows have been acid-etched.

  2. How about we start arresting the graffiti and tagging dorks. Everyone seems to love restorative justice. Let them do 100 hours of cleaning off this shit and then then arrest is wiped off.

  3. DPW should be cleaning up ant graffiti for free, because shop owners have absolute zero responsibility for something they had no choice in the matter. Caught graffiti artist can be used to clean up all the graffiti in SF even in the future. Problem solved.

  4. Agreed. This isn’t really enough for the casual skimmer: “Ian James brought his eponymous enterprise….” Assuming every reader knows the definition of that word is elitist and doesn’t help Ian’s potential customers find him.

    1. Respectfully, the first photo caption states the name of the business as “Ian James Made,” and the article refers to the “eponymous” business, meaning the business is named after its owner. Armed with this information, I’m sure you can search for the website. Personally, I found this article captured a lot of the owner’s story and personality, as well as photos that make me want to visit the store.

    2. it’s easy to miss but the name is indicated: “Ian James brought his eponymous enterprise…” and since ML is a news organization, not a shopping site, they probably figured those interested could type “Ian James San Francisco” into the search engine of their choice

    3. Hello,
      Thanks for your comment. I have updated the article with the link and the name of the shop at the top to the subhead. I apologize for any confusion.