Spring 2016 Article

Gentrification in the Mission: Who are our neighbors?

By Araceli Leon
The corner of 22nd and Mission Street. The corner fire-damaged building built in 1907. Fire in 2015 displaced over 60 rent-controlled tenants and many stores within the complex. Photo taken 4/4/2016.

The Mission District, a neighborhood located in San Francisco, California, is a community that is close to my heart. As a Latina and second-generation native San Franciscan who was born and raised in the Mission District, being from this community immersed me into my Latino culture and shaped me into the woman I am today.

I have seen many changes occur in my neighborhood over the past 25 years of my life. The Mission is now the popular place to be with all the trendy bars, restaurants, and incredible weather. This community was once filled with families and working class people, but now with the rise of google busses and astronomical rent hikes, the once familiar faces are no longer able to afford the Mission District. Often, the challenges for members who live in the community are overlooked. I spoke with various people that have lived in the Mission for over 10 years and heard their struggles as they try to overcome the encroachment and displacement that is rapidly changing demographics in their community.

Daniel Ayala: A 42-year-old father of five

Daniel moved to the Mission when he was 3-years old. “My parents, my two older sisters, and I all moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco 39 years ago. At the time, the Mission was the most affordable neighborhood, and there was a large Latino community so my parents felt at home.” I love this community, but it’s changing everyday. I don’t go out on weekends, it’s too crowded.” Daniel struggles with the changes in the community, “the rents keep increasing and, for some reason, people still keep paying these ridiculous rents! I don’t see the bubble bursting this time around, not anytime soon.” In the late 90’s the Mission neighborhood experienced a wave gentrification through the dot-com bubble and similar to now, saw increasing rents, as well as the displacement of the Latino community and working class families. The dot-com boom of the late 90’s was heavily dependent on investment in internet commerce and when the bubble burst in the year 2000 because companies failed to maintain profitability, the community was able to somewhat stabilize again.

The Mission District is my home; it has been the home of working class families for decades. This neighborhood is known for its warm weather, cultural celebrations, affordability for working class families, and its large Latino population. In the past 10 years there has been a shift in the Mission District, where rent has increased exponentially, families are being displaced, and culture that once resonated through the streets is slowly disappearing. The Mission is now inhabited by a wealthier class that is able to pay many times over what working class families can afford. As a result, many of the old establishments that existed in my youth and that of my parents are now being replaced by new businesses and condos that cater to the wealthier class and are changing the face of the community. Working class Latino families fear for their livelihood in this new Mission.

Betsi Rojas: A 35-year-old mother of two, has lived in the Mission since 1999

Betsi moved here from her home country of Mexico. “My mother moved to the United States when I was a little girl, she saved up all her money to be able to bring my family across the border in 1999.” Betsi has lived in the Mission since she was 18, and has raised her 2 children here in this community. “People are rude these days, always in a rush, no one knows their neighbors anymore. In my apartment building, people are constantly moving in or out.” Betsi recalls how, in her apartment complex, there used to be families that would live there for many years, and now many have moved out, “there are not as many families in the Mission.”

Since 2013 there has been a rise in Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco. The Ellis Act is a state law that allows landlords the right to evict all tenants and “go out of business.” Landlords recur to this law most often in buildings that are protected under rent control. In San Francisco, tenants have renters rights, such as rent control for buildings built prior to 1976 which limits the amount that landlords can raise the rent. At this moment, the Mission District is one of the most sought out neighborhoods and new luxury condos are replacing rent controlled apartments, while many Ellis Act evictions are leaving Latino families without homes. With the rise of a new wealthy class in San Francisco, the cost of living and rent has increased exponentially in the past few years. A 3-bedroom apartment in 1992 cost $800 a month in rent, whereas that same apartment in 2016 can go on the market for up to $6,000. These changes are pricing out middle-class families and changing the culture of the Mission. The cultural celebrations that are deeply rooted in Latino culture have been affected by these changes. For example, San Francisco’s Carnaval’s float route continues to be shortened as a result of neighbors complaining about their accessibility to parking during this celebration. The demographic of the Mission has changed, and its are impacting the culture.

Josue GonzalezA 56-year-old father of three

Josue is a Mission native who has seen the changes throughout the community from the 1960’s to present day. Jose has lived in the same rent-controlled apartment since 1989, however, with the rise of house fires within the community, he is worried about whether it will be an Ellis act eviction that will displace him or one of these suspicious fires that has come over the neighborhood. Josue says “I don’t want to leave this community; I couldn’t afford to move my family anywhere else in San Francisco, we’d have to leave the city all together.” In 2015 there were over 12 residential fires in the area and as a result, 130 residents were displaced. “These fires are suspicious, but somehow the fire department claims that there is no foul play in these arsons. A fire happens, people get displaced, and more condos get built. The Mission has changed.” Josue is not the only one to feel discouraged by the changes in the Mission.

According to Missionlocal, a local online news source that posts daily about incidents and updates about the Mission community, there were 12 structural fires in 2012, 18 in 2013, 15 in 2014, and 20 in 2015. The rise of fires in the Mission has been a big concern for the people living in the community. These fires are often deemed accidental, yet they continue to displace families that live in the Mission. Between the fires and the Ellis act evictions, the people of the Mission community are being pushed out of their homes. Furthermore, from 1997 to 2014 there have been over 1504 no-fault evictions in the Mission District. These evictions make way for the trendy stores, bars, and condos that now can be found all through the neighborhood, it is important to consider the people that live in the Mission how your impact affects our community.

The Mission is part of who I am today. The cultural values, the traditions and celebrations raised and helped make me into the proud Latina I am today. The fires, rent hikes, and displacement destroys the strong cultural bonds that this community offered its residents. It’s hard to see these changes in my community. It’s hard to understand how people are so willing to displace families to live in an apartment or condo in the Mission.

The Mission neighborhood has experienced various transitions over the years, nevertheless, the Latino community has continued to survive throughout the changes. The Mission, it’s more than the trendy place to be, it has been a home to many that are rapidly being displaced to make way for the trends. The Mission is my home, the changes have greatly impacted me, my neighbors, and my sense of community.