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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

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UncategorizedThe culture of deletion

The culture of deletion

A native San Franciscan talks about the loss of the city he knew

48hillsdelete

Editor’s note: We’ve been writing a lot about the tech invasion lately, from David Talbot’s speech to Stanford students to my discussion about whether technology is the enemy. Last night, the Chron had a forum on the “Changing Mission.”

And now we present the perspective of a San Francisco native, someone who has seen the transformation of the city, and his community, first-hand.

By Tony Robles

FEBRUARY 26, 2015 — I recently read the text of author David Talbot’s speech, “Don’t be a Stanford Asshole,” in which he connects the dots between San Francisco and Silicon Valley. He spoke of the incestuous relationship between tech and politics and how the tandem workings of both have caused both positive and insidious consequences to the city of my birth and across the globe.

As impassioned as Talbot’s speech was, I was in somewhat of a quandary. Was he speaking to me, or was he speaking to those who arrived in San Francisco in the last 15 or so years, survivors of the first dot-com boom?

Mind you, as a native born San Franciscan, I have become accustomed to being talked over, looked over and unconsidered. I don’t suggest that Talbot was ignoring born-and-raised San Franciscans like myself, but being someone born and raised in the city, we often occupy a gray area in which we ask ourselves—when a narrative about the city is explored or expounded—is this narrative reflective of my experience, my history, my skin, my roots?

Or is it a reflection of those who have arrived in recent years, who have benefited from my culture—that is, my San Francisco and or/ethnic culture—and the beauty that goes with it, while I—and other native-borns– have not benefited to the same degree?

It is to question your visibility, your voice, your presence. It is to ask yourself, do I even exist? To be a born-and-raised San Franciscan, particularly one of color, is to be invisible, to receive a cursory sideways glance that suggests the question: Oh, you live here too? It is to exist but not be acknowledged. It is to be seen as a hindrance, an eyesore, grudgingly accepted as part of the landscape that is far too nice and picturesque and valuable for you to inhabit—despite your generations as part of the landscape—especially if you’re black.

To be a native born San Franciscan is to be disrespected; it is putting up with the whimsical, often obnoxious hordes that flock here, planting seeds imported from elsewhere without regards for the roots already here.

This phenomenon prompted the late Manilatown poet Al Robles, who was a native San Franciscan and one of the primary fighters in the I-Hotel struggle for housing rights of seniors and all people, to pose this question

 

Who is to say the

Weeds are not the roots?

Who is to say the

Roots are not the weeds?

 

Of course, Robles was speaking of the community whose voices were silenced—working class communities of color who Justin Herman, Ben Swig and their descendants saw as hindrances and blight; communities in need of revitalization, a word that is used in the current iteration of the city.

Our communities were black, brown, red, yellow and working class/poor white. It was multicultural before that word became fashionable. It was mestizo and mestiza. It was hapa before hapa knew what hapa was; before some genius mixed rice, spam and seaweed and gave it a name. We had a vibe, a way of speaking, a way of walking that was the city—part black, part brown, part yellow—a vibe that was Frisco.

I know there are those who decry the use of that word. But Frisco represents what isn’t seen in the cutesy postcards from Walgreens. Frisco is everything you don’t want to see; it’s the city that the tech billionaires, the mayor, the minions etc. don’t want you to remember.

It’s the built- up grease in the pots and pans of an abuelita’s kitchen, it’s the southern tongue whose stories speak in the TL, it’s the Filipino World War II Veteranos in SOMA whose lives are written in their faces and are spoken in a silence that make the fog horns seem like a whisper. With such richness of culture, who needs the fuzzy 20-something blue-eyed blond, fresh out of the Peace Corps, to tell us what life’s about?

 

The San Francisco I grew up with, the culture I came to know by being bathed in it and by tasting its dirt is dying at the hands of another culture—that of deletion.

One by one—communities, lives, homes—are deleted with as much forethought as pushing a button or clicking a mouse. And what better metaphor for the concept of deletion than the tech apparatuses that are abound—encroaching on every aspect of our lives in the name of convenience—but whose convenience?

The tech industry has carved its reality into the city, its presence felt in every crevice—from the gentrification-induced murder of Alex Nieto to San Francisco kids having to duel a group of entitled, obnoxious tech boys over who gets to play (or pay) in the playground. The kids—and I don’t refer to the young folks who stood their ground at the Mission Playground—the tech kids (it would be disingenuous to refer to them as men or adults) who have no reflection, no respect, no regard, and no foresight—have taken over. Their values are quickly becoming the rule in San Francisco—and the city is going to hell—not in a hand basket, but in an app.

It is these smug, so-called clever—the folks Talbot’s speech referred to as assholes—that are laughing, drinking, smirking, taking more than their share, at our expense, laughing in our faces, so self-assured in their genius, sauntering to the bank while the rest of us subsidize them and their self-centered frat boy obnoxiousness.

I’m tired of the bullshit, aren’t you? The city has rolled out the red carpet for tech priests and priestesses, but that carpet is stained with the blood of eviction and removal; it is stained with the shoeprints of arrogance and a lack of grace, manners, tact, dignity or respect. It is stained with the blood of our elders that are being preyed upon daily by real estate speculators, real estate agents and their appendages whose only work is destruction of people and communities. It is being destroyed by 20-something tech millionaire idiots who want the world to believe that they are about a “sharing economy.

To them I pose the question: Why haven’t your “sharing” hordes offered housing to the victims of the Mission street apartment fire that left many elder and families homeless? We native born San Franciscans know the answer (and you don’t have to be a native born to know this).

What they want is a tailor-made San Francisco exclusively for them, complete with artisan this and that, windows painfully buffed to a shine while dinky little cupcakes await in quaint display cases—equally buffed. They want community, all right — a golden gated community. They want their own private Disneyland on their terms.

Make no mistake, the city is dying. It may look alive on the surface with cranes and buildings stabbing into the skyline, but it is a wrinkled postcard with a facelift, a world class city reduced to an app.

The impending earthquake that is sure to hit San Francisco is spoken of with a tone—from some—that appears to welcome that event. But to me and many other born-and-raised San Franciscans (particularly of color), the earthquake has already happened. When the real on comes it will be a mere afterthought, a whimper compared to the evictions and the effects they have had on the health of seniors, the disabled, on the families who are now without housing. And yet, the mayor acts as if these things haven’t happened.

This month was the birthday of my uncle, the late Al Robles, who spent much of his life fighting for the rights of elder tenants in Manilatown and the International Hotel. As current board president of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, I am disgusted by what has been allowed to happen to seniors and communities of color in the city—a city that bends over backwards catering to and coddling entitled tech idiot millionaires, real estate speculators, the owners of big boats and those who profess to share but share nothing, contribute nothing.

The mayor recently spoke of the I-Hotel struggle at a gathering of a Filipino community center that has served the community for many years. From what I understand, he was once a tenant lawyer.

What happened to him? What happened to my city?

 

Tony Robles is co-editor of POOR Magazine and board president of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. He is the author of the upcoming book, “Cool Don’t Live Here No More–A Letter to San Francisco,” to be published this spring by Ithuriel’s Spear Press.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  28. State school is for the little people and those who dont mind political correctness being a more important topic than math.

  29. Town School is the cream de la cream.

    Many beautiful snowflakes go to school there. But Burke is the ultimate cream.

    Only the unwashed masses go to public schools.

  30. Guest7:12, my math degree is from Cal, and while not special, they don’t just hand those out.

    From that perch, your quod erat is unpersuasive.

  31. Guest7:13 and 4G SF, we just got back from our fundraiser. I can’t help but notice that neither of you bought raffle tickets. Buy, buy!

    Our next fundraiser is the best public elementary fundraiser in the city, so I’m not inviting you kids to that unless you pay extra.

  32. Guest7:15 (aka 4G SF?), our child is at SFUSD. You just picked the wrong school.

    I’m not sure what else you’re saying, but I am curious which school. Town? I remember my high-school pal who went to Town. It sounded.. odd.

  33. Growing up in the 1950’s, my grandmother described everyone by their nationalities, religions or race. It wasn’t out of respect, it was just her and that generations way of identifying everyone.

    I loved growing up in the city, loved the neighborhoods and the different personalities. Too bad people are always finding fault with others.

    Housing is expensive, always has been and each new generation has struggles with the cost of living in a city anywhere in the world. That’s why my husband and I left in 1966, the day after we were married. We couldn’t afford city life.

  34. True. All the black folks in The Haight must have haighted all the kids from educated, upper-middle-class backgrounds (hippies) who moved into their neighborhood in the 60s.

    P.S. Talbot sends his kids to toney private schools. He doesn’t want his snowflakes associating with the unwashed masses.

  35. Walnut, advocating a position on public schools while sending your kids to private school is hypocrisy.

    I send my kids to private school as well. Nothing wrong with that. But then I don’t extol the virtues of public schools while doing that. In fact I think they suck.

  36. The fact remains that SF has the biggest housing deficit relative to its workforce.

    Some other towns may have a similar or larger percentage deficit. But over all the city has a deficit of housing and the suburbs have a surplus of housing.

    QED.

  37. 4G SF, ‘wife’ these days is non-gendered.

    We toured, but did not select Revere in the SFUSD lottery. I can’t speak for Mr. Talbot. His place is walking distance; maybe his kids went.

    I am impressed: you have identified a SFUSD elementary schools to and from which we do not walk with our child. Kudos. You are so smart!

  38. Yeah, he is the son of wealth, his kids went to private schools as did WC’s & not the multicultural school right there in the neighborhood, typical of every single progressive in SF.

  39. Wow, can you be more sexist in your reply? You certainly did NOT send your kid to Paul Revere. Nor did Talbot.

  40. Gee Kay I actually don’t believe you. Most people who came during the time frame you specify did not like it when the gays moved in, the blacks, the latinos, the Jews, etc. Now you’re saying you don’t like the “new people” ie, the whites and the asians moving in for work. I don’t know when your family moved here, but there has been plenty of racism going on for a long time in this city. You’re saying you don’t remember it when you grew up? Really? It was just “one big happy family” that’s why they got rid of the AA/Jewish places in the Fillmore area? Do you remember when there WAS a Jewish area there? I’m not saying I even remember any of that, that was all before my time but my family remembers it & told me about it.

    So now you’re saying you hate the new people. That’s rich.

  41. Guest2:35, look at the map. It isn’t ‘the odd town’ where low-paying jobs dwarf affordable units, it’s half the Bay Area, most notably the burbs. The argument that ‘SF is huge’ rings especially hollow. The city has maybe 12% of Bay Area population.

    So, let’s recap:
    – ‘[Menlo Park is ] not the problem’ was wrong
    – ‘..burbs.. house more’: wrong, but 3 cities
    – ‘have more homes than workers’: wrong

    Should San Francisco build more? Yes. Should Menlo Park do its share? Also yes.

    Would it be nice to discuss policy with someone who had the first clue about the numbers?

    Yeah, it would.

  42. Utter nonsense, C. The fact that the odd town in the burbs might have a higher worker-to-home ratio than Sf is irrelevant. In general, and aggregated across the Bay Area, most towns have more homes than workers. And a few, including SF and Menlo Park, have more workers than homes.

    BUT (a big but) Menlo Park isn’t that big. SF is huge. So it is the SF housing deficit that is easily the biggest in absolute terms.

    The biggest net contributor to homes is the East Bay. The biggest detractor for homes is SF, followed by some parts of the South Bay.

    The North Bay is a special case because so many people there are wealthy and don’t need to work, work from home, or are retired.

    SF is shy of the homes necessary to house 400,000 people.

  43. Guest10:18, facts are stubborn things.

    elizabeth criticized zoning in Menlo Park. Menlo Park is not only part of the problem, it is also a bigger part of the problem than the city. When you said, ‘they are not the problem,’ you were wrong.

    The problem is lack of affordable housing. Orinda commuters are not the issue. Your argument about net commuting is reductive and wrong.

    Households average 2.3 people. Any area on the map with a ratio above 2 is part of the problem. This includes the vast bulk of the suburbs, along with the city. I see only three suburbs that provide more than their relative share of affordable housing: Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond.

    Throw stones does no good. We need regional coordination. But assuming we ever get it, you want first to address areas that like the Peninsula are the worst part of the problem.

  44. WC, we can both cherry-pick particular towns in the suburbs that suit our narrative.

    But when you net all that out, the burbs have 400,000 more homes than jobs, and SF has 400,000 more jobs than homes.

    We in SF are not in a position to throw stones at the odd town that does even worse than we do, before we get our own house in order.

  45. Guest7:53, the argument that a net commute means no bedroom community has ever failed to house more than its share is reductive and wrong.

    San Francisco is part of the problem, with more than two low paying jobs per low cost rentals — but Menlo Park feature more than four. When elizabeth criticized zoning there, she was entirely on point. Menlo Park imports low-cost labor but does not house it at a much higher rate than the city.

  46. If the net commute is 400,000 INTO the city every day, then clearly SF is the problem relative to the suburbs, which house more workers than they need.

  47. The point is that demographics are always changing. Smart people do not fear that but rather see it as an opportunity.

    There is no correct optimal racial mix or quota.

  48. Guest5:39, hear hear. Housing and growth are regional issues and we need much greater regional policy coherence.

    That said, *the* other major US city, New York, is indeed artificially divided into counties. New York’s coordination works, though. The bay Area’s needs a lot of help.

  49. Or we could do a better job of not thinking that SF is a city surrounded by nothing. But rather do a better job of seeing SF more as merely the downtown hub of the entire Bay Area – which is the real city.

    And just like other “island” cities like Manhattan and Hong Kong, there is always an acceptance that not everyone can afford to live in its expensive core, and that the areas beyond the city limits can and must house many classes of worker who might otherwise find themselves paying an uncomfortable amount for housing.

    No other major US city is artificially divided into nine counties and maybe a hundred cities. They cannot all be autonomous and standalone. We need more regional planning and better transport options into downtown SF, and less beggar-thy-neighbor narrow-mindedness.

  50. In the end, we need solutions to provide housing and amenities to make sure that professional (aka class) diversity in San Francisco exists in the future. We need to create housing so that a range of professions from school teacher to nurse to small business owner can afford to live in San Francisco We need a strong public sphere so that those who can not afford private daycare, private preschool, private schools, private gyms, private clubs, and the rest have services which enable their productivity.
    The citizens of San Francisco need to ask their representatives to advocate for a sustainable city which is one which can support a wide range of professions and classes. That way when the rich move on or just don’t live here or the the bubble bursts, we still have a functioning city left.
    No place that is just full of rich people and their paid employees is inviting, innovative, creative, or that relevant.

  51. Does it really matter whether ethnic cleansing happens because you resent wealth or because crime and blight drives you away?

  52. I’m a native too, a Senior, a retired City Worker and part of the Euro-group of Irish, Swedes, Jewish, Germans,Italians,Polish,Russian etc. who immigrated in the late 1800s to about 1950 – to avoid the European wars in the main. No we did not talk about how “new people” were devastating our communities. Why? We were mainly working class as were the “new people” moving in. What we have now is an invasion of the wealthy who really have taken over SF and created not only gentrification but a new generation of refugees who can no longer live in SF. It is not only about the people of color – it is about class level which includes those of European and Celtic ancestry.

  53. “the rest of us subsidize them and their self-centered frat boy obnoxiousness”

    Got any statistics to back this up? How much are you paying in taxes? Are the poor the only ones paying the $167 million budget for SF Homeless? At times, I wonder if frat boy obnoxiousness (which I hated in law school) is that much worse that the sanctimonious tripe you’re spouting.

  54. Nope, no war on tech here. Move along.

    Nice to see that Talbot is as intolerant of the newcomers to SF as the locals were to his family when they moved here. Onward and upward.

  55. You left out fascist. Because that’s clearly what these trolls are.

    Make no mistake folks – all around the globe fascism is on the march again.

  56. And don’t forget that Nieto threatened to burn down the home of his family, and had restraining orders issued against him by that same family.

    Gentrification, my ass.

  57. Robles doesn’t sound like he ever questions his prejudices. And I’ll bet he never talks to anyone who might disagree with him. I hope he reads these comments – he needs a “wake up to reality” call.

  58. The autopsy ‘”revealed a history of aggressive and bizarre behavior, auditory hallucinations,” as well as Nieto’s noncompliance to prescriptions for two atypical anti-psychotic drugs’. There was no trace of anti-psychotic medications in his system at the time of his death.

    But lets just assume that the woman who complained that he pointed his taser at her dog was a rich whitey and blame it on her. No need to look at those who were supposed to be helping Nieto.

  59. I would love for the author to respond to your comment. Is he just being willfully ignorant? Does he think the notions in his head are true just because he thinks they are?

  60. Yes, the double standard and the racism in this article is stunning. The clear implication:

    White = Bad; Non-white = Good.

  61. Tony’s piece was maudlin, cloying, reeked of cheap sentimentality, was laden with coded racism and was self-absorbed, trite and glib.

    No wonder you liked it, Marc

  62. “the gentrification-induced murder of Alex Nieto”

    What are you smoking? He pointed a weapon at a cop! How did gentrification cause that?

  63. I am not a native San Franciscan, but I was born and raised in California, have been in and out of the City since I was a kid, and have two kids who were born and raised in the City.

    San Francisco needs one Tony Robles more than it needs all of the commenters and trolls on 48 Hills.

  64. 4g SF, this isn’t Tinder. If you need a date, talk to your wife.

    Impressively, literally every factual assertion you made is wrong.

  65. Spoke too soon. I found their tax ID # and that they are a 501c3, which amazingly, since they are a super political organization, they got their non-profit status. Compare that to those on the right with the IRS scandal, and none of them could get that status. Hmmmm.

  66. He’s already getting our tax dollars for his group though you wouldn’t know it when you looked at his word press site. They’re supposed to list that they are a non-profit and are taking gov’t and private donations on their site and what kind of forms they file. That’s actually illegal that they’re not doing that. Gov’t donations are most likely from the city and county of SF.

  67. I feel badly for this guy. Is there something akin to “Victim’s Anonymous” where we can send him to get help and support?

  68. Did anyone actually edit this?

    “Why haven’t your “sharing” hordes offered housing to the victims of the Mission street apartment fire that left many elder and families homeless?”

    There was a well-publicized crowd-funding campaign that raised over $180,000 to help the victims of the Mission fire get back on their feet. Google also stepped up to match some volunteer donations. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Blogger-s-Mission-fire-victim-fund-tops-110-6063751.php

    Today’s San Franciscans were acutely aware that victims of the fire were suffering, and today’s San Franciscans eagerly volunteered their time and their money to help. Is the author (or his editor) so cut off from reality as to be unaware of this?

    There are a few more Bill O’Reilly-style stinkers in the piece as well. If this is the nativist argument, it does not hold up well and it doesn’t reflect well on its host.

  69. Lol, love how the progressives keep on trying to say that there isn’t anti-tech sentiment and that it’s all made up but their words betray them.

    How can techies not feel like people are scapegoating them and against them as individuals when people are using words like “tech invasion”, “obnoxious hordes”, “smug”, “assholes”.

    I’m a multi-generational San Franciscan, I don’t hate tech. The story of San Francisco is one of new people arriving, and sometimes that means some people leave.

    The Mission wasn’t always techies. It wasn’t always hipsters. It wasn’t always Hispanic, It wasn’t always Irish. It wasn’t even always even Ohlone.

  70. Hey, Tony.

    Like you , I was born here. The child of immigrants, I don’t think that makes me special. I like migration. People should go where things are better.

    Neighbor David’s speech was something, though I liked his book better. Full disclosure: our son went to school for a while with the author of the Neighbor David post:
    https://bernalwood.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/neighbor-david-talbot-shares-what-he-really-thinks-of-his-new-neighbors-in-precitaville/

    That one I really like.

    What do you do to make things look like that again?

    Figure out how to build places for people to live.

    The rest is, forgive me, self-indulgence. I am privileged, but my father was bombed at age one and my mom was stateless for a decade and my Opa’s best friend for decades ate his soup for lunch with a spoon he still had from Stalingrad. You and I both had it easy.

    What happened to our city? Nobody cares about migration.

  71. I remember when the Irish, Swedes, Germans & Italians said the same thing about the “new people” coming in & how their communities were devastated by “the new people”.

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