Saturday, October 24, 2020
News + Politics A map of our vanishing public space

A map of our vanishing public space

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Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s latest interactive visualization details the attack on SF’s fragile commons. 

48 Hills: Anti-Eviction Mapping Project's 'San Francisco for Sale' map

By Marke B. 

JULY 10, 2015 — “We knew from Google Bus protest actions and the Mission Playground/Dropbox incident last year that San Francisco’s public spaces were under attack,” the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project‘s Erin McElroy told me. “But it wasn’t until we started putting something together on it that we realized how widespread the phenomenon was. It was almost everywhere we looked.”

“And it was shocking to see how many private corporations and how much some groups, like the billionaire Fisher family, were behind it.”

The map, called “San Francisco for Sale” plots out SF’s commons, including streets, parks, rec centers, POPOS (privately owned public space), public schools, and libraries. Against this backdrop, it then highlights 21 stories exhibiting the increased privatization, policing, and reduction of SF public spaces.

48 Hills: Anti-Eviction Mapping Project's 'San Francisco for Sale' map

“From the ‘Dropbox Dude’ incident at Mission Playground to the takeover of public bus stops and parking meters by private tech companies, and from the increased policing of the 16th Street BART plaza to the condo-ization of Daggett Street, this map offers multiple examples of gentrification’s impacts on public space. Not only are residents being forced out of their homes through evictions and unpayable rent increases, but they are further being squeezed out of common spaces across the city,” an AEMP press release about the map says.

Using data provided by the city as well as previous research, AEMP spent six months building the map and gathering stories to feature that illustrate the encroachment of private interests on the public sphere.

The stories also include such things as the closure of Howard Street for private software company events and developer-lobbyist Phil Lesser’s “Mission Miracle Mile,” a Community Benefits District which allows him unprecedented say over neighborhood affairs, including proposing a flood of street cameras.

The map also includes public spaces that have vanished into privatization, like Daggett Street Park, the Haight-Ashbury Recycling Center, and Hayes Valley Garden. It also includes cases like the parking meters around 16th Street and Van Ness, which are “white-zoned” for tech buses in case of overflow, depriving residents of parking, especially teachers at nearby schools.

An ongoing project, the “San Francisco for Sale” map will grow to include more tales of privatization and, hopefully, any successes it retaking public space.

“Like many cities across the country, San Francisco is undergoing a dramatic transformation driven by private interests,” the press release continues. “The logic of privatization has crept into city planning strategies and accelerated the erosion of public space. From parks and plazas to streets and sidewalks, the transition from public to private management and ownership envelops us, threatening our freedom of movement, freedom of expression and freedom of recreation in natural spaces.

48 Hills: Anti-Eviction Mapping Project's 'San Francisco for Sale' map

“Public spaces have long been a refuge for those without stable homes. They have also long served as places to organize and build community. As the city reaches a heightened stage of neoliberalization, and as the public sector increasingly partners with private interests, we are witness to an era in which public spaces corrode at an alarming rate. The 21 stories on this map do not detail every example of this phenomenon across the city, but they do illuminate a number of mechanisms at play in expropriating the commons from the public vis-a-vis the collaboration of private and public sectors.”

The map is not prescriptive, but I asked Erin anyway what might be done to push back against privatization of SF’s commons.

“I think there have been several actions that may point a way forward, from Occupy’s tactic of simply moving in to the more organized actions of groups like the Plaza 16 Coalition and Calle 24,” she said. “We must think of ways to expand on those tactics to include the entire city.

“There’s obviously a huge struggle ahead for citizens of San Francisco to stay on top of this, but visualizing what’s going on is a huge first step.”

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

103 COMMENTS

  1. HANC was providing a public service that state law requires the existence of, in addition to serving as a community garden and native plant nursery. The new faux community garden is a feeble replacement.

  2. “Speculators” built every building in this town. Without them, you and all your rent control privileged brats would be homeless.

  3. How about a map of the vanishing public space for politics that has been enclosed from the right by for-profit prospectors and from “the left” by the nonprofit capitalists?

    Privatizing the realm of politics via enclosures and expropriation remains unexplored by the left wingers who privatize politics not to make substantive policy change rather to keep themselves employed.

    But look, behold the cooties of the infidels, do what we say!

  4. I
    often spend time sitting in UN Plaza, so I guess it
    is only “unusable” for certain people. I find the gull
    and pigeon droppings a much bigger problem than the human
    denizens.

  5. Say whatever else you want about the Chron; it has a lot more credibility than Erin McElroy.

    And if you really want to see mid-Market improve, would you be willing to discuss relocating some of the nonprofit SRO facilities in that area?

  6. As others have mentioned, the presentation and implication that the site tries to make, seems to be aimed at discrediting itself. One’s first impression when visiting the site is that of being mislead. This isn’t about Golden Gate Park being parcelled up and developed into hi-rise condos, or even about side-walk cafes taking over public parklets and hanging up a ‘no trespassing’ sign. Nearly all of the instances of public spaces ‘vanishing’ are either special events or the conversion of areas that were temporarily made public until sold or until planned construction could begin. IMHO that is par for the course with SF progressives who’s approach is very often bombastic and intellectually incoherent. (and I would say sometimes dishonest)

    But, there is a real issue here which is SF should be a city run for the benefit of all parties long term residents and new comers (including the next generation and future arrivals); those who commute into the city to work; small businesses and large corporations; well-paid professionals and those working in the service industry. It shouldn’t be a money making enterprise, even one directed at making taxes as low as possible by raising revenue wherever it can conceivably charge a buck.

    I actually think SF does a great job of that, with a huge number of public urban spaces (as the map indicates) and a multitude of events open to the public. But, in the last 10 years it seems to me that there has been *some* shift in the balance, and that SF has become more focused on convention events. Or, perhaps that the immense wealth of the financial and especially tech industry is crowding out other uses of public space. To some extent it’s also the result of neighbourhood agitation, which is most strongly organized against free public events, and more tolerant toward the more staid corporate/convention crowd.

  7. You know too much, too deep, across a range of issues to not be in the game.

    Who is paying you to pimp on an opposition website?

  8. TO be clear, I don’t think that we are poisoned by hatred and fear of anyone who states alternative opinions, we just are sick and tired of your non sequitur trolling.

  9. I’ve got an acquaintance who knows her from a non-political context and reports similar findings.

  10. Let’s face it, whites will not begin to confront racism until we support the elimination of police forces as we know them and replace them with community rooted public safety operations. Until then, white people are complicit in the often racist perpetration of oppression by the cops.

  11. Yes, self centered oblivious use of public spaces such as crosswalks and sidewalks is the hallmark of this species of shithead.

    This gingerly stepping out onto the crosswalk when the countdown signal is below 3 and lazily lollygagging across the intersection in no particular hurry consumed with a smart phone is as much of an infraction as is a cyclist running a red light or riding on the sidewalk.

    This is a city not a suburb and the only way that city shared spaces work is if everyone uses them cognizant of how these spaces are shared in a dense environment.

  12. I saw a cop on “foot patrol” texting on his phone at 6th and Market, back to 6th and Market Street, facing Show Dogs. The SFPD has effectively vetoed foot patrols, throwing rookies onto that beat.

    Just like the feeble progressives took the bait and allowed the conservatives to make the Pier 14 shooting about Sanctuary City instead of making it about the failure of ICE and Homeland [sic] Security, the poverty operatives are hijacking community resistance to 1979 Mission’s inappropraite development into the right of the the intersections of the sets of homeless, mentally ill and substance abusers to do their business in the plaza.

    This is called “leading with one’s glass jaw” and is a strategic error of the strategically unaware.

  13. The scarcity (fewer and fewer) of public benches in this town is the canary in the coal mine.
    The typical excuse is to not allow the homeless a place to squat/sleep/rest.
    There are plenty of benches in Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley, where you can sit and ponder the latest transplanted Burning Man sculpture, and watch your Boston Terrier cavort with other pure-bred pets, while enjoying a $12 handmade imported pistachio ice cream. There used to be benches in civic center. There used to be a pool. But the wrong people were making use of them, so now they’re gone.
    A walk through San Francisco, compared to a walk through many European cities (even many American cities), shows the stark contrast between who we say we are and who we really are. Particularly for the elderly, who you will see in European cities everywhere on park benches, plaza benches, and many of the other public places where they can stop to rest, or pass a few hours in conversation with a friend, or even just nap in the sunshine.
    So, yes, the homeless have ruined it for the rest of us.
    Or…
    So, yes, our treatment of the homeless, and the soon to be homeless, has ruined it for the rest of us.
    The canary in the coal mine is nearly expired…

  14. Don’t be a douche, Kozone. You know I was talking about fenced off for-profit events in the park.

  15. The total tax break was something like $3 million dollars for a TEMPORARY payroll tax reduction. The progressives like to include the ~$45 million that would have been realized if we could have taxed Twitter’s IPO options. Except that Twitter would have breached a fiduciary trust to its investors and employees if it held it’s IPO in one of the very few jurisdictions that taxed options. So that money never existed except in progressive’s imagination and yet it remains a great way to deceive.

  16. @Ragazzu:disqus is right. I once went down there and and couldn’t enjoy Sharon Meadow because 50,000 people were there for a free concert by the San Francisco Opera.

    It ruined my whole afternoon.

  17. “You also haven’t drawn a connection between massive tax breaks and street improvements.”

    – Because I don’t believe there is one. I believe street improvements are paid out of the general fund.

    I’m not arguing against public space being for everyone. But sometimes private enterprises are necessary because they contribute financially to the upkeep of our open spaces and parks. If you’d like to do away with this and have the parks 100% publicly funded, fine – I’m all for trimming the fat on The City’s $9B annual budget. Take something away from the millions we spend on homeless, for example.

    “the whores of Silicon Valley”

    – I’m sure the people in the San Francisco’s Controller’ Office appreciates your name calling.

    My argument isn’t “trickle down” as you claim, but you, like Campos and most progressives like to use this deflection because it represents some sort of “boogeyman” in your eyes.

    We’re done here. Have a great weekend.

  18. Your opinion of mid-Market is highly debatable. You also haven’t drawn a connection between massive tax breaks and street improvements. Publicly funding parks instead of walling off acres of them for private enterprise is a much better way to preserve the commons for everyone. (That’s actually the argument you butted into.)

    Linking to a Chron piece of spoon-fed propaganda from the whores of Silicon Valley doesn’t bolster your argument. Numerous non-profits have disappeared or are threatened by huge rent/lease hikes in the TL.

    If you can’t recognize your own argument as trickle-down, I’m wasting my time conversing with you.

  19. Trotting out the ol’ trickle-down theory, eh? Put it in a museum of discredited theories or sell it on eBay as a relic.

    Still waiting for that mid-Market turnaround…

  20. Those tax breaks (to more than just tech companies, BTW) have been a financial net positive and helped begin the turn around of The City’s cesspool, AKA Mid-Market.

  21. These events hardly take up only 1%, pal. And what does that say about how we fund our commons–in a city of that gives multimillion-dollar tax breaks to tech companies and floods the streets with more high-paid cops?

  22. 99% of the park is still available to you. These paid events help fund maintenance for the park.

  23. I believe schlemozzle is only calling the rude, self-centered ones “shitheads”. I, too, have experienced rudeness and deal with a lot of selfish pricks on Valencia Street, especially on the weekend nights.

    Not that all of the gentrifiers are that way, I have met some friendly ones, but for some reason the Mission area attracts the rude, self-centered POSs. Never in my life over 4 decades have I experienced so much rude & selfish behavior as I have in such a short span of time in recent years on Valencia Street alone. It’s mostly double parkers blocking the bike lane, club & cafe crowds blocking the sidewalk and not allowing pedestrians to pass on the sidewalk, but I have also had rude remarks made about my appearance on occasions and had a can of beer thrown at me recently, for no apparent reason. It really confuses me how people could be so heartless to people they don’t know.

  24. “Spending” didn’t bring Ed Lee to power. Backroom deals by crooked politicians did, in order to continue the corporate plunder of the commons.

  25. This map has so many inaccuracies I don’t know how anyone is claiming anything – bad data – bad data visualization.

  26. “Erin McElroy is the Rachel Dolezal of SF” — thank you Scotty Miles! Brilliant — you win the internet today!

  27. I live across the street from the eastern entrance to Golden Gate Park. This is the time of year when I fully expect to be shut out of the huge swaths of park by cyclone fences for weekend events. That’s completely antithetical to anyone’s vision of a public commons.

  28. “I don’t understand how Ms. McElroy can characterize it otherwise.”

    Because she’s an idiot.

  29. Why would they mingle with the community? It’s not their community. They all live in Fairfield and Novato and just come here to collect their $100,000+ salaries. On a bigger level, this is why increased police presence might be seen as a problem. It’s not about more or less police. It’s about the culture of the cops we do have. That culture needs to change. Simply adding more of the kind of cops we have now, isn’t going to help anything.

  30. Daggett (Street) is a 1-acre park that is being designed by CMG Landscape Architects. Upon completion it will be 100% owned by the City, but permanently maintained by the adjacent housing development. The City (i.e., the taxpayers) won’t have to spend a dime. As a City-owned park, it will be open to everyone without exclusion. This is a total win for the lower Potrero neighborhood, the City and all of its citizens. I don’t understand how Ms. McElroy can characterize it otherwise.

    The Haight-Ashbury Recycling Center was a private recycling enterprise operated on public property for many years. The lease had run out on the business long ago and the enterprise was refusing for many years to leave. Finally, the land was return to 100% public control. Again, a good thing — a “de-privatizing” of public property.

    The “Hayes Valley Garden” was explicitly defined as an “interim use” with a very limited timeframe of 2 former Central Freeway parcels (Parcels O & P). It was never intended or agreed upon by any parties involved to be a permanent use for these parcels. Parcel O was set aside specifically for 100% affordable family-sized supportive housing and is currently be developed as such. Parcel P was set aside for market-rate housing (with an affordable component included) and sold by the City for a hefty sum with the proceeds specifically earmarked to pay for the Octavia Blvd. replacement for the former freeway and other public infrastructural improvements in Hayes Valley. The market-rate developer (Avalon) was also required to transform the formerly abandoned Hickory Alley into a publicly-owned — but, again 100% maintained by the developer — “green” pedestrian Alley. All of this was a win for Hayes Valley residents and the City as a whole. It is bewilderingly to me that Ms. Elroy is proclaiming this as a bad thing.

  31. “I asked Erin anyway what might be done to push back against privatization of SF’s commons.”

    ooh ooh I can answer this question!! To push back against privatization, all that we as a city have to do is ….ready for it?…. spend less!

    It’s the spending that brings to power a bean counter politician like Ed Lee every blue moon, someone who is motivated to generate revenue, any which way he can, to restore financial order.

    Like any spoiled child, we all love to get the things we want but don’t want to have to pay for them. Generous pensions for public employees, housing subsidies, free MUNI for youth, needles for the addicts (which admittedly do not cost much, but the subsequent trips to the ER by said addicts, rampant crime perpetuated to pay for what goes into the needles, all of that costs a fortune), free health care, sex change operations for the poor.

    Meanwhile, we have aging infrastructure to maintain, a failing public transportation system, understaffed public service, on and on.

    Hence the privatization of public spaces, permits for luxury condos, having to put up with disagreeable rich people in our midst, all of the things that are bitched about here daily. Don’t like it? You only have yourselves to blame.

  32. Give him time…we’re not all born Einsteins. I’m sure that he is trying hard and doing the best he can.

  33. They didn’t shower? Mary, better grasp your pearls and get your smelling salts. You’ll probably get the vapors.

  34. So privatizing public space is OK as long as it is done by ideologically challenged people who don’t shower?

  35. Agreed, she is a useless trust-fund baby with an agenda that is grounded in hate and intolerance.

  36. There is sadly an element in SF that actually loves crime, squalor and blight, because they believe it deters gentrification.

  37. This is one reason why I think it’s completely reasonable to dismiss the assertion that public space is disappearing. The AEMP is making up facts as they go along. If you can rent field in a park, it counts as privatized? That’s how parks work everywhere else in the world.

    Police at the worst BART station in SF? That counts as privatization? We need cops at that BART station. As long as they are there to keep the peace and enforce the law, how is that taking anything away?

    Erin McElroy is the Rachel Dolezal of SF, calling out fake crisis with her biased way of determining what is and what isn’t privatized. People like her make it harder to live in this city for everyone else. I wish she’d leave SF for wherever it is she came from.

  38. Maybe you could try refuting his point? Nah, we all know that would be too much to ask of you.

  39. Your’re welcome. And you have my sympathy for the sorry fact that you are poisoned by hatred and fear of anyone who states alternative opinions.

    If you develop intelligence you’ll be able to actually dispute points like this with facts instead of mindless mocking, but I’m sure that you are doing the best that you can. Keep trying!!!

  40. “Remember the Bocce Courts next to Hermann Justin Plaza? The, um, public space that was unusable by the general public for months because it was “occupied”?”

    Thanks for the laugh and the insight into your world of twisted, Fox News-like logic.

  41. From the article: “increased policing of the 16th Street BART plaza” is seen as a problem??? That hell hole of a corner needs a 24/7 police presence. So much crime, drug dealing, urination, and crazies on that corner.

  42. As a very long time resident of the Mission, a home neighborhood in which I now feel like an unwelcome stranger among entitled, rude, rich shitheads, I’m on board with all of this. But PLEASE don’t lump in increased police presence at 16th Street BART with all of this. It is a crime-ridden area day and night – in decades of commuting to and from that spot, it hasn’t gotten any easier. On the contrary, I don’t feel safe coming home late on BART any more. I’m convinced that anyone who wants to “save” the plaza has never HAD TO STAND THERE every day to wait for their bus or shuttle to work. I understand that building on it will mean the loss of a hangout for countless homeless people and drug dealers, but leaving it there doesn’t address the real problems, either. Development or not (I don’t care), we need cops there. I just wish they’d mingle with the community instead of sticking together and sitting in their cars. Kinda lame.

  43. I’m not praising any authority, especially the idiots who run SF and CA. Erin McElroy is part of the problem and nowhere close to being part of any solution. She wants more and more rules for the idiot authorities to enforce on the rest of us.

  44. Re: ““I think there have been several actions that may point a way forward, from Occupy’s tactic of simply moving in…”

    You will probably need to re-calibrate your hypocrisy meter after that one.

    Remember the Bocce Courts next to Hermann Justin Plaza? The, um, public space that was unusable by the general public for months because it was “occupied”?

    The process of renting soccer fields may need a little work but at least it is done under guidelines set by the city and some financial remuneration goes to the city.

  45. You can object to selling soccer field permits to residents – certainly it seems like it wasn’t announced or discussed adequately – but having a policy that allows people to do so isn’t a “privatization of public space” any more than putting up a parking meter is. The space remains accessible to the public.

    As always, the AEMP is just engaging in cheap agitprop and calling it data.

  46. and you, what are you doing besides slamming someone – i am sure your information about Ms. McElroy is not the entire picture; just another attack against someone who questions the authority you love to praise

  47. The logic seems to be to make public space inhospitable and uncomfortable; unless of course it’s for someone’s pet project, like the Market Street Prototyping Festival. There used to be benches in U.N. Plaza, but they were removed because people used them. There are no public toilets (OK, there’s a couple, but being French, they are broken most of the time), so people use the streets. Way to go , San Francisco!

  48. Erin McElroy has no credibility. She is on her own campaign to attack other silver-spoon privileged white folk like herself. She must feel a lot of white guilt, so she demonizes others she perceives as being like herself. She clearly doesn’t understand the people she demonizes and slanders. Anything she does should be taken with a huge grain of salt. She’s more about stirring up racial tensions than doing anything useful.

  49. This map makes it clear that the City has already been “sold.” I am particularly aggrieved by the desecration of U. N. Plaza by various tawdry commercial usages like the Friday Night Market (fail) and cheap imports from Asia, some of which are really nice, and deserve a place to be sold, like Afghan Treasures on Market Street. Oh wait, they were gentrified out of the City. Most days of the week you can’t see the “story” of the U.N. that is inscribed on the sidewalks and pillars because there’s someone thing for sale on or in front of it.

    Fulton Street between the Library and Asian Art Museum is also regularly appropriated for private events. But nowhere is this more shameful than in Civic Center Plaza itself. With the exception of the recent exhibit of those colorful fanciful animals, the plaza has to be one of the most neglected and exploited spaces in the City. Free big screen tv for sporting events? Fine. Takeover by some corporate or commercial event? Inappropriate. Especially since it in no way benefits the residents of the City. And what’s with the Field Of Dust? Wood chips are infinitely preferable, and widely avaiable.

    Even better would be a makeover of the entire space with native plants and gardens and benches and tables and water fountains and restrooms. Maybe a daily Farmers Market with solar/wind cooled booths. How’s about a stage directly opposite City Hall for public speeches, protests, and performances?

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