News + Politics

Saving radical actions and spaces, virtually

Bay Area Society of Art and Activism “Collective Memory” project archives alternative history — and wants you to contribute.

48 Hills
Ant Farm’ 1975 Cow Palace cataclysm “Media Burn” is one of the feats of collective art making documented in SomArts’ current exhibit.

By Caitlin Donohue

ART LOOKS How to put this delicately. It could be that the pop-up #BlackLivesMatter silk screening studio, the LGBT film noir appreciation society, the Marxist-leaning soccer league for single moms, the secret underground yarn-bombing society — all those things that make the Bay Area so politically and culturally vibrant, well, they may not be around forever. Consider the number of your favorite art and activism spaces that have shuttered or collectives that migrated to lower rents in the last few years alone. What will the centers of cultural resistance look like in San Francisco and Oakland in 10, 20 years?

We’re hoping there will still be plenty of new ones. (Please get on that right away.) But right now, down SOMArts Cultural Center, you can witness “Making a Scene,” the center’s current visual arts presentation documenting the past 50 years of art and activism collectives in the Bay Area, proof positive of our creative resilience. The inspiring show includes reasonably well-known endeavors (Ant Farm, porn star Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens’ “Ecosexuals” project) to colorful mini-histories of spaces like Galeria de la Raza and CELLSpace and collective efforts like ArtSpan’s Open Studios.

But more than just an art show about the past, “Making a Scene” is “a direct call-to-action that invites the Bay Area to contribute to the collective memory of the region’s spaces” — the curators want you to contribute your memories, artifacts, and photos of the activist spaces and art movements you’ve experienced here, via the Bay Area Society of Art and Activism’s History Collection Lab. The project is called “Collective Memory,” and it proposes nothing less than building an entire history of Bay Area activism, with your help.

Ed Lee and the FBI corruption charges

Raymond Chow’s lawyers haven’t proven that the mayor is involved in anything illegal. But damn, this doesn’t look good

You'd think Mayor Lee would at least address the allegations, but nothing so far
You’d think Mayor Lee would at least address the allegations, but nothing so far

By Tim Redmond

AUGUST 4, 2015 – I was pretty sure what the lawyers for Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow were going to do as part of their defense: They were going to argue that Chow was just a small player in a much-larger corruption scheme, and seek to prove that the feds ignored the actions of a lot of other prominent San Franciscans while selectively focusing on him.

They released the first salvo today, filing a motion in court to dismiss all the charges on the grounds of selective prosecution. The Examiner broke the story (and isn’t it sad that all hell has broken loose at that paper and its SF Weekly cousin, when this city clearly needs real reporters who dig into documents?)

The Chron has pretty much dismissed the allegations against the mayor, and I agree that there is nothing specific in the FBI documents attached to the filing to prove that Lee did anything wrong.

(The Examiner uploaded the motion from Chow’s lawyers but not the attachments; KQED has uploaded them all here.)

But the whole filing paints a sad, sordid picture of San Francisco politics and suggests once again that the legacy of Willie Brown and Ed Lee is one where underlings are taught to do what’s necessary to bring in the money for campaigns and to build political power – and the public interest isn’t really a factor.

Cannabis leader savoring US Attorney Haag’s departure

Haag closed 600 dispensaries; Harborside Health Center’s Steve Deangelo says next step is repairing industry’s relationship with banks. 

48 Hills: Harborside Health Center's Steve Deangelo
Harborside Health Center founder Steve Deangelo: “Unrestrained joy when I heard [US Attorney] Melinda Haag was stepping down.”
By Caitlin Donohue

Regardless of what US Attorney Melinda Haag’s resignation could mean for the cannabis movement in California, Harborside Health Center founder and marijuana activist Steve Deangelo says his community should be savoring this moment. “It’s something we should take a good deal of pride in,” he told 48 Hills in a phone interview yesterday. “We’ve managed to outlast a fiercely determined federal prosecutor.”

His enthusiasm for the end of her five-year stint in the office is understandable. Haag’s commitment to persecuting the marijuana industry — her office was responsible for shuttering over 600 dispensaries — seemed inexplicable in the face of U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole’s 2013 memo deprioritizing federal prosecution of state-legal dispensaries. Her particular crusade against Deangelo’s Harborside, which services 200,000 patients at locations in Oakland and San Jose, seemed motivated purely by the club’s size and national prominence.

Deangelo and other cannabis activists and industry leaders seem to have gotten the last laugh here. Now Deangelo asked in our interview, can the next US Attorney please get the banks to start taking marijuana money again?

Eviction by neglect: Mission tenants forced out of crumbling building

More than 20 people still on the streets months after city calls building “uninhabitable” — and landlord fights relocation fees

Adan Lobo, who has lost his home on Hampshire St. , is now living in a van
Adan Lobo, who has lost his home on Hampshire St. , is now living in a van. Photo by Beth LaBerge, via El Tecolote

By Alexis Terrazas and Tim Redmond

JULY 29, 2015 — Adan Lobo, a native of Honduras, was living in a small, run-down place on Hampshire Street, sharing a room with and showering under a tarp to keep the dirty water leaking from the ceiling above from dripping on his head.

It was, he says, “kind of nasty.”

And now he misses the place – because he’s been forced into crummy residential hotels that he says are infested with fleas and bedbugs, and now he’s living in a van. Some of his former housemates are sleeping in their cars, or on the street.

Eviction stories like this are increasingly common in San Francisco – but this one has a stunning twist. It’s as bad as we’ve ever seen: The residents of 938-940 Hampshire were forced out when the landlord allowed it to decay so badly – including a ceiling collapse – that the Department of Building Inspection ruled that it was uninhabitable.

That triggered a state law mandating that the owner give the tenants relocation money – but according to court filings, Working Dirt LLC, which bought the place in January, stopped payment on the checks.

The Tom and Tim Show: Medicare turns 50 …

… plus Airbnb, City College, and will the Pope listen to the transgender community?



Supes delay tenant protections

Bill to slow evictions gets kicked back to September as Wiener and Cohen express concerns about the impact on landlords

Tenant groups are united in support of the Kim legislation -- but they couldn't get Cohen or Wiener to say yes
Tenant groups are united in support of the Kim legislation — but they couldn’t get Cohen or Wiener to say yes

By Tim Redmond

JULY 27, 2015 – After more than two hours of impassioned testimony and stories about insane and unfair evictions, the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee put off action on a tenant-protection package until early September.

Sups. Malia Cohen and Scott Wiener voted for the delay; Sup. Jane Kim, the author of the legislation, voted to move it to the full board for consideration tomorrow.

But that won’t happen – and the comments by the committee members were a signal of some of the issues that will come up over the next month as Kim tries to rally support for what might be the most important set of eviction-protection laws the supes will consider this year.

The package is aimed in part at the increase in what tenants call “low-fault” evictions – that is, evictions based on minor, easily corrected, or very old problems that are a pretext for getting rent-controlled tenants out of their homes.

The Agenda, July 27-Aug. 2: Did progressives cause the housing crisis (um, No)….

… Plus new tenant protections, expanding Medicare, and preserving art space in San Francisco

Tenants rally for Sup. Jane Kim's anti-eviction legislation, which has its first hearing Monday/27
Tenants rally for Sup. Jane Kim’s anti-eviction legislation, which has its first hearing Monday/27

By Tim Redmond

JULY 26, 2015 – If you must read Gabriel Metcalf’s piece on how progressives caused the SF housing crisis (and I suppose you must, since it’s all over social media and since Metcalf is the director of SPUR and people will take this seriously), please do me a favor and also read this.

Oh, and take just ten minutes to watch this.

I was here in the 1980s and 1990s. I was watching, and writing about, and supporting the progressive movement all along. And I can tell you:

The progressives weren’t the Nimbys who opposed housing. In fact, I sat through plenty of Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings when progressives practically begged for more housing. We argued – correctly, as it turns out – that you can’t build huge amounts of new office space and attract tens of thousands of new workers to the city without building any housing for them.

The progressives pushed through the Office-Housing Production Program, which required office developers to pay into a fund for affordable housing. I don’t recall SPUR ever supporting that.

The reason more housing wasn’t built has everything to do with the same reliance on the private sector that is screwing things up today.

The Tom and Tim Show: The jail, the Gavster and pot …

And what the power struggle at the regional agencies means. We talk about the week


Deal to replace art space with luxury condos has a glitch

There are also tenants living in the building — and they don’t want to leave

Jade Miller and John Kitchen tell reporters that they are fighting their eviction
Jade Miller and John Kitchen tell reporters that they are fighting their eviction

By Tim Redmond

JULY 22, 2015 – A deal between two art-space operators and a developer who wants to turn an entire block in the Mission into condos has run into an unexpected glitch:

There are people living in the building, and they aren’t willing to leave.

The building at 2050 Bryant has been at the heart of debates over the future of the Mission since developer Nick Podell bought the property (and everything around it) and decided to evict everyone and build luxury housing.

Opponents call it the Beast on Bryant, and argue that the last thing the neighborhood needs is more high-end housing – and that the city’s commitment to preserving blue-collar jobs and community art space is in the balance.

But Podell has cut deals with some of the industrial tenants and with the owners of InnerMission, which used to be Cell Space; he promised InnerMission that he would help find a new place for the operation, and would subsidize the rent for five years.

That caused the two InnerMission owners, Mike Gaines and Eric Reid, to drop their opposition to the project.

But apparently nobody was paying much attention to the fact that the arts space was also a living space, and had been a living space since at least 2002. Evicting commercial tenants is one thing; throwing out residents is another. The rules are very different – and the current tenants are not ready to move.

Supes move forward with jail that we might not need

$240 million project that nobody has seen and that might be obsolete the day it opens gets preliminary approval from board members who say they don’t like it. Go figure

The old county jail has to go -- but do we need to replace it?
The old county jail has to go — but do we need to replace it?

By Tim Redmond

JULY 21, 2015 – The San Francisco supervisors today moved forward a proposal for a new $240 million county jail – although it’s not clear yet what the project will actually look like or whether the city needs it.

The convoluted issue stems from the fact that the state is offering up to $80 million in grant funding to replace the ancient, outmoded, unsafe, and inhumane lockup at 850 Bryant – but the clock is ticking and the money may be gone if the city doesn’t act soon.

So the supes had to vote today to approve an environmental review document that said the project needs no further review – unusual for a building this large – and at the same time vote to authorize the city to apply for the grant money.

The debate was at times bizarre – as Sup. Jane Kim put it, “I’m not sure we even have a project before us.” But on a 7-3 vote, move forward they did.

It’s not a simple issue: I’ve been to the County Jail in the Hall of Justice, and it’s just awful. The prisoners can’t stay there anyway; the place isn’t seismically safe and has to be torn down.

But the jail population is dropping, SF is getting better at alternatives to incarceration … and foes of the jail say it might be possible to handle the projected number of inmates without building some 350 more beds.