Ethnic Cleansing in San Francisco

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in Opinion

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Published on October 07, 2007 with No Comments

“The patron saint of privatization is Congresswoman
Nancy Pelosi.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom “pulls all the levers and pushes
all the buttons.

Photos by Luke Thomas

By Don Santina

Guest Edtorial. Reprinted with permission.

October 7, 2007

Not so long ago, San Francisco was home to about 100,000 Blacks, and the Fillmore district was a thriving Mecca of African American life. Today, Fillmore is gone, wiped out by “Negro Removal”in the guise of “redevelopment,” and the city’s Black population has shrunk to 40,000 – less than half the Black population of Augusta, Georgia.

The last bastion of concentrated Black life, Hunters Point, is slated for ethnic cleansing designed to rob African Americans of not only a spectacular view of the Bay, but of any hope of remaining in the city. The “patron saint” of this racist juggernaut is none other than Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the U.S. House.

“They want to kick you out so they can build housing they know you can’t afford and allow rich San Franciscans to enjoy it. They don’t feel that poor Blacks or other people of color deserve to have a view like that.” – Appolonia Jordan, San Francisco Bayview SF OldFillmore

Alan Goodspeed was my next door neighbor in the Ingleside District on the south side of Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. He was a
Black man from Marshall, Texas, who had moved to San Francisco during WWII and worked as a machinist for twenty five years
in the shipyards of Hunters Point. Within that time, he bought a home and raised a family.

“There are probably less than 40,000 Black people left in the city.”

When Alan passed away a few years ago, working class Black people had already become an endangered species in San Francisco. According to a 2005 demographic study, there are probably less than 40,000 Black people left in the city. Back in the day when
Alan and I changed the oil in our cars in adjoining driveways
and jawed about whether Muhammad Ali would regain the title,
there were almost 100,000 black people in San Francisco.

So, here in 2007, ethnic cleansing of the Black population
in the city “where little cable cars climb halfway to the
stars” is more than halfway to completion.

The Jobs at the Hunter’s Point Ship Yards

By 1974, most the 8,500 jobs at the shipyards created during
World War II were gone, and a decade later a petulant Navy scotched
plans to homeport the nuclear-armed USS Missouri when City officials
objected to footing the bill with no job guarantees for locals.
The shipyards were closed, and the Navy pulled out, leaving
forty years of highly toxic contaminants behind them, and a
commitment to clean up their mess some time in the future.

Even as jobs at the shipyards were drying up, the Hunter’s
Point-Bayview neighborhood was a majority Black neighborhood,
a vibrant community in southwestern San Francisco which was
affordable and had spectacular views of San Francisco Bay. The
slaughterhouses of “Butchertown” were gone, along
with most of the auto wreckers, and although it was underserved
and largely ignored by City officialdom (except for heavy-handed
police presence), the neighborhood was hearth and home for thousands
of Black Americans.

Gentrification Rears its Ugly Head

Fast forward twenty years from the Navy’s retreat. San Francisco’s
housing dynamic has changed drastically. Home prices and rents
have skyrocketed. A studio rents for $1,800 and a small condo
fetches $650,000 to $800,000. The City’s light industry has
disappeared, and, while most of the dot commers dot come and
dot gone, they were replaced by a new urban class of middle
managers, hedge fund hustlers, fashion designers, bio-meds,
money changers, paper brokers, and techies of all persuasions.
Gentrification has metastasized throughout the City, spilling
out of the central Victorian neighborhoods into the outlying
frontiers, like Hunter’s Point/Bayview.

“A studio rents for $1,800 and a small condo fetches
$650,000 to $800,000.”

Consequently, the public lands on which the shipyards once
stood provided both lucrative opportunities for developers and
desirable potential properties for the new yuppie class.

On the part of the shipyard now known as Parcel A, the bulldozers,
scrapers and graders of the Lennar Corporation are hard at work,
flattening a former hillside for new homes and condos. The original
plan approved by the City included affordable rental units in
the mix. However, those units have now been scrapped. Lennar
reneged on the affordable housing part of the plan, claiming
a lack of profitability.

Very few, if any, of the local residents will be able to afford
the new residences and they will be forced out of this last
corner of the City, as the prices go up around them. And, to
add injury to insult, the asbestos
being raised during construction is making the neighbors

Dress Rehearsal in the Fillmore

To understand what’s happening today at Hunter’s Point, it
is necessary to understand what happened in San Francisco’s
Fillmore District in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Fillmore, often
called the “Harlem of the West,” was a center of Black
culture in the decades following World War II. Like Tulsa in
the early 1920’s, the Fillmore was a flourishing home for thousands
of Black people and hundreds of Black-owned markets, auto repair
garages, barber shops, salons, restaurants, shoe repair shops,
Laundromats, night clubs, and apparel stores. Among those businesses
was the legendary Jimbo’s Bop City, which featured performances
by jazz immortals like Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Miles
Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane.

And then came something called Urban Renewal in the guise of
a heavily-cloaked urban real estate operation called the Redevelopment
Agency. When the RA was finished, the Fillmore was gone. The
bulldozers had smashed and leveled block after block after block.
The fabulous Fillmore looked like a bombed-out city in an old
newsreel. And that’s exactly what it was, displaced residents
and all. The people who lived in the Fillmore were dispersed
to the East Bay cities of Oakland, Richmond, and to Hunter’s
Point/Bayview. As the Redevelopment Agency smashed homes and
businesses, it issued thousands of certificates of preference
to the people of the Fillmore. These certificates were documents
which gave the displaced businesses and families a promise of
preference for renting or buying other redevelopment property
within the City and the right to return to the neighborhood
from which they’d been evicted.

“The people who lived in the Fillmore were dispersed
to the East Bay cities of Oakland, Richmond, and to Hunter’s

Of the 883 certificates given to Black-owned businesses, only
39 resulted in other business locations. Of the 4,719 certificates
given to families, only 1,099 certificates put families in other
homes. Somehow, the Redevelopment Agency lost contact with 3,055
families and 590 businesses which held certificates of preference.

Today, the Fillmore is almost completely gentrified. Much of
the neighborhood has been condo-ized and yuppified, replete
with foo-foo restaurants and ersatz jazz festivals. However,
a pocket of Black families remain in the neighborhood with enough
young Black men to be targeted for a gang injunction from the
City Attorney.

The Gangs of San Francisco

Most observers of Urban America agree that there appears to
be a national program to target, arrest and warehouse young
Black men into the “criminal justice” – that is, prison
industrial complex – system across the United States. Aside
from the near genocidal effect of the proactive criminalization
of an entire generation, this program also serves as a convenient
method for clearing out the soon-to-be-lucrative neighborhoods
of the former “inner cities,” neighborhoods which
will provide potential profit for hungry real estate and investment

“San Francisco police arrest African-Americans at
a higher rate than any other city in California.”

The City of Saint Francis is no exception to the rule. A recent
study found that San Francisco police arrest African-Americans
at a higher rate than any other city in California, even as
the number of Black people living in the city diminishes. However,
it seems that the simple policy of arresting young Black men
is not efficient enough to move them out of town. They must
also be kept from gathering in their own neighborhoods. Accordingly–in
keeping with the continuing national dismemberment of the Constitution–the
City Attorney of San Francisco has sought gang injunctions against
a list of African American gangs in the Fillmore known as Eddy
Rock, Chopper City, and Knockout Posse, along with some “gangs”
in the Mission. Last year, the first injunction was granted
against the alleged “Oakdale Mob” in Hunter’s Point/Bayview.

Under these injunctions, alleged members of the alleged gangs
are prohibited from meeting with each other in designated geographic
locations, like, uh, their own neighborhoods. Aside from the
questionable constitutionality of these injunctions, the fact
remains that these injunctions literally drive non-white residents
out of their own neighborhoods.

For the local folks who have some idea of what’s going on,
the irony of these court-ordered gang injunctions is that the
most powerful, ruthless, and rapacious gang in San Francisco
is glaringly absent from the City Attorney’s list.

The Downtown Gang (AWDG)

Not surprisingly, the City Attorney’s injunction list did not
include the Downtown Gang, also known as the AWDG (All White
Downtown Gang). These gang members virtually control all public
policy in San Francisco, including who will live in the City
and who will not.

How does one identify members of the Downtown Gang? Well, for
starters, like members of all gangs, the AWDG hang out together:
at museum galas, society do’s, first nighters at the opera and
the symphony, parties in Pacific Heights, winter in Tahoe, and
so forth. But the best way to ID them is to use the old-fashioned
follow-the-money method. Pick a politician, check out the big
buck contributors, and then see whether the politician’s policies
benefit private sector profit or the public good. It doesn’t
take a Sherlock Holmes to find a political spear carrier for
the AWDG and then the AWDG member who owns and supplies the

“The ‘Care Not Cash’ proposition would solve
the problem of homeless people by slashing monthly welfare
payments from $395 to $59.”

A textbook example is the current mayor, Gavin Newsom. Newsom,
the extremely personable shill for all things rich and white
in San Francisco, pulls all the levers and pushes all the buttons
that put the policies of the AWDG into motion, which include
sweeping out homeless people, lowering business taxes and continuing
the privatization of public housing.

As a San Francisco supervisor, Newsom made his bones for the
AWDG in 2002 by placing his “Care Not Cash” proposition
on the ballot which would solve the problem of homeless people
by slashing monthly welfare payments from $395 to $59 in return
for a proposed system of “care.” “Care Not Cash”
would have flopped without the big buck effort behind it.

The campaign for the “Care Not Cash” proposition,
known to homeless advocates as “Neither Care Nor Cash,”
was funded by a shadowy group called SFSOS,
or San Francisco SOS, which was founded by Warren Hellman, heir
to the Wells Fargo fortune, Donald Fisher, the sweatshop king
of the Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy clothing empire, and Senator
Diane Feinstein. Other original supporters included financial
heavy hitters like Charles Schwab, William Hume, Feinstein’s
husband – the
war profiteer
, Richard Blum – and socialites like Dede Wilsey.
In addition to its outright attack on the homeless, SFSOS also
opposed the living wage campaign, affordable housing and tenant
protection and supported re-segregation of the public schools
system through charterization.

SFSOS and the AWDG won big in the ensuing election.

Merchants Have No Country

Thomas Jefferson noted toward the end of his life that “merchants
have no country,” in that the merchant’s first loyalty
is always to profit. He could have just as readily said that
the merchants have no political party either. Business loyalty
to self interest rather than common interest is rife in modern
American politics where corporations regularly hedge their bets
by contributing to opposing candidates. Such was the situation
when Supervisor Newsom ran for mayor in 2003.

As Election Day neared, it became apparent that Newsom was
barely ahead of his Green Party opponent, Matt Gonzalez, even
though he was outspending him by a 10 to 1 margin. The possibility
of a Green coming to power in San Francisco so terrified the
AWDG that the gang pulled out all of the stops and flew into
action, calling in celebrity Democrats like Bill Clinton and
Al Gore and coughing up cash. Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi
hit the phones. The heirs of the Getty oil fortune Republican
businessmen rushed to the fore. George Shultz, a Republican
flush with new found Bechtel riches from Iraq, opened his wallet,
as did the heirs to the Getty oil fortune who were Newsom’s
original sponsors. Republicans Charles Schwab and Donald Fisher
wrote checks. The Swig and Shorenstein families, real estate
developers who had underwritten the activities of local Democrats
for years, dialed in their dollars.

“No one in the neighborhood will ever be able to
live in the new housing units.”

And, of course, Newsom won and policies favored by the AWDG
continue to flourish during his regime – like the onslaught
to quickly privatize the shipyards property, regardless of the
health of the residents during construction on this toxic site,
or the fact that no one in the neighborhood will ever be able
to live in the new housing units. In 2006, Lennar Corporation
was cited multiple times for failing to monitor and control
asbestos dust during the grading phase on Parcel A. Oddly enough,
the project was never shut down to correct any non-compliant
operations. Finally, several local African American neighborhood
organizations went to City Hall this year to protest this continuing
contamination and request that the City red tag the site until
safety measures could be enforced. Their request fell upon deaf

Meanwhile, the AWDG, not content with securing a financial
stranglehold on future development of public lands, continues
to target existing public housing for privatization.

Hunter’s View and the Patron Saint of Privatization

The situation at Hunter’s View, a public housing project in
the Hunter’s Point/Bayview neighborhood with a scenic view of
the Bay Bridge and the Bay, is a classic case of how politicians,
developers, and financial interests work together to achieve
their respective ends of power and profit at the expense of
people. In 1997, a grandmother and five children burned to death
in Hunter’s View because the smoke detectors didn’t work. A
recent inspection – ten years later – found that 64% of the
units still had non functioning smoke detectors and pockets
of sewage bubble up in and around these rat-infested homes.

Do you think City Hall rushed plumbers, carpenters and electricians
out there to fix things up? Go sit in the corner if you answered
in the affirmative.

Here’s how privatization for profit works: first) don’t maintain
anything, let everything deteriorate; second) throw up your
hands in dismay of ever being able to repair anything with the
meager public funds available; third) call in private developers
and their bankers to “help out’; fourth) evict the residents
because by now everything has to be torn down, and fifth) build
units to buy, not to rent, that the evicted residents can’t

“Do you think that the snail’s pace rebuild of the
infrastructure and return of the displaced residents of New
Orleans is accidental?”

When the Federal government purposely abandoned the “inner
cities” of Urban America almost thirty years ago, the vacuum
left in its wake created vast and lucrative investment opportunities
for the exploitation of public property. Do you think that the
snail’s pace rebuild of the infrastructure and return of the
displaced residents of New Orleans is accidental? Go sit in
the corner!

In San Francisco, the patron saint of privatization is Congresswoman
Nancy Pelosi, known to some locals as “Nancy Privatisi”
for her landmark work in taking the 1,200 acres of public land
in the Presidio and placing it into private hands. Even the
staid San Francisco Chronicle couldn’t avoid noting that the
Presidio was “the first privatized national park in the
United States.”

How about a little Q and A? Who was one of the founding directors
of the Presidio Trust? Donald Fisher. Who appointed him? Bill
Clinton. Who is a major contributor to Pelosi’s campaign, while
at the same time being a charter member of the SFSOS, the AWDG
and the Republican Party? Donald Fisher. Who’s going to construct
a museum to himself – excuse me – for his art collection, in
the Presidio? Donald Fisher. Who supports it? Nancy Pelosi.

There’s also a plan to put a Walt Disney museum in the Presidio
which would be appropriate because Nancy’s husband, Paul, owns
a bit of Disney. A local union organizer suggested that it would
be fitting that a third museum be erected between the first
two museums-a museum to sweatshop workers.

“The patron saint of privatization is Congresswoman
Nancy Pelosi.”

Getting back to Hunter’s View, Newsom has been seen cruising
the neighborhood with developers from the AWDG. Hunter’s View
is a perfect candidate for privatization: it has a view that
yuppies will pay big bucks for, and it’s sufficiently destabilized
to warrant complete leveling.

Hunter’s Point resident Appolonia Jordan, in a recent article
in the Black-owned San Francisco Bayview newspaper, wrote, “I
know you have noticed the groups of clean, pressed suited white
men who jump out of these brand new SUVs with Mayor Gavin Newsom
looking around your housing project. They smile and sometimes
even talk to the ‘poor’ children playing outside.”

In response to a Chronicle series about the dire living situation
at Hunter’s View, Pelosi, whose nephew Laurence has worked for
both Lennar and Newsom, announced that the Democrats had not
only increased funding for public housing, but that their $1
million allotment for Hunter’s View would create “one-for-one
replacement of 267 public housing units” with “new
affordable rental units,” and “market rate homes.”

Sounds familiar. Sounds like Lennar’s original plan for the
shipyards. Sounds like the Fillmore.

Don Santina is a cultural historian and third generation
San Franciscan who received a 2005 Superior Scribing Award for
his Black Commentator article, “Reparations for the Blues.”
He recently appeared in a Canadian Sportsnet TV feature on racism
and baseball with Danny Glover and Barry Bonds. He can be reached

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