AskWHYBlog: Carol Harvey In San Francisco

As Sentient Beings We Have The Right to Relentlessly Ask WHY --- And Demand Answers! PLEASE ASK WHY!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


The centerpiece of Michael Moore's, "Bowling for Columbine" is a South Park cartoon. A cracker-accented bullet jauntily greets "Boys and Girls."

"Ready to get started? It’s time for a brief history of the United States of America.

"Once upon a time there were these people in Europe called Pilgrims, and they were afraid of being persecuted. So, they all got in a boat and sailed to the New World where they wouldn’t have to be scared ever again.

"As soon as they arrived, they were greeted by savages, and they got scared all over again.


"So they killed 'em all.

“Wiping out a race of people” didn't calm them down. They feared the British, witches, importations of African slaves outnumbering them, and Rosa Parks.

"(Why won’t she move?)"

They protected themselves by fleeing to suburbs, got guns, put locks on doors, barricaded themselves, “snug as a bug” in suburban communities, "so white and safe and clean."

In Moore's classic stealth interview with NRA President, Charlton Heston, at his Hollywood Hills gated community mansion, "Moses" blames "mixed ethnicities" for the U.S’s 11,127 annual gun deaths. At an NRA pro-gun rally, Heston shouts they will have to pry his rifle from his "cold dead hand," presumably as he shoots it out with "ethnicities."

Fillmore history lessons show African American grandmothers dying with "right of return" certificates clutched in their "cold, dead hands" denied them by Redevelopment functionaries, mostly white men like Heston.

In the 50s and 60s, whites moved to the suburbs. The exodus sociologists called "white flight" was promoted by the FHA which made it easier to build homes with picket fenced yards for the kids, but also to flee from inner city peoples of color, particularly blacks.

Now, white suburbanites want to return to urban commerce centers. Reverse white flight, the nationwide push to retake the cities, has resulted in R&D Mission Bay biotechies needing a place to live. Handy to put them in Bayview Hunters Point riding the Third Street Light Rail each day?

Do feared black people stop monied whites' relocation to urban centers like the Bayview? The logical conclusion: Clear out Blacks who still control the area so whites won't be afraid. Then move white people in.

Redevelopment is the fastest, easiest way to accomplish such "re-peopling."

At the April 19, 2006, San Francisco Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee Meeting, Chair Sophie Maxwell, also hearkened back to history. "After nearly fifteen years of community struggle," --- during which she was a PAC member --- "the Bayview Hunters Point Redevelopment Plan is finally coming to adoption."

Maxwell recalled the years when, employed as a BART electrician, "I worked on this Redevelopment Plan myself.

"From the time I was a member of the PAC until now, many of us in the community have contributed a lot." Maxwell's years-long PAC involvement got her on the Board.

"It's important," she cautioned, " that we make sure mistakes that happened at one time in history do not happen again."

Seemingly soft spoken, stylishly suited Marcia Rosen, lawyer and Redevelopment Director, echoed Maxwell, soothing away threats of eminent domain takings. "The lessons of urban renewal and the Western Addition (are) reflected in this plan. No bulldozers are contemplated for Bayview Hunters Point."

"The Redevelopment Plan," said Sophie, "Expressly prohibits eminent domain on residential units."

However, some are chastened by memories of the Fillmore's false promises. They remember Mary Rogers championing the '60s lawsuit against eminent domain takings for Fillmore residents who wanted their property back. They won "certificates," which most could not use and sorrowfully threw away.

Mary Ratcliff, Bayview Editor, described one wealthy "grand dame," owner of valuable property, including Fillmore clubs, who after several agonizing lawsuits, couldn't enforce a single certificate in Court. "She was cheated out of all of it. It's awful to see people just bled to death like that."

After the 1906 earthquake, Downtown Powers tried forced relocation of Chinatown residents into the Bayview. The Chinese resisted powerfully and stayed, just as later Mission dwellers twice resisted Redevelopment.

Many insist. " If you don't believe Katrina couldn't happen here, think again.

Promises are never kept around here."

Randy Shaw, Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, Attorney, and Land Use expert, cautioned, "I don't think that people have a full sense of what Redevelopment means, because they haven't dealt with it. Redevelopment is like the carnival that comes into town. If you haven't seen the tricks before, then you're attracted by them. Once you've had the experience (you're not).

"Redevelopment is a massive patronage operation. A lot of people benefit financially from the deals."

Shaw said many SFRA spokespeople are Afican American. He doubts Redevelopment''s intent is to get rid of black people. "It's the result." Reducing crime by gentrifying the neighborhood? Another gentrified neighborhood to make the City Less diverse?

Shaw wonders how you interpret the fact that "When you take action, it has an impact on a particular race disproportionately? "Do you know the expression "Discriminatory impact?" That's the point.

Some feel despite what they say, do, or write, it doesn't matter. If this Redevelopment plan is approved, they will lose their community. "They want us out of here," said one. "That is it."

San Francisco newspapers' described a done deal.

Wrote 'The Chronicle,' "Once the Bayview is declared a redevelopment area, a portion of the projected $188 million in future property taxes can be used to fund improvements."

The 'Sentinel' interviewed PAC members and Redevelopment supporters exclusively.

The 'Examiner' Front Page blared: "Massive New Plan Set to Transform Bayview District," regurgitating statistics from lead planner, Tom Evans', power point handout.

"The 30-year plan will... create 3,700 units of new market rate and affordable housing."

It assumes the Bayview is a "long-blighted" neighborhood, neglecting to note that Redevelopment agencies have designated desert and wealthy gated communities "blighted." Said Shaw, "Blight has become everything. The definition of blight has gotten so big, it doesn't mean anything anymore."

Media passed over the 50% vocal dissenters present at the hearing.

Some activists see a split community. Others estimate that eighty percent of Bayview residents dissent. Fear of police (who roll tanks down streets) and loss of Section 8 HUD homes paralyzes them.

It is hard to leave work for a 1:00 p.m. weekday meeting.

Ask Dr. Ahimsa Sumchai who left a hectic schedule to address"a little concern,"as a physician and scientist (about "significant") violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in the certification of the final EIR (Environmental Impact Report) on March the 7th," especially regarding toxic air contaminants, and 429 hazardous waste sites for which " mitigations were not offered."

Roland Sheppard, resident since 1956, attended PAC meetings where they said, "We are going to have a ball park down at the bottom of the hill. Up at the top we are going to have the stadium, and build a yacht harbor along the Coast on the East Bay of San Francisco. It's said the best views of the City are up on the Hills where the projects are."

About jobs, he said, "There are less residents working at the San Francisco Water Treatment Plant in the Southeast Sector, under your reign, Sophie, than five years ago. The idea that people are going to get hired from the community is just not true, and hasn't happened for forty years."

Francisco Da Costa stated flatly, "I have followed this process for the last eight years thoroughly, attending all the meetings and observing the PAC."

"Redevelopment is not about jobs, (but) blight, getting the property, giving it to developers."

"I do not trust Redevelopment," he concluded.

Jaron Browne, of POWER, (People Organized to Win Employment Rights), alluded to U.S. census 2000 data confirming more Black flight from San Francisco than any major U.S. city over the previous decade. 20,000 departures after 1990 indicated a 23 percent decline.

"In the last ten years, there have been serious corporate giveaways: Lennar Corporation, the Transbay Terminal, the UCSF Biotech Center, Bloomingdales, and Rincon Hill. This Redevelopment Agency is not acting in the interests of working class communities of color.

"UCSF was given $70 point million dollars," but isn't offering "a single permanent entry level job."

To discourage future corporate giveaways and encourage community appeals to a responsible elected body, she wanted the PAC extended from 12 to 30 years.

These critiques drew shouts from audience members. "Yes. Tell it!"

Maxwell reassured that Redevelopment must come before the Board for changes and tax increment decisions.

Do these good, intelligent, beautiful PAC members, who wisely urged the Stadium issue settled, ask themselves, "If the plan is such a community benefit, why are there so many reassurances to make it appear safe, and if there is a need for so many reassurances, why is the Plan or Redevelopment needed with refurbishment loans readily available?

To quell fears SFRA would include Candlestick Park in the BVHP Redevelopment area to fund it and proposed condos, Maxwell's amendment read, "The Board of Supervisors shall not approve any allocation of property tax increment from portions of the project area outside of the Candlestick Point special use district for use within the Candlestick point special use district for development of a stadium-related project."

"At least we've stopped this fiasco of the stadium being funded by this," remarked Shaw.

Maxwell claimed she and the SFRA learned from Western Addition "Negro removal." Government should not take homes by eminent domain.

Are these smokescreens and red herrings, concealing the plan to gentrify BVHP, forcing blacks out?

Pricey BVHP homes averaging $625,000 are hard to seize.

Threat of eminent domain alone lowers property values, driving down prices, forcing owners to sell. Buyers' sell homes above market rate. With debt free black homeowners gone, black renters, especially in Section 8 housing, are easy to manipulate out.

Amos Browne lamented from the pulpit that his Black congregation had vacated the Fillmore.

"It is all a massive scam,". said one Bayview watcher, wondering why African American PAC members would pave their own royal road out of town.