Finding Fault

 

helladownevictions

Topic has been beaten to death, revived and done over many times, but I did have a good discussion about what type of responsibility (ultimate or immediate) one should weigh as more responsible-er.

It is quite common to hear about people becoming resentful of their new neighbors. Whether it’s fair or not, I’m not sure yet. I’ve been going back and forth about who really holds the responsibility for the eviction of the middle-class problem, or whatever you want to call the disappearance of the local families and individuals in San Francisco. Ultimately, lots of different kinds of people are at fault; the more opportunistic individuals already living, or even native, to the city being the most at fault. That is, those San Franciscans who are successfully selling precious spaces in the city at increasingly higher prices, thereby trickling down certain expectations onto business owners (such as the one that people now living here can afford to pay more for stuff; $20 sandwiches, $15 PBR can, $300 dollar-a-month gym memberships, etc.), are the ones heavily catalyzing the shape-shifting of the city into one that fits snugly into the back pocket of the wealthy. Clearly, there is a real estate equivalent of a gold rush taking place within the city and the bidding wars for those precious spaces are tearing the city apart. Naturally, locals are increasingly resentful about the rise of living-space prices and the ensuing evictions. Some people seem to resent the newcomers moving into the city, while some would rather blame those who actually allow it to happen.

At first blush, some people might want to direct their resentment over the changes in the city towards the new neighbors coming in. In speaking with my friend, J, she admitted to blaming the “whitewashing” of the Mission on the newcomers themselves. That is, the evictions of loyal Mission families and the sprouting up of unwanted juice bars and random art galleries is totally the fault of the newcomers. She argues that, had these individuals not chosen to overcrowd the Mission, the local communities could have stuck together (and not disintegrate across all the greater bay area). On her view, the newcomers could easily have chosen to live or start business somewhere else, considering spaces in places like the Sunset neighborhood or even the Daly City outskirts are cheaper (and still mighty close to those hipcool Valencia Street bars). Basically, it does not make sense to want to crowd a place more than it already is unless you are simply trying to impose your greedy will on a situation (like forcing your way onto a severely overcrowded MUNI; making life harder for others, but at least getting what you want and getting to where you want to get to). It makes sense to want to resent the overcrowding on those who are ostensibly aware of the neighborhood and the dire situation, but still choose to compound the issue.

I would argue, though, that it would be somewhat irresponsible of those effected by the real estate rush to direct all of their resentment at the neighbors and none on the landlord. For example, my friend J lives in a building that is owned by a San Francisco family. Ironically enough, this family has a history of lucky strikes. They found gold back then and have lived off those profits ever since (even own a popular restaurant in the Mission). But now, in the second coming of the rush, they have taken notice of another opportunity to cash in. Let’s say J and her family pay approximately $700 a month for rent. J and her family are safe for now, thanks to the relationship between her mother and the landlord, but say the day comes when the mother and the landlord are no longer around. J believes the landlord’s heir would evict J and her family to make room for other, wealthier people willing to pay closer to $1500. In this case, it is clear to me that the blame should go to the landlord and not whomever actually moves in. It is a more clearly evil act to cash in on an opportunity that is guaranteed to betray people, whereas contributing to the overcrowding itself (as a human body taking up space) is merely a consequence of the evil act. In other words, it is worse to promote and instigate gentrification (as a landlord) than to play the role of a pawn (or newcomer) in the gentrification itself.

Now, those people directly moved or affected by the eviction problem have all the right to ration out their resent in any amounts and directions as they please. It just appears that maybe the greater share of the blame ought to be heaped on those eager to promote the availability of the Mission (all while undercutting the wellbeing of those already living here). The newcomers are merely the players in a game being refereed by the landlords. It’s a crappy game because the teams winning most of the time are the ones being protected by the refs.

 

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