Reinventing San Francisco - Page 2

We need to make sure development isn't just code for finding new ways to gentrify neighborhoods and displace existing residents


Any serious vision for change must incorporate race and class dynamics. Consider the economic evisceration of much of the city's African American population, which has plummeted from 13.4 percent of the population in 1970 to just 6.5 percent today (more than 22,000 African Americans left the city between 1990 and 2008). The gutting of communities of color is intrinsically intertwined with issues of job and wage loss and soaring housing costs. This is particularly acute in the geographic and political dislocation of African Americans in San Francisco. Add to this picture intense overcrowding and poverty in Chinatown and in Latino and immigrant communities, and you get a set of inequities that are morally unacceptable and socially untenable.

Like other major American cities, San Francisco faces a crucial historical moment. Global warming and fast-dwindling oil supplies require a transformative shift in how we conceive (and implement) economic development far beyond the city's current piecemeal approach to "green procurement." The Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force, appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2007, concluded that a full 86 percent of San Francisco's energy use comes from fossil fuels, primarily petroleum and natural gas, and a small amount of coal. Given the world's fading oil supplies and mounting climate chaos, this is simply unsustainable.

The specter of a looming energy and environmental crisis, combined with economic instability marked by persistently high unemployment, rising income inequality, systemically entrenched homelessness, consumer debt, and the deepening crisis of cutbacks to critically needed human services and affordable housing call for a radical shift in how society — and San Francisco's economy — are run.

Transforming San Francisco into a truly sustainable city will mean dramatic shifts in what (and how) we produce and consume, and aggressive city policies that promote local renewable energy. Our economy — how our food, housing, transportation and other essential goods are made — will have to be rebuilt for a world without oil.

These and other limits mean we must redefine growth and profit—fast. Work and sustainability must become fully intertwined, and we must think creatively about how jobs can produce social and community value, instead of profits concentrated at the top.

Creating truly sustainable and equitable cities for the 21st century will also mean dramatic shifts in how we produce and consume. There is no better place to begin than here in San Francisco, long an incubator in progressive thinking and genuine grassroots action and innovation. In an earlier Community Congress in 1975, residents and groups from across San Francisco united in a movement of ideas and organizing that led to district supervisorial elections and successful campaigns to stem the tide of downtown corporate development, helping to democratize politics and economics in San Francisco.

The 2010 Community Congress is aimed at reinvigorating local movements for lasting change, both on the policy level and in the relationship between people and their government. We hope to inspire a spirited and creative shift in the city's culture and politics — with concrete, politically actionable policies to democratize planning and development and a more sweeping transformation of our expectations — toward a far richer and deeper engagement of people and communities in their own governance.




Calvin Welch has been paid to do this work for the past several decades. Over the past several years, Welch has folded for each and every profitable development scheme that the Newsom administration has cooked up. Since Calvin Welch has been paid to do this work, the position of working San Franciscans has fallen further and further behind.

Calvin Welch is the last person to whom San Franciscans should look for guidance on how to move forward because his fifteen minutes should have been up once he has failed to adapt to changing circumstances and others suffered for his arrogance.

None of what is to be discussed at these meetings will ever see the light of day until San Franciscans organize before, during and after elections to make it so.

Currently the between elections organizing is relegated to the "community based organizations" of the nonprofit constellation in San Francisco.

These nonprofits are dependent on City money and don't bite the hand that feeds them. The advocates frame their approach in terms favorable to the Mayor and bureaucracy. They also jealously guard their political territory to ensure that nobody else competes for the cash.

We've learned over the past decade that once elected, progressive pols need to be coerced into keeping their promises through organized force. It is the nonprofits who are sponsoring this event who have failed to follow through on that and are using events like this to mobilize to elect friendly supervisors who will continue to feed them through the add back process at the expense of moving the broader, non poverty progressive agenda.

"Imagine the world of the possible" sounds great until you realize that these people have been the ones who have refused to move on those goals for the past decade but still get paid.

Just like labor is realizing what happens when the spread between public employee compensation and benefits increases to unsustainable levels, so will the nonprofiteers see a similar day of reckoning when the coalition who benefits from their services dwindles past the point of political relevance, and they discover that San Francisco's reserves of liberal guilt have long since been depleted.

I warned labor years ago and was dismissed as anti labor. You all have been warned.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

Its hard not to be cynical, who is going to show up at this? The same old faces bemoaning developers, bankers, capitalism etc. I find it hard to believe that this will be a true Community Congress, when the majority of the community won't be there; most SF residence enjoy a good life style in SF because of capitalism.

Posted by Chris Pratt on Aug. 04, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

The answer from the "community" will be to do what they progressives have already done to drive away jobs, just more of it.

Posted by matlock on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:41 am

No cynicism here, just a fresh dose of reality slapping you in the face. We know that showing up with good ideas is not sufficient. If all you needed were good ideas, I'd be Mayor of San Francisco for life. No, it takes much more to deliver progressive policies. In order to bring progressive change, enough people must be mobilized after the election to give the electeds no other choice. Otherwise, corporate San Francisco will continue to succeed and push their policies in the other direction because they have more money that god and are working 25/8/366 to fuck us.

Nonprofit employees and their slim constituencies are not sufficient in numbers to effect this kind of change. Amongst the bulk of the progressive constituency, the reserves of liberal guilt have been depleted to nil. Tim Redmond's incessant hand wringing about how our electeds are folding early and often like chairs only digs us in deeper. Those who have a "good thing" under current deteriorating arrangements are loathe to embrace any steps which might cut them out of that "good thing."

Thus, instead of pleading for the plight of the most vulnerable, progressives are going to have to expand the scope of activism to include those who are not vulnerable yet who are excluded from the corporate governing coalition. This is basic mathematics.

Not only are the policy priorities going to have to accurately reflect the breadth of the progressive coalition so that constituents feel as if they're bought into the project as full and equal partners, but the door is going to need to be taken off of the hinges and the entire coalition is going to have to be invited in. Otherwise, the nonprofits will continue on their path to take the ship down with them so long as they get paid.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 05, 2010 @ 8:09 am

"Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity"

Posted by matlock on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 7:56 am

Can't you just skip these intermediary steps and move straight to the mass suicide?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

I agree with Marc on this - he says it all here.

Posted by mark on Aug. 13, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

Libertarian market chaos is not anarchy.

If similar disrespect were shown for the ideology of the poverty nonprofits or of whatever ideology drives the primacy of immigration as a local issue over other immigration issues (H1-B) or issues that directly effect voters, the professional left would be up in arms.

Apparently, pretending that immigration law does not exist does not qualify as anarchy to the leftist.

Anarchy would mean that communities would be able to take steps on their own to check bulbous accumulations of wealth that drive gentrification, private speculative property rights, what property rights?

Such intellectual disrespect lends credence to the notion that community congresses like these are organizing events thrown by latter day Leninists who think that they are of the vanguard and act on behalf of and in the interests of the vaunted working class. One nonprofiteer asked me how we would fund activism if not with city money through nonprofits? Indeed.

Anarchy also denies the validity of nation states and borders, so don't even go there.


Posted by marcos on Aug. 14, 2010 @ 9:27 am

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