Editor's Notes

The Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center pays rent, creates job, and has broad public support. So why was it evicted?



In the grand scheme of things — the $400 million budget deficit, the pending selection of a new mayor, that sort of thing — the eviction of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center doesn't sound like an earthshaking issue. The San Francisco Chronicle's C.W. Nevius (who is pretty much on the wrong side of everything these days) proclaimed last week that it was just a little neighborhood tiff, nothing to do with the soul of the city.

But it annoys me as much as anything that's happened this fall — and it says a lot about the way Gavin Newsom governs San Francisco and explains why so many of us will be so happy when he leaves town.

Let me come right out and say it: the HANC eviction is class warfare. It's not about the appropriate use of park land or the need for a community garden. It's about the fact that the mayor doesn't like poor people trundling through an upscale part of town with shopping carts full of recycling.

Let me quote what Rebecca Bowe wrote in a blog post at sfbg.com:

"In its current function, the HANC Recycling Center is empowering to many different kinds of people. Most aren't homeless. Tough-as-nails Asian grandmas show up with bags full of cans that they can exchange for some extra spending money. Urban gardeners purchase native plants in hopes of pleasing native insects and birds. People on fixed incomes get a small financial boost by turning in recyclables.

"A small number of HANC Recycling Center patrons do sleep outside. In order to earn small amounts of cash for things like food, many of them have to go digging around in garbage cans, which is gross and humiliating. Why would someone paw through the garbage for hours, battling bees and germs, and then haul smelly bottles uphill in a shopping cart just to make a few bucks? My guess is that it's to ward off desperation. They make their own work and they get to eat."

Let me focus on that last sentence for a second. As my friend Tiny at Poor Magazine likes to point out, being poor or homeless is a lot of work. Collecting cans, cashing them in, finding a way to survive on that minuscule income ... it's not easy. It takes as much effort and as many hours as most traditional full-time occupations.

But Newsom doesn't want poor people in his city. He doesn't want anyone bothering the wealthy. And he doesn't care about facts or the public sentiment.

City residents — those folks Nevius and Newsom love to celebrate — showed up in large numbers at the Recreation and Park Commission to oppose the closure. There's no logic to it at all; the center pays rent and creates jobs. The community gardens will cost money — and in the shade (where the center is located), it will be hard to grow much produce.

But never mind: Newsom got what he wanted. A city that will spend millions in public money on yacht races while making life on the streets that much meaner. Good riddance, Gav.