The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project has come out with a number of visualization projects in the past year to document the trend of eviction in San Francisco, where rents have reached absurdly high levels and landlords have a greater incentive to oust longtime tenants.
Last year, the volunteer-based digital storytelling collective published a time-lapse visualization using San Francisco Rent Board data to plot Ellis Act evictions from the late-1990s to the present. It also published the names of landlords who were deemed to be serial evictors.
The collective’s latest digital storytelling project, a crowd-sourced map plotting narratives of displacement, goes beyond just data. Co-collaborators enter into longtime tenants’ homes, gaze into their lives, and dive into personal histories. The result is a tapestry of stories about the human beings who are departing from San Francisco due to eviction.
Much of the rhetoric around displacement trend and the lack of housing affordability in San Francisco has revolved around the idea of an endangered “soul of the city.” But that’s not an easy thing to conceptualize: How do we imagine the “soul” of a densely developed peninsula that’s home to more than 800,000 people, many with ties to far-flung nations, bound by city blocks and urban infrastructure?
This project might help define what's meant by that “soul,” by describing San Francisco through the lens of individual experience. Yasmin (a former San Franciscan who now lives in Oakland) expresses nostalgia for the days when she would regularly encounter queer women on the corner of 19th and Valencia. Stewart (who was displaced from his home in the Castro, but was able to find new housing there) describes his initial arrival to San Francisco, at a time when the AIDS epidemic was in full force. Nancy (who was evicted from Folsom and Cesar Chavez) describes how people in her Mission neighborhood stopped making eye contact as the character, class, and aesthetic of the area changed.
Displacement can affect residents who are being forced out, or those who are in San Francisco to stay – and the project organizers have invited anyone to contribute. People can post to the website directly, using the geolocation function to tag the place they want to focus on. According to a notice sent out by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project team, “this platform is intended for anyone to upload any story or anecdote that they observe or experience around gentrification. It does not have to be a loss of a home, though it could be.”
People who want to take part in the storytelling project can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or send an SMS to 1-772-200-4233 with *narrativesofdisplacement in the message.