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PART ONE Spatial Justice and the Right to the City: Conflicts around Access to Public Urban Space
Competing Claims to Housing and Public Space: Fighting Displacement in the Contemporary City

Resisting the Politics of Displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area: Anti-gentrification Activism in the Tech Boom 2.0

Florian Opillard

Abstract

Drawing from an ongoing ethnographic work in the Tenants Movement in San Francisco, this article seeks to analyze both the gentrification context and its activist response during the year 2014. After a wave of evictions that the city has had to face in the years 2000, now called the first tech-boom, signs indicate that in 2013 and 2014, a strong influx of capital through companies of the tech industry has driven the phenomenal surge of evictions, buyouts and tenants harassment in the city. Focusing on two of the activist collectives and organizations that intend to fight this now called “tech-boom 2.0”, I describe the practical ways in which organizing collectively from weekly meetings, marches, rallies leads to the design by a city-scale coalition of pieces of legislation that crystalize and structure the progressive forces in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

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  • 1  Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City (New York: Routledge, 1 (...)
  • 2  Loretta Lees, Tom Slater and Elvin Wyly, The Gentrification Reader, (New York: Routledge, 2010), 6 (...)
  • 3  Anne Clerval, “‘Gentrification or Ghetto’: Making Sense of an Intellectual Impasse,” Métropolitiqu (...)

1Since Neil Smith’s works on the Lower East Side as “New Urban Frontier”1 much has been said on gentrification processes and their contextual variations. The wide range of scholars who draw on the concept to refer to processes of social change, displacement, and dispossession, attests to its gains in legitimacy and applicability far beyond the American academic field.2 Yet we need to point to the issues which this increased use of gentrification as a lens for the study of urban processes tends to provoke. As Anne Clerval puts it, “the voices that defend a ‘positive’ interpretation of gentrification are in reality contributing to a depoliticization of the analyses of urban transformations, in favor of an interpretation in moral terms.”3 Is it possible then to remain critical of gentrification without washing the concept out of its contentious and political content? How can critical geography produce knowledge that does not end up being instrumentalized by the institutions it indeed denounces?

  • 4  Tracy Elsen, Tuesday, “For the Fourth Month Straight, SF's Median Rent Tops NY's”, Curbed San Fran (...)

2Along with its extended use, the word “gentrification” has become so related to San Francisco that it has become rare to read about one without the other: San Francisco is precisely one of the places that contributed to the spread of gentrification’s scope. Being one of the most gentrified cities in the United States and the most expensive to live in right before New York City,4 San Francisco is also well known today for facing a crisis often named a “tech boom 2.0.” The recent developments, which occurred in the past three years, mostly concern the structuring of an “anti-displacement movement” in the city, supposedly driven by an unprecedented surge of capital through the installation of well paid “tech workers” from the Silicon Valley. The activists who have already fought the “first tech boom” in the late 1990’s appear today as a structuring mosaic of individuals, anti-eviction direct action groups, artistic and mapping collectives, and non-profits slowly building up political power and visibility.

  • 5  Loretta Lees defined super-gentrification in the Journal of Urban Studies in 2003 as the “transfor (...)
  • 6  Setting its reality into published words may appear as a form of betrayal of the constantly evolvi (...)
  • 7  Michael Burawoy, “The Extended Case Method,” Sociological Theory 16, no.1 (March 1998): 4-33.
  • 8  Catherine Neveu, “Démocratie participative et mouvements sociaux : entre domestication et ensauvag (...)
  • 9  This article borrows from the author’s PhD in the making: “A Comparative Ethnography of Anti-gentr (...)

3It is precisely the building of that collective cohesion in the recent San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition (SFADC) that this research seeks to explore, drawing from both San Francisco’s hyper-gentrification context5 and its boiling political activism milieu.6 It advocates for an analysis of the city’s gentrification processes displacing the researcher himself or herself from a distant observer to a participant observer, from a producer of abstract and objective knowledge to a co-producer of situated and contextual savoir-faire.7 This shift in the researcher’s position as an actor of social movements allows this analysis to reconstruct the process of gentrification and resistance to it from a day-to-day perspective. Therefore, gentrification and resistance are not seen as distinct and isolated social phenomena that develop independently. In the case of San Francisco, although they are often depicted as the two sides of a Class War 2.0, they both shape one another through complex relations of power, including domination, domestication or dissension,8 that materialize in both public spaces and the public sphere. These relations of power are the battlefields that this study of resistance to loss and displacement analyzes, concentrating on the recent emergence of a citywide coalition.9

4This article first describes the way in which the current entanglement of the city-scale neoliberal policies and a strong influx of capital from the tech industry is building up San Francisco’s Tech Boom 2.0. This context is secondly approached through the lens of ethnographic work among two of the most active and recent activist groups in the Tenants Movement, from their meetings to their actions in public spaces. Finally, this article attempts to offer an overview of the movement’s political outcome along with its scale shift from San Francisco to the Bay Area.

1. Is San Francisco’s Gentrification a Tech Boom 2.0?

5San Francisco’s social movement has made quite a lot of noise these past months in the local and national media. The “anti-tech” movement, as many activists and reporters called it, seems to have gained visibility since activists started blocking Google and Facebook private shuttles, among others. The debate over the goal of the movement – to fight the “tech takeover” or to stop displacement – has been focused on the role that tech corporations play in the city’s hyper gentrification. From this debate emerged the name of the current phase of gentrification: the Tech Boom 2.0. In this section of the article, I will first try to contextualize the debate over the role of the tech industry in the process of gentrification in San Francisco. The first tech boom in the years 2000 will serve as a precedent for both displacement and the organizing against the tech industry. I will then draw attention to the differences between these two episodes and point out the material and symbolic changes that the city is currently experiencing. I will finally account for the politics that fuel such a process, focusing on the question of the memory of the displacees.

1.1 A Tech Boom 2.0?

  • 10  The city of San Francisco started releasing in 2009 data through the Housing Elements, revealing t (...)
  • 11  Smith, The New Urban Frontier,288.
  • 12  Karl Beitel, Local Protest, Global Movements: Capital, Community, and State in San Francisco (Phil (...)

6In many discussions between activists in meetings, around a coffee or even in the documents written by their organizations, references to the dot-com boom in the year 2000 are very common. Not only is the dot com boom the last crisis that is still remembered by the many who were displaced and who fought displacement, but it is also a common reference called upon to measure today’s social crisis in the city. It is thus very important to understand this first crisis as a measurement standard that orientates the debates over the magnitude of today’s tech boom. The famous speculative bubble that grew at the end of the 1990’s fueled much investment in the Bay Area, and more particularly in the city of San Francisco. At the time, entrepreneurs and computer software designers rushed to the city with the goal of making easy money by starting an Internet company. In a city where more than 60% of housing is renter occupied and where districts like the Mission and Chinatown concentrate low and very low income populations,10 the sociology of these workers was quite homogeneous and often differed from that of the people already living in the city: young white and single entrepreneurs with no children, what the acronym Yuppies, for young urban professionals, summed-up at the time. According to the activists’ narratives, the anger against the Yuppies grew, as the rush for easy money became a rush for commercial space. Mostly, this space was found in the South of Market (SOMA) district and in the Mission District, two of the remaining working-class districts of the city. Finding space there was accomplished by a phenomenal rise in evictions of Latino and working-class tenants who did not seem to be as profitable for landlords as the young entrepreneurs would be. The cohabitation between old and new residents became harder as spatial proximity highlighted the social, cultural, and economic gap. Regardless of the actual solidarities within the existing communities, new residents often saw the possibility of moving into the Mission as both daring and risky as they confronted the city’s new urban frontier.11 The community’s response to these waves of evictions is still exemplary today for its strength and visibility. In the Mission, the building of a strong coalition called the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition is still taken as an example of vigorous community organizing against gentrification, as it brought together a wide variety of actors and revealed strong ties between community organizers, local activists and artists.12

  • 13  See the tax-break by the numbers at Eve Batey in News on Jun 24, 2014 (10:53 am), “San Francisco's (...)
  • 14  The debate over the political decision regarding the Private Shuttle Program would also exemplify (...)

7What, then, do the dot-com boom and the current tech boom have in common? The 1996 election of Mayor Willie Brown – a powerful businessman and free market advocate –resonates with the election of Edwin Lee, the current Mayor, often referred to by local activists as “one of the most pro-tech mayors that the city’s ever had.” The parallel can also be made for the Board of Supervisors, whose political orientation was contested in 2000 by the progressive coalition in the ballot. One of the best examples of the current pro-tech policy of the mayor and Board of Supervisors is, undoubtedly, the Twitter tax-break approved in 2011. It exempts Twitter from paying about 22 million dollars payroll tax over six years13 on the condition that the corporation settles its office space in Mid-Market. As a result, the Mid-Market and the SOMA districts experienced dramatic changes over the past 3 years. The rapid accumulation of capital and the installation of a residential economy around new offices forced the already distressed, existing communities out, along with the rush of engineers brought to the city center by their company’s private shuttle service.14 Yet, comparable as it may be to the one in the 2000s, the current social crisis seems to differ widely when it comes to fighting back. According to a local activist who fought the first boom:

  • 15  Anti-eviction Mapping Project’s meeting, San Francisco Tenants Union, February 2014.

During the first boom, things were pretty clear and straightforward: evictions intended to find office space for a given startup using the Ellis Act, everything was on the table. Today, we’re not only facing Ellis Act evictions, but the number of buyouts and the strategies employed by obscure companies make it way harder to fight back!15

8Resulting from an unprecedented capital influx, the rapid gentrification of the city seems a lot harder to grasp for activists slowly building power on a local scale: tenants simply cannot afford the time to mobilize. Another reason is the complexity of the speculation process itself. The following sections will attempt to deconstruct this process as well as its political implications.

1.2 The Politics of Displacement, Spatial Reinvention and Forgetting

9There is a misinterpretation in the way that the media spread the “anti-tech” discourse. This leads the reader to think that the gentrification process mainly sets its origins in the rush of tech workers in the city, hence accusing them of displacing “real San Franciscans” and implying that tech workers do not belong in the category. This debate misleads us on both the gentrification process and the communication strategy that the social movement produces. In San Francisco, real estate developers take advantage of the rent gap that the surge of rich engineers participates in creating, making a “quick buck”16 out of rent controlled housing. Instated for the apartments built before 1979, rent control is a non-renewable resource that is often bypassed by developers through the use of the Ellis Act, a state law that allows the owner of a building to get out of the rental market, on the condition that they take out all of their properties of the same building at once. The loophole in the Ellis Act – no justification is needed to use the Ellis Act – allows corporations to buy entire buildings, Ellis Act all the tenants, remodel and sell each apartment piece by piece as luxury “condos,” thus exempting them from rent control. Taking advantage of the legislation, some real estate developers have made the use of the Ellis Act their business model, entering and exiting the rental market several times. The case of Elba Borgen, one of what the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project calls the “dirty speculators” lightens the speculation process through the use of the Ellis Act (Figure 1). Elba Borgen is accused, by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project to have used the Ellis Act 27 times under her name and under the name of a Real Estate company to evict tenants from apartments she previously bought since 2001.17

Figure 1

Figure 1

“A Revolving Door of Evictions.” The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s visual of Elba Borgen’s itinerary on San Francisco’s rental market. Source: http://tenantstogether.org/​downloads/​Ellis%20Act%20Report.pdf

  • 18  Ellis Act Report.

10“The Speculator Loophole: Ellis Act Evictions in San Francisco,” a report released by the non-profit Tenants Together and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, stresses that 79% of the Ellis Act evictions in 2013 concerned properties that were bought 5 years earlier or less (Figure 2).18

Figure 2

Figure 2

“Percentage of Ellis Evictions by Ownership Length, 2013” Source: http://tenantstogether.org/​downloads/​Ellis%20Act%20Report.pdf

11The analysis of the speculation processes through the Ellis Act, which leads only a small part of the total number of evictions, is nevertheless only the tip of the iceberg. The number of owners proposing buyouts to their tenants is both harder to evaluate and much higher, and that is a notable difference between the years 2000 and today. Buyouts are said to have skyrocketed since 2006 with the city’s attempt to regulate the condominium conversions following an Ellis Act. As the Anti-Eviction Mapping puts it:

Since [2006, buyouts] have skyrocketed, with landlords using the threat of an Ellis eviction as a club to coerce tenants into taking a buyout. In addition, by threatening and Ellis eviction and bullying the tenant into a buyout, landlords can also avoid the restrictions on re-rental which are attached to Ellis evictions and re-rent the apartment at a much higher rent.19

  • 20  Smith, The New Urban Frontier, 23.
  • 21  Nancy Raquel Mirabal, “Geographies of Displacement: Latina/os, Oral History, and the Politics of G (...)
  • 22  Ibid.,17.
  • 23  See the Internet website: http://cleanuptheplaza.com/, accessed June 8, 2015.
  • 24  See Jennifer Rosdail’s website for a description of the “quadsters” at Jennifer Rosdail, “The quad (...)

12In this current context, gentrification is harder to objectify and therefore much easier to depict as immanent to an uncontrollable market economy. On the contrary, and as Smith puts it, “gentrification is not random; developers do not just plunge into the heart of slum opportunity, but tend to take it piece by piece.” Smith describes how these developers have a “vivid block-by-block sense of where the frontier lies,”20 making them well aware strategists for the bleaching of the city. Cleaner and whiter, cleaner because whiter, whiter therefore cleaner, “bleaching” designates the fact that, as Nancy Raquel Mirabal puts it referring to Chester Hartman, “urban renewal and the politics of space are connected to the preservation of whiteness. When it comes to gentrification, whiteness holds currency. […] In other words, creating spaces where white bodies and desires and, most importantly, consumption, dominate and shape the neighborhood.”21 These politics of space are well known in San Francisco as most of the African American migrants have already been displaced out of the city, and as the Latino community has been experiencing displacement with much violence since the 1970s. Yet, the process by which space can be made available for consumption by white bodies is not natural either. Rather, “[f]or the collective memory of space to be reconstituted, there needs to be a mutual forgetting of what came before the constructions of new buildings, restaurants, and businesses.”22 These politics of forgetting are systematically accompanied by politics of “spatial reinvention” along with the promotion of the “new” over existing communities of color. In San Francisco, the examples of spatial reinvention are very common, from the social cleansing operation “Clean up the Plaza” in the heart of the Mission23 to the renaming of the Mission as “The Quad – A Newly Defined Metahood” by a real estate agent.24

1.3 Old and New Landscapes of Power: The Material and Symbolic Shifts in Gentrifying San Francisco

  • 25  Sharon Zukin, Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World (Oakland: University of California (...)

13Drawing on Sharon Zukin’s notion of “Landscapes of Power,”25 this part will insist on the way in which changes affect every dimension of everyday life in a context of hyper gentrification. The example of the Mission District will be used to analyze the dramatic changes that illustrate the tensions at play in the city between local cultural capital (the Latino community), the influx of capital through urban motilities (the surge of engineers) and global financial capital (real estate speculation strategies). These elements contribute to shifts that can be witnessed in the landscape which embodies the struggles over the material and symbolic appropriation and control over space.

14There is a striking dichotomy in the Mission District that reveals at multiple scales the progressive shift that the district is experiencing. Walking along Valencia Street, one can point out the contrasts with Mission Street, the parallel street 50 meters away. Valencia street is dotted with small vibrant businesses: curiosities shops, minimalist style coffee shops,26 clothing stores that make holding a PhD a requirement for their models,27 modern design sound system stores and concept stores. The co-owner of the said sound system store, a young binational French-US citizen entrepreneur described his work as “an ephemeral project. I just decided to help a friend rebuild this place for the store to function. […] I don’t really know what I’ll be doing in 3 months: the project’s almost over and… you know, you gotta move on.” When asked about the kind of people who buy devices in the store, he described the clients as “mainly rich locals, young entrepreneurs that can afford it. Tourists just stop by and take a peak, but that’s it.”28 In this whole part of the Mission, white bodies are wandering, buying, relaxing or bicycling. Fifty meters from there, on Mission Street and towards the south of the Mission, one enters the Latino Mission with its taquerias, its murals glorifying the community’s struggles for social justice, its Latino community centers, and most importantly its dwellers’ brown bodies.

  • 29  A Berkeley study by Alexandra Goldman analyses that rents have gone up 20% around bus stops: Alexa (...)
  • 30  To carry the metaphor further, see the movie Boom, the Sound of Evictions, available online at htt (...)
  • 31  This website gathers information about Alex Nieto’s murder: http://justice4alexnieto.org/,  last a (...)
  • 32  Julia Carrie Wong, “The Battle of 16th and Mission: Inside the Campaign to “Clean up” the Plaza an (...)

15The making of this socio-spatial fracture happens both in an insidious and a sudden way that punctuates everyday life. Insidious is the constant condo-conversion process that is transforming the landscape of Victorian facades into luxury six-story secure live-work buildings, as well as the progressive rarefaction of warehouses and working class jobs. Along with this background noise of social shift, the rhythm of the Private Shuttles, endlessly stopping at public stops or jamming traffic is a constant reminder of tenants’ evictions in the making.29 Finally, the evictions,30 the controversial killing of Alex Nieto by the SFPD in Bernal Heights on March 21, 2014,31 the arrest of activists on the fringes of marches are the sudden cymbal crashes that shake or mobilize both the activists and their communities. They are pieces that add up to the progressive social cleansing and criminalization of poverty in the city, of which the current fight over Plaza 16 is the most striking. This Plaza is located in the north of the Mission, at the intersection of Mission, 16th Street and the BART. It is today subject to a debate over the campaign to “Clean up the Plaza,” started by a coalition of merchants, business owners and neighbors fed up with “the blight of this corner,” advocating for a “better access to safe, clean and walkable transportation corridors.” This group came along with a ten-story condo development project allowed by the Planning Commission. This development is seen as a means for the city to support the displacement of poverty along with its ugliness – i.e. the “junkies, ‘smash and grab’ thieves who prey on parked cars, prostitutes, the mentally ill, the substance addicted, and assorted other criminals and lost souls,”32 – which the 24/7 presence of a police car right next to the plaza has already started doing.

2. From Chats to Discourses, from Meetings to Marches, from Bodies to Performances: Entering the Activism Milieu

  • 33  Lees, Slater, and Wyly, Gentrification,344.

16How can one resist to such a hyper-gentrification context33? The following developments borrow from fieldwork interviews and participant observation done with two specific collectives that intend to fight the processes of gentrification: Eviction Free San Francisco and the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. While some of their members participate in both groups, their functions seem distinct but complementary and coherent with the structuring of a growing Tenants Movement.

2.1 Two Cases of Group Styles

  • 34  Nina Eliasoph and Paul Lichterman, “Culture in Interaction,” American Journal of Sociology 18, no. (...)

17The study of activism in the context of neoliberal urban policies appears key to understanding the frames of a social movement in the making. One of these frames – the definition, function and actions of the groups in which activism is shaped – can be investigated through the lens of  “group styles.” As defined by Nina Eliasoph and Paul Lichterman, group styles are “recurrent patterns of interaction that arise from a group’s shared assumptions about what constitutes good or adequate participation in the group setting,”34 they participate in shaping individual activist trajectories, they ground the Tenants Movement in the day to day embededness of capitalist patterns of domination.

  • 35  See the group’s website: https://evictionfreesf.org/?page_id=5, last accessed June 8, 2015.
  • 36  This expression is used in meetings to designate the list of speakers created to facilitate the me (...)

18Eviction Free San Francisco (EFSF) is a mutual help and direct action group that seeks to “hold accountable and to confront real estate speculators and landlords that are displacing our communities for profit.”35 The meetings usually gather twenty to thirty people. The backbone of the group is composed of five people, who created the collective in the summer of 2013; they prepare the meeting agendas, take stacks36 in meetings and debate on the propositions to submit to a vote. Most of them have known each other for some time now and participate in several activist collectives and projects. Some of them are professional organizers (e.g. working for the Housing Rights Committee) while others are participating as volunteers. Many of them are tenants fighting their own eviction or having fought it in the past and who are willing to give back. The collective is open to anyone who wants to participate, and everyone attending the meeting gets to vote on the propositions made, with the condition that the discussions occurring during the meeting cannot be made public. Journalists are therefore kindly asked to manifest themselves and leave.

19At the beginning of each meeting, the facilitator enunciates the “meeting culture (ground rules),” which everyone is invited to follow (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Figure 3

Eviction Free San Francisco’s meeting Ground Rules and Meeting Culture, April 2014. Credits: Florian Opillard.

  • 37  Eliasoph and Lichterman, “Culture in Interaction,” 735.

20These rules specifically show the group’s preoccupation with the reproduction of society’s intersectional structures of domination (race, sex, and class) within the group. They invite structurally dominated and silent minorities to step up. The willingness to challenge structures of domination within the group itself makes it necessary to clearly define the meeting agenda, the time devoted to each item and to take stacks. Such a structure creates a safe and designated space for structurally oppressed and silenced minorities to take up their own right to speech. It is not rare to witness harassed tenants both describe the symbolic violence which they face every day and express their gratitude towards the group. Unlike Eliasoph and Lichterman, who point to the existence of “Language of Expressive Individualism” and “Active Disaffiliation” in civic groups,37 I argue that the EFSF is best characterized by the language of individual restraint and group celebration, along with a discrete but active affiliation. In each meeting, group celebration is expressed on two occasions: at the beginning of each meeting when the group comments on the past actions, and at the end of the meeting, when each participant gets to express their own feelings about the group. For that matter, while this moment could be the peak of individual expression, people tend to shirk their own interest and declare their willingness to help for the benefit of the group.

  • 38  See the group’s website: https://antievictionmap.squarespace.com/about/, last accessed June 8, 201 (...)

21The second group that this research focuses on differs in its organization and its aims. The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project (AMP) is a “data-visualization, data analysis, and digital storytelling collective documenting the dispossession of San Francisco Bay Area residents. The project seeks to de-isolate those displaced and act as a tool for collective resistance.”38

  • 39  Stanford students made a San Francisco Eviction Story Map with the collaboration of Erin McElroy: (...)
  • 40  This group defines itself as an “open membership hackerspace. . . . interested in and working towa (...)

22The collective rarely gathers all of its members in one place. It is composed of approximately sixty people in total, many of whom occasionally give a hand, grant an interview, help encoding or organizing the collected data. The bonds between the participants are therefore difficult to capture, and often maintain blurry as a strategy. The group and its activities revolve largely around its main figure, Erin McElroy, an experienced activist close to the anarchist circles who dedicates her time and energy to the cohesion of the collective’s branches and communication with universities,39 city institutions or the press. The division of labor is, therefore, fairly easy to read: while “the tech guys” encode the website or make the maps at the SudoRoom40 in Oakland, another group generally meets in the Tenants Union’s building to discuss ongoing projects. While the EFSF is composed of many tenants with low economic capital, the AMP comprises mostly highly educated and politicized young activists, all of them aware of both the part they play in the gentrification process and the ways to fight it.

  • 41  Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (New York: Harper and R (...)

23Unlike the EFSF, the meeting culture in the AMP is not stated at the beginning of each meeting. Once again, it is very rare to witness people putting their individual interests before the ones of the group: people are invited to propose their skills to the group, be it encoding, networking, mapping, distributing surveys. Yet, “negative experiences”41 are not unheard of: during a meeting, a 45-year-old white man who expected to be given some interesting work to do as a cameraman explained: “I just want to say right away that I feel like this project is not going the way I think would be profitable for me, because some people are calling dibs. I don’t want to have to deal with the leftovers.” By expressing his frustration, this person put himself before the group and felt the pressure of the others, all agreeing on the fact that both the primary frame (conducting a meeting) and the secondary frame (building political tools and raising awareness) were broken: this “white privileged male who has a high idea of himself and of his work,” as described by a member of the meeting, interrupted it by transgressing the speech norms.

2.2. Repertories of Contention

  • 42  Tilly’s “repertoires of contention” refer to a set of contextual tools that groups and individuals (...)

24Along with the analysis of group styles, the analysis of the repertories of contention42 of the two organizations reveals the groups’ complementarity: while the AMP blows the whistle on “dirty landlords and serial evictors,” the EFSF focuses on their direct targeting and “public shaming.” The circulations of activists in both groups and their close relationships might explain their working together. Yet, it seems that, although six people are consistently participating in the work of both collectives, they belong to distinct activism patterns and traditions.

  • 43  Beitel, Local Protest,220.
  • 44  Interview with Rebecca Gourevitch, March 22, 2014.
  • 45  For a complete description of the event, see the group’s website: https://evictionfreesf.org/?p=15 (...)

25As a direct action group, the EFSF exemplifies anti-capitalistic community activism, which is deeply rooted in the city’s political history since the 1950s.43 Rebecca Gourevitch, an activist working for the Tenants Union and the EFSF, explained the influence of the Occupy movement, from which many of the current collectives in the Bay Area derive. The EFSF “first meetings started just like Occupy,” in 2013, as the Anti-Displacement Coalition fought the eviction of Mrs. Lee’s family a 74-year-old Chinese-speaking lady, who became the very icon of the movement.44 The fight over cases of evictions mostly revolves around three modes of action: protesting in public spaces, rallying, and publicly denouncing “greedy” landlords and speculators. Protesting is probably the most common and the least specific action that the EFSF implements. The group holds several meetings prior to the protest in the Tenants Union’s house on Capp Street, setting date and time, banners and signs, itinerary and speakers. The march organized on April 12, 2014, “To End Displacement of San Francisco’s Educators”45 is a great example of the logistics of such a protest. Noting that more and more teachers were coming to the group to report their own eviction, the group decided to combine a Google Bus blockade with a march making several stops to highlight cases of eviction in the Mission. In this case, the activists employed spatial strategies to direct the media attention to the bus blockade and the march. The discussions in the preparation meetings insisted on space as both a frame and a strategic tool for the activists to master: the knowledge of the streets, the limitation of their visibility prior to the blockade and the necessary occupation of space with enough bodies to block the street revealed a necessary control over public space. Along with protests, the EFSF’s more specific mode of action consists in launching campaigns to publicly discredit “greedy landlords” responsible for the eviction of tenants by giving out their names, addresses, phone and fax numbers, and encouraging activists to drive out to their home and talk them out of evicting. This mode of action is often considered radical by the local media, since the publication of names and addresses points fingers at individuals who are not considered responsible for their company’s policies.

  • 46  Although a significant increase in police presence was felt during the march after the police murd (...)

26Despite its actions, the group has not so far dealt with significant police pressure,46 although the protests in public spaces are never made official. Rather, the itineraries are often negotiated on site with police officers in charge, making it possible for the 300 people to protest and block the streets.

  • 47  All the maps referred to are available on their website, at https://antievictionmap.squarespace.co (...)
  • 48  Interview with Erin McElroy, February 18, 2014.

27The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s modes of action correspond to the pattern of tech activism, specific to the Bay Area, and most of its activities are implemented by the activist milieu of the East Bay. Using technology as a tool to implement and empower community activism, the group makes maps, using both their own collected data and the available data on evictions and housing ownership. The first and most visible project that the group implemented was the No-Fault Evictions and the Ellis Act Evictions Maps.47 Erin McElroy insists on the use of maps as tools to “show a chronology and an accumulation of evictions [,] to be able to say: ‘what does this represent over time in terms of the destruction of our neighborhood.’”48 In fact, the two maps below have had a great resonance in the Tenants Movement. They identify areas that are being struck the most by the displacement of tenants (Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4

San Francisco Ellis Act Evictions map by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. Source: http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/​ellis.html.

28Along with the mapping, the group investigates landlords who “make evictions their business models,” as claimed repeatedly during the protests. The group has edited three main lists of “dirty landlords”: the Dirty Dozen – Worst Evictors, Dirty Thirty – Evicting the Disabled and Elderly and the Dirty 2.0 – Tech Evictors. These lists mobilize the volunteers to research the practices of landlords and companies that evict for profit, collecting personal and professional information and spreading their photos in the media. Giving a face to the processes of evictions – a tactic shared by the EFSF – contributes to deconstructing the anonymity of the state and corporate apparatuses, which dissolve and fragment political responsibility. Lastly, the group distributed more than two hundred surveys to get in touch with displaced tenants and build the Oral History Project. Those who were willing to go further were contacted to tell more about their eviction and be recorded. Prior to the interviews, the volunteers in the group attended a workshop on oral history held by an activist and trained oral historian from the CUNY Graduate Center. The “Narratives of Displacement and Loss” map collects and geolocalizes oral stories of evictions; it aims to grasp the emotional and memorial thickness of space and place,49 and to fight the politics of renaming evoked earlier.50

29Both collectives appear as two components that bring their own activist culture and their group style to the growing San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition. They bring small victories and participate in building a common political discourse over spatially fragmented fights. In the last section of this article, the analysis of the structuring of this coalition will lead to a scale shift from San Francisco to the Bay Area.

3. Political Outcome of a Growing Political Coalition

  • 51  Rachel Brahinsky, “The Death of the City? Reports of San Francisco’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exag (...)

30In what ways can the above description of two of the most recent and dynamic groups of the forming coalition shed light on both the recent turns in the gentrification processes and the local communities’ responses? According to Rachel Brahinsky, “The “Google bus,” which is what people in the Bay Area call the mass of private, tech commuter buses that fill the rush-hour streets, is not essentially the problem. In fact, it may be the seed of the solution.”51 Precisely because it is provocative, Brahinsky’s assertion might be the key to an analysis of the current situation: the community response to the political, material and symbolic processes of dispossession that tenants are facing, despite its micro-scale fights, has gained significant power and coverage in the latest months.

3.1 The Building of the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition

31On February 7, 2014, after a series of Neighborhood Tenants Conventions, the Tenderloin Community School hosted the biggest Citywide Tenants Convention that the city had seen in years. Many important figures of the now official “Tenants Movement” spoke on the microphone, some of them obviously at ease in front of such a big audience, like Erin McElroy, or Ted Gullicksen, director of the Tenants Union. After some organizers spoke about the importance of continuing the fight to stay in their homes, came Mrs. Lee’s time to speak, who claimed that she would not go away and would rather be taken out of her home by the sheriff in person. Six of the eleven city supervisors were present: Calvin Welsh, a famous figure of the tenants’ fights since the 70’s; Randy Shaw, the director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic; and other political figures and journalists, including a French and a British team. The outcomes of this convention were discussed through the vote on the propositions that the Anti-Displacement Coalition could pass on to the Board of Supervisors. One of them, called the Real Estate Sales Tax, was likely to gain support among the activists in the forthcoming months, “and if the board doesn’t vote it, then we’ll pass it through the ballot in November!” said Sara Shorts, the executive director of the Housing Rights Committee. This convention appears to have laid the first stone of a complex and hierarchized structure, the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition, which gathered tenants on many occasions: it rallied to Sacramento to push Mark Leno’s bill in State Assembly (February 18), pushed David Campos’ Relocation Bill for victims of the Ellis Act (March 17), marched to denounce the police murder of Alex Nieto in Bernal Heights (March 29), or marched in the Mission to fight Benito Santiago’s eviction (April 2nd). This coalition, although it benefits from the experience accumulated by both the organizing and the activism milieu, is not per se a territorial organization. It is rather composed of distinct groups which converged in the political fight for Proposition G (real estate sales tax) in the ballot initiative, and which are planning to do so on November 2015’s ballot.

32The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Eviction Free San Francisco are a part of this coalition; both are based in the Mission district, where the fight against loss and displacement is historically strong. The Tenants Union, whose famous fighter for tenants rights and former Director Ted Gullicksen passed away in November 2014, acts as one of the main territorial resources of many gravitating groups: it offers a workspace, material and technical support (mainly to the EFSF and the AMP) in the Mission district, legal resources by editing the Tenants Handbook and volunteer tenants counseling. The Housing Rights Committee, another “housing clinic,” provides space for direct action meetings, sign making and tenants’ legal support, backs the Tenants Union in its missions. More than that, these two organizations appear as a crucible for young housing activists and organizers who learn from years of fighting experience and political fights by gravitating in these sociability circles. Other organizations like Our Mission No Eviction and Causa Justa: Just Cause handle work that is more specifically directed towards and led by black and Latino residents, while the Chinatown Community Development Corporation actively supports the Chinese community. Before the campaign for Proposition G on the Ballot, the coalition rarely appeared as a united front on punctual marches or rallies. Rather, each organization would individually take on their own part and coordinate with each other, making the coalition a communicational and juridical entity heading the fight in City Hall and on the Board of Supervisors.

3.2 From Public Spaces to the Public Sphere: Debates in the Media through the Political Agenda

  • 52  A description of one of them can be found in SF Gate’s report: http://www.sfgate.com/technology/ar (...)
  • 53  Reports are often twisted and focus on the issues rather than the bridges that already exist betwe (...)
  • 54  See Erin McElroy’s publications: Erin McElroy and Kelsey Gilmore Innis, “Tech Workers and the Evic (...)

33The tenants’ fight in City Hall, on the Board of Supervisors and in the streets is precisely what has been drawing so much media and political attention in the past year. Starting with the Occupy movement in 2011, from which many of today’s activist sociability networks emanate, the fight over loss and displacement continually grew as both the number of evictions, buyouts and tenant harassment cases exploded, and as the tech shuttles became a crystallizing fight. The first bus blockades in November 2013, organized by Heart of the City Collective, rapidly spread the word of transnational corporations such as Google or Facebook targeting the Bay Area. They also contributed to the construction of an “anti-tech” discourse along with the spreading of the icon of the “techie,” an image of the self-centered libertarian tech employee making the Bay Area their playground. This term has nevertheless been challenged for its lack of complexity, a reproach some of the members of the movement have acknowledged by participating in encounters52 between employees of tech companies and the main organizations described here. These encounters were at first rarely mentioned in the media,53 since the need for a loud and clear political message fuels the construction of reified categories. It is only after some of leading activists started publishing pieces in the media that the discourse started to complexify,54 and, along with it, the political fights at the city and state level.

34In San Francisco, David Campos, supervisor of the Mission district, is at the front of the fight for tenants’ rights. Through the support of Tenants Organizations, he introduced a bill at the Board of Supervisors in April 2014 that proposed to increase the relocation fee for any tenant evicted through the use of the Ellis Act. The board voted on this proposition after Scott Weiner, supervisor of the Castro, insisted on making sure that the fee would not have a dissuasive effect on what he called “mom and pop” landlords. In fact, this measure is meant to help tenants who are being evicted with a short-term notice face the cost of eviction, although Campos clearly states  that Limited Liability Corporations which use the Ellis Act as a tool for speculation would not have a hard time bypassing the measure.

35The November 2014’s Ballot Initiative is another example of the political outcome of the SFADC’s organizing. Proposition G emerged after a series of Tenants Conventions held in 2014. This proposition intended to dissuade speculators from flipping properties by taxing the profits of each real estate sale,55 a measure that Harvey Milk had already introduced in 1978. Although the proposition was defeated in the Ballot (No: 53.91% ; Yes: 46.09%), a much bigger fight the fight over proposition G gave a clear image of the political forces  battling over San Francisco’s housing crisis as it crystallized progressive forces in the city. Maria Zamudio, organizer at Causa Justa: Just Cause and strong advocate for Proposition G, states that “While it did not win this year, Prop G was a part of a larger progressive narrative that did win.”56 This movement may actually have achieved more than simply the creation of a progressive narrative, or maybe the narrative itself has material effects that activists are currently witnessing. Gen Fujioka, in the online journal 48Hills, released on January 5, 2015, provides an analysis 57 of the Ellis Act evictions showing that while the number of evictions had been increasing dramatically from 2010 to 2013, the number of units withdrawn from the rental marked through the use of the Ellis Act significantly slowed down during the last months of 2014 (Figures 5 and 6).

Figure 5

Figure 5

Annual rate of rental units officially withdrawn under Ellis Act – 2010-2013. Source: http://48hillsonline.org/​2015/​01/​04/​facing-eviction-threat-tenants-push-back-slow-ellis-evictions-2014/​

Figure 6

Figure 6

Annual rate of rental units officially withdrawn under Ellis Act – 2013-14. Source: http://48hillsonline.org/​2015/​01/​04/​facing-eviction-threat-tenants-push-back-slow-ellis-evictions-2014/​

3.3 From San Francisco to the Bay Area

  • 58  James Tracy, Dispatches against Displacement: Field Notes from San Francisco’s Housing Wars (Oakla (...)
  • 59  Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s website, http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/chiu.html, last (...)
  • 60  See Professor Corey Cook’s Twitter account: https://twitter.com/CoreyCookUSF/media, last accessed (...)

36The fight against the Ellis Act, and more generally against displacement in San Francisco, is nevertheless not limited to the city itself, and through the year 2014, a series of political fights crystallized progressive forces and indicated a scale shift in their organizing from the city of San Francisco to the Bay Area and the State of California. Two of the fights that put San Francisco on the state scene are the fight over California’s seventeenth state assembly district and Mark Leno’s bill to reform the Ellis Act in State assembly. Although both fights ended up as defeats for progressives, they both indicate the importance of the recent organizing and activism pushed by what James Tracy called “organizations […] that resuscitated the art of disruptive action in confronting displacement,”58 among which are the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Eviction Free San Francisco. In the fight over a State Assembly’s seat, another democrat joined David Campos in the race: David Chiu, President of the Board of Supervisors. Whereas David Campos was largely supported by labor organizations (second source of donations after small Real Estate developers), the AMP has shown that David Chiu received 26% of his donations from “large Real Estate developers” and “problematic donors”59 and raised twice as much in campaign donations. The fight was, therefore, presented as the one of David against Goliath. The maps drawn by Professor Corey Cook from the University of San Francisco60 reveal the territorial dimension of the vote (Figures 7 and 8):

Figure 7

Figure 7

June 2014 Primary Election map – David Campos

Figure 8

Figure 8

June 2014 Primary Election map – David Chiu

  • 61  Randy Shaw, “Rally at State Capitol Ignites Ellis Act Teform,” Beyond Chronicle, last modified Feb (...)

37Along with the clear orientation of the endorsers, the geography of the vote reveals that the stakes of this battle over State Senate are clearly marked between real estate developers in downtown San Francisco and the housing advocates voters in the Mission, the Haight and the Tenderloin. The same goes for the fight in the State Senate for Mark Leno’s Bill that intended to allow the city of San Francisco to locally reform the Ellis Act, making it impossible for landlords to evict tenants through the use of the Ellis Act in the 5 years following the purchase of a given property. An important local campaign allowed Mark Leno’s bill to go to the State Senate, mobilizing many organizing and activist groups, along with statewide organizations such as Tenants Together or the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). One of the big points of this campaign was certainly the Renters day of Action on February 19, 2014, a rally that brought more than 500 tenants to State Capitol in Sacramento, including renters from “Merced, Fresno, Sacramento, Concord and Oakland.”61 Although this piece of legislation concerned San Francisco, the regional aspect of this fight confirmed San Francisco as the political showcase for progressive politics. It seems clear that housing issues in San Francisco cannot be limited to the city itself. Rather, as Brahinsky puts it, “We need to stop talking about San Francisco and start talking about the San Francisco Bay Region.”

  • 62  Brahinsky, “The Death of the City?,” 50.

38To start talking about the San Francisco Bay Region implies a major change in the analysis of embedded patterns of racial and class segregation, “This means that […] the region needs to be respected. Oakland is not a playground, a new frontier, or a place of last resort; it is a place with a history and a present.”62 As a matter of fact, this scale shift can already be observed in local activism. For example, Causa Justa: Just Cause is an influent non-profit which focuses specifically on the racial processes at stake in gentrification, while its members are for the most part Latino or black. Its actions mostly take place in Oakland, where the fight over racial and class discrimination is strong in the context of the emergence of Oakland as the new frontier for gentrified San Franciscans. In terms of organizing, a growing part of the work is now being done outside of San Francisco, and the relocation of 2014 and 2015’s Anarchist Book Fairs at the Crucible in Oakland where a panel on gentrification reunited activists from the whole urban region, or the creation of an activist group called Defend the Bay Area in March 2014, including activists mostly from Oakland and San Francisco, prove that social scientists are missing the reality of gentrification, displacement and the resistance to it by only focusing on San Francisco. That weakness is common and simple to enunciate: research on gentrification generally deals with urban change rather than with the displacees, urban policy rather than the process of displacement, gentrified areas (San Francisco) rather than the displaced people. Thus, those who are pushed out disappear from the social landscape; they simply do not fit in the new symbolic and political landscapes of power that replace them. Social science research does play a role in this odd silence: many researchers, usually white and middle-class, feel much more comfortable dealing with, for example, young white middle class couples than with the recently arrived illegal immigrants who barely speak the language.

Conclusion

39In the past year, activism in San Francisco has proved particularly dynamic. Private Shuttle blockades, street protests or strong pieces of legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors evoked some of the most active years of city scale coalitions like the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition in the years 2000. The “techies” seem to have replaced the “yuppies,” the dot-com 2.0 replaced the first wave of gentrification. Nevertheless, the ethnographic lens advocates for a more complex and detailed analysis of the construction of these artificial categories. A closer look at the two collectives, which highly contributed to the surge of media attention, allows us to better situate both historically and geographically this moment as the yet un-institutionalized response to almost entirely institutionalized speculation practices on housing. Focusing on these groups provides a better understanding of how the activism context not only disrupts tech buses from working, it also contributes to the design of legislation within the realm of political opportunities that, despite being rejected by a majority of the 200,000 voters, compose strong moments of cohesion and construction of local and statewide progressive politics.

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Notes

1  Neil Smith, The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City (New York: Routledge, 1996), 288. In his book, Neil Smith describes the way in which Manhattan’s Lower East Side is being fought over and seen by real estate developers as an urban territory to take back from the working class. In these struggles over land occupation, the image of the “frontier” is often conveyed, making the Lower East Side the new frontier to be conquered and civilized.

2  Loretta Lees, Tom Slater and Elvin Wyly, The Gentrification Reader, (New York: Routledge, 2010), 648; Anne Clerval, “La gentrification à Paris intra muros: dynamiques spatiales, rapports sociaux et politiques publiques, Thèse de doctorat (Université Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne, 2008), 602.

3  Anne Clerval, “‘Gentrification or Ghetto’: Making Sense of an Intellectual Impasse,” Métropolitiques, 29/01/2015, http://www.metropolitiques.eu/Gentrification-or-ghetto-making.html.

4  Tracy Elsen, Tuesday, “For the Fourth Month Straight, SF's Median Rent Tops NY's”, Curbed San Francisco, last modified December 2, 2014, http://sf.curbed.com/archives/2014/12/02/for_the_fourth_month_straight_sfs_median_rent_tops_nys.php.

5  Loretta Lees defined super-gentrification in the Journal of Urban Studies in 2003 as the “transformation of already gentrified, prosperous and solidly upper-middle-class neighborhoods into much more exclusive and expensive enclaves,” For more see Lees, “Super-gentrification: The Case of Brooklyn Heights, New York City,” Urban Studies 40, no. 12 (November 2003): 2487-2509. Hyper-gentrification is a term used to describe the wide-spread gentrification of already gentrified urban areas as an equivalent to Neil Smith’s “gentrification generalized” or “third-wave gentrification.” The blog Vanishing New York published an article describing this process: Jeremiah Moss, “On Spike Lee & Hyper-Gentrification, the Monster that Ate New York,” Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, 3 March 2014.

6  Setting its reality into published words may appear as a form of betrayal of the constantly evolving, multi-layered and not yet enfolded reality of what a social movement can be. This paper is not to be understood as a rigid analysis of what this mobilization is, but rather as a contextual description of its structuration process.

7  Michael Burawoy, “The Extended Case Method,” Sociological Theory 16, no.1 (March 1998): 4-33.

8  Catherine Neveu, “Démocratie participative et mouvements sociaux : entre domestication et ensauvagement?,” Participations, De Boeck Supérieur, no.1 (2011/1): 186-209.

9  This article borrows from the author’s PhD in the making: “A Comparative Ethnography of Anti-gentrification Activism in Two Neoliberal Urban Contexts (San Francisco, United-States – Valparaíso, Chile),” School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, 2013-2016, Paris.

10  The city of San Francisco started releasing in 2009 data through the Housing Elements, revealing that in districts like the Mission in 2014, 80% of the inhabitants were renters, while the average rent for a two bedroom apartment was approximately four times higher than what a very low income (VLI) family makes per month. Very Low Income families make between 0 to 50% of the Area Median Income, whereas Low Income Families make 51 to 80% of the Area Median Income.  Housing Elements can be found here: http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=3899, last accessed June 8, 2015.

11  Smith, The New Urban Frontier,288.

12  Karl Beitel, Local Protest, Global Movements: Capital, Community, and State in San Francisco (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013), 220.

13  See the tax-break by the numbers at Eve Batey in News on Jun 24, 2014 (10:53 am), “San Francisco's Mid-Market Tax Break By The Numbers,” Sfist, http://sfist.com/2014/06/24/san_franciscos_mid-market_tax_break.php.

14  The debate over the political decision regarding the Private Shuttle Program would also exemplify the power of the tech industry over local politics. More about this debate in this article: Tim Redmond, “Investigation: SF gave the Google buses a “handshake” pass for years. Now will the violators finally get tickets?,” 48hillsonline, last modified February 20, 2014, http://48hillsonline.org/2014/02/20/investigation-sf-gave-the-google-buses-a-handshake-pass-for-years-now-will-the-violators-finally-get-tickets/, and in this one: Joshua Sabatini, “Emails show ‘handshake agreement’ for tech buses using SF transit stops,” The Examiner, last modified February 25, 2014, http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/emails-show-handshake-agreement-for-tech-buses-using-sf-transit-stops/Content?oid=2715002.

15  Anti-eviction Mapping Project’s meeting, San Francisco Tenants Union, February 2014.

16  Description of the group Eviction Free San Francisco on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EvictionFreeSummer/info?tab=page_info.

17  Ellis Act Report by the San Francisco Tenants Union. http://tenantstogether.org/downloads/Ellis%20Act%20Report.pdf.

18  Ellis Act Report.

19  See also the map that accompanies this explanation at http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/buyouts.html.

20  Smith, The New Urban Frontier, 23.

21  Nancy Raquel Mirabal, “Geographies of Displacement: Latina/os, Oral History, and the Politics of Gentrification in San Francisco’s Mission District,” The Public Historian 31, no.2 (May 2009): 7-31.

22  Ibid.,17.

23  See the Internet website: http://cleanuptheplaza.com/, accessed June 8, 2015.

24  See Jennifer Rosdail’s website for a description of the “quadsters” at Jennifer Rosdail, “The quad – A Newly Defined Metahood”, accessed June 8, 2015 http://jenniferrosdail.com/the-quad-is-born/.

25  Sharon Zukin, Landscapes of Power: From Detroit to Disney World (Oakland: University of California Press, 1993), 338.

26  The coffee shop Four Barrel is one of the only coffee shops to benefit from so much space facing its front door, allowing it to have seats and bike racks on the sidewalk. You do not need to be a consumer to sit. In other words, everyone can theoretically wander in front of it. Paradoxically enough, the mostly black population living in the projects facing Four Barrel does not wander; they generally do not even walk on the same side of the street.

27  Betabrand, on 780 Valencia Street: http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/2014/03/san-francisco-clothing-retailer-betabrand-makes.html.

28  Interview, Valencia Street, February 21, 2014.

29  A Berkeley study by Alexandra Goldman analyses that rents have gone up 20% around bus stops: Alexandra Goldman, The “Google-Shuttle Effect”: Gentrification and San Francisco’s Dot Com Boom 2.0, Professional Report, Master of City Planning (Berkeley: University of California, Spring 2014). The Anti-eviction Mapping Project has revealed that evictions have risen by 69% within four blocks of the bus stops between 2011 and 2013: http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/techbusevictions.html.

30  To carry the metaphor further, see the movie Boom, the Sound of Evictions, available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FfOHVu_noY&list=PLOEIqpRJkeOB5EPygX6Y6d5z_Cx11RkUq,  last accessed June 8, 2015.

31  This website gathers information about Alex Nieto’s murder: http://justice4alexnieto.org/,  last accessed June 8, 2015.

32  Julia Carrie Wong, “The Battle of 16th and Mission: Inside the Campaign to “Clean up” the Plaza and Build Luxury Housing,” 48hillsonline, last modified March 18, 2014, http://48hillsonline.org/2014/03/18/battle-16th-mission-inside-campaign-clean-plaza-build-luxury-housing/.

33  Lees, Slater, and Wyly, Gentrification,344.

34  Nina Eliasoph and Paul Lichterman, “Culture in Interaction,” American Journal of Sociology 18, no. 4 (2003): 735-794.

35  See the group’s website: https://evictionfreesf.org/?page_id=5, last accessed June 8, 2015.

36  This expression is used in meetings to designate the list of speakers created to facilitate the meeting. See “Taking Stacks (Meeting Facilitation Technique),” Cultivate.coop, last accessed June 8, 2015, http://cultivate.coop/wiki/Taking_Stack_%28Meeting_Facilitation_Technique%29.

37  Eliasoph and Lichterman, “Culture in Interaction,” 735.

38  See the group’s website: https://antievictionmap.squarespace.com/about/, last accessed June 8, 2015.

39  Stanford students made a San Francisco Eviction Story Map with the collaboration of Erin McElroy: http://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/?appid=0c0a337c534146c2bf6f2fab1932eaef, last accessed June 8, 2015.

40  This group defines itself as an “open membership hackerspace. . . . interested in and working toward positive social change.” See their website: https://sudoroom.org/wiki/Welcome, last accessed June 8, 2015.

41  Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 586.

42  Tilly’s “repertoires of contention” refer to a set of contextual tools that groups and individuals use within social movements. Charles Tilly, From Mobilization to Revolution (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1978), 349.

43  Beitel, Local Protest,220.

44  Interview with Rebecca Gourevitch, March 22, 2014.

45  For a complete description of the event, see the group’s website: https://evictionfreesf.org/?p=1531, last accessed June 8, 2015.

46  Although a significant increase in police presence was felt during the march after the police murder of Alex Nieto, on March 21, 2014.

47  All the maps referred to are available on their website, at https://antievictionmap.squarespace.com/.

48  Interview with Erin McElroy, February 18, 2014.

49 Yi-Fu Tuan, “The City and Human Speech,” Geographical Review 84, no. 2 (Apr.1994): 144-151.

50  The interactive map was released in May, 2015, http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/narratives.html, last accessed June 8, 2015.

51  Rachel Brahinsky, “The Death of the City? Reports of San Francisco’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” Boom: A Journal of California 4, no. 2, Issue title: “San Francisco Matters” (Summer 2014): 43.

52  A description of one of them can be found in SF Gate’s report: http://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/Tech-workers-housing-activists-clash-at-happy-5270076.php.

53  Reports are often twisted and focus on the issues rather than the bridges that already exist between the tech world and activism in San Francisco: Ellen Huet, “S.F. Tech Workers, Housing Activists Clash at Happy Hour,” SF Gate, Updated 8:45 pm, Wednesday, February 26, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rolla-selbak/sf-tech-worker-and-an-act_b_4870767.html.

54  See Erin McElroy’s publications: Erin McElroy and Kelsey Gilmore Innis, “Tech Workers and the Eviction Crisis,” Model View Culture, last modified February 25, 2014, https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/tech-workers-and-the-eviction-crisis and Jim Edwards, “Meet the Woman at the Heart of San Francisco's Anti-tech Gentrification Protests,” Business Insider, last modified May 25, 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/erin-mcelroy-and-san-francisco-anti-tech-gentrification-protests-2014-5?IR=T. For a straightforward deconstruction of the anti-tech dimension of this movement, read Erin McElroy and Tim Redmond, “There Was Never an Anti-tech Movement in SF,” 48hillsonline, last modified February 17, 2014, http://48hillsonline.org/2015/02/17/never-anti-tech-movement-sf/.

55  See description of the proposition here: http://ballotpedia.org/City_of_San_Francisco_Transfer_Tax_on_Residential_Property_Re-Sold_in_Five_Years,_Proposition_G_%28November_2014%29, last accessed June 8, 2015

56  Gen Fujioka, “Who Really Won the SF Election?” 48hillsonline, last modifiedNovember 11, 2014, http://48hillsonline.org/2014/11/11/real-winners-losers-nov-4-election/.

57  Gen Fujioka, “Facing the Eviction Threat: Tenants Push Back and Slow Ellis Evictions in 2014,” 48hillsonline, last modified January 4, 2015,  http://48hillsonline.org/2015/01/04/facing-eviction-threat-tenants-push-back-slow-ellis-evictions-2014/.

58  James Tracy, Dispatches against Displacement: Field Notes from San Francisco’s Housing Wars (Oakland: AK Press, 2014), 150.

59  Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s website, http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/chiu.html, last accessed June 8, 2015.

60  See Professor Corey Cook’s Twitter account: https://twitter.com/CoreyCookUSF/media, last accessed June 8, 2015.

61  Randy Shaw, “Rally at State Capitol Ignites Ellis Act Teform,” Beyond Chronicle, last modified February 19, 2015, http://www.beyondchron.org/rally-at-state-capitol-ignites-ellis-act-reform/.

62  Brahinsky, “The Death of the City?,” 50.

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1
Caption “A Revolving Door of Evictions.” The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project’s visual of Elba Borgen’s itinerary on San Francisco’s rental market. Source: http://tenantstogether.org/​downloads/​Ellis%20Act%20Report.pdf
URL http://ejas.revues.org/docannexe/image/11322/img-1.png
File image/png, 423k
Title Figure 2
Caption “Percentage of Ellis Evictions by Ownership Length, 2013” Source: http://tenantstogether.org/​downloads/​Ellis%20Act%20Report.pdf
URL http://ejas.revues.org/docannexe/image/11322/img-2.png
File image/png, 116k
Title Figure 3
Caption Eviction Free San Francisco’s meeting Ground Rules and Meeting Culture, April 2014. Credits: Florian Opillard.
URL http://ejas.revues.org/docannexe/image/11322/img-3.png
File image/png, 1.4M
Title Figure 4
Caption San Francisco Ellis Act Evictions map by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. Source: http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/​ellis.html.
URL http://ejas.revues.org/docannexe/image/11322/img-4.png
File image/png, 515k
Title Figure 5
Caption Annual rate of rental units officially withdrawn under Ellis Act – 2010-2013. Source: http://48hillsonline.org/​2015/​01/​04/​facing-eviction-threat-tenants-push-back-slow-ellis-evictions-2014/​
URL http://ejas.revues.org/docannexe/image/11322/img-5.png
File image/png, 120k
Title Figure 6
Caption Annual rate of rental units officially withdrawn under Ellis Act – 2013-14. Source: http://48hillsonline.org/​2015/​01/​04/​facing-eviction-threat-tenants-push-back-slow-ellis-evictions-2014/​
URL http://ejas.revues.org/docannexe/image/11322/img-6.png
File image/png, 94k
Title Figure 7
Caption June 2014 Primary Election map – David Campos
URL http://ejas.revues.org/docannexe/image/11322/img-7.png
File image/png, 267k
Title Figure 8
Caption June 2014 Primary Election map – David Chiu
URL http://ejas.revues.org/docannexe/image/11322/img-8.png
File image/png, 267k
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References

Electronic reference

Florian Opillard, « Resisting the Politics of Displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area: Anti-gentrification Activism in the Tech Boom 2.0 », European journal of American studies [Online], 10-3 | 2015, Online since 09 May 2016, connection on 24 May 2017. URL : http://ejas.revues.org/11322 ; DOI : 10.4000/ejas.11322

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About the author

Florian Opillard

École des hautes études en sciences socials (EHESS)

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Copyright

European Journal of American studies

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