May the Force be with you, Carrie Fisher

Star Wars was the first movie I saw in a theater as a kid, and it ruined me for anything else. At least until a mad man in a box showed up a few years later, but that’s another story. The opening sequence that introduced Princess Leia, R2-D2, C-3PO and Darth Vader blew my young mind and greatly expanded an imagination I’d need to navigate my way through country North Carolina in the 70s and 80s. Though Han Solo and Boba Fett were the favorites of everyone I knew growing up, Leia couldn’t be denied, and girl-hating boys would choose to be her over Luke because she never needed rescuing. Whereas Luke….

My biggest disappointment with The Force Awakens (and I had a few) was how it slighted Leia in favor of Han and Luke. Her often-hapless twin brother was the star of the original trilogy, but it was really Leia getting things done the entire time. She’d been instrumental in the Rebellion as a teen, was forever rescuing her rescuers and was not only key in planning the Rebellion’s strategies, she was usually in the field leading them. All without actively using the Force. Meanwhile Luke careened through the first two movies on a roller coaster of fail and couldn’t go more than three story beats without needing rescue of some sort. The fact that Leia shrugged off her Force potential as too much drama despite Yoda, Vader and the Emperor considering her to be at least Luke’s equal made her all the more interesting. So it was disappointing to see The Force Awakens treat her as General Grandma instead of a potentially powerful Force user who could’ve confronted the First Order, saved Ben, etc, while her twin brother stayed centered despite generally making a mess of it all and yet again needing her help to fix things. And while LucasFilm can certainly CGI older Leia into the current trilogy just as they did with young Leia in Rogue One, that CGI could never have Carrie Fisher’s swagger.

Rest in peace and may the Force be with you, Princess.

Enrique Pearce continues to slither towards freedom

After all this, Enrique Pearce stealthily slithered into San Francisco Superior Court the day before Christmas Eve to plead guilty to multiple counts of buying, receiving, possessing and distributing child pornography. His likely punishment?

As a result of the guilty plea, a judge is expected to sentence Pearce to six months in county jail, which may be served on home detention. Additionally, Pearce may also be sentenced to 5 months probation and may have to register as a sex offender for life, prosecutors said.

Toss out what “may” happen and Pearce will likely receive a six-month sentence that could be whittled down further should any “time served” enter the equation. There is no mention of whether his access to the internet will be restricted in any way during or after his sentence. Home detention would take this deeper into the land of farce, since Pearce is friendly with Silicon Valley CEOs who own entire islands as residence; his worst-case home-detention scenerio would be a Silicon Valley mansion or compound better furnished and equipped than most homes or offices.

In other words, all is going according to plan. Pearce was never meant to face any punishment for his abominable actions; he’s been a good soldier for City Hall and Silicon Valley and was always going to be protected as such. City Hall issued a sufficiently shocked response at the time but made no vows for justice as in the Kathryn Steinle murder, and have been silent on the matter ever since. Local media were accomplices in this silence, allowing the story to fade from memory until San Francisco DA George Gascón replied to my own inquiry on Twitter, and suddenly their journalistic synapses began firing again.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for those journalistic synapses to start firing blanks again. People schedule Friday court appearances to keep a low profile and maybe even dodge any mention at all. Scheduling a Friday court appearance two days before Christmas, when you know the media will be more focused on holiday news and travel than court dockets? That’s daring reporters to cover it. And other than the Chronicle and SFist, mum’s been the word. Considering Pearce’s sentencing date is January 25, the third business day of the Trump presidency, mum will be the word on that day, as well, if the hearing isn’t once again postponed altogether. Every possible red flag waving in the wind like semaphore that the fix is in, while San Francisco media stay nestled in their beds, visions of City Hall access dancing in their heads.

This isn’t how any society should work. Even though I’d followed the Pearce case in real time as it happened, and knew all the facts, I still broke down in tears when I read them all at once for the Missing Persons blog post I wrote. Partly because of the horror of Pearce’s actions and how they revealed a child predator growing bolder, and partly because no one appeared to give a damn. A scandal at least on par with Leland Yee or Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, and not a soul from local/state/national media could be bothered to call out an obvious cover up in progress. San Francisco residents have been equally complicit, dutifully looking the other way in exchange for their daily bread and circuses. The story absolutely would have faded away altogether if it hadn’t been for a very few people on Twitter keeping the story alive week after week, month after month, ultimately cornering the powers that be into adding another chapter or two to their performance. Tragically, it will remain a performance and child predators like Enrique Pearce, as well as entire Bay Area police departments, will continue to go free and flourish, beneficiaries of a bespoke population and media constructed by City Hall and Silicon Valley to ensure white-male supremacy goes forward unchecked.

POTUS and the Democrats lunge right again

POTUS Barack Obama and his beloved Democratic Party refuse to allow the holidays to slow their inexorable march to the right. The leader of a Democratic party utterly crushed by a GOP now in full control of US government sat for an interview with David Axelrod, his former advisor whose £300K advice led to Labour being utterly crushed by a Tory party now in full control of UK government, in which POTUS took direct aim at Jeremy Corybn and the UK left, and indirectly fired a shot across the bows of those of the US left who refuse to co-sign the endless list of scapegoats offered by the DNC as excuse for Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump.

Near the end of their mostly flaccid interview, Axelrod decided it was time to bash Jeremy Corbyn’s (leftish) Labour Party and those to the left of the Democratic Party in the US:

AXELROD: Just a couple more things. Are you worried about the Corbynization (ph) of the Democratic Party? Saw the Labor [sic] Party just sort of disintegrated in the face of their defeat and move so far left that it’s, you know, in a very — in a very frail state. And there is an impulse to respond to — to the power of Trump by, you know, being as edgy…

OBAMA: On the left.

AXELROD: … on the left.

OBAMA: I don’t worry about that, partly because I think that the Democratic Party has stayed pretty grounded in fact and reality. Trump emerged out of a decade, maybe two, in which the Republican Party, because it had to say no for tactical reasons, moved further and further and further away from what we would consider to be a — a basic consensus around things like climate change or how the economy works.

And it started filling up with all kinds of conspiracy theorizing that became kind of common wisdom or conventional wisdom within the Republican Party base. That hasn’t happened in the Democratic Party. I think people like the passion that Bernie brought, but Bernie Sanders is a pretty centrist politician relative to…

AXELROD: Corbyn.

OBAMA: Relative to Corbyn or relative to some of the Republicans.

My goodness. Keep in mind, Axelrod was a key architect of the collapse of Ed Miliband and Labour, not Corbyn. Labour members elected Corbyn leader of the party because they were tired of the centrist direction of Tony Blair and the Blairites running Labour. The same Tony Blair that Obama in 2009 called “first friend” and someone “who did it first and perhaps did it better than I will do,” and the same Blairites who have laid siege to Corbyn since he was elected leader, despite a second election confirming his mandate. Corbyn hasn’t taken Labour “so far left,” nor will he; what he has done is oppose Obama’s pet projects like the TTIP, as well as military intervention in Syria. Yet Obama describes Corbyn as an extremist every bit as wrong and dangerous as the GOP, echoing Bill Clinton’s “maddest person in the room” smear from earlier in the year. Obama also dismisses Corbyn supporters as “conspiracy theorists,” despite Labour boasting a modern record for membership. The Democrats couldn’t be more removed from such an energized base.

And that, along with helping his “first friend” bring Labour back to the Blairites, is what’s behind this segment of the interview. The Democrats have faced a growing revolt from the left of its party. Sanders’ campaign was the most visible sign of this, and though Sanders eventually swore fealty to Hillary and the DNC, most of that revolt did not. The DNC know this all too well and have done everything in their power to avoid discussing the morass of greed and corruption that is their party. Note how Obama follows his criticism of Corbyn and Labour’s left with an admonition for what remains of the Democratic left:

OBAMA: And — and so — so I don’t worry about that. What I do worry about is that in an era where we are looking for simple solutions that — and want 1000 percent of what we want and when we want it, that we end up starting to shut ourselves off from different points of view, shutting down debate, becoming more dogmatic, becoming more brittle.

And I don’t see that being a successful strategy for us winning over the country. Remember, we won the popular vote. You know, we don’t have very good population distribution from a Democratic perspective, right? So I’ve told the story about how I was in Brooklyn campaigning, I think for De Blasio, and this woman comes up, hugs me, how can we help you, we love you, I said move to Nebraska.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, I got a million..

AXELROD: She obviously didn’t.

OBAMA: … wasted votes in — in Brooklyn.

Obama is no stranger to scolding anyone not protesting “the right way.” This is nothing but gaslighting to Sanders’ supporters within the Democratic party still agitating for a move to the left, and to those who abandoned the Dems for the Green Party, the Libertarians or whomever else. The message is clear: it’s okay to support the passion of a reasonable “centrist” like Bernie (now that he’s under control), but don’t start demanding we act on every promise we recklessly toss out in hopes of a vote. The DNC have long been masters of co-opting activists and organizers through a strategy of compromise and respectability, and this is more of the same. The idea that compromise and debate will win over white supremacy couldn’t be more ahistorical. The Democrats know this and couldn’t care less as long as they continue to profit from the inertia of endless compromise.

Obama’s “wasted votes in Brooklyn” might be the interview’s most revealing comment. During the election, Obama and the Democrats couldn’t stop telling us how voting was a sacred duty essential to the survival of the Republic or some such. Until the Democrats lost, that is, and then those votes are just “wasted.” Like any true Democrat, Obama warmly embraces people when he needs them, then coldly tosses them aside once he doesn’t. Won’t he be perfect for Silicon Valley?

Autopsy of an SJW

Nothing like a light, breezy topic to launch the Notes category of this blog. Nevertheless, my exit from the social-justice world has loomed quite large in my mind, I’ve no one with whom to talk about it, and since I’m not leasing this part of the internet just to let it sit here and collect dust….

Except for those closely tied to the Trump campaign from its inception, 2016 was a nightmare for everyone. I watched in horror the entire year as the DNC harvested so many activists and organizers who were still independent. Some became full-throated supporters of people and policies they’d spent their entire time in activism trying to stop. Others simply fell silent to Democratic hypocrisies, looking the other way and directing any attention in that direction elsewhere. DNC talking points replaced revolutionary ideas all in service to electing a doomed candidate who not even years of backroom scheming could help.

And then Trump won and didn’t so much upset the apple cart as set a thermite charge underneath it. His opposition? Well, the DNC proper keeps doubling down on their Provoke Russia strategem and while abandoning all ties with logic and reason. Their legion of co-opted activists, organizers and nonprofits who had all but claimed their rewards for Democratic fealty were now busking in the streets for ideas and grants, or diverting them from causes such as Standing Rock. It looked like somebody knocked over an anthill; people scrambling in every direction trying to catch the first whiff of a plan.

Somewhen in the middle of all this, my brain decided it’d had enough and began gifting me anxiety attacks to let me know it meant business. A few triggers in my personal life showed up to lend a hand, but those would’ve been trifles if I hadn’t already been managing the toxicity of social justice in 2016 coupled with the rapid gentrification of online social-justice communities and spaces via the DNC, tech and NPIC; online communities and spaces that were so necessary because their physical-world counterparts had already been gentrified into so much dust in the wind. So I tapped out. In that moment, I diagnosed it as simply absorbing too much of 2016’s toxicity and negativity without the requisite community to balance it out. I tried to make bargains and adjustments (this blog, for example) that would allow me to carry on as before, but like a sprained ankle protesting any movement, my brain just sent more anxiety as further proof it wasn’t budging.

I was in a bit of an empty space the few days after I’d decided to finally put down my social-justice toys, so to speak, and plan whither next. I’ve always been a sucker for the morality plays of Star Wars and was catching up on Rebels when I saw what felt like a tl;dr for everything I’d been wrestling with the past year:

I’m well-and-truly aware that all the levels of what happened in 2016 cannot be boiled down to an animated Star Wars clip, yet where is Yoda’s lie? The election obviously dominated the 2016 news cycle, and that cycle was driven by fear, anger, hate and little else. And it was driving everyone, myself included. I spent most of the year hating a political system that only offered dead-end candidates and solutions while violently excluding the rest; angry at the people now supporting the left side of that system instead of challenging it from farther left; fearful of a post-election world where activists were so inextricably intertwined with the DNC and NPIC that any true change would be smothered in its crib. Consumed, just like the people I was so busy calling out.

So, whither now? As I said at the time on my now possibly vacant Twitter account, I’ve not abandoned any of my principles or beliefs, but I have to find an entirely different outlet for them. I’ve not exactly gone into exile like Yoda did after his failure, but I’ve a feeling I’ll be keeping my distance from the social-justice world. I could write tens of thousands of words on how social justice is currently more about helping people live with injustice than freeing them from it, but I’m honestly quite Ahsoka Tano about it all and just ready to move on to what’s next for me. I’m currently exploring options, fingers crossed.

We’ll see.

Homelessness: San Francisco’s newest heist

Homelessness has long been an issue San Francisco has ignored in favor of well-funded “solutions” that inevitably fade into nothing but good intentions paving a road to Hell for the homeless people they’re allegedly created to help. As the San Francisco Chronicle leads a second round of mass exploitation of homeless people disguised as crusading journalism, the city’s new Department of Homelessness uses tech-funded nonprofits to ensure millions flow into everyone’s pockets except those who actually need it.

After a first round of mass exploitation in June, the Chronicle returned for a second round this week. Teamed with a legion of nonprofits and MSM, the Chronicle continues its tradition of pathologizing and dehumanizing homeless people. Instead of providing material aid to homeless people, the Chronicle tracks them like wildlife for nine months, their daily pain and struggle boiled down to nothing more than coordinates on a map and a prognosis of “little change seen” at the end of those nine months. “Little change seen” because the Chronicle spends most of its time endorsing politicians and policies unfriendly at best to homeless people, and publishing columnists like C.W. Nevius who are openly hostile to them. What change does the Chronicle expect when it spends its thwarting any such possibilty?

Another partner in the heisting of homeless people in San Francisco is the ever-metastasizing Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Since its inception this summer, the department focused on erasing tech’s role in eviction, displacement and the growing population of homeless people in San Francisco. When Department of Homelessness Director Jeff Kositsky participated in a Reddit AMA in late September, he was asked his opinion of tech’s violent gentrification in neighborhoods such as SOMA and the Tenderloin. His answer:

I do not believe any particular sector can be blamed for homelessness. The federal government stopped investing in affordable housing in any meaningful way in 1978. There are also some perverse incentives in the way our real estate market works. However, there is lots of wealth and talent in the tech sector and they can play a part in the solutions – and many do. Shout out to Google, Salesforce, Twitter, Zendesk, Dolby, Adobe, AppDynamics and so many others that I have not mentioned (sorry to those I forgot).

Up is down, left is right. The very tech companies responsible for rising rents and evictions are now hailed as saviors. Kositsky is very comfortable with tech CEOs and investors such as Marc Benioff and Ron Conway, ensuring tech will continue to leverage homeless people for its own benefit; treating them as cattle and lab rats instead of human beings. The department’s strategy for engaging encampments is more gaslighting and manipulation than honest discourse:

What we decided to do, rather than running around playing whack-a-mole, is we’ll use this list that we have, a survey by DPW (the Department of Public Works), sorted by the biggest encampments. They rank them [by how dangerous they are], based on subjective measurements, but better than nothing.

There are usually informal leaders in encampments. We identify who those are, set up a community meeting, get a very good turnout, we do it right out on the street. We explain to people that we’re here because the neighbors are worried about the people living in the tents, it’s not healthy or safe for them, and that they’re the affecting quality of life in the neighborhood and we really need to resolve this encampment.

Instead of “playing whack-a-mole,” they make up a list, arbitrarily rank people based on how “dangerous” they are, designate an encampment leader (most likely to collaborate), explain how they’re making privileged people feel nervous and then forcibly remove anyone who won’t leave willingly. All for their own good, of course.

While tech provides limitless funding, the actual labor will be provided by a seemingly infinite list of nonprofits, the finest the NPIC has to offer. None of these nonprofits are currently more centered than Project Homeless Connect, a virtual dumping ground for San Francisco’s past failures to help homeless people. Kara Zordel, Executive Director of Project Homeless Connect, is every bit the tech apologist as Kositsky:

“In the city, some people think that [tech companies are] the ones that have displaced people,” she says of technology companies. “But they don’t see the amount of volunteers and donations we’ve received [from the tech sector].”

Zordel is likely so supportive of tech because they’re so supportive of her org’s galas and daily operations. Project Homeless Connect’s tech-funded Breakfast Gala honors former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and current Department of Homelessness Deputy Director of Programs Joyce Crum, who was key in the development of Newsom’s disastrous Care Not Cash program. Like the rest of the NPIC, Project Homeless Connect does not exist to help homeless people; it exists to monetize them and prolong their misery as long as possible to advance careers and build fortunes. And keep donations flowing.

Women of color are always treated as acceptable collateral damage

Women of color have long been considered acceptable collateral damage by the police state, as well as most of society in general. A white-supremacist, misogynist culture such of that of the US will always uplift and protect white women while pathologizing and attacking women of color. Benefits of doubt and sympathy versus being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for any and all charges. Whether domestic violence or City Hall corruption, women of color who may only be tangential to the crime will be charged and punished as if they were the primary offender.

This was certainly the case during the search for two men who escaped from Santa Clara County Jail on Thanksgiving Eve. The two men were described as “dangerous and desperate” by jail officials, yet not dangerous enough to affect the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot held near the jail less than twelve hours after the escape. Within a week, both men were captured, along with at least three women who were charged with aiding them. There were no concerns that the women may have been acting under duress, nor any consideration of why they may have helped them. No feminist nonprofits rallied to the women’s side to ensure they were fairly treated. In addition to being arrested and charged, the sister of one fugitive suffered serious damage to her home during his arrest:

Like many people in trouble, Laron Campbell turned to family for help. The escaped inmate was captured by US marshals at his sister’s apartment in Antioch late last night. Neighbors on James Donlon Boulevard witnessed the raid.

“Upon entering the residence, they determined that Campbell was hiding in the attic. Campbell then crashed through the ceiling to the floor, where the marshal service and Antioch police took him into custody without further incident,” said Santa Clara County Undersheriff Carl Neusel.

This damage being additional to whatever damage marshals caused as they tore through her house with belligerent disregard. In addition to astronomical legal fees, likely loss of employment and prison time, she must now live in a partially demolished home while fighting for her freedom and survival. All for giving shelter to a family member over Thanksgiving weekend.

This accepted collateral-damage status is the reason gender-justice practices such as #GiveYourMoneyToWomen are so necessary. Women of color are vulnerable to men’s violence even when that violence doesn’t directly target them. They can literally lose everything they have in life for the crime of not turning a family member over to police during the holidays. And since white feminism has traditionally seen women of color more as sources of labor than fellow women in need of aid, no nonprofits will arrive to fund raise on their behalf or help in any other material way. It is only direct transfers of wealth, both in specific cases like this and as everyday practice, that can help buffer against the casual oblivion men bring into the lives of women of color on a daily basis.

 

San Francisco City Hall heists, backpedals on sanctuary

On the first Monday following the election of Donald Trump, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the Board of Supervisors and others from City Hall held a photo op affirming not only their unity against the approaching Trump administration, but also San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city. Mayor Lee tweeted, “Standing as one. We will remain a Sanctuary City.” As always with Democrats, however, the devil is in the detail.

Soon afterward, Supervisor David Campos proposed a bill that would spend $5 million for legal representation/protection from Trump administration deportation orders. Under Campos’ proposal, the $5 million would be split between the office of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and nonprofits/community-based organizations. The mayor’s office was at best lukewarm to the idea:

Deirdre Hussey, Mayor Ed Lee’s spokeswoman, said the mayor supports additional funding for legal support for immigrant communities, and he will review Campos’ legislation to ensure community-based organizations are funded sufficiently.

Campos wants to give $2.6 million to the public defender’s office to hire 10 attorneys, five paralegals and two legal clerks to represent detained immigrants facing deportation whose cases are assigned to the San Francisco Immigration Court.

Note the sudden concern for community-based organization funding. The mayor’s concern continued to grow over the following weeks until Board of Supervisors President London Breed this week declined to waive the mandatory thirty-day waiting period for new legislation, meaning Campos’ proposal would be the responsibility of the new Board; a board whose majority will be in step with Room 200, and whose minority will not include Campos, who will be termed out.

While Board President Breed declined to comment why she refused to waive the waiting period, Mayor Lee’s office clarified matters by stating its desire to steer all funds towards community-based orgs, and none towards the Public Defender’s Office. Trouble is, many of these community-based orgs want Public Defender Adachi and his office involved:

But Lee’s reluctance to fund the public defender is drawing opposition not only from Campos and Adachi, but also from the community legal groups Lee favors. They say Adachi’s involvement is crucial in creating long-term stability and ensuring universal representation for immigrants facing deportation.

“To do this at the scale that is needed we need a partner like the Public Defender’s Office, who we already know and trust,” said Ana Herrera, managing attorney at Dolores Street Community Services, which defends immigrants facing deportation.

Public Defender Adachi is San Francisco’s highest-profile official not co-opted by City Hall and/or other political machines. For this reason alone Mayor Lee would love to deny him any funding, but the mayor’s hyper focus on “community-based organizations” is the key to understanding this. The lifeblood of San Francisco’s City Hall is pay to play, and much of that pay comes from the NPIC (Non-Profit Industrial Complex). It’s very likely the mayor’s staff already has that $5 million earmarked for friendly, dues-paying orgs. Snatching that money from Adachi to give to their cronies would be a win-win for Lee and company.

One other note. Board President Breed usually camps out on the conservative side of San Francisco politics, so her backing of the mayor’s plans is no surprise. But as 48 Hills points out, Breed would like her aide Conor Johnston to be appointed as Scott Wiener’s replacement in D8. Mayor Lee is waiting until January to appoint Wiener’s replacement, which means that person could possibly serve ten years as D8 supervisor. Breed is arguably the most ambitious politician in San Francisco and could very, very easily be the city’s next mayor. If so, and if Johnston is appointed to D8 and survives two elections to serve all ten years, Breed would already have at least one Board ally for the first seven years of her possible eight in office. No doubt Breed would be more than glad to play along with any of the mayor’s plans to ensure Johnston’s appointment.

Twitter’s Muslim-registry ruse

Twitter recently received praise for being the only of nine prominent tech companies to publicly refuse to assist the Trump administration in building a Muslim registry. While certainly a feel-good piece of news if you briefly glance at the headline, the reality is anything but. An enormous red flag is flapping away in the blog post Twitter included with its “No”:

Recent reports about Twitter data being used for surveillance, however, have caused us great concern. As a company, our commitment to social justice is core to our mission and well established. And our policies in this area are long-standing.

Read that quote again. While Twitter absolutely adores social justice for its marketing and PR help, their “long-standing” “well-established” “core mission” has more to do with white supremacy, gentrification and violent abuse of users than anything resembling social justice. As for “reports about Twitter data being used for surveillance,” Twitter should expect them after not only allowing, but part owning, Dataminr, which surveils Twitter’s “fire hose” in real time and grants customers access to this surveillance. Earlier this year, Twitter loudly banned US intelligence agencies from using the service, though Dataminr recently added the FBI to its roster of clients. The same FBI already surveilling Muslims, profiling Muslim youth and always pushing for new surveillance powers. Who needs a registry when the entire “fire hose” is available to be tapped? Assuming the client’s account is paid in full, of course.

In addition to giving the FBI keys to the kingdom, Twitter today, along with Facebook, Google and Microsoft, announced a partnership to “help curb spread of online terrorist content.” The danger lies in the fact that there is no agreed-upon definition of “terrorist content”:

Because the companies have different policies on what constitutes terrorist content, they will start by sharing hashes of “the most extreme and egregious terrorist images and videos” as they are most likely to violate “all of our respective companies” content policies, they said.

Twitter may have publicly refused to help build a Muslim registry, but Facebook, Google and Microsoft all refused to give a yes-or-no answer, leaving their doors open. Why would Twitter need to build such a registry if it were partnering with three other companies who were willing to build one? Also, saying these four companies will “start” by sharing data of the “most and extreme and egregious” implies that as time passes, they will share data on less extreme, less egregious content. So while this information could initially be used to erase any and all ISIS propaganda, to great MSM fanfare, the definition of “terrorist content” could easily be perverted by the tech-state union to include COINTELPRO surveillance such as that carried out by the FBI and Homeland Security against Black Lives Matter activists. Especially with the FBI’s hand on the fire hose.

 

Accidental arson

Last evening’s fire at the Oakland Ghost Ship is another example of deadly, suspicious fires in neighborhoods suffering from gentrification. The story is often the same; a land/building owner needs tenants and/or a building gone ASAP with zero paperwork or notifications so they can sell their never-more-valuable land/building. It’s an almost foolproof scam for dues-paying City Hall cronies. No matter the community outcry, local officials will perform an investigation and declare the fire unfortunate but accidental. And then come the office buildings and luxury towers.

The Mission has arguably been the most intense focus of tech gentrification in San Francisco. As real-estate prices skyrocketed, so did fires displacing rent-controlled tenants. While fires have declined citywide in San Francisco, they’ve held steady in the Mission. The five-alarm fire at 29th and Mission Street in an increasingly gentrified neighborhood on July 18 burned through six buildings and displaced fifty-eight people, some of whom were homeless months later despite promises of new housing from City Hall. Most of those displaced lived in the Graywood Hotel, a building with a long history of code violations. “I was in my room, and I thought it was just a drill because the sprinklers weren’t working,” said one resident. Like many SROs throughout the city, the building had been neglected by its owners until it was the equivalent of a giant tinder box. Even if it weren’t the genesis of the fire, it would be so much ready kindling for a fire on either side of it.

An employee at nearby Good Frikin Chicken heard an “explosion” just before the fire began. Two Graywood residents blamed wiring for causing the fire:

Joseph Williams, a resident of the Graywood Hotel — a single-room occupancy hotel at 3308 Mission St. — said he saw the fire erupt. He and another resident, he said, were one of the first to notice it.

“It was the wiring, we believe. We opened the fuse box and smoke started coming out. We seen flames coming out of the fuse box and then we seen the gas main starting to catch on fire,” Williams said.

Little more than a year had passed since faulty wiring caused a four-alarm fire several blocks away at 22nd and Mission, so there was certainly a precedent. Neighborhood residents fully aware who these fires benefited began demanding answers, spurring Mission supervisor David Campos to write “reasonable people now believe that arson is playing a part.” Patronizing and ableist though his statement was, it was testament to what many residents, especially Latinx residents, felt: they were being burned out to make way for colonizing techies.

Almost on script, San Francisco fire investigators announced the fire was “most likely an accident caused by cigarettes or smoldering coals.” Two “unidentified” employees of neighboring Cole Hardware claimed the fire began in an area where Graywood residents often smoked. Rick Karp, owner of Cole Hardware, joined in blaming Graywood residents:

[H]e had “been saying from day one it’s got to be a joint or a cigarette.” Tenants of the Graywood Hotel, the single-room occupancy hotel on the corner, used the roof to socialize and he feared the fire started from a misplaced cigarette, he said.

No mention of previous code violations, broken sprinklers or resident accounts of faulty wiring as the culprit. Just another “accidental” fire displacing dozens and allowing the owner to immediately sell. Emerging reports of code violations and habitability complaints from the Oakland Ghost Ship building paint an all too familiar picture. How soon before this tragedy is blamed away on cruel chance so the area can be terraformed and gentrified?