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Back to <-- DotComs and the Information Revolution

500 at City Hall demand protection against dot-coms
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Source: San Francisco Examiner

500 at City Hall demand protection against dot-coms Ryan Kim
July 14, 2000
2000 San Francisco Examiner

Clamor for Planning Commission to impose moratoriums

Riding a tide of anti-displacement outrage, about 500 San Franciscan s rallied on the steps of City Hall to force The City to protect their neighborhoods against dot-com companies and other outsiders.

Thursday's rally followed an equally large meeting two weeks ago in the Mission District, when community leaders confronted Planning Director Gerald Green and demanded temporary moratoriums on construction of new market-rate housing and on dot-com development and implementation of a community-based planning process.

After Thursday's rally, dozens of participants took their plea to the Planning Commission, hoping to get an answer to their demands.

Their anger is directed at City Hall for its failure to do something about new industries, particularly high-tech companies, that move in and boost rents, forcing out established residents, businesses and nonprofits.

The rallies were organized by the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition, a confederation of more than a dozen Mission organizations that have banded together to protect the neighborhood.

Coalition is 3 months old

Just 3 months old, the coalition has emerged as the most formidable foe of digital development and is quickly reaching out to other affected neighborhoods on the east side of San Francisco.

The raucous rally, with a diverse representation from many parts of The City, reflected how the coalition has grown. Residents from South of Market, Potrero Hill and Bayview-Hunters Point joined in the protest.

"We've had enough of displacement in our neighborhood, we've had enough of evictions in our neighborhood," Oscar Grande, community organizer for a Mission-based group called People Organized to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, told the rally.

The crowd roared with approval. Across the street, a theater troupe dressed in white staged a silent protest with signs that read "eviction" and "homeless." Mingling through the crowd was a man dressed like Mickey Mouse, wearing a sign reading "Planning Commission."

Glen Washington of the San Francisco Human Services Network told the crowd he doesn't blame the dot-com companies. He said his anger was aimed at The City for allowing them to flourish unchecked.

The enemy: City Hall

"They (dot-com companies) are not the enemy. Our enemy is here," said Washington, pointing at City Hall. "Let's take them over."

In the Planning Commission meeting, a handful of coalition members outlined their demands, reiterating their call for moratoriums and planning that includes community members. Despite earlier assertions from Green that the Planning Commission can't impose a moratorium, coalition members argued the board could approve a temporary halt.

Lisa Pagan, a project manager with the Mission Housing Development Corporation quoted the planning code, which indicated the commission could implement interim zoning controls in preparation of further planning.

"It's our interpretation that the Planning Commission does have the ability to place the moratorium we're requesting," she said.

Pagan's comment, along with those of other speakers, drew applause from supporters. An exasperated commission President Anita Theoharis banged her gavel numerous times to quiet the crowd.

Green, acknowledging the large turnout Thursday, said he was committed to including the residents in long-term planning for the Mission District.

But he said that many of the solutions they were seeking would need to come from the Board of Supervisors and other city agencies.

"The passions expressed here should also be expressed to the wider city family," said Green.

Green said he wouldn't endorse a housing moratorium because of the acute housing shortage in The City. He did not speak about a temporary moratorium on dot-com development.

After Green's comments, the coalition members stormed out, chanting "We'll be back."

Request for public hearing

Later in the meeting, Commissioner Beverly Mills called for a public hearing on a moratorium in the Mission to be scheduled for August.

While the coalition members spoke before the commission, the rest of the protesters marched to the Planning Department offices on Mission Street, but were locked out of the lobby. The group, about 250 strong, marched outside for 10 minutes before dispersing. No arrests were reported.

Despite seeing little progress on their demands Thursday, coalition leaders were pleased with their efforts and the large showing. They said the rally is just the beginning of a huge citywide movement.

"Our base is in the Mission, but we're branching to allied neighborhoods," said Richard Marquez, co-director of Mission Agenda, a tenants rights organization. "We need to lock and load and get ready to rumble."

The coalition is setting its sights on a signature drive to qualify an initiative for a special December election. The "Honest Planning Initiative" would define all dot-coms as office space, closing a loophole that allowed the high-tech companies to call themselves "business services" in an attempt to circumvent The City's annual office space cap.

The measure would also call for a moratorium on commercial office development in the northeast Mission, South of Market and lower Potrero Hill neighborhoods, until a comprehensive plan is developed to protect those areas.

The ballot summary was approved by the city attorney Thursday. Coalition members and other community activists will begin Saturday to collect the 19,000 signatures needed by July 31 to qualify for the ballot.

"We're circumventing the Planning Commission and the Planning Department and we're taking it to the people of San Francisco," said Marquez. "They're clamoring for zoning controls."

2000 San Francisco Examiner Page A1

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