Urban Wake-Up Call
Urban Wake-up Call
By Jenny Weston and Menelik/PoorNewsNetwork
“Urban Renewal” is massive displacement and not relocation for residents who are in the extremely low and very low income categories of this community,” Menelik starts out, to the many people joined together in a circle for Poor Magazine’s monthly Newsroom event.
“Urban Renewal” is another name for gentrification- Developers trying to maximize their profit, while leaving countless low-income San Francisco residents homeless due to unaffordability. Commercial businesses gain hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from retail space. Meanwhile, these spaces that should be providing affordable housing for low-income San Francisco residents.
Menelik, a lifelong resident to the rapidly gentrifying community of Bayview Hunters Point in San Francisco, works fiercely to hold the city and developers accountable for irresponsible actions that result in lack of affordable housing. Menelik and other community members created a “Watch Dog Group” to hold developers, low-income unit property managers and the city and county of San Francisco accountable for their actions.
Through extensive research of San Francisco legislations, Menelik and many others know that there is money available for low-income housing in San Francisco.
Senate Bill 2113- a special legislation enacted in 2001, authored by then senator John Burton “authorizes San Francisco to receive tax increments and incurring indebtedness to replace the destroyed affordable housing in San Francisco.”
This legislation has been passed to guarantee that the affordable housing units that have been torn down for “redevelopment” must be replaced.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development certified in 2003 that the agency destroyed 6,709 affordable housing units prior to 1977 in San Francisco, but as of today, only 900 units has been replaced over the past 10 years. This leaves approximately 5,800 affordable housing units to be replaced.
Menelik has countless reports on how people with wealth in this city has broken and continue to break laws. Yet, poor people of color are the ones criminalized for being poor, arrested for sitting outside for “violating” racist laws such as the sit/lie law.
“This is happening all over the city in SF-Mission Bay, Bay View Hunters Point, all over CA, all over the nation. Everything is being privatized” Menelik explains.
Privatization is not a new concept. In fact, it has been used as a systematic way to oppress low-income people of color, particularly the black community.
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, a world-renowned black psychiatrist states:
“This is a wake-up call for black people in this community and in the nation.
For 500 years in this part of the world, black people have experienced one form or another of racism- white supremacy. This is not anything new. This has been our consistent history.”
The Watch Dog committee has been formed to challenge the displacement of low income and people of color from their communities. As readers, what can we do? As people who are pushed out of our own homes or have friends and family who are displaced or even as people who may be benefiting from gentrification right now.
Menelik answered, “We need support for these issues. It needs to be in the public eye because most ordinary people are not aware of the laws. If not, the city is in the pocket of the developers.”