The Death of A Block- Killed by a Corporate Hospital

Tiny - Posted on 12 April 2011

Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia/PNN


We used to be here

Living, working and keeping families near

Then Land and lives were stolen

Through paper trails and legal theft

We the original peoples must get clear

We must resist ...

...excerpt from Walking Softly on our Mama (Earth)



The boards were up. Tall, thick, plywood boards, standing upright, like the multiple lids of coffins. Coffin lids covering vast plate glass windows that fronted the used to be thriving but now-dead Van Ness Bakery, the furniture store, the restaurant, the hotel,  and within a few months, the homes of 11 disabled elders in poverty who reside in the Single Room Occupancy Hotel rooms on the block of Van Ness to Geary to Polk. An entire block was dead and a hospital killed it.


The Block was “Killed”  by the Sutter Health Corporation and its affiliate, California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC)in a move of intentional blight to a thriving neighborhood by CPMC in order to garner building permits to construct a huge corporate hospital complex which hasn’t received planning commission approval yet a hospital built to serve rich people who don’t even live in the surrounding Tenderloin neighborhood.


“Many people in the Tenderloin rely on Medi-Cal and charity care services and are concerned that CPMC has one of the worst records of serving the poor in San Francisco,” said Nella Manuel, a Tenderloin resident and Medi-Cal patient who lives just a few blocks from CPMC’s proposed new hospital at Van Ness and Geary.  Despite record profits, CPMC has some of the lowest records in the City of serving charity care and Medi-Cal patients.


The Van Ness Bakery employed nine poor migrant women. Nine daughters, aunties & mothers. They were paid a living wage by the immigrant family who owned the shop. They had a steady and loyal business. The furniture store,  restaurant and hotel employed several hundred people . All of these workers’ are now unemployed


From our first day in San Francisco, while in and out houselessness and deep poverty, my disabled mama and I  always found a hospitable space in the Bakery to sit and drink pre-corporate, diner-style coffee and munch on chocolate iced cake donuts. Since my mama’s passing in 2006 and later, PNN co-editor Tony Robles’s Uncle Al Robles, my son and I still went in daily to get coffee, remember my mama and get her and Uncle Al’s donuts to place on their altars as an offering, always given to us for free by the staff of humble, indigenous diasporic daughters who worked at the Bakery to support families in struggle.


Monday, March 28th 2011 was the Bakery’s last day open. POOR Magazine staged a grief rally outside the Bakery. Myself and fellow poverty scholars from POOR, Muteado Silencio, Charles Pitts, Bruce Allison and Carina Lomeli laid our bodies down on the sidewalk, while Marlon Crump, “playing” a character called, Corporate Death, covered us with a black sheet, a staging by POOR’s Theatre of the POOR to mark the death of a neighborhood by a corporation and its subsequent criminalization of the poor people who dare to sit, stand, congregate or lie on the now-empty block.


We used to be here

Walking Softly on Mama Earth

And then there were red-lines, bread-lines, outcomes

And paper trails

All leading to the stealing of our, land, jobs and homes


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