We’re sending this out to CSC stakeholders because we think it’ll be of interest to those of you who work occasionally or regularly with the Center for Sex & Culture; we’re also sharing this with the public, who are, after all, stakeholders of our beloved San Francisco. It’s an open letter to a SFGate/SF Chronicle reporter in response to the article cited up front; you may want to read it, titled “How SF’s Mid-Mission District Is Transforming.”
Lots of love to you all! —CQ & Robert
Dear J.K. Dineen, & Dear Reporters, Writers, Columnists and friends from the Chron:
As occupants of the 1300 block of Mission Street, a block specifically referenced in your recent article (http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/How-S-F-s-Mid-Mission-district-is-transforming-5626785.php), we think it’s a shame that your research and reportage missed not only our organization but also the historically interesting building we occupy at 1349 Mission Street (San Francisco Planning Department report on its background included below). Furthermore, we are only one of scores of historic buildings, some architecturally notable, and/or community-based organizations which can be found along the mid-Mission corridor you cover in your SFGate article. You are a champion of architecture and preservation, and our organization, the Center for Sex & Culture, includes an archive of history, a library and materials significant to the rich culture of San Francisco. (More about us below.) In fact, our life interests and focus seem to be in the same genre as yours, at least in part. We read with interest about your book Here Tomorrow: Preserving Architecture, Culture, and California’s Golden Dream; but while “Here Tomorrow” sounds to us like a play on the phrase “Here today, gone tomorrow,” we’re afraid that tomorrow, for all the reasons you (largely uncritically) address in your July 17 article, this hidden-in-plain-sight San Francisco neighborhood and its backstory will indeed be gone.
So to catch you (and your business community contacts and sources) up, in our corner of this neighborhood there are two art galleries, a major SF Dept. of Health HIV outreach, an Aikido dojo, a real estate broker, a small tech company, the SEIU Local 250 union office, a place that gives music lessons, numerous other small businesses, a nonprofit that serves sex workers (until recently there were two) and at least one that provides mental health services and support––and notable independent theatre CounterPulse is preparing to move off our block, relocating under pressure of the rent increases brought about by incurious tech giants and business people. They remain incurious because they don’t know we exist. They don’t know we exist because according to your article we are a “pot club” (“There is nothing on our block but pot clubs,” developer Patrick Kennedy [who’s building out the corner of 9th and Mission] is quoted as saying. He must be thinking of the1200 block; that’s where most of them are.) We are erased from public view by your work, which largely quotes those individuals who have long planned (some for decades) to line their pockets by erasing this neighborhood.
Because you are writing about our block, we can offer you an interesting story. CounterPulse is about to move. We are probably going to have to move as well, because of the rate of increase on lease prices in the neighborhood––in our case, it will be 300%––driven by the development and construction boom that is the subject of your article. Small businesses or nonprofits (we are the latter) may manage to grow at a rate of 30% and stay stable, but such a logarithmic earthquake of finance and speculation will certainly cause us to move this organization out of town or shut it down. Want to watch and report in real time what actually happens to a piece of local culture as it is forced out by architectural and business change? You are invited to be one of the witnesses to our potential death (or survival, but elsewhere) in this new market.
More responses generated by your article: To call what this neighborhood is undergoing a “quiet transformation” suggests that reportage didn’t happen via shoe leather: This period of construction is noisy, dirty and disruptive; to those of us who spend our days here, it is anything but quiet. It’s affecting everything from parking to the pattern of the wind. “As Mission Street becomes denser, some question whether the city is paying enough attention to its public realm. The street is clogged with buses - the 14, 14L and SamTrans lines - with little space for cyclists,” you say. Please tell us that you include public transit when you think of the city’s “public realm”! And if you think what’s growing in the mid-Mission neighborhood will shape up to be an “intimate” environment, you probably feel the recently-erected neighborhood that stretches between Mission Bay and the ballpark is intimate too. (We say “recent,” of course, because everything is relative, and we have lived in San Francisco 25 and 40 years respectively).
The stretch of our street described as “pretty god-awful” by your interviewee Eric Tao (describing our former neighbors between 7th and 8th on Mission) nevertheless includes––as does our block and every intervening one, all the way down to 5th Street––longtime residents of housing that was, at least at one time, affordable; small businesses; and community-based organizations. Just as restaurateur Matt “Semmelhack … has to remind other board members that Mission Street exists,” developer Kennedy wants Mission to “establish… its own identity,” but Mission already has one; the “unique character” developers are intending to create already exists, but San Francisco’s always-significant class divide obstructs others from observing it. While the people in this neighborhood need social services (a great article relevant to this is here: http://missionlocal.org/2014/01/sf-once-a-mecca-now-a-mirage/), they are instead getting 3,876 or more new neighbors. All but one of your interviewees reflect the starry-eyed wonder of the business community as it changes the landscape and cultural opportunities for the people who live and work here. Not a single citizen who lives or rents space in the old, extant mid-Mission weighs in.
Erasing and re-writing not only San Francisco, but California itself (via the “six Californias” partition plan), like it’s a computer, repartitioning the city as though it were a hard drive, obliterates the underrepresented above all. (The reason we at CSC maintain a sexuality community archive is because so many other historical organizations do not keep this material––but clearly, sex is only one part of history and culture that has no guarantee of being preserved.) If you’d rather have a historic parallel, let’s consider that in 1906, the earthquake and fire consumed almost everything between the Embarcadero and 9th Street––as have the tech giants and developers, moving all the way down our street to South Van Ness.
And if none of those notions seem relevant to the article you were assigned to write, if you’re going to going to call out new and significant restaurants, please at least recognize Moya—an extraordinary Ethiopian cafe (www.eatmoya.com) that has supported local arts and culture since the time it opened at 121 9th St in 2012, just across from the large new residential project Mr. Kennedy is developing. I certainly hope he’ll drop some dollars in there when he pops over from Berkeley to survey the new landscape in the 1300 block.
Here’s more about us––and just to make it clear, each of the businesses and nonprofits that surround us could tell its own story as well. Most of them, too, are in danger of being displaced. The Center for Sex & Culture (CSC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation (EIN 91-2153691). CSC provides judgment-free adult sex education programs, cultural events, a library/media archive, and resources to audiences across the sexual and gender spectrum; researches and disseminates factual information; and frames and informs issues of public policy and public health.
During this moment of the financially-forced diaspora of San Francisco artists and organizations, CSC still supports community needs, offers performance/rehearsal/gallery space with ready-for-use technical gear to performers and artists, and welcomes community groups needing meeting space and educators at affordable rates. We notice that many of the people who have historically used our services or attended our events have already moved to Oakland, or beyond. We display the last rainbow flag on the stretch of Mission Street you’re discussing. We have links to organizations like the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality and San Francisco Sex Information (both originally associated with Glide Memorial Church), as well as many others now-dead and still-extant.
CSC has worked or is working with the SF LGBT History Archive, Stanford University, SF State University, USF, UC Med Center, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Oxford, Columbia, Harvard and Yale (among many other institutions) to produce both research and lectures. We welcome interns from universities around the US and the globe. In the last few years we have appeared at both the California Academy of Science and the Exploratorium to lecture publicly about sexuality. One of us (Executive Director Dr. Carol Queen) is a former Grand Marshal of LGBT Pride and an internationally-recognized theorist, commentator and cultural sexologist who has authored a dozen books and been widely published in juried journals and compendiums of sex education and history.
CSC also maintains a free publicly available research library of over 7000 books, an archive of erotic materials chronicling the history of safer sex and sex-positive culture in SF, and an art collection (over 400 pieces of framed/flat art and tens of thousands of pieces of photographic, plastic art and ephemera). Conserving this collection is a monumental and expensive task, absorbing a large percentage of space and budget. In 2013 CSC provided archive and library support to The SF Health Department; The University of Vancouver, British Columbia (PhD research); and San Jose State University Library Sciences program (ten MLIS degrees awarded supported by work done at CSC). In 2014 we also provided support to investigators from the SF Public Defenders office.
The Center for Sex & Culture is currently an entrepreneurial effort with a budget of about $100,000 a year. It meets or exceeds this budget each year only because the community continues to demonstrate a need for its support, and supports it in kind. Other granting cycles and funding sources have included The San Francisco Foundation, The Creative Work Fund, The Janus Foundation, The Cloudview Foundation, Craigslist Foundation, SF Pride, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc., The Horizons Foundation, The Cumulus Fund, The American Endowment Fund Special Master of The Superior Court of San Francisco Judge Isabella Grant, and the City of San Francisco Arts Commission.
Thanks for listening to our point of view. We’ve cc’ed some of the writers at the Chronicle/SFGate who we think will find our perspective relevant or who have covered Center for Sex & Culture events or issues in the past. We’re also issuing this as an open letter to our membership and stakeholders. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org should you (or any of those we’ve cc’ed) want to get in touch.
—Drs. Robert Morgan Lawrence and Carol Queen
Founders, Center for Sex & Culture
A 501(c)3 Educational non-profit
As a preser-vationist, we think you’ll find this information about 1349 Mission of interest:
"In regard to California Register Criterion 1 (History/ Events) this property is considered under both the Industrial Employment context and 1906 Earthquake and Fire Reconstruction context of the Historic Context Statement, Market & Octavia Neighborhood Plan Area, since it is both an identified building type (commercial/light industrial) and dates from the Period of Significance (1890-1956 and 1906-1929) of that context. There is no indication the property is eligible for listing in the California Register under Criterion 2 (Important Persons), Criterion 3 (Design/Construction), or Criterion 4 (Information Potential). Criterion 1: 1349 Mission Street was constructed between 1906 and 1913 on land that was formerly occupied by a two-and-a-half-story, wood-frame dwelling which sat back from the street on a large lot. The lot and the dwelling were owned and occupied by the Parent family. The Parents owned this lot as early as 1894, and continued ownership through at least 1909. At the time of the earthquake, the lot was owned by the insurance broker named Charles Parmalee. In 1909, ownership of the lot changed hands, being purchased by a machinist named Ira V. Scholfield. In 1910, the lot was occupied by Weiler Brothers Stables, likely an interim use erected on the site after the disaster. The 1913 Sanborn describes the building at this lot as a two-story safe manufacturer, which the City Directory reveals to be C. J. Periam & Co. Safe Manufacturers and Dealers. In 1932, Scholfield sold the lot to William W. Hansen, who appears to have instigated the facade changes that now characterize the building. In 1940, the building was occupied by the United Service Co., a carpet cleaning company. … The 1906 Earthquake and resultant fire leveled the entire South of Market area. Reconstruction of the South of Market Area proceeded in several distinct periods, beginning with an initial flurry of activity between 1906 and 1913, a later wave occurring after the First World War between 1918 and 1920, and then a large boom in the mid-to-late 1920s. Often residential and smaller commercial and industrial rebuilding preceded large scale industrial rebuilding due to necessity, relative ease of construction, and less difficulty settling insurance claims. Industrial buildings, mostly used for warehousing, light manufacturing, or auto repair, were typically built along major arterial streets with storefronts and vehicular and pedestrian entrances facing the street. Many industrial buildings also featured secondary entrances and loading docks on secondary elevations, in particular those that back on to alleys or driveways. From the beginning of the Gold Rush through at least the 1950s, San Francisco was a regional center for industrial employment, and large numbers of San Franciscans made their livings in these fields. One early San Francisco industry was metalworking, including the production of machinery for mining, railroad, and regional agricultural needs. As a busy mercantile center, warehousing and distribution were all important. Food processing, clothing manufacturing, furniture making, and many other industries were developed to supply the rapidly growing populations of California and other western states, for which San Francisco was the metropolis well into the twentieth century. Metalworking, which the C. J. Periam & Co. Safe Manufacturers and Dealers operation would have participated in, was an important industrial employer in San Francisco. Twenty-four machine shops, machinery manufacturers, or machinery distributors did business in the subject area during the Period of Significance. In 1909, such places employed 3,400 workers citywide, and added $4.7 million to the economy. By 1954, despite increasing automation, they still employed slightly over 3,000, and contributed $23.7 million to the city’s economy. 969 Natoma Street, with its building typology and known association with industrial employment, clearly demonstrates an association with this broad pattern of San Francisco history." (c) 2011 San Francisco Planning Department
NB: As an additional note it appears that some of the original framing (charred in place) still remains and the entire structure is clad in inch thick non-dimensional redwood. It is a heavy timber building - as such, kind of scarce.