Something significant happened at City Hall on Tuesday. It wasn’t just about supply and demand, or a housing moratorium, or an eleventy million hour Board of Supervisors meeting.
It was bigger than that. It was about a community struggling as hard as they knew how in order to keep what was theirs, and doing so against very powerful forces trying to take everything from them. What happened at City Hall was heartbreak bubbling up. It was hopelessness exploding. It was the staggering sound of what happens when generations of voiceless people, who’ve been excluded from the system, start bellowing together. And it was deafening.
I arrived at City Hall around 3 p.m. on Tuesday to show my support for Supervisor David Campos’ Mission Moratorium, a proposal that would put a pause on luxury housing development while the city bought land to build affordable housing on. At that hour there was already a collection of housing rights activists, church leaders, and Mission District tenants of all ethnicities, who had also come out to show their support and to speak in front of the Board of Supervisors. Of course there were opponents of the moratorium as well, but they were vastly outnumbered.
Last week I released a video that went viral locally. It was an animation that explained the importance of the Mission Moratorium in a way that people other than just political wonks could understand. So I popped into Campos’ office to let them know I was there in solidarity with them but also to get a gauge on where they thought things were.
I talked to Hillary Ronen, Supervisor Campos’ chief of staff who told me, “Today feels like a historic day no matter what happens, because it’s the first time we’ve seen an entire community get together, plan strategize, and organize for a solution around such a difficult public policy issue like affordable housing.”
And that is exactly what was in the air on Tuesday. While each supervisor spoke about the issue at hand, chants and songs echoed through the marble halls outside the meeting chamber, loud enough that the speakers had to occasionally pause.
See “supply and demand” is what someone quotes you right before they try to take what you have. They blame it on the market or say that “change is inevitable” but those are all euphemisms for “I don’t care about you.” If we allowed the market to solve all our problems, then we’d all be working for Microsoft because there never would’ve been anti-trust laws to break things up. The 1 percent would be the .001 percent and they’d literally own everything.
So the Mission Moratorium was an attempt to solve things outside of the market. And it got shot down. It needed nine votes and it only got seven. But if Tuesday proved anything, it’s that this is just the beginning. The people are angry, they heartbroken, and they are organized. And if the loud bellowing of disenfranchised people wasn’t enough to change things on Tuesday, that’s ok, Campos has sworn to keep fighting and introduce new legislation to address the Mission housing crisis soon.
The dissatisfaction with the direction San Francisco is heading is palatable, so maybe this moment marks the start of what so many of us have been desperately hoping for. I’m pretty sure this is what they call a movement, and I am damn proud to be part of it.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.