Is it a map of Ellis Act Evictions in San Francisco, or a Rorschach eviction-blot test to see where you are on the San Francisco political spectrum? The map below shows the location of Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco over the past approximately 15 years. While I have some issues with the map (ie, the map points of interest are rather larger), I find the reaction people have to the map to be even more interesting.
Some individuals and institutions (I’m looking at you, SFBG) feel that it is proof of how wealthy “speculators” have occupied San Francisco, forcing out every person of modest means in their never-ending-quest to enrich their pockets at the expense of others.
Others look at it and see evidence of a city failing to meet the housing demands of its residents – both current and future.
Others look at the map and wonder what the big deal is all about, anyway?
What do you see?
As for me, I get really frustrated every time I see an article that posits home-owners and home-renters are mutually exclusive groups with no common ground. I get even more frustrated when the situation is seen in terms of a “zero-sum” game, in which every “win” comes at the expense of the other side.
What I see when I look at the map is an incredible failure of the leaders and planners of San Francisco to meet the housing demands over decades and decades. San Francisco isn’t the largest city in the world, and it will never have the space to sprawl like a Las Vegas. But that doesn’t have to mean a victory for home-owners must come at the expense of renters, or vice versa.
It’s easy to play the politics of divide and conquer, lining up the usual suspects for “property rights” against the usual suspects f0r “tenant rights.” Why do otherwise smart and savvy San Franciscans continue to fall for this? Why aren’t we capable of electing leaders and choosing planners that realize for our city to continue to flourish we will need to find ways to accommodate citizens of every socio-economic background and income range?
We can do better, and I think it starts with putting our typical polarizing arguments to the side and working from areas of common agreement. What do you think?