“San Francisco is a burning house. The board is debating getting an extinguisher.” — @amyechen. Photo, Steve Rhodes.

The Mission is burning

Cultural heritage is being pushed out, housing is in shambles, and we have no plan for the future.

Let’s change that.

At the Mission Moratorium hearing one week ago, there was anger, fear, and heartbreak. There was also a sense of community and a feeling of hope.

But most of all, there was gridlock.

If the Moratorium passes, nothing gets built. If it doesn’t pass, nothing gets built. Needless to say, no one is happy with the status quo.

Saying the housing crisis is deep-rooted and complex is like saying the Pacific Ocean is a bit wet. Kim Mai-Cutler’s essential piece on the issue weighs in at 13,000 words and features 20 charts and graphs.

Let’s distill the debate into one simple, grasp-able question:

Should we put up a new apartment building at Mission and 16th?

The answer is laughingly obvious:

“Yes, of course! San Francisco badly needs new housing to ease the crunch. We need to build up, become more dense. Supply and demand!”
“No, of course not! More luxury housing will continue the wave of negative gentrification that is gutting our poor communities.”

The Weekly (or Examiner?) said it best: “SF Housing debate. Both sides well-informed, passionate. Both sure the other side is dead wrong.”

At the Mission Moratorium hearing, the issue was broken down into black and white. Yes or no vote. The debate was therefore constrained.

We need a different kind of public meeting.
A meeting of the people, by the people, and for the people.
A chance for us to focus on
what we
share in common,
not what separates us.

What would a meeting like that look like?

  • Everyone is welcome
  • Everyone is equal
  • No microphone or stage — instead, mingling and discussion
  • Questions to promote brainstorming, imagining the future, and finding common ground
  • The chance to forge new connections and therefore enable new solutions
  • An event to create momentum towards a common goal. In this case:

Ideas. Networking. Momentum.


What: A chance to discuss the Mission from a larger perspective, in a calm setting. A chance for people to talk together, and really listen to each other.

Ideas: surveys, brainstorms, and collaboration.
Networking: New connections & community building
Momentum = Fresh ideas + engaged people

When & Where: Tuesday, June 23rd, 6pm to ? Location TBD. (See survey for details).

Who: Anyone with an interest in a healthy Mission District is welcome.
A special invitation is offered to these groups and entities:
- Current/former Mission residents
- Everyone who came out to the Mission Moratorium meeting
- Community organizations in the Mission
- Plaza 16 Coalition
- 48 Hills
- the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, and city staff
- the press
- the public at large

- make your voice heard
- take tangible action
- be a part of your community


Please RSVP so I’ll know how many photocopies to make! Take the survey!

Q: Are you serious? Is this really happening?
A: Yes.

Q: Are you naive, or a hippie, or what?
A: I’m a teacher. So, yes.

Q: So we’re all just going to mill around, maybe argue for a while, and leave feeling even more sure of our original views?
A: That’s kinda what happened at #MissionMoratorium. #Mission2050 will be different. There will be guided discussion questions and brainstorms to encourage us to look at things from different perspectives. Hopefully, people with opposing views will be able to talk civilly and maybe learn from each other. We hope to create connections and momentum to move us toward shared common goals.

Q: Who are you?
A: I’m Sam-Omar Hall, an independent journalist. (@sozh). I live in the Mission.

Q: You can’t just get in a big room (or a park) and “talk out” a huge thing like the housing crisis. This is hippie-dippie BS. It will have no results.
A: It will have results. New connections, new energy, new ideas, new momentum. In fact, talking to each other is the ONLY way we can solve a crisis like this. We have to start somewhere. This is a good place to start.

Besides, I’ll bring materials and discussion questions to ensure that we can all stay “on-topic” on productive as much as possible (yes, even for hundreds of people). That said, arguing is part of democracy. If we need to have some heated discussions, so be it, but let’s try to guide them in a productive direction.

Q: Why just the Mission? Way to be selfish and self-interested. What about the rest of the city? The region?
A: The neighborhood level is a good place to take on intractable issues. They are most grasp-able when you think of smaller area. Also, it’s not so practical to have an all-hands-on-deck SF meeting, though that is an intriguing idea.

#mission2050: what do you see? write a response,
or join the conversation on Twitter.

Sam-Omar Hall is a journalist with an interest in cities,
community building, solutions, and the Oxford Comma.
He lives in the Mission.

Special thanks to Steve Rhodes and Taka Taira for kindly sharing their awesome photos, and to all who gave feedback along the way.

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