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Topic #17
An Unfortunate Twist of Events

The idea for my section of this week's Topic was prompted by the news of the murder of Matthew Shepard, as well as the Investigative Report "The Economic Cleansing of San Francisco" (SF Bay Guardian, Oct. 7, 1998&#41.

Like so many others, when I read the news stories of exactly what happened to Matthew Shepard last week, I felt sad and sick to my stomach. I wondered how someone could just do that, just beat someone to death and leave him tied to a fence. How someone could just do that and then go about business as usual. How someone could keep hurting someone else, keep killing them as they begged for their life.

The father of one of the accused was quotes saying: "Had this been a heterosexual these two boys decided to take out and rob, this never would have made the national news. Now my son is guilty before he's even had a trial." OK, number one, you shouldn't think that it's OK to rob anyone, heterosexual or not, and number two, if Matthew was a heterosexual, he never would have been targeted in the first place. The news that the Reverend Fred Phelps and his crew are planning on protesting the funeral with anti-gay signs which read things like "Fag Matt in Hell" is almost worse than the actual hate crime itself. It's not enough that he was killed for being gay; right-wing Christians have to bombard him and his family and friends with their opinions of how "wrong" he is, even after he's dead. Aren't Christians supposed to love one another? Matthew Shepard was a gay man who was essentially killed for flirting with someone. Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney murdered a man. Are the Christians condemning them?

The stories about this hate crime have put some interesting thoughts into my head. The name of this website alone reveals that we tend to write a lot about things that make us "scowl," things that annoy us and make us mad, written in a don't-ya-hate-when-that-happens sort of way, not in a destroy-everything-die-die-die sort of way. One of the most recent and oft-written about subjects has been The Yuppie and The Yuppie's Effect On Our Lives. We're so quick to impulsively growl god, I hate them. Do we really mean "hate?" Hate is defined as "intense hostility and aversion", and aversion is defined as "a feeling of repugnance for something with a desire to avoid it." The definition of dislike, on the other hand is "a feeling of aversion or disapproval." Desire to avoid, yes. Desire to kill, no.

Usually when you hear about hate crimes, it's in the context of race, religion or sexuality. Are there economic hate crimes? At what point does dislike cross the line and turn into hatred? Lately, in the alternative press there has been talk of the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project, a group of people who want to stop the impending gentrification of San Francisco's Mission District. At one time, the Mission District was home to a large population of working-class Mexican and Latino residents. Little by little, upscale eateries have begun entering the area, bringing with them the wealthy see-and-be-seen population of the city. Stickers that read "You've had your dinner. Now go home." have recently been spotted on bus stop benches in the area, but the main — and most talked about — goal of the Project is to vandalize the yuppie cars that are found parked in the Mission District, sending the message that yuppies are not welcome in the area.

When I first heard about the Yuppie Eradication Project, I thought it was a revolutionary idea, something I silently cheered on, but would never, ever do myself. Different perspectives started appearing in the Letters to the Editor Pages, letters which basically stated that the developers and big businesses are the ones who should be targeted, not the yuppies. Essentially, their point was that the yuppies don't drive the businesses in, they merely drive to the businesses.

But don't they drive new, upscale businesses in indirectly? If money talks, and money demands a new restaurant in a certain area, won't the developers listen? A weak-willed, greedy, desperate owner can sell out whenever he feels like it. If David, the owner of the Toronado, decided that the hordes of yuppies who have begun coming in every weekend made for good profit, and they demanded better bathrooms or fresh flowers or more flattering lighting, would he change it for them? For the profitability? Does it matter that 5 loyal patrons leave due to the crowds of people who obviously are out of their element if 50 nameless barhoppers with big bucks take their place? Does our $20 worth of drinks matter more than $200 of the yuppies'? Are they fair-weather customers? Does anyone care if they ARE?

Of course yuppies they have the right to exist. They have a right to have their own enclaves, just like any other group of people; I mean, everyone likes to hang out with people who are "like them." Why, then, do they always seem to feel that what they have is never enough? Their attitude seems to be that they are "doing us a favor" by "cleaning up the area." There is such a double standard when it comes to the upper class. Presumably, wealthy areas are gated and exclusive in order to keep out the "undesirables." So, I can be called an undesirable in their neighborhood, but they are appalled when they're called that in mine?

A recent anonymous Letter to the Editor in the San Francisco Weekly regarding the Yuppie Eradication Project stated that what was truly wrong with the [Mission District] neighborhood were the "transplant punks who come in thinking San Francisco owes them an alternative district to be lazy, counterproductive whiners." Actually, I want an alternative district where people aren't clones of one another, and there are varied people and points-of-view rather than the endless rows of the same few chain stores over and over again.

But I suppose Anonymous feels that he is owed an area where he doesn't have to be bothered by the counterproductive whiners, just as Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney felt that they, too, were owed an area, one where they didn't have to be bothered by flirty gay men.

Will they get what they think is owed to them? Only time will tell.

San Francisco has always touted itself as being a haven for all of those with nowhere better to go. In the sixties, it was your communist left-thinking radicals. In the seventies, it was the hippies. The hippies were replaced in the mid-eighties with the influx of AIDS patients. San Francisco has had massive influxes of Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Filipino and Mexican immigrants… and of course, San Francisco has one of the highest concentration of Gay/Lesbian/Bi-Sexual residents of any city in the world.

It's funny, a city all the way across the country from the Statue of Liberty had the best chance of truly epitomizing the sentiment of the Statue of Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

We arrived in San Francisco in 1994. We were the poor, the tired… yearning to live in a city where we could be ourselves and not be judged for it. In 1994, it was a haven… our sanctuary.

In the last few years, however, a group of extremely intolerant people have started moving to the city in droves. We call them Yuppies, but that isn't really an accurate name. By the true definition of yuppie: young, urban professional… that would mean that Janet and I are both yuppies. We work in white collar jobs, we live in an urban setting, and we are in our twenties. However, we are certainly not yuppies.

Yuppies in San Francisco have this seething aura of intolerance surrounding them. When they move into a neighborhood, they start demanding certain types of shops and services. In the Marina, you can walk down Chestnut Street and see a Noah's Bagels, a Starbucks, a Peet's coffee, a Jamba Juice, a World Wrapps, a Gap, etc… On Union Street, you find the same shops. Noe Valley? The same shops. Inner Sunset? The same shops.

If you look at a map of San Francisco, it's easy to separate it into six major sections.

In 1994, this was the main breakdown of the neighborhoods:

Section 1 – Yuppie Central. Bordered by Van Ness on the west and California St. on the south. This is the main Yuppie Enclave. Any store that you find in this area, you're likely to find two or three, because yuppies just don't like walking too far to find a bland cup of coffee and a bland, tasteless bagel.

Section 2 – To the south, it's mostly industrial… to the North, it's mostly North Beach (Little Italy&#41 and Chinatown.

Section 3 – The last few real neighborhoods in San Francisco. The Lower Haight, home of the disenfranchised like us is here, as well as the Castro (home of Yuppie gay folks&#41, Japantown, New Chinatown,  the Western Addition (a large working class African-American&#41 and a residential area called the Inner Sunset. Bordered on the South by Market Street (OK, the Castro is south of Market, but it's close enough&#41, the east by Van Ness and the north by California St.

Section 4 – The Financial District. and Union Square. No real living areas.

Section 5 – To the east, suburb-type residential housing. To the west, the Mission, a predominantly Hispanic, working-class neighborhood.

Section 6 – To the east, some hotels, to the west, some trendy nightclubs. In the middle? Loft space for artists.

In 1998, the Yuppie incursion has moved into full force. In section 2, yuppies have taken over most of the old-timer bars and moved them towards a more trendy clientele. Some have moved into the area with the best views of the bay.

Section 3 has suffered a number of casualties. The Inner Sunset is now fighting a losing battle against the Yuppie invasion. Local bars, restaurants and shops have been replaced with chain-stores, Starbucks and Noah's Bagels. Rents have sky-rocketed. The Lower Haight is resisting Yuppification, and due to the housing projects, it seems that they are being held at bay. Still, on Friday nights, the neighborhood is swamped with Yuppies trying to do get drink outside their own neighborhood. The Western Addition has remained relatively unscathed.

Section 4 – More upscale shops.

Section 5 – Noe Valley, once a neighborhood for new parents on limited incomes, has been flooded with Yuppies. Rent has risen by over 50%. The Noe Valley has more damn dogs than kids in it now. Rents in the Mission have risen by 50% or more.

Section 6 – South of Market. Once a place for artists needing live/work space, it is now filled with Yuppies buying up cheap loft space. Local nightclubs are being shut down because it keeps their new Yuppie neighbors awake. Rent has risen over 60% over the last four years.

So San Francisco has gone from being the city that was unique due to its broad selection of people is now unique because it might be the first fully gentrified city in the United States. In five years, the bartenders in their yuppie bars and the baristas in their precious Starbucks will have to commute in from other cities, because they will never be able to afford rent in the city on their salaries.

A group in San Francisco called Seismic Solution is looking for a big earthquake to scare all of these Yuppies into move into another cities. Note, they aren't saying that they want the yuppies dead, just to leave for safer pastures… because as we all know, only horrid, disgusting, evil people ever wish death on another human being.

Goodbye, Matt Shepard. Unfortunately, you gave us what we didn't need… another martyr.

Posted in Topics of the Week (1990s).

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