Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Real estate speculation in so many forms

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | July 07, 2007 3:10 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: gentrification, homophobic behavior, Real estate, San Francisco, speculation, subsidized housing, Western Addition

I was going to sit on my favorite newspaper box to get some sun, but some bar has decided to have a smoky barbecue right on the sidewalk so I keep walking, past Van Ness even and then the strange area where the streets are almost like highways except they're on hills, then I keep walking. I've decided I'm going to pretend that this won't hurt afterwards, that I'm not completely exhausted and getting hypoglycemic, that I can just go on a walk like someone without these problems and maybe it'll be okay.

Then there's that strange area where I'm out of downtown and the buildings are suddenly '60s instead of '30s and there are way more trees and no one's around, it's kind of calming because I can hear birds chirping, what is this building on the left -- I guess some kind of senior center, or wait maybe a hospice. Then the street ends, there's a fence around maybe a school so I turn left and then I'm coming up at the subsidized housing, I think this is one of the newer ones built after all the larger complexes were demolished, I mean they got rid of everyone who was living in 10-story towers and then let maybe a tenth of the people move into the new buildings -- public housing disguised as condos, making the neighborhood safer for gentrification.

There are a bunch of kids hanging out, boys on one side of the street and girls on the other -- I guess the boys are reading me or something, one of them says three strikes -- purple shirt, purple belt, and the socks! I smile -- and those fucked-up earrings, someone says as I'm walking past. Then across the street, one of the girls says I like your belt -- thanks, I say, turning around just a bit. One of the other girls says faggot, and I put my hands up in the air like no kidding and someone else argues: no, that's a girl! Her friends says no that's not, it's a faggot. You walk just like me, one of the other girls says and that almost sounds like a compliment except I don't think she means it that way. I'm enjoying the gender confusion -- it doesn't happen often anymore.

It's actually kind of refreshing to me that there's a small part of the Western Addition where it actually still feels like a black neighborhood, not just new condos and yuppies in renovated Victorians. Although of course I'm getting shade like I'm not supposed to be in that part of the Western Addition, which is only about one block wide and maybe three or four blocks long in this section. I'm almost at the corner and a shard of glass flies maybe five feet from my head, a very sharp piece of glass like if it actually hit me at a certain angle it could really do damage but I decide to think that whoever threw it didn't really want to hit me anyway, otherwise it would've come closer. I don't want it to ruin my mood, the sun is shining bright in my face as I turn the corner, and when the cops drive by they slow down like I'm not supposed to be there either -- it feels kind of sad to me that this is just an island with a few blocks of public housing and some low-income ownership cooperatives within a sea of real estate speculation, but still the cops are acting like it's a threat and everyone on the street is looking at me like I walked onto the wrong movie set.

I keep walking, one woman says to me: you must be in a good mood today. I smile -- I don't know what she's talking about, really. Then someone else stops, maybe a dyke -- but no it's a young guy, about to enter his car but he turns around almost 180 degrees to stare at me like he's never seen anything like it. This all feels so strange and artificial -- I mean, we're maybe 10 blocks from downtown San Francisco. At the end of the strip of subsidized housing is a new condo development, three-bedroom/two bath townhouses -- the advertisement even says "gated community." I guess the gates aren't up yet. It's hard for me to imagine how much those townhomes are going to cost, especially after passing this new building on Fillmore that has the audacity to call itself Fillmore Heritage Center -- cultural removal disguised as a celebration of history -- I think there's even a jazz club in the lobby. I look up at the building -- nothing special, it doesn't even look like the apartments have large windows or balconies -- but what really makes my mouth hang open is the sign that says starting in the 600,000s -- somehow real estate in San Francisco still surprises me.


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Lynn David | July 8, 2007 5:27 AM

Yikes! You can buy the house I rent in Indiana for about $15,000 and you even get a lawn [but I live in the Hoosier boonies].

A friend of mine in Brussels, Belgium, recently bought a 3 bedroom apartment of about 1500sq ft for 200,000Euros, I guess about 225,000 or so dollars - and that was a bargain. Came with garage space too! Real bargain, garages go for about $20,000 in Brussels.

OH! She got two balconies! Must be shoddy American design/architecture in San Fran.

Holy crap. $600,000? $225,000? We just bought our 100 year old house in Indy for $76,000 We have over 3000 square feet! It needed/needs a little fixing up, but it's in good shape!

Yes, the gentrification in San Francisco is monstrous -- that apartment in Brussels would surely go for at least 1.5 million here. As for your houses, I have no idea...