The Gate

SF Gate Home
Today's News
Live Views
Bay Area Travel

Jump to

Register to run in the Chronicle Marathon!

Cultural friction in Mission District

By Emily Gurnon
  Friday, June 4, 1999

The real turf war in the Mission District has nothing to do with young gangs staking out their particular corners. This is a conflict between the rich and the poor, between those who can afford to own property and those who can't.

As police continue to investigate Kevin Keating, the man they believe is behind the so-called Mission Yuppie Eradication Project, property owners vowed to rally Sunday against "hate crimes" targeted at their cars, homes and businesses.

"We're the only people left that it's OK to hate, politically successful Caucasians who drive nice cars," said Samantha Spivack, a three-year resident of the Mission.

Spivack was referring to the series of flyers posted in the Mission over the last several months advocating vandalism to cars and property owned by "yuppie" newcomers to the neighborhood.

"It is hard to read these posters and not feel a little threatened," Spivack said.

The flyers were the work of the Yuppie Eradication Project. One flyer read: "This yuppie takeover can be stopped and turned back. We can drive those cigar-bar clowns back to Orinda and Walnut Creek where they belong. How: vandalize yuppie cars: Lexus-Porsches-Jaguars, sport utility vehicles. Break the glass. Scratch the paint. Slash their tires and upholstery. Trash them all."

It is not an isolated sentiment.

"There's some very real resentment and real fear developing," said Christian Parenti, 30, a writer and teacher who has lived in the Mission off and on for the past 10 years. Parenti is not a member of the Yuppie Eradication Project.

"The neighborhood is increasingly the playground of really wealthy young and middle-aged folks who live in Silicon Valley; they come here because it's authentic and hip, and, not intentionally, end up destroying those qualities and displacing people in the process. People just cannot afford to live here anymore."

The most recent anti-yuppie poster, seen in both English and Spanish around the Mission, calls for the destruction of four specific bars and restaurants. It also names one new resident of the neighborhood, real estate agent Robert Cort Jr. and his family, as "a leading force behind Mission gentrification."

Cort, who bought a house on 20th Street and evicted the family who had been living there, said, "I don't want to see anybody kicked out of their house." But, he said, it's not his fault that the economy and the shortage of housing has led to changes in the Mission and throughout the Bay Area.

"I'm 30 years old and I didn't have a home. I need a home, too," Cort said. "I guess I am part of the problem. Put me in jail because I bought a home."

Keating was arrested May 14 on suspicion of making terrorist threats and malicious mischief in connection with the flyers.

The charges were subsequently dropped pending further investigation, but police Capt. Kevin Dillon said investigators are going through evidence seized at the Mission District apartment Keating shares with his girlfriend, who is also under suspicion. They plan to bring the evidence to the district attorney within the next few weeks, at which time Keating could be re-arrested, Dillon said.

Keating, 38, said this week that police have targeted him for political reasons.

They took some 70 books from his apartment - anything related to anarchism, communism or revolution, Keating said.

The search warrant lists among the items confiscated an acid bomb recipe, books by Karl Marx, volumes on the Spanish and French revolutions, copies of Keating's own fiction writing, boxes of paste and a framed picture of Malcolm X. Keating's computer and computer disks were also seized.

"We don't target individuals because of their political beliefs," Dillon said. "People in this community feel threatened by what's going on."

While not admitting that he is the man behind the posters, Keating said he has never advocated violence against individuals and would never make a bomb. But the aspiring writer and filmmaker believes that strong language is needed to make a point.

"The posters have a provocative language, and if the message weren't provocative, the underlying and more important issues would never be acknowledged or addressed," Keating said. The main issue: that real estate speculators "are out to drive the working class and poor people out of their homes because there's lots of money to be made."

Even if he is not a terrorist, Keating is inciting other people to vandalize and damage property, said Aaron Buhrz, owner of the Beauty Bar, one of the establishments targeted in the latest Yuppie Eradication flyer.

"There are some people in this town who are listening to him and going nuts over it," Buhrz said. But he added that he has not been the victim of any anti-yuppie vandalism because of the flyer.

A backlash against the flyers - and the sentiment behind them - appears to be growing.

A group calling itself the Mission New Property Owners Action Pact, among others, is sponsoring a "Stop the Hate" rally for 1 p.m. Sunday at Dolores Park.

Organizers could not be reached for comment. But an answering machine at the phone number listed in its publicity urged, "If you're tired of being insulted and terrorized just because you own property and drive a nice car, then show your support for building a stronger Mission by coming to our rally on Sunday . . . "

"At the beginning I was able to laugh it off, but the latest posters targeting specific businesses really frightened me," one local business owner wrote to her neighborhood newsletter. "I am absolutely against people being evicted from their homes . . . but do not feel that anyone who somehow managed to start an independent business should be targeted in such a violent manner."

"Everybody here is just trying to live their life," resident Spivack said. "Sorry that we came and bought a house here because it's the last affordable place in The City. Sorry if that offends you."

Jason Teplitsky, owner of Blowfish Sushi, another of the four establishments targeted by the flyers, said he figured Keating was "just a guy who's disenchanted with the life of a filmmaker and he's just kind of bitter about it."

Blowfish Sushi has been used as a canvas for various anti-yuppie graffiti messages, but "we're not prepared to abandon this space and go to a different location," Teplitsky said.

In a newspaper ad promoting Sunday's rally, organizers urged residents to "Stop the Hate."

"Hate crimes against new residents of the Mission have terrorized many of those of us who, having moved to this community to empower ourselves as property owners, find that instead we are treated with contempt and targeted by vandals," the notice reads.

The reference to hate crimes is "just asinine," said Heather Rogers, a Mission District artist and member of MAGIC, the Mission Artists Gentrification Insurrection Coalition. Her group opposes gentrification and works to support low-income residents of the Mission - those who are the real victims of hate crimes, Rogers said. "Property damage is one thing," said Rogers, 28. "Ripping the guts out of a community (is) just so much more destructive, so much more barbaric."

Get a printer-friendly version of this article


Feedback The Gate


©1999 San Francisco Examiner  

Examiner Hot News What's cooking in Chronbooks kitchen?