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How to Fight City Hall and Lose

May 21, 2015

R.G. Davis : potreroview – excerpt – (first published in 1991)

Every Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in City Hall Room 282, the San Francisco Planning Commission oversees the incremental destruction of urban culture. Ecologists who advocate saving every piece of pristine open space usually avoid the massacre, as they have difficulty with the ugly practices of private property and land exploitation. Whereas environmentalists, those who accept packing the cities – infill housing – hoping for a surrounding greenbelt, merely slow the destruction. They visit occasionally to discuss mitigation statutes. 

When I first visited Room 282 in early 1990, I sat like an open-mouthed tourist surveying the tea-party. The “Mad Hatters” attracted my attention. They were, I learned, the voice of neighborhood concerns. At first I looked upon them as oddballs. But as I became involved, I too began to sound like one of them; a wild voice raised in opposition to the vast assortment of developers and their architects, lawyers, bankers and real estate speculators along with the agencies of the municipal government and the Mayor. 

The few people who habituate City Hall in the name of protecting the neighborhoods are old guard resistor protectors who have little or no sense of ecology or open space and have become a part of the freak show one encounters at the public trough. These volunteer neighborhood voices who know the machinations of the commission are mostly connected to The Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, composed of 53 local groups, which emphasizes retaining “the character” of the neighborhood while developers pound them into smaller and smaller spaces… (more)

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