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Dirt and Gold: Injustice in SF

I am Xavier Arenas, I grew up in the Excelsior District in San Francisco, California. I grew up in the Excelsior, Crocker, Sunnydale, and Mclaren parks. Meeting new people and enjoying life as it was in a ghetto neighborhood. I was in the generation that saw Candlestick be demolished and moved to Santa Clara and all the new skyscrapers being erected in downtown SF. As I approach adulthood the neighborhood that I grew up in is now being shined in a new light. I am beginning to see the injustice wrought over my communities and the difference in worlds in SF. I asked a few of my long distance friends what they thought of SF and what comes to mind first. A lot of them responded with the idea of the homosexual scene, the clean streets, the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, our sports teams, and all the tourist terms you can think of. But when I think of SF I think of the Mission and all the districts around. It was surprising none of my friends heard of the Mission as in my eyes that was the center of culture and not the downtown office scene. But that is just the tip of the iceberg for what San Francisco is being catered like.

What I did not mention before were homelessness and the projects. I had only one friend mention homelessness and that was a friend in New York who remarked that there is a close comparison to the sheer number of homeless in both cities. Just home them alone was I able to really understand and perceive the distortion of reality that goes on in San Francisco. I began to read pamphlets for tourism for SF and there it was. San Francisco would rather cater to tourists than the people living here. It was clear to me the city defined SF as a progressive city, one that loves Gold Gate Park, Haight Street, and Fisher Man’s Wharf. But I’ll tell you the secret behind the lie they tell. They pay millions of dollars to set up a light show on the Gold Gate Bridge but down in the Sunnydale projects they are lucky even to have 1 working street light. They’d rather scrub the entire Lombard St. floor with a toothbrush than fix the roads on 3rd St. Gold Gate Park is a crown jewel compared to the dust left behind in Mclaren Park. And in a personal record, I have an abandoned farm in front of my house that has been greenlighted to begin construction for an apartment complex big enough to block the sky.

When I say this, it is coming from a person who has lived in SF my whole life, a person that has seen small businesses destroyed and left with a new apartment complex that no one in the area could even dream of affording. The city every single year markets itself as working to end homelessness and create affordable homes. But the same amount if not more of the money is inputted to keeping the streets cleanest in the Presidio. From an estimated 5404 homeless in 2005 to an estimated 8035 in 2019, homelessness keeps growing. And about the same number of sheltered homeless is maintained every year never changing since 2005, around 2800 or less. Homes are skyrocketing in prices and will not stop. Jobs are being taken by businesses buying out smaller ones and replacing them with tech startups no one in the community is fitted to complete.

In my San Francisco, I see trash all along the road, dumped cars sidelined never to be touched, homeless left to rot on sidewalks and under bridges. When I see San Francisco online, I see glamour, I see the cleanest streets, I see the electric bikes, I see what the city wants me to see. When I think of Mission street I think of the beautiful culture all around me, and I see the struggle. I think of the gum on the sidewalk that never seems to leave while Van Ness gets new roads every minute. I see everything that my city wishes it could forget about, the alleys in Chinatown, the dirt and graffiti on the walls. My city would rather paint over and put a bandage on. You can be on the cleanest streets downtown, walk 3 blocks and witness the atrocity of the Tenderloin left to rot by the city. I beleiveCandlestick Park was demolished because it was too close to the slums, too close to the trash that the city could never relieve. They decided in moving to an entirely different city because they didn’t see it fit in a city that had no space in the clean downtown districts. I’ve seen streets be torn to be rebuilt all along Ocean Avenue. But I have never seen Excelsior, Mission, Sunnydale, Hunters Point, Portola districts in San Francisco, California ever really change. The streets, the trash, the parks, the homeless, all seems to be the same in my San Francisco.

My city is changing, our city is changing and it will leave us behind if we do nothing. The next time you have trash in your hand, a bag of chips, a straw, anything, think of what the city will do to the trash, nothing, so it’s on us to keep the streets clean. It’s up to the communities under the injustices to rise to the opportunity of cleaning our streets. Express yourself and make your voice hear in coming elections for the city officials you want to represent you. Assist your community in public service and be kind to those doing their part in cleaning the streets we walk upon. Be aware of your community and stay faithful to the world you live in, San Francisco is a city of many that are going through the same injustices. Along 24th St. there are alleys with murals and beautiful street art, hidden away from the city, gold stashed away. I think it’s about time we once again search for the gold in our city and in ourselves.


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