Friday, October 21, 2005

The Guardian ignores the elephant

It's another one of those special anniversary issues for the SF Bay Guardian: "39th Anniversary Special" is the head over the masthead of this week's edition (Oct. 19, 2005). Last August they celebrated the 31st anniversary of their alleged invention of the "Best-Of" promotional advertising strategy. Does the city's oldest weekly have a self-esteem problem?

More importantly, this week's Guardian has two feature articles that break, more or less, with Chris Daly's condos-for-the-rich housing strategy as per the Rincon Hill developments. Funny thing is neither of the articles---by Tim Redmond and Matthew Hirsch---mention either Daly's grotesque "victory" at Rincon Hill or even Daly himself, as I predicted.

Last August the Guardian editorialized against the Rincon Hill catastrophe by opposing the proposed five highrises in the plan, arguing lamely that the Planning Dept. should reject "at least two of these towers." What would the city do without that kind of bold progressive vision from the Guardian? One can imagine the howl from the Guardian if, say, Supervisor Elsbernd gave the green light for 3,000 million-dollar highrise condos in his district. But the ultra-left Daly gets a free pass from the progressive Guardian.

The Guardian stories make many of the same points District 5 Diary has been making since last December when this blog was born:

"Now the developers all want to build high-end housing. And the city is prepared to accommodate them."
"Who are we building all these million-dollar condos for---and is this the kind of city San Francisco wants to be?"
"The next generation of teachers, nurses, Muni drivers, carpenters, and cops will never be able to buy the houses that are now on the market...."
"There isn't a housing crisis in San Francisco. There's an affordable housing crisis."
(Tony Kelly, Portrero Hill)
"But it takes a lot more than condo towers to create a neighborhood..."
"Why are we building any new market-rate housing in the first place?"

Redmond sounds the alarm at the end of his piece: "This is the next battle for San Francisco. And there's no time to lose." Actually, it's already too late for the Rincon Hill area, since Chris Daly pushed that deal through and declared victory with only the above-mentioned peep of protest from his comrades at the SF Bay Guardian. The reality is that progressives have been the driving force---along with the Planning Dept. and developers---behind the city's disastrous We Need Housing movement, and, based on the evidence offered in the current Guardian, it's hard to believe that publication has the heart for the necessary political struggle to turn the city around on the housing issue.

The only way the Guardian can establish any credibility on housing is by following up on this week's call-to-arms with a relentless focus, week after week, on the seemingly inexorable gentrification of San Francisco and what we can do to stop it.

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