How the Neighborhood Feels

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More media as the word gets out that people are taking a stand (to see other coverage click here). A quick note to folks doing write-ups: this is not hipsters versus American Apparel (though I understand how that makes for a good headline). This is a grassroots movement that has the support of local business owners and people who live in the neighborhood of all different backgrounds.

Below is a post I wrote last night about gathering signatures for a petition to keep American Apparel out of 988 Valencia Street.

I went out on Valencia tonight to collect signatures in support of not letting a national chain store move in on our street. I whipped up a petition (without the help of a lawyer) and hit the streets with my bike under me and hoping for the best.

Our ultimate goal … the goal … is to get people from the neighborhood (especially those who live and/or work/own a business within 4 blocks of 988 Valencia) to attend the planning meeting at City Hall in room 400, at 1:30pm on February 5th. But we’re aware that it’s hard for regular citizens to get an afternoon off from work to head to the Civic Center in hopes of saving their neighborhood. So I figured a petition couldn’t hurt.

With dreams of carrying boxes full of signed papers into the meeting I decided to test the waters tonight by trying to gather a mere one hundred signatures.

Setting out I knew that most of the folks I know in the neighborhood wouldn’t like the idea of a national corporate chain store opening up on Valencia. But what I didn’t expect was the overwhelming support and curiosity from people I didn’t know. The response to my requests for signatures was immediate. Every shop I walked into, every bar I visited; people not only signed the petition, but asked how they could get involved (I told them about the action/discussion meeting this Thursday, January 22nd, at the Makeout Room at 7pm … I encourage anyone interested, especially business owners, to come).

I had over one hundred signatures in less than two hours. I left a stack of petition papers at Ritual coffee shop, Lost Weekend Video, and hope to leave more in other stores on Valencia street (please drop a line to let us know if you own a business on Valencia and want to have a petition at your establishment).

One person tonight questioned why I was a gathering signatures. The young man, after being made to understand that I wasn’t being paid, let it be known that he believed chain stores are a part of development. After I explained what happened to the Haight, and Manhattan for that matter, in the 90s (start letting in national chain stores and the neighborhood loses its soul) he said, “Exactly, and when it happens here the cool neighborhood will be somewhere else.”

“What about the people who have lived here for more than a decade,” I asked, “ … more than that? Those who don’t want to just drift to the next ‘cool neighborhood’ like yourself but want to stay in their own?” I asked. Rent control living. Families. Investments in apartments. Business owners like Dema who have invested their all into the Valencia Street community. These are the things I think about while wanting to keep Valencia Street local. I have no idea if I changed the young man’s thoughts on urban development overall or not, but I know I made my point. He signed the petition. And I hope to see him (and yourself) at the Makeout Room this Thursday to raise any concerns he may have … or perhaps just lend his voice to the cause.

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