Open Letter To The San Francisco Chronicle

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Dear San Francisco Chronicle,

I want to register my profound disappointment with your lack of reporting on the battle to stop American Apparel from opening a store at 988 Valencia. And when I say lack of reporting I don’t mean you did a bad job reporting on an issue that was hugely important, and interesting, to a large number of San Francisco residents, I mean that you didn’t report on it at all.

Two weeks before the planning commission hearing (most Mission residents only found out about the pending chain-store opening beginning 20 days before the meeting when A.A. was required to post a sign in their store window) almost every business, co-op, and non-profit within two blocks of the proposed store had a Stop American Apparel sign in their window. We made the posters to inform the neighborhood that a formula retail chain wanted to open on a street filled almost exclusively with small, local businesses. Once people knew, there were large demonstrations and a giant petition drive that gathered 2,500 signatures. The neighborhood banded together. But we shouldn’t have had to inform the neighborhood, that should have been your job.

The day of the hearing hundreds of Mission residents, workers, landlords, and merchants both for and against (though overwhelmingly against) crowded into the planning commission hearing and two overflow rooms in city hall. We’ve been told it was the largest turnout for a planning commission hearing ever. Where were you?

It’s amazing you didn’t run a single news story on the topic. Instead of a reported story examining the conflict and informing the public of the hearing, you waited until after the fact to run a front page editorial by C.W. Nevius on Saturday making fun of The Mission and deliberately mis-characterizing the issue as being hipsters vs. American Apparel. But it was always about a diverse neighborhood coming together to decide whether or not to allow formula retail (American Apparel has 250 stores) on its streets.  Today you ran another editorial caricaturing the Mission district, this time by Caille Millner in the business section.

Editorials are supposed to provoke, but they don’t belong on the front page of a newspaper. You’re supposed to keep us informed. It’s sad to see you completely drop the ball on this important story. Two of your top conservative columnists wrote editorials, couldn’t you have assigned one reporter?

Stephen Elliott

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