After a longtime Mission resident and her family were denied service at a local restaurant, the community has demanded an investigation at the city level.
“We did not want to think that we were turned away because we are all Latino but there was no reason why we were turned away,” Sandra Cuadra wrote in an email, in an effort to mobilize the community feeling that she and her family had become victims of discrimination.
Cuadra sought solidarity by sending a letter to some 52 community members, including city employees, non-profit representatives, local business owners and vecinos. El Tecolote was among the list of recipients. Shortly after, it became evident that for many, this incident was the last straw.
A throng of emails ignited by Cuadra’s experience quickly evolved into a forum for pent up frustrations about gentrification—for longtime Mission residents and newcomers alike. The heated exchange of approximately 50 emails stirred up a conversation many community members felt was long overdue.
In the midst of the Cesar Chavez Day celebration on April 20, Cuadra and her family of 5 approached Local’s Corner restaurant at 23rd and Bryant streets expecting to be seated with ease. However, they were denied service by a waiter at the establishment who told the family that he was unable to accommodate them without further explanation.
Shocked and disheartened, Cuadra wrote a formal report to District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who confirmed via email that he is taking the matter seriously, and has since sent the report to the Human Right’s Charter for further investigation.
Cuadra stated that “ the emails that were sent around show me that these types of incidents keep happening.”
In a meeting with the Cuadra family, Yaron Milgrom, owner of Local’s Corner, sympathized with Cuadra but stressed that this issue did not arise due to a racial preference on behalf of the business.
Local activist Roberto Hernandez, and Eric Arguello of the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association, who were also present at the meeting, conveyed the sentiment of displacement on behalf of many Latinos in the neighborhood.
“You need to understand that what they went through, it’s what we’ve all been going through here in the neighborhood,” said Hernandez. “You are welcome here, but we’ve been here—we have grown up here, we have seen evictions, and we have seen gentrification here.”
Milgrom suggested that avoiding such incidents in the future would mean learning how to co-exist in the rapidly changing neighborhood.
“Our interests—when we align them—are more likely to happen than when we fight,” he said. “We’re not working together to make it better as a shared community; I think it’s a lost opportunity when it becomes brown versus white.”
Milgrom noted that the diversity of the Mission is what initially attracted him to the neighborhood, adding that “ I don’t want to be here if it’s any different.”
While some of the anger and allegations were diffused during the meeting, both parties agree that it was only the beginning of a much-needed dialogue in addressing gentrification.
“How do we take a negative situation and turn it around?” Hernandez asked, adding that “business owners and new residents have the responsibility to be a part of the community, and not just benefit from the income and culture.”