Guest commentary; Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of El Tecolote.
The recent decision by San Francisco District Supervisor, Hillary Ronen, and organization Calle 24 to place fences at the 24th Bart Plaza is incredibly disheartening.
Walking outside BART station at 24th and Mission streets, you instantly see high-rise fences locked up and 10-plus vendors trying to sell goods maneuvering the space in fear of being fined for not having a vendor’s license.
Placing fences outside San Francisco’s 24th Street BART station is an example of bad community planning from Hillary Ronen and the leadership at Calle 24 (formerly lower 24th street merchant association from 1999 that is now recognized as a Latino Cultural District in San Francisco). The action taken by Ronen and Calle 24 is POLICING people they don’t deem “acceptable” to sell goods at the plaza, with false accusations of people selling drugs and stolen goods. The fences alienate and harm our community.
People are still recovering from the pandemic and are in desperate need of money. Requiring everyone to have a permit license takes up to three weeks, and there is no guarantee you’ll be approved. Why force people to go through all that trouble just to earn $20 to afford a meal? One vendor who recently lost his job now supports his family with only $75 a day selling sneakers and shampoo at the plaza. Supervisor Ronen claims the fences will make the space safer, but if anything the vendors are going to seek out other places to sell that are less safe.
The fences are not just inhumane but are also based on false accusations. The press release from Ronen and Calle 24 have attempted to paint the plaza as a grounding place for stolen goods and drugs. The only related incident is Mission District SFPD Police Captain McEachern mentioning to the SF Chronicle that some “community members” said a physical assault took place. However, McEachern also stated there have been NO assaults reported and NO victims claiming these accusations to be true. The captain also stated he has not seen and has not heard of any drug dealings at 24th Street plaza. BART Police also stated the same. Lastly, his office has only filed five reports of people selling “stolen goods” since May (occurring less than once a week). Unfortunately, Ronen and Calle 24 based their decision to put up the fences on hearsay and not on facts.
People don’t have time to wait 60-90 days for Ronen and Calle 24 to finally remove the fences (as stated in their recent press release). If Ronen and Calle 24 care about the “community,” they should take away the fences and assist with traffic control at the plaza. The reality is everyone does not have same access to sell items online via Craigslist or Facebook marketplace, which does not require a permit and is not frowned upon. People are going to sell in a public space, whether it’s at the 24th Street or not; it’s always been the culture.
It’s a painful reminder to continuously walk by as a local and see the space stripped away from folks trying to get by. Contrary to what Hillary Ronen and her colleagues at Calle 24 believe, this past year the 24th Street plaza has been one of the most vibrant places to visit in Frisco.
As we heal from the prolonged isolation of the worst pandemic of our time, you can come to 24th Street plaza and be surrounded by conversation, hella gente playing music, and vendors selling items from Latin America, food, toiletries, to even random cell phone chargers. But given this financial crisis we’re in, not everyone may look “acceptable” to Ronen.
Unfortunately, the tone Ronen and Calle 24 took, reinforces racism and classism we experience in the Mission District.