Odd fellows on Market
They’re as certain as death and taxes,
the two notes that the Examiner plays: the titillation of
terror and the mess on Market.
Like most Americans these days, I live
with one inner eye turned toward threats to our security —
as I write, Bay Area bridges are alert to possible attacks.
But it’s a good thing every once in a while to revisit the
Examiner’s other fetish, to remember that, despite the
increasingly gaudy cartoons that run on its front page, the
“mess” on Market consists of people trying to resolve a
problem that has existed for decades.
Take the South of Market Anti-Displacement
Coalition (415 430-1269 ext. 1684), a loose-knit mix of
people and organizations whose approach is endorsed by such
varied folks as the Housing Rights Committee of San
Francisco and the United Pilipino Organizing Network. Others
are also hard at work, but SOMAD is noisier and better
organized, running a website at www.somad.net
and an active news list.
SOMAD’s leading voice is Quintin Mecke,
rosy-cheeked, handsome, soft-spoken. In response to a
request for information, he points to the group’s
principles: “SOMA’s growth must build upon our community’s
human, economic, physical, and cultural assets, and realize
their full potential. Especially important is the
preservation and enrichment of our long-standing
Filipino-American community, and all our communities must
fairly share the responsibilities, benefits, and impacts of
our neighborhood’s growth.”
On the official side stands the Redevelopment
Agency, most recently in the guise of Jose Campos
(415 747-2442). As part of the process, Campos — a young,
earnest Jose Ferrer — shepherds a citizens’ advisory
group known as the Mid-Market Project Area Committee toward
a proper plan for the area. District 6 supervisor Chris Daly
has also gotten into the act, sponsoring a series of public
workshops on the proposed plan.
The two groups — SOMAD and the PAC —
seem to travel parallel paths toward the same goal. That’s
the problem. They’re not intersecting.
A recent message from SOMAD circulated the
text of its own plan (see Cybervoices),
along with a complaint: “As of early October 2001, the PAC
has not discussed the SOMAD proposal.”
I called the Market
Merchants Association (415 362-2500) for
clarification. The association keeps even closer tabs on its
turf than the Fangs; it’s also a major mover in the PAC.
Executive director Carolyn Diamond, tall, blonde, and
vaguely suggestive of polo ponies, turns up at all sorts of
community events in the area, as does her sidekick, the
dark-haired Lynn Valente.
Valente answered when I called. Was it
true as SOMAD says, I asked, that the PAC has never
discussed its proposal? Yes, it was. And why was that?
Because it’s never been on the agenda. Remembering SOMAD’s
statement that it had sent the proposal to the PAC in April,
I asked the obvious question: how does something get on the
agenda? It has to go through Jose Campos, Valente replied.
Ever helpful, she offered to provide me with his phone
number in order to facilitate the process. Dizzy, I hung up.
Seeking reality, I headed over to the Odd
Fellows Building at 7th and Market. The grand old
structure is one of several singled out by SOMAD for
specific development, to be “restored to its original,
quirky grandeur. The building lends itself well to use by
artists and arts organizations, with space for studios,
offices, rehearsal, performance, and public meetings.”
Right now, the ground floor houses typical
Mid-Market businesses, including a check-cashing service and
a liquor store. Rooms upstairs are still used by the Odd
Fellows, an old organization that does quiet good and
engages in a few secret rituals on the side.
The lobby of the building is blocked by a
black iron grill, reinforced with Plexiglas, and a sign
directing visitors to use the elevator. I rang the bell.
The ancient elevator clattered to the
ground floor and a guard peered out. I asked if I could take
a look around upstairs. No, he demurred, he was the only
person on duty and he was too busy to take me. What was
upstairs — were there offices, or just meeting rooms?
Several floors were available for IOOF meetings, he replied,
but the group was going to have to cut back on its space in
January, when the Lines Dance Studio moved onto a couple of
Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, one of the
arts groups hit hard by the runaway dot.com locomotive, has
found space downtown. It looks like SOMAD’s proposal is
gradually acquiring a life of its own, without a hearing by
the PAC. And without even a cartoon in the Examiner.