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Transformation in San Francisco

As much as I am trying to, I can't really seem to find the words that describe my entire journey throughout the Hearst photo competition----which technically started late into fall semester 2014. I don't think I've fully processed it all....from being funded to travel to North Carolina and finish up my story on bodybuilder Carli Terepka, to the many photo talks and edits in between. It's truly been an honor to get this sort of experience.

I can most certainly say my experience in San Francisco was one of the best in my 22-years. Thank you to everyone at Hearst, everyone who shared their story and knowledge with me and everyone who takes on the powerful craft of journalism. What we do is so important---despite the tough days I know we all have, storytellers have an incomparable gift.

I do want to share that before I took this trip, I made a full-effort to take words of advice I heard from Carli before she went on stage at The Arnold in Columbus. After all the hardwork she put in, she had looked herself in the mirror once, and simply told me "now it's time to just enjoy it."

I'll be the first to admit that I often feel like I'm missing out on opportunities I am given because I am thinking past them. What's next after this though? What if my story falls through though? What if this happens?

I didn't want any of those anxieties going into this. I made a full-effort to compete much like Carli does, and that was calmly. I had gratefully made it that far and was already very honored, now it was just a matter of doing what I do: storytelling.

Truth is, my initial story did fall through, and I ended up doing a lot more reporting than usual to piece together this essay. But I was lucky to keep a calm mindset and just take in the experience and people I met along the way. I hope that some of these photos can do them justice.

I'll spare you more of my rambling words and just post the photos already.

Our prompt was sent out a week prior to arriving. We had roughly 48 hours to complete the story.

The demographic of San Francisco has been changing the last couple of years and its impact is being felt by many long-term residents as real estate prices continues to sky-rocket and high tech businesses establish themselves in the city and the rest of the Bay Area. Activists are raising their voices and political agendas are forming. Who are the people, what are their stories and how is this new demographic challenging the way people live in this historic city of San Francisco?

As one of the most densely settled areas of California, the city of San Francisco is home to over 800,000 people. With an abundance of hills and significant stretches of the Pacific Ocean, followed by uniquely structured housing filled with diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, the city has an established identity.

According to locals, around 2010 the technology boom began fracturing this cultural hub. As thousands of tech workers continue to stream in for new jobs throughout Silicon Valley, thousands of natives are being priced out.

(Above) Tech workers are reflected in the shuttle bus that runs from Mission Street to Silicon Valley. Referred to as “Google buses,” the locals view the buses as symbols of gentrification and displacement and have caused obstructive protests against them in the past.

Many are being evicted from their longtime affordable homes throughout the suburbs of the rapidly gentrifying city. Unaffordable housing and displacement due to eviction have become the new norm for “The City by The Bay.”

“It's happening everywhere,” said Roberto Alfaro, a Mission native whose home was bombarded by illegally placed subpoenas trying to evict his family.

(Above) An activist takes part in a group prayer at San Francisco City Hall.

Though this has affected all areas of The Bay, an east-central neighborhood, The Mission District, stands at the forefront of eviction and displacement.

Traditionally a Latino neighborhood filled with art and culture, locals are fighting to keep their homes and businesses amongst “techies” migrating to the suburb and causing an increase in living.

(Above) A luxury bus and apartment complex are reflected in the window of Burger Joint on Valencia Street in the Mission.

Luxury housing accounts for 93% of the housing being built in the Mission. The San Francisco Planning department has determined that only 13 development sites remain in the Mission. With limited property left, San Franciscans are pushing for City Hall to give them affordable units instead of luxury in hopes to maintain the place and culture that they call home.

Between Mission and Valencia Streets, Clarion Alley is a historical art mural project created by a collective group of artists in the Mission. The mural focuses on the theme of Central American struggle.

“It’s just too expensive now, only for very rich people,” said Jesus, a construction worker and 8-year Mission resident who is helping to build a new luxury complex off of Valencia Street.

Josh, 25, kicks a piece of trash in the air while searching Dolores Park hill in the Mission for items left behind.

“I had the picket-white-fence, the wife and the baby and now this is where I am at a year later,” said Josh, who became homeless after losing his blue-collar job in the Mission.

San Francisco is both the wealthiest and most unequal city in the nation. While homelessness nationwide has been slowly declining since 2005, San Francisco’s rate has gone up, numbering 6,436 according to David Campos, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Many natives in the Mission feel underrepresented as they fight to defend themselves from an onslaught of luxury home development. The average median for monthly rent is at $4,100.

“It’s a grand irony,” said Carlos Gutierrez, a native resident and director of an empowerment group in the Mission. “Not even the techies can afford the average rates, how is the working class supposed to?”

“We co-live—it’s the only way to be able to live here,” said Ivy Summer, the founder of Voulez—an event planning company.

(Above) Adonis Gaitatzis, the founder of Net Ninja—an open source software company, and his girlfriend, Ivy, hug his roommate Diana good morning. Tony lives in a co-housing unit called “20Mission” with 40 other roommates. Their home, located between two major subway stops, was originally built for migrant workers and is now inhabited by college graduates and “techies.” Ivy lives in a similar style unit.

“Everyone that tries to live here is in competition,” said Ivy. “It’s capitalism so we have no way of knowing if the prior tenants were evicted,” she said regarding the copious evictions in the Mission.

A homeless man and woman sleep in Civic Center Plaza outside of City Hall in San Francisco at the same time of a hearing that voted on a bill that proposed putting a moratorium on the construction of luxury developments in the Mission. The hearing lasted for nine hours and the moratorium was rejected.

“This isn’t just about us anymore,” said Carlos Gutierrez, a Mission native. “We just happen to be at the forefront right now—this is nationwide.”

Assignment 2 was a single image in honor of the Panama-Pacific International Expodition, a world's fair held in San Francisco in 1915, celebrating the completion of The Panama Canal.

City dwellers pass by a projected light piece in the windows of the California Historical Society building called The City Luminous: Spectral Canopy Variation downtown San Francisco. The piece is a collage of documentary material from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) that is checker-boarded with modern expressionistic video segments. For the duration of San Francisco’s citywide PPIE100 centennial celebration, light-based artists will create after-dark work for these windows.

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