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San Francisco Chronicle’s a Changing Mission

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A Changing Mission

        San Francisco Chronicle’s A Changing Mission explores the controversial issue regarding the occurrence of gentrification in communities with vulnerable and often marginalized populations. Through the implementation of various compelling and well-structured, as well as interesting and informative interviews, the thought-provoking documentary provides viewers with an imperative, unbiased and dual perspective of the rapid changes occurring within San Francisco’s Mission District, in particular 24th street at Shotwell and Folsom. The film not only adequately addresses the devastating challenges that original residents experience as a result of gentrification, but also uniquely presents viewers with an often unheard of and overshadowed perspective that of which is of the affluent “newcomers” by introducing viewers to the profound hardships that the wealthy “newcomers” also incur as a result of attempting to integrate into existing communities. I couldn’t help but think of David Harvey’s argument around the Right to the City. That reading connects very well to this film, as it depicts that only certain residents seem to have the right to live in San Francisco.

        While watching the documentary, although completely disheartened I began to perceive social, as well as economic stratification as the root cause of communities being targeted for the occurrence of gentrification. As previously discussed in class some would classify gentrification as a modernized form of colonialism due to affluent individuals utilizing money to forcibly enter into communities with no regard for the residents who currently live there. Throughout the film viewers are shown that as a result of gentrification former residents in communities, such as the Mission District are being forcibly evicted, displaced, and experiencing an increase in rent making the ability to maintain and sustain livelihood in the communities that they once called home virtually impossible. Also, as depicted in the documentary local businesses and business owners are becoming victimized by gentrification through no longer being able to afford rental spaces within their own communities due to an increase in property value. The Bid Rent Theory, as discussed in class also supports the claim that gentrification stems from social and economic stratification because according to the Bid Rent Theory which is a model that is proposed to be what underlies gentrification, rent is intimately connected to the cities center, and in the case of gentrification wealthy individuals allow the land that is located in the middle to devalue and once the land devalues they return to purchase it. However, once they make the beneficial purchase, individuals in the surrounding community suffer.

        Although some would perceive the changes being brought about through gentrification such as, reduced criminal activity and new infrastructure to be beneficial to communities such as, The Mission District, the visible transformations occurring within these communities are unfortunately disportionately advantageous to incoming residents opposed to the residents that previously and currently still chose to reside there. Through the various interviews the documentary, A Changing Mission demonstrates that the impacts caused by gentrification are indeed multi-dimensional and are often not readily apparent during the developmental phases of gentrification. For instance, in the documentary many interviewees expressed deep apprehension and overwhelming sadness regarding the faces of the mission rapidly changing. They appeared immensely concerned that they no longer were familiar with their neighbors, and from observing the painful expressions and witnessing the heartfelt accounts, for these individuals their support systems and networks becoming completely demolished is one consequence of gentrification that appeared to have far more of a detrimental emotional and psychological impact than the physical changes occurring within their environment ever could. According to Mindy Fullilove, author of Root Shock: How Tearing up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We can do About it, the interviewees expressing deep concern about “newcomers” integrating into the community were experiencing a term known as “social loss”. Fullilove states “Long-time neighborhood residents commonly develop deep social ties and strong social support networks within the community. When the neighborhood and social connections therein are broken up, this “social loss” creates excess stress and psychological effects…Cultural institutions, culturally relevant businesses and a general feeling of having a place in the city to call home provide many social and health benefits beyond the face value that we often find in the gentrification debate” (Fullilove, 2004). As depicted within the film through various accounts, when gentrification occurs it greatly severs the cultural and social dynamics of the community which in turn affects all the residents who reside in the community, both old and new alike.

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