Next week, the city will be considering a measure to positively reform the most prevalent form of entrepreneurship — home ownership.
In a city as transient as ours, where Boston yuppies and Southern dreamers come for a few years out of college so that they can one day tell their kids about “the California years,” I salute home owners.
There’s nothing wrong with renting a home — especially in a city as expensive as this one. But when you buy a home here, you make a big commitment to the city. You tie your personal fortune to the well being of San Francisco, you contribute your taxes to the city and its schools, and you sign up for the responsibility to care for your (often) century-old wooden house.
And as San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors considers legislation to reform the city’s backwards Tenancy In Common restrictions, we salute the gay community who has lead the way on home ownership.
Scott Weiner — who represents the Castro District — and his predecessor, Bevan Dufty, have fought mightily to positively represent the rights of homeowners. But it’s not because they are staunch conservatives, nor is it because of lobbyist contributions. Far from it. They are simply defending the rights of their constituents.
Walk around the Castro, Duboce, and other surrounding neighborhoods, and you will find old, beautiful Victorian houses. They are the ones you have to re-paint constantly, that look best when paired with meticulously tended greenery. They are nothing like the condo skyscrapers of Soma or the ritzy Pac Heights co-ops. And we can thank the Castro’s tenants — many of them LGBT — for having the foresight to preserve those classic homes decades ago.
And many of those old homes have converted from rentals to Tenancies In Common — a roundabout form of home ownership that proxy for condos. But they come bundled with a lot of baggage, first amongst which is sky-high mortgages that run pocketbooks dry.
And so many people in Scott Weiner’s district have had to put up with the hassle and cost of a Tenancy In Common, simply because they are committed to putting down roots, owning their home, and caring for their Victorian like it’s a centenarian grandmother or high-maintenance child.
Sadly, many in the previous generation of gay San Franciscans did not get the chance to experience middle age. But now, thankfully, we are seeing what a large population of gay people in their 40s and 50s have to say for themselves… and if the politics of the Castro speak for the community at large, this is the message:
It’s time for San Francisco to grow up and settle down.
And that is a message that I can support.
I remember the final Halloween in the Castro, back in 2006. It was one of the worst nights of my life. It was a horribly-managed shit show, complete with immature drunk teenagers, gang violence, and (the bad kind of) chaos. It was impossible to move. In short, a once vibrant tradition had degenerated into a giant mess.
Which is why the gay community fought so hard to get rid of the event altogether, once it spiraled out of control. They recognized that tradition itself is no defense for a bad idea — a lesson far too often lost upon San Francisco’s population at large.
And last year, the Castro’s leadership pushed through legislation to ban public nudity. That’s right, the neighborhood that once depended on shock value to help reset America’s rigid moral code, has now lead a fight to calm the hell down and carry ourselves like grownups.
And I welcome it.
Scott Weiner and other leaders of the Castro have emerged as some of the most moderate and reasonable people in a city that is still way too out of control (in a bad way).
We owe so much to the Castro community. They are politically cognizant, but don’t operate the type of political machines we see in other parts of the city. They love San Francisco enough to put down roots, but they don’t feel obligated to uphold every far-fetched tradition or hippie-era counter-norm. They preserve our classic Victorian architecture, even as they fight against the societal codes that emerged during that bygone era. All the while, they continue to push forward the culture that has made Castro, Duboce, Divisadero, and the Mission such artistic heavyweights in recent years.
And while tech startups remain the image of entrepreneurship, there’s a lot to be said for the risk/responsibility of buying a century-old home. Or opening a restaurant on Divisadero. Or taking the time to curate which aspects of our San Francisco identity are forward-looking vs. ready for retirement.
I wish Scott Weiner the best of luck as he looks to reform homeownership laws and help turn his district into a model for San Francisco — one that will thrive in times of boom and bust.
[Image courtesy Thomas Hawk]