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There Goes the Neighborhood

Issue Date: Jul 10 2000

The dot-com invasion of the Mission district in San Francisco has inspired a guerrilla response from area artists and, surprisingly, some dot-commers themselves.

When Alex Stroessner's employer, Internet Devices, was bought by Alcatel (ALA), he found himself with a stock-option windfall of $80,000. Last year he splurged on a new VW Passat to drive to his new job at in San Francisco's Mission district.

One night Stroessner left work and found a fresh scrape along the side of his light blue car. His Passat had been "keyed."

He wasn't surprised. In previous weeks, several of his coworkers at Spinner had gotten their cars keyed in the Mission, a predominantly Latin American working-class neighborhood, where the affordable rents have long been favored by artsy types and where dot-com startups are becoming as plentiful as the neighborhood's taquerias. For months, a poster attributed to the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project had been pasted on the sides of garbage cans, mailboxes, bus stops and buildings. It read: "VANDALIZE YUPPIE CARS: BMWs - Porsches - Jaguars - SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES

  • Break the Glass
  • Scratch the Paint
  • Slash Their Tires and Upholstery
  • Trash Them All

"If yuppie scum know their precious cars aren't safe on the streets of this neighborhood," it continued, "they'll go away and they won't come back - and the trendoid restaurants, bars and shops that cater to them will go out of business."

Since 1998, when a thirtysomething temp worker going by the pseudonym Nestor Makhno created the first Mission Yuppie Eradication Project posters, anti-dot-com sentiment has swelled. Many blame the Internet gold rush for San Francisco's soaring rents, the "yuppifying" of its neighborhoods and the tacky advertising that litters the city. The response has been a vigilante attack - from artists, activists, and, surprisingly, some dot-commers who are joining the rebellion.

Besides the traditional community responses like rallies and neighborhood meetings, dot-com resentment has taken the form of vandalism, public art and open hostility. And for dot-commers with a sense of humor and even the slightest distrust of dot-com overkill, it's hard not to sympathize with the outcry. The owner of an Internet PR firm who asked to remain anonymous admits that the ubiquity of dot-com advertising disgusts even him. "I make a living evangelizing dot-com messages," he says. "I want to see them in the business section, but I don't need dot-com-branded coffee cozies. The messaging is so aggressive - it's ruining San Francisco."

Nowhere is this tension felt more than in the Mission. In the 1980s this neighborhood became the preferred bohemia for those who moved in to take advantage of low rents. From predominantly middle-class backgrounds, having chosen not to take corporate jobs, these new residents, like it or not, were the first wave of gentrification that made the Mission safe for yuppies.

But now, the Mission looks increasingly like tony Pacific Heights - restaurants with valet parking, boutiques selling $100 capri pants in soft hues and high rents to match. The new face of the Mission makes funky types feel fussy, and has sparked some of the city's most intense backlash.

The Mission's popular Beauty Bar is decorated like a '60s hair salon, with sparkly, salmon-colored walls and cutout ads of women in beehives - "a sports bar for girls," jokes manager Aaron Buhrs.

For three months after the bar's opening, Buhrs says, the place was graffitied twice a week with slogans, including "Yuppies Must Die." "We also had a stink bomb, the toilet tank got kicked in and somebody lit the garbage on fire," he adds. Most recently a pail of snails, urine and feces was dumped in the bar's entrance.

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