All Roads Lead to Superb Owl City
The first thing I noticed upon stepping foot in San Francisco were the people sleeping every twenty feet or so on the sidewalk. I’d just moved from Chicago, which like any other major urban area has endemic homelessness, but I’d never seen this kind of concentration of people literally sleeping on the street.
The area where I first got off the bus in San Francisco isn’t far from where Super Bowl City is currently erected, in the waterfront plazas on the Embarcadero. It only took me two months to flee to Oakland, and I’m not a sportsball person, so I have no personal investment in the tacky monstrosity that’s overtaken the city by the Bay. All I have is a deep and abiding sense of disgust for what is clearly the “circus” part of “panem et circenses.”
Take San Francisco’s homelessness problem, for instance. The Embarcadero – I’m sorry, Sperm Owl City – is a popular spot for the city’s indigent population. You wouldn’t know it right now, though, because true to Mayor Ed Lee’s promise that they’d have to get off the streets, the police have been pushing them to a place that won’t be crawling with tourists for two weeks, a four-block area beneath a highway underpass bordering an industrial part of the city.
Never mind that Stuart Schuffman, one of the independent challengers in last year’s mayoral race, ran on a platform of solving the problem of human feces on the city streets. Never mind that Schuffman was perfectly serious, because there aren’t enough public toilets available for homeless people, tourists, and sportsball fans alike. Never mind that Schuffman and the slate of candidates he ran with on a campaign of actually addressing San Francisco’s out-of-control homelessness took 45% of the vote from the incumbent Lee, even with almost zero coverage from the city’s major media outlets and exceptionally low voter turnout. In Up R Bowel City, the streets are clean, the bus stops don’t smell like piss, and there are no icky homeless people in sight to bring down the mood.
As of last month, three of Mayor Lee’s former fundraisers are facing felony charges including bribery in exchange for political access. Never mind that during last year’s election, Lee brought the city’s business, labor, and tech leaders into a room to tell them there would be consequences for not supporting his hand-picked appointee who was running as an incumbent for one of the District Supervisor positions. Never mind that the man who won that seat over Lee’s appointee, Aaron Peskin, can’t get the mayor to answer questions about who made the deal to have San Francisco foot the $5 million bill for the fan village, even though the city with the stadium that’s hosting the actual game 50 miles away is receiving nearly $4 million from the Host Committee. In Oops City, we’re having a “civic celebration,” so celebrate, dammit.
And please, pay no mind to who’s actually benefitting from two weeks of taxpayer-funded largesse. Never mind that even though the NFL revised its original plans to remove San Francisco’s MUNI bus line’s power cables for the fan village (the Host Committee must have balked at the seven figure bill), the city’s downtown is still effectively shut down for a game that isn’t even being played there. Never mind that Uber bought the right to be the sole app-based car service at the game, or that Verizon bought an illegal, obtrusive advertisement that takes up one whole side of a skyscraper, drivers, customers, and citizens be damned. Never mind that while the billionaires are making out like bandits at the northern end of the city, just five miles south the police executed Mario Woods by firing squad for being poor, black, and mentally disturbed. In Sup Bro City, Black Lives Matter activists shutting down the East Bay Bridge into the city on MLK day is an inconvenience, but the NFL shutting down the entire city for two weeks for a sportsball championship is a source of civic pride.
I moved out of San Francisco after two months because I was paying $800 a month to live in the loft of a bedbug, cockroach, and flea-infested out-of-business shoe repair store on Mission Street, and that’s considered a good deal here. The squalor and inequality is so present that it was clear to me almost immediately that this city does not welcome anyone who makes less than six figures a year. In the wake of the tech boom that shifted half of the Bay Area’s income to the top 20% of earners, and in a city where a $25 billion home rental company feels free to passive-aggressively antagonize citizens because they pay a pittance in taxes, the Super Bowl celebrations feel like more of the same: a cash grab for the already-rich while everyone else gets screwed. And the people who are getting screwed the most are those who have the least to lose.
I’m grateful that I live in Oakland and that I can choose whether or not to cross the bay. The volume of the greed, indignity, and human misery in San Francisco is upsetting at the best of times, and now the mayor, the NFL, and the corporations that run this town are trying to drown it out with giant cheap light-up statues and a big party on the city’s dime.
Are you not entertained?
If you want to donate to an organization that actually does good things for the people of San Francisco, including running a shelter and meal services, please check out GLIDE at www.glide.org.
Sara Vipond Brink is a filmmaker, activist, and accidental PAC officer. You can find her on the internet at www.saravipondbrink.com.