In 1867, St. Peter's Church, the city's first Irish parish, was founded around the corner from where La Victoria Bakery stands today, turning the southeast corner of the Mission into a working-class Irish stronghold. 24th Street became its bustling commercial hub.

After the 1906 earthquake, disputes over building codes delayed the reconstruction of SOMA, which had been almost entirely razed by fire. A wave of English, Scottish, Irish, German, and Scandinavian union laborers was pushed out to the Mission to live. The area ceased to be a leafy suburb and became part of the hurly-burly of the rebuilding city, becoming less affluent and more densely packed.

And it emerged as a hotbed of labor activism. In 1907, the Streetcar Strike claimed 31 lives after railroad bosses hired gunman to disrupt protests. The strike's spiritual leader was Rev. Peter York of St. Peter's Church, and many of the union workers lived in the Mission. The strike ultimately failed, but it bestowed on the Mission a political capital sealed in blood.

Denise Gonzalez of Luz de Luna thinks businesses have to be versatile or perish.
Anna Latino
Denise Gonzalez of Luz de Luna thinks businesses have to be versatile or perish.
Sidewalk Juice owner Jason Nazzal, a second-generation merchant, sees 24th Street becoming another Valencia.
Anna Latino
Sidewalk Juice owner Jason Nazzal, a second-generation merchant, sees 24th Street becoming another Valencia.

The neighborhood remained a mostly white progressive stronghold through World War II. But after the war, the Mission's residents began drifting out to the newly built suburbs, including the Sunset District and Visitation Valley, joining a national "white flight." Latinos rose to become the neighborhood's dominant force.

The first arrivals spilled out from SOMA in the 1930s, when construction of the Bay Bridge brought thousands of workers to the district. More followed, gradually clustering around the church and bakery. White bohemians also drifted in. The Mission went from one-tenth Latino in 1950 to nearly half Latino by 1970.

White laborers forged the Mission as a neighborhood and put it on the progressive map, but they saw it as a way station on their path to greater economic prosperity. The Latinos who arrived after the war, though, made the area their own. They breathed new life into it.

In the 1960s, Latino neighborhood groups managed to fight off the urban revitalization program that ultimately proved disastrous in Western Addition and the Fillmore. Chicano activism flourished, and Mexican-style murals began to color the neighborhood. Galería de la Raza was founded in 1970 at the corner of 24th and Bryant streets.

In the '70s and '80s, political turmoil in Central America drove another wave of Latinos to the Mission, generating some infighting in the community that paralleled the rise of gangs. Meanwhile, affluent gay men starting spilling out of the Castro into the Mission's northeast corner.

The Mission was politically weakened when dot-com money hit the city's veins like a speedball in the 1990s. Developers took advantage of a 1988 law easing zoning restrictions for live-work lofts, replacing many of the Mission's idle industrial buildings with polished residences. Tech workers followed, lured, too, by easy access to the freeways that lead south to Silicon Valley.

The population of the 94110 ZIP code, which encompasses the Mission and Bernal Heights, swelled by nearly 4,000 between the 1990 and 2000 censuses before settling around 70,000 people in 2010. The median household income rose in the '90s from $29,874 to $53,108 — almost a 30 percent jump even after adjusting for inflation. Rents and housing prices went up, and many longtime homeowners sold. Businesses cropped up to cater to the newcomers: Valencia Street, previously occupied by appliance stores, became a row of boutiques and top-tier restaurants.

The influx remade the northwest corner of the Mission, but delivered only a modest trickle of newcomers to the southeast corner before the dot-com boom went bust. The 24th Street commercial district remained largely unchanged.


But now, with a second boom reshaping the city's economy, changes in the 24th Street corridor are accelerating. For business owners, the news isn't necessarily bad. The influx of money is a business opportunity for those able to seize it.

"I think it all depends on the business people's ability to adjust and to realize that they may want to still serve traditional customers, but they have to create new ways to serve new customers," Martinez says.

La Palma Mexica-tessen, opened in 1953, is almost always jammed with a mix of white and Latino customers. The Roosevelt sees steady traffic of white and Latino patrons of all ages. Over the summer, Woody Allen filmed scenes for his upcoming movie, Blue Jasmine, at Casa Lucas bodega before having lunch at Wise Sons.

Along the 24th Street corridor, nearly a third of proprietors, including Maldonado, own their stores outright, insulating them from spikes in commercial rents.

Indeed, some of the current turnover has more to do with generational change than rising rents. Discolandia went out of business when owner Silvia Rodriguez retired. The woman who ran Angela's Gifts, which sold mostly religious items, became too infirm to run the store. The husband-and-wife owners of Frutilandia restaurant, who had been commuting from Antioch, retired and sold the business to a younger Latino couple. In December, World Pioneer Video went the way of many video stores, but the owners, an Asian family that also runs the Chinese restaurant at 24th and Bryant, plan to open a natural grocery next door to the now-empty space.

Luz de Luna is one of a handful of new Latino-owned stores on 24th Street, when it moved in June from a cramped spot on sleepy 25th Street. In a historical echo of Maldonado's ouster of Murphy's Pharmacy, Luz de Luna took over the space J.J. O'Connor Flowers left behind when it closed after more than a century in business.

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11 comments
carlos.chavarinjr
carlos.chavarinjr

Great article,  Jaime Maldonado  said it best when stating, "I get sad that Latinos in my generation aren't more progressive and proactive in terms of understanding that things are going to cost to make things better."  This is exactly how I feel!  I thank you for including it in this article.

skemptastic
skemptastic

I've heard that the swim is first so fewer people drown (as in, you'd be much more likely to drown if you swam last, after being exhausted from biking and running). Very sad news about Ehlinger, at any rate.

LibertyHiller
LibertyHiller

Late to the party, but...  One small detail: St. Peter's was NOT the first Catholic parish built for the Irish community of SF. That honor belongs to St. Patrick's in SOMA, which is about 16 years older.

eddie.ferrusquia
eddie.ferrusquia like.author.displayName 1 Like

Great article on gentrification in the Mission District.You say “evolution of 24th Street”, I say socio-economic Darwinism.As a Latino and exile of my once-beloved neighborhood, I generally sense in my people a great deal of defeatism towards gentrification that would have been unimaginable just 40 years ago at the height of the Chicano Power movement.Whatever the hell happened to us since then is beyond me, but if it’s anybody’s fault that Latinos are being shoved into the armpits of California (no offense, Stockton) it’s probably us.

But before us Latinos all stock up on Speed Stick, allow me to leave a few words of wisdom to the new (read: mostly white) residents of the Mission:

Dear hipsters and yuppies: (Is there a difference, really?  I’m not being sarcastic; we really don’t know.  We just call you yupsters for the sake of clarity.)

Every time you walk down our streets at night, point and snap photos in our store windows while we’re working late, and go “oooh”, and “aaaah”, and “hahaha, isn’t that funny”, it’s actually fucking obnoxious.  The Mission is not a zoo and Latinos actually resent being treated like exhibits in our own neighborhood.  (“See the endangered Chicano in its native habitat before it's extinct!)  When the class-cleansing that started with Willie Brown has finally finished its work in San Francisco and there’s not a single one of us left, then you can open the exhibit.  Maybe breed a few of us in captivity.  Turn the place into a wax museum.  Preserve the traces we left behind so that future generations can discover who we were.  (“Look, they left paintings on the walls!”)

You might think we don't understand when you make fun of us, but chances are we do.  (BTW, they’re called quinceañera dresses, they're supposed to be big and colorful, and they're designed for 15 year old Latinas, not a gaggle of snickering, siddidy, 30-something white girls already way past their prime.  Sorry ladies, you couldn't rock those dresses if you tried.  If you find them overly ornate and ostentatious, why don’t you slip into something more your style, like a tasteful Scandinavian-inspired evening gown, or a bedsheet with straps?)

As much as we all love organic patchouli burgers, not all of us can afford to eat at upscale “foodie” joints.  Latinos for the most part find it counterproductive to impress first dates with conspicuous displays of wealth – we save that for the wedding.  Nor do we feel the need to wow her with our extensive knowledge of the esoteric world of kelp-based Sri Lankan cuisine.  You’d be surprised what we can do with pupusas and a sexy Spanish accent.  Don’t you yupsters have your fill of pretentiousness in the art scene?  Now you gotta be bougie about food?  How about just thanking God for something to eat in a city where hundreds of homeless go hungry every day?  But I’ll tell you what: you stop judging us for walking around with a Popeye’s drink, and we won’t make fun of your knit sweaters and corny old-timey mustaches.  Anymore.

Some things are just better left to the pros.  There’s something not quite right when November creeps upon us and the only people not actually marching at Day of the Dead are Mexicans.  It’s because we now know how black people felt when Elvis came along.  Day of the Dead is a sacred Mexican tradition, not a Halloween after-party.  Those of us who observe Day of the Dead have a connection rooted in hundreds of years of Aztec and Mexican culture that gives us the right to honor our ancestors in this way.  The only connection yupsters have to Day of the Dead is a pasty, almost skeletal complexion.

You can have Cinco de Mayo, though.  It’s BEEN played out for a minute now and really, it’s all about the booze anyway.

Truth is, whatever armpit we Latinos end up shoved into, we’ll always bring the Mission with us.  By the time we’ve all made the move to the unholy perimeter around the Bay Area, we will have brought with us drink, tacos, music, dance, murals, horchata, bachata, chancletas, women, men, rolling r’s, poetry, culture, and cholos.  In short, we will infuse LIFE into those barren wastelands of 100 degree summers and meth.  We turn armpits into cleavage!  Pretty soon the Mission will be the new armpit of San Francisco and yupsters will once again be on the prowl for a new trendy area to gentrify.  But as much as you yupsters won’t be able to resist telling all your friends about the scene in Watsonville and decide you want to “slum it up” for the weekend, please, this time do us all favor and stay home.  Don’t come running to our new hood when you’ve turned yours into Whitebreadistan and it’s no longer cool anymore.  Latinos know all about what happens to our neighborhoods when they become “hip”, and we hate packing.

- Ed  (Mexicanus Chicanicus)

gringo.salad
gringo.salad

@eddie.ferrusquia Latinos who bought real estate in the Mission are doing great - either from the increased commercial rents they now receive or from the sale of their properties.

tomkirvin
tomkirvin

Neighborhoods change over time. Just as Latinos moved into the Irish/Italian neighborhood and built 24th St. as we know it now, others will move into the Latino neighborhood and establish their cultures.

HIstory
HIstory

@tomkirvin  The Irish and Italians left on their own for the American dream in the suburbs.  Track homes were being built by the thousands and where cheap after world war two. They left not just from the Mission but from the Castro and other parts of the City. Housing in the city was abundant and inexpensive at one point.

Today people are being pushed out by developers, investors, realtors. They are being evicted for higher rents. Ellis Acts are on the rise again with the promise to move in and they don't or have family move in until they could rent again at higher rents. Tenants and business's are being harassed and bullied. The murals that made our neighborhood colorful are now being deemed ugly and removed.

Its a big difference.

tomkirvin
tomkirvin

@HIstory @tomkirvin My Mexican family left the Mission on their own, too, for the suburbs. I watched it happen in the '50s and '60s. I came back. You cannot legislatively create a neighborhood and certainly you should not do so by race or ethnicity. Neighborhoods evolve. They go away and return as something else.

eddie.ferrusquia
eddie.ferrusquia like.author.displayName 1 Like

@tomkirvin - the key difference this time around is that while the Irish and Italians moved out of their own accord (white flight into the suburbs), Latinos are being displaced by good old fashioned capitalism.

 
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