The People's Plan
February 27 – April 20, 2002
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA
In a unique collaboration between an arts organization, an activist coalition of non-profit organizations, and an artists’ collective, Intersection becomes the central site for The People’s Plan – a community based planning process to envision and create a healthy and sustainable neighborhood. The intent of this project is to involve as many people who live, work, pray, study and play in the Mission as possible to create a detailed planning document that will eventually be presented to San Francisco’s Planning Department. A project that positions art to assist in the political organizing process, this is not a typical art exhibition – rather, it serves as an example of how different groups can come together to realize a better future. Teach-in forums focusing on the various factors that make up any urban neighborhood – housing, safety, culture, diversity, business – will be lead by a Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition (MAC) representative throughout the duration of the project.
Over the past several years, the Bay Area has experienced enormous changes in its socio-economic landscape. San Francisco, although comprising only 49 square miles, is the country’s third densest metropolitan area (behind Manhattan and Union City, NJ). With the emergence of the technological sector as one of the area’s newest industries, issues of land use in an already tight housing and office space market became highly contested. City-approved construction of new offices and live/work units in neighborhoods such as South of Market and the Mission dramatically shifted the social, economic and cultural make-up of these communities without much input from people who lived in these areas. In an effort to introduce community control over planning and construction policies, the Mission community responded by organizing the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition. One key demand was for the City to agree to a community planning process to rezone the neighborhood. After months of organizing the community to participate in this process, MAC succeeded in getting the Planning Department to agree to implement the community’s feedback into new permanent zoning controls, with an emphasis on preserving affordable housing and community-serving businesses and on improving living conditions for the neighborhood’s diverse population. MAC is calling this community based planning process The People’s Plan.
The San Francisco Print Collective (SFPC), a group of artists whose aim is to increase public awareness about local issues by printing and pasting posters throughout San Francisco, has been integral in the development of The People’s Plan. At the height of production in 2000, the SFPC had over 20 artists generating posters that were put up citywide, seen by thousands of pedestrians and drivers. Much of their work in the past year was created to support MAC by presenting on street level the various opportunities to democratically participate in this process - from voting campaigns, to mobilizing for demonstrations, to helping organize The People’s Plan. Initially a loosely knit group of printmakers working out of the Mission Cultural Center, the SFPC began to produce work in support of MAC’s political work. In essence, their posters helped advocate the same issues being put forward by MAC in neighborhood meetings, demonstrations, voter drives, and workshops. Challenging themselves and their artwork, the SFPC move into new territory by creating a context that blurs the line between art and political activism - a project in which the art itself becomes the community organizing tool.
MAC organizations participating in this project are Mission Housing Development Corporation (MHDC), developing affordable housing for low-income Mission residents; People Organized to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights (PODER); St. Peter's Housing Committee, serving Mission-based tenants and all Spanish-speaking tenants in San Francisco; Mission Economic Development Association (MEDA), an economic development corporation providing assistance and advocacy targeted at minority and women-owned businesses in the Mission; and Mission Agenda, mainly consisting of people living in single room occupancy hotels, housing projects, or on the streets working together to improve conditions for poor people.