There was a spirited march and rally yesterday in San Francisco's Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood to fight the SF Redevelopment Agency's planned overhaul of the area. Residents, activists, and supporters walked up 3rd street for several blocks and rallied on the spot where exactly 40 years prior to the day National Guard troops were brought in to quell a rebellion that sprang from the shooting of a local youth by city police. This "riot" was one of many that shook the nation during the late 1960s as ghetto communities erupted in anger and frustration at city regimes and a federal government that were actively working to dispossess people of their homes and businesses, not providing meaningful employment, waging a wasteful war abroad, and criminalizing non-white youth and the poor at home.

The march and rally was called in response to the City Attorney's decision to invalidate the more than 30,000 signatures gathered to place the Redevelopment Agency's scheme on a referendum this Fall for voters to decide. The City Attorney, doing the bidding of the Mayor and other powerful players, fears that San Francisco's voters will reject the plans which call for a drastic overhaul of the neighborhood that would, opponents believe, push out the region's poor and effectively destroy the city's last majority black community. Organizers made repeated references throughout the day to the Fillmore which was redeveloped decades ago in a way that pushed out many poor and black families and broke the community's political power within the city. The Fillmore was once known as the Harlem of the West. It's redevelopment was one of the high profile projects nationwide that gave urban renewal its more straightforward nickname "Negro removal."

"Hands Off Bayview" is becoming a rallying cry out here echoing the name of the New Orleans based C3/Hands Off Iberville housing rights organization. Activists here in San Francisco identify with the struggle in New Orleans to save homes and community from the teeth of developers and politicians. Many speakers today acknowledged that the only difference between Bayview and New Orleans is
a hurricane. Otherwise the plans are the same: drive out the poor, especially poor people of color, and build highly profitable housing and amenities. But folks here are indignant and clearly won't let the land grab proceed without a fight.

There's more info at


Frustrated with the way reconstruction in New Orleans is being handled I've written up a policy paper that critiques the dominant paradigm for post-Katrina planning and redevelopment and offers up a simple policy to achieve maximum justice.

You can download a draft of it here: The Failure of Good Intentions

My intentions with this paper are to influence and hopefully chip away at the ideological frames that the dominant school of thought is using to reshape New Orleans: namely that we must take advantage of this "opportunity" to deconcentrate pockets of poverty and desegregate residential areas of the city by building mixed-income developments.

While these goals sound laudable, they are in practice bound to fail. The good intentions of planners, architects, and academics are causing a great deal of harm that could be avoided. In their quest to build a better society, the experts and their seemingly logical theories of poverty and urban social dynamics are creating great obstacles to the homecoming of tens of thousands of families. Furthermore, some parties in the city are using liberal social scientific theories and the professionals that proffer them to legitimate their agenda of clearing out some sections of the city of their pre-Katrina populations of poor and predominantly black communities in order to build more profitable hotels, housing, tourist attractions, and offices, without a care to those who will be displaced in the process.

All in all we need to promote policies that allow for the right to return and the right to rebuild communities, even the most troubled and oppressed communities like those found in public housing or Central City. These communities must be respected and incorporated into any process that will shape the future of the city. This means that the people need to come home. Now. There can be no just or effective reconstruction to build a better New Orleans without the people of New Orleans. If policymakers will not bend to this need, it is very likely that highly disruptive protest movements will step in to fill the void. This is perhaps the best hope for the future of New Orleans.



I've left New Orleans and won't be back in town till December, but I've got enough afterthoughts to fill this blog for quite sometime.

I make no pretensions to understand the pain and loss of those being displaced and dispossessed in the aftermath of the great flood, but sitting here in Cali I do feel that in some way I know what it means to miss New Orleans. It's hard to leave that town. It's hard to say goodbye to all the people I've met.

For those who've been reading, keep posted. For those of you in NOLA, keep fighting! I’ll see you come Christmas.