Friday, May 4, 2012

The Fillmore: a sad side of house recycling

The "redevelopment" of San Francisco's Fillmore District was partly disassembly, via what they didn't call "house recycling" then. You could say it was better than outright demolition, but those houses should have stayed put. The neighborhood too.

Reminder courtesy of my mother-in-law, who sent over a link to this PBS special, including the photo linked above.

You hear stories from older San Franciscans about the big move-out: grand old Queen Anne houses teetering down the street on flatbeds to places they'd be appreciated. Waste land left behind, sometimes for years. Then, concrete going up in their place.

I guess more people admit now that the official gutting and replacement of Fillmore Street was an act of nasty racial and economic prejudice. Japanese Americans lived in many of those houses until their incarceration in 1942. They were followed by African Americans who came to work in the war industries. It became a legendary center of West Coast jazz music. Then "redevelopment" kicked its heart out.

The PBS program's producer, Peter L. Stein, calls the destruction "one of the great object lessons in American urban life."

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