San Francisco’s Mission District: Upscale Culture Mixed with Violence

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Many people know San Francisco’s Mission District for its hipster vibe and swanky restaurants. But spurts of gang violence are creeping up in the area that many frequent for dining, galleries, bars and boutiques.

According to local police, members of neighborhood gangs are causing turmoil in the Mission District and creating a sense of unrest in an area that is typically known for being upscale. San Francisco’s compact neighborhoods have been going through identity-shifting transformations for decades, however so far, none have matched the economic contrasts that are emerging in the Mission.

Clusters of shootings has brought about the reality that many had been ignoring: approximately half of the Mission District is gang territory. Roberto Eligio Alfaro, executive director of HOMEY, or Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth, said, “It’s two different worlds that we talk about. There’s a divide, and it has to get bridged because we’re all one community.”

A historically working-class Latino neighborhood that covers just one square mile has seen bursts of restaurants, galleries, bars and boutiques open in the last few years. In addition to prosciutto ice cream, broccoli raab pizza and lavender crème brulee, there are plenty of low-cost eateries from Latin America and South Asia too. Youch techies from Google and Facebook frequent the Mission and even live in the area’s Victorian flats and newer lofts. Artists and activists are also heavily populating the area. The Mission’s Latino population has fallen by more than 20% over the last decade as families were priced out of the housing market.

Alfaro says that the neighborhood’s newer residents seem oblivious to the lives HOMEY is trying to better: youth strained by poverty and other social ills.

In light of the recent escalation of violence, San Francisco police have increased patrols but maintain that the neighborhood is safe. So far, this year the Mission’s death toll is at five, one more than this time last year, but far below the 18 recorded in all of 2008.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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