International Journal of Drug Policy - 2014

Volume 25 Issue 3 May 2014

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P.J. Davidson, M. Howe / International Journal of Drug Policy 25 (2014) 624–632 629 political conditions at the Church made the proposed move a poor choice for long term stability, so the project to move service deliv- ery to the church was abandoned. In the months after the Prop. I meeting, HYA received several thousand dollars in donations from housed residents in the neighbourhood who, in the letters and cards accompanying their cheques, expressed high levels of distress at the reception HYA had received at the Prop. I meeting and assur- ances that "the entire neighbourhood doesn't feel the way those people do." In addition, a group of housed residents shortly after- wards volunteered to cook a communal meal for Christmas for the young people who use HYA services, an act which has since become an annual tradition. In the longer run, the process of organizing to oppose HYA's move to the Church also appears to have led some of those involved to become engaged in other efforts to reduce the presence of home- lessness and organizations serving them from the neighbourhood. For example, a recycling centre located on the edge of Golden Gate Park adjoining the Haight was closed in late 2012 after nearly 40 years of operation in part due to pressure from housed residents, who complained about the noise of "homeless people pushing shopping trolleys full of cans down the street at 3am" and that that the centre "attracted the homeless" (since recycling scrap metal is one of the few legal income generating methods available to the homeless in San Francisco) (Koskey, 2012). The same residents were also actively involved in supporting a controversial City ordinance passed in 2010 banning "sitting or lying" on sidewalks, an ordinance which police records show has been disproportionately enforced in the Haight (Knight, 2013). Interpretation In 2009, the novelist Jonathan Franzen, in a fiction piece in the New Yorker, 8 described life for middle-class families moving into a run-down, but slowly gentrifying neighbourhood: In the earliest years· · · the collective task in Ramsey Hill was to relearn certain life skills that your own parents had fled to the suburbs specifically to unlearn, like how to interest the local cops in actually doing their job, and how to protect a bike from a highly motivated thief, and when to bother rousting a drunk from your lawn furniture, and how to encourage feral cats to shit in somebody else's children's sandbox, and how to determine whether a public school sucked too much to bother trying to fix it (Franzen, 2009, June, p. 79). Unlike Franzen's fictional yuppie families, who were aware they were moving into a run-down neighbourhood, for at least some of those who attended the Prop. I meeting, at least part of their outrage seemed to be that they believed they were moving into a well- to-do neighbourhood, one they had paid large sums to buy into, only to find that they had moved into two neighbourhoods. One the well-to-do, walkable neighbourhood with good schools, nice shops, and a stunning park that they had sacrificed so much to join; the other a chaotic floating community of homelessness and social service agencies who, unlike those in many other communities in America, actively asserted their right to be present based in part on the unique history of the neighbourhood. Contested spaces Following Massey (1995) and (Low and Lawrence-Zúniga, 2003, p. 18ff), we therefore suggest that the Haight-Ashbury neighbour- 8 Later incorporated into his 2010 novel, Freedom. hood might fruitfully be seen as a kind of 'contested space' in that there are multiple narratives being presented about what the neighbourhood 'is', and that these narratives (or 'meanings' in Massey's usage) are being "mobilized in battles over the material future of places." (Massey, 1995, p. 2) A wide range of authors have written about the notion of con- tested space, in particular through the lenses of power and class (for example see Harvey (1985, 1993), Castells (1983), Davis (1990) and Wright (1997)). These approaches have in common that they tend to centre on contestation over physical resources—in this case on the control of physical space. Extending from these approaches, Lefebvre [1974] (1992) argues that control over physical space is usually so central because such control also confers control over the social relations produced by the space in question. In this light, what is at play in Massey's 'contested meanings' is not just the 'mate- rial future' of physical space but the set of sociospatial relations which will even be possible in that space in the future. We see these contestations over the 'meaning' of the Haight appear repeatedly during comments made by both pro- and anti-HYA speakers at the Prop. I meeting. Examples include claims that the neighbourhood is "peaceful and residential" or, alternately, that the neighbourhood has "always" been a refuge for outcasts. Also central to claims about the meanings of a space is the abil- ity of people to locate themselves as "rightful producers" of that space (a term coined by the anthropologist Margaret (Rodman, 1992, p. 644) 9 ); as people whose voices should have particular weight due to some aspect of their relationship to the space. Again, as noted above, many speakers at the Prop. I meeting explicitly introduced themselves in terms clearly intended to locate them as rightful producers, and to imply that others were not: for example, by introducing themselves as homeowners or long-term residents, or by shouting "do you live here?" at those making pro-HYA state- ments. In a similar if less direct fashion, statements by pro-HYA speakers invoking the 'unbroken lineage' between HYA and the social movements of the 1960s could also be seen as attempting to locate HYA and those who spoke for it as inheritors and par- ticipants in that ongoing rightful production of meaning for the neighbourhood. Needless to say, these differing narratives about the history and 'meaning' of the Haight do considerable work in shaping how homeless people generally and users of HYA services in partic- ular are seen. In the historically-rooted narratives presented by pro-HYA speakers, the neighbourhood becomes a place of refuge in which these groups are 'legitimately present', as are organisa- tions who provide them with services. In the narratives presented by those opposed to HYA, the neighbourhood becomes a place for the upper-middle class to reside alongside a geographically- constrained tourism, and the homeless become, at best, distracting nuisances, and, at worst, outright impediments to a reasonable enjoyment of one's neighbourhood. Defensive place-making We suggest that in the months and years prior to the events described above, the arriviste residents of the streets to the south of the Haight commercial strip had discovered that there were multiple voices in the neighbourhood which had clear claims to be "rightful producers" of the meanings of the space. More importantly, both the diversity of claims and the meanings being produced by these claimants were at least partially acknowledged by City Hall (recall the complaint that "City Hall has decided the 9 Although Rodman's intent in coining the term was largely to encourage researchers to improve their analysis of space by attending to the multiplicity of local voices found in places rather than their own preconceived notions.

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