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Tossed on the street by the dot-com boom

Review by Katherine Gorell | January 17, 2003 | Page 13

DOCUMENTARY: Boom: The Sound of Eviction, produced and directed by Francine Cavanaugh, A. Mark Liiv and Adams Wood.

WHEN LUXURY housing was constructed for the saviors of the "new economy," the dot-com elite, affordable housing opportunities fell like trees in deregulated old-growth forests.

During the brief gold rush known as the dot-com bubble, San Francisco's topography changed drastically. The gains for a minority of people--mostly fat-cat real-estate developers--in the late 1990s came at a tremendous human cost for the majority.

Working-class families that had called San Francisco home for decades couldn't afford to stay in their neighborhoods and were forced out. A housing crisis still grips the city's poor and working-class neighborhoods, such as the newly hip Mission District, which was predominantly populated by Latino families.

Everywhere they could, landlords found excuses to evict tenants in good standing to line their pockets with some of the dot-com booty. Now, as Boom illustrates, most of these buildings sit empty. City bureaucrats like Mayor Willie Brown and his developer cronies, are interviewed on-screen, explaining why "economic development" is good for all of the city's residents.

Boom shows how enraged residents resisted and, in some cases, prevented evictions. From crashing company-sponsored parties to organizing protests, activists--many of them evicted tenants themselves--demonstrated both creativity and tenacity. In addition, music from Antibalas, Aztlan Underground, ColdCut, Fugazi and Tortoise emphasizes the fighting spirit showcased in Boom.

Boom includes examples of creative protest that will inspire. What is ultimately necessary is an alternative to an upside-down world that rewards those who evict the most vulnerable. Until then, displacement of working-class people at the whims of the market will be a constant reality.

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