I, for one, am grateful for his wisdom and candor. I was around peripherally for most of this, fortunate enough to be securely housed, but always aware of whose side I was on. After a brief recounting of some of the history of housing in the city, the book begins with the story of public housing tenants fighting demolition and privatization masquerading as reform; continues through the awful era when many of our single room occupancy (SRO) hotels went up in smoke; through Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition's (MAC) struggle to preserve something of the low rent Mission for Latinos and artists who often didn't speak the same language, politically and culturally as well as literally, during the first tech boom that peaked in 2000.
Tracy's story is full of reflections on what it is really like to engage in these struggles. For example:
Or, as my friends and I have remarked in more than one organizational context: "Struggle is hard; that's why they call it struggle." Tracy reminds us to try to organize care for each other while we work to defeat those who would brush us aside.
Organizations aiming to empower working class and poor constituencies are often confronted with an ethical dilemma: having got people stirred up, do they have an obligation to win what can be won for the constituency, even if that undermines the clarity and vision of the work? Often this takes the form of how deeply to go inside a bad system -- whether by engaging in electoral politics or policy planning -- or to stay outside, aiming to move an agenda through aggressive direct action. This seems to me a particularly difficult problem when it comes to housing issues. Housing policy (and finance) can be very arcane. If you feel compelled to work from inside, you are also likely to find yourself within the constraints of the nonprofit organizational form answering to funders who usually think they know more about your work than you do. Tracy explores some of these issues in relation to real San Francisco organizations including the Mission Housing Development Corporation where the organizers were displaced by builders of middle class housing.
And now San Francisco's conflict over housing is playing out again in a new tech boom. Tracy describes the pass we're now in as "clear cutting" of the working and middle class by the new money.
What is to be done? Tracy discusses community land trusts, citizen participatory budgeting, and building powerful organizations of people discarded by the power of money.
I found this book both thought provoking and challenging. That's what I am looking for in such a book.