Anger over gentrification turned into art instead of destruction

In a new Believer interview, Hannah from Grass Widow, asked about where her band’s songs come from, talks a little about the Mission:

With “Disappearing Industries” … I work at a video store on Valencia Street, which I’ve worked at for about five years, and I’m a San Francisco native. And our city, like many cities in the U.S. is getting really gentrified, and there was just this moment when I was just walking down the street, looking at all the specialty novelty coffee places and whatever, and I felt sheer anger. I was like, “I want to paintball this whole street!” I’m from here and I feel like an outsider in my own town! So sometimes it’ll start with subject matter. It’s like, “I need to talk about this right now.” I’m walking down the street and feeling this sadness, and also thinking about entropy, imagining San Francisco two hundred years ago and imagining it two hundred years in the future.” So I brought that to rehearsal and the three of us synthesized it together. We sat around—we wrote some of the instrumentation and then wrote a bunch of lyrics to sum up what all three of us have to say, and then we read what we wrote and put it together in a way that felt good to sing.

Here’s the song in question:

Much nicer than a bunch of broken windows! Read the rest of the interview here. Order the new Grass Widow album here.

50 Responses to “Anger over gentrification turned into art instead of destruction”

  1. ohwell says:

    frankly for the last three or four years i’ve been a customer there, this person is always kind of cold and dismissive to customers, or at least me, maybe it’s me, maybe i’m not native enough, who knows. great band tho.

    • thanks says:

      that’s because you’re not a hipster so you must be a gentrify-er.

      • ohwell says:

        meh, a lot of the ‘cool kids’ in this city are just like the jocks i went to high school with, only they judge you by a different set of criteria.

  2. Ian says:

    wasn’t there some kind of thread about white girls we all thought was funny?

  3. Haz Been says:

    It’s all coming crashing down soon enough. Dot bomb 2.0 is in full effect. I saw an ad on the bus yesterday for a company called Sōsh. Here’s there tagline: Life’s too short to be bored. Discover and share memorable local activities on Sōsh.

    Who the fvck is funding morons like this? Oh, yeah…the people who hang out on Valenica.

    • Ben says:

      If it makes you feel any better, the way these things usually work is that venture capitalists exploit a bunch of overeager poorly socialized naive geeks into working insane hours for promises of equity rather than cash, and most of the time they crash and burn leaving the kids having spent a significant portion of their one and only youth without much to show for it. then the VCs slot in another sucker fresh from wherever for their next thing and the cycle repeats itself.

      • Ryan says:

        Considering the VC in that situation wouldn’t be getting any return on their investment, that’s decidedly *not* how they view it. They’re all about the ca$h money. They only get money out of companies if the company is successful, otherwise they’re throwing money down a hole.

        A bunch of idiot angels would make those kind of “investments”, though. Expect to see a lot more of that from some of the recent mega-successes (i.e. FB), as a lot of people have a lot more money than they know what to do with.

  4. Skeptical says:

    Sorry, white girl, but working on Valencia St as of 5 years ago means you rode in on the very gentrification wave you are complaining about.

  5. Josh says:

    She was BORN here. She EARNED Valencia street. All the other idiots that didn’t win the birth lottery are real fucking assholes and how god damn dare they enjoy coffee that doesn’t taste like it came (directly) from an asshole. All these yuppy fuckers should live somewhere previously uninhabited I mean wait no then the trees die and sprawl and fuck I mean why don’t all these new people just die, they weren’t born on the pavement of Valencia street, it’s not their birthright!!!!

  6. MrEricSir says:

    She must not be old enough to remember when video rental places were a “specialty novelty.”

  7. Shamrock Pirate says:

    I want to paintball the whole band… add a little color. But, I’ll just make this comment instead. Less violence is good. :)

  8. so says:

    sorry that you think nerds are “ruining” your city but really we’re all rats fleeing the sinking ship of the american economy trying to get to one of the few places where developing skills still pays off. you can always keep it authentic in dayton or wherever, there’s not going to be a shortage of decaying american cities any time soon

  9. AttF says:

    Grass Widow are good.

    Whether you agree with their take on gentrification or not, it is hard to deny that SF was filled with more diverse music venues, more creative people whose craft isn’t directly linked to marketing/commerce, more facilities like recording/mastering studios, more rehearsal spaces and more affordable housing options than it is now. Some people see that as a problem and some don’t.

    • thanks says:

      i don’t know where grass widow being good or bad factor into this conversation. i think it’s more about this girl (and you) talking about gentrification with a very misinformed understanding of what that word means.

      • TexasChina says:

        I think pretty much everyone here knows that it describes the bubble-fueled Gentry causing the Fication of the less enabled. This Fication is enabled by property owners who repurpose their holdings to extract the bubble-dollars from the Gentry. Hell, a lot of you will probably be getting Ficate the Premises notices soon….

        • SF has rent control laws, and the most tenant-friendly eviction laws in the country. Nobody is getting forced out of their apartments by rising rents, and that’s a good thing. The problem is that anyone who wants a new apartment or just moved here is screwed.

          • angeldust memories says:

            I think the writer is talking about commercial properties changing businesses to get money.

          • AttF says:

            I was talking about commercial businesses above, but people do get forced out by rising real estate prices. If your landlord wants to sell your apartment building as condos because there is suddenly a market for it, he/she can. As an example, I just spoke with someone who was forced out of their rent controlled place after 23 years with no compensation for this very reason and he and his wife had to leave the City.

            “When a landlord invokes the Ellis Act, the apartments can not be re-rented, except at the same rent the evicted tenant was paying, for five years following the evictions, While there are restrictions on ever re-renting the units, there are no such restrictions on converting them to ownership units (e.g., tenancies in common or condos).”

          • Drew says:

            Since 2005, it is not possible to convert an Ellis-act evicted property into condos. Plus, any buildings with more than two units must enter a condo conversion lottery. Statistically, it is estimated that a building that enters the condo conversion lottery will not secure the right to convert their building into condos until 2030.

          • Ron says:

            Drew, I cannot find the No Conversion rule you reference in your post. I see something about Protected Tenants (old or disabled), and a bunch of time limit rules, but that’s it.

          • wizzer says:

            Not true. They’re not screwed if they can afford it.

    • nickh says:

      if by diversity you mean western bars, and church night clubs a la Basic Instinct, I think SF is doing OK right now.

    • Hint: the complete lack of affordable rental units in this city has very little to do with “gentrification” and rather a lot to do with the fact that new housing construction is at a 20-year low at the same time that the bay area is seeing a historic population migration. It’s a huge problem, but apparently most people in this city would rather wring their hands about “gentrification” than actually do anything to make it easier to build apartments.

      • JJ says:

        This is probably the best comment I’ve seen on this subject.

        Build More Housing Now!

      • Ryan says:


        And at some point SF needs to start building higher, as well. An extra story or two on new construction will go a long way towards alleviating our housing woes.

      • Ben says:

        For some numbers to chew on, SF added 269 new units of housing to the market last year. SPUR estimates that to keep the city affordable for the middle class, we need to be adding 3000-5000 units per year for several sustained years. Source:

        Given how trigger-happy this city is when it comes to preventing new housing from being built, we’re probably pretty screwed.

        • AttF says:

          2011 was a particularly slow year for housing construction, but the average net change in units since 2000 has been approx 2000 units/year (this includes new units added, old units demolished, etc.)

        • And people wonder why I would want to leave a wonderful city like San Francisco…

          By the way, my “3-bedroom” (only if you count the 1910 living room, and the vintage ~1950 enclosed back porch as bedrooms) apartment will be coming on the market, shortly. Thanks to rent control, I pay about $1100 per month. I’m betting it’ll be double that after I’m gone.

          • Double? Try triple.

          • Lindsey says:

            can you just sublet to me? serious inquiry.

          • I wish, Linds. Trust me, though, the place is a mess — it hasn’t been remodeled since back in the ’90s. Side note: the most recent bass player for Flipper, Rachel Thoele, used to live here — I still get junk mail for her. I have always thought Flipper was the shit, so that pretty much makes me feel like I’m living in in a historic landmark.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            For a rent of $1100/month I would do the remodeling myself.

          • At $1100/mo you’d have to do your own remodeling, since the odds of the landlord putting a dime of capital above the legal requirements into the place with a rent-control tenant in place are pretty close to zero.

    • Wake up says:

      No actually it was about the same 15 years ago before the dot com crash. Y’all have just lived here for such a short time you don’t know about that.

  10. zeze says:

    It’s always adorable when the gentry complain about gentrification.

  11. Joe Wiley says:

    It’s going to be so cool when the bubble pops again!

  12. D. Jon Moutarde says:

    If you work in a video store, you’re not angry or sad about gentrification — you’re angry or sad about working in a service business with no future, and no plan for developing a future for you. Do us all a favor and figure out what you really want to do for the rest of your life (or a useful fraction thereof).

    • Jacob says:

      And now you screwed everything up for yourself by telling someone on MM to be concerned about their own future and their own well-being. Nobody will take you seriously now.

      Jokes aside, it never ceases to amaze me how cool some people think it is to not know what the fuck you’re doing or how you’re going to pay your rent next month.

    • wizzer says:

      Yea, and maybe just maybe think seriously about your life:

      College? Education? a career?

      Just a thought.

  13. sx says:

    And that video store’s been around for a hundred years! How dare they set up these newfangled “coffee shops” and places people actually want to shop! No! Save our blacksmiths and video rental places!

  14. Hitler says:

    MM squabblers; I envy you, and your profound hate. You are all sad sick people….but hopefully naked, jerkin it, in front of your computer… that would be cool.