Boom: a familiar sound

a review from Seattle's Real Change News On November 9, at 8pm, The Whispered Media production, Boom, The Sound of Eviction will have its Seattle premier at the 911 Media Arts Center. This documentary analyses the dot-com boom in San Francisco, the high cost of living that has followed in its wake, and the resulting displacement of seniors, families, artists, and the poor. The main focus of the film is in the low income Mission District, where the 62 percent Latino population fights to preserve its ethnic heritage.

A film of ambitious scope, Boom incorporates interviews, archival clips of 60s tourist movies and 50s educational films, footage of street protests, and analysis by experts and community members who cover the social and historical causes of the current economic situation. The filmmakers challenge dot-com workers, real estate developers, and Mayor Willie Brown himself to answer their questions about what is happening to the city.

Many of the economic and development problems addressed in the documentary are not exclusive to San Francisco. They are, in fact, reminiscent of a similar shift in wealth throughout the nation, and right here in Seattle. America suffers from a growing economic gap between rich and poor which some call economic apartheid. This puts a major strain on our economy. Because of the prospects of upward mobility, we tend to be more tolerant of inequality. Yet the more money that accumulates at the top, in the hands of the rich, the more expensive the cost of living becomes for everyone else.

San Franciscans know this all too well. The median price of residential real estate in the city in 2000 was $465,000, which was up about 30 percent from the prior year. This is due to the presence of dot commers, coming to the city for its cultural eccentricities, and at the same time stamping them out by raising prices for everyone. An example of this is the case of live-work lofts that provided affordable housing for the city's artists. In the late 90s, however, many became reduced-cost locations for dot-com companies that used them solely for work space.

Commercial real estate in San Francisco more than tripled between 1995 and 2000. The Mission District has been one of the hardest hit with below city average income and a major price hike for renters. Yet, they are not taking this sitting down with antigentrification groups such as Artists Eviction Defense Coalition and the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition forming to challenge the new economy.

Boom, The Sound of Eviction covers the many aspects of economic displacement that are at work in San Francisco, and the people who are fighting against it. It is a subject that is poignant in Seattle, where we are experiencing a very similar situation.