Besides being Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, I also do legal counseling and community organizing for the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. I help some of the most low-income tenants get by in this very expensive city. As one of my projects in recent months, I have helped organize residential hotel tenants around Club Six, a nightclub on Sixth Street that was caught violating its permit with excessive noise levels.
But the San Francisco Bay Guardian is siding with the lucrative nightclub, who also happens to be one of its steady advertisers. On the Guardian’s “Pixel Vision” blog covering art and nightlife in the City, Cultural Editor Marke Bieschke dismissed the Sixth Street residents as “whiny NIMBY’s,” and even went so far as saying “the rowdies on the street fart louder than Club Six.” While activists should not expect the media to always side with their cause, calling SRO tenants “rowdies” is deeply offensive to a population who cannot afford to live elsewhere, and is unbecoming of a paper with a proud tradition of progressive advocacy.
For years, the Bay Guardian and progressive activists have decried a legitimate problem facing San Francisco – the “death of fun.” Gentrification and suburbanization of our City has led to stricter permits on street fairs like the North Beach Jazz Festival, the Haight Street Fair and the How Weird Street Fair. In South-of-Market, yuppie condo owners who move next door to a nightclub complain about the loud noise, when anyone could see what kind of neighborhood they were moving into. The recent controversy at “Hole in the Wall” on 8th Street is another example.
But that’s not the situation with Club Six. Unlike the rest of SOMA, the Sixth Street corridor from Market to Howard is a high concentration of residential hotels that more closely resembles the Tenderloin. Over 900 SRO tenants live on the first block of Sixth Street alone (where Club Six is located), and another 450 live on the next block. Club Six is directly beneath the Lawrence Hotel, an old brick building, and the nightly bass tempo from live music vibrates into the rooms of 40 low-income disabled tenants.
Like the Tenderloin, Sixth Street residents have struggled for years with levels of crime and violence not tolerated in other parts of the City. As Randy Shaw wrote on May 8th, such communities have struggled to make their neighborhood a desirable place to live. For SRO tenants, a nightclub they can’t afford to patronize but that keeps them up at night is a further indignity of life in the “containment zone.”
Far from gentrifiers who want to “kill the fun,” Sixth Street residents have organized around the basic need to get some sleep. They had tried to work with the owner, Angel Cruz, and had met with a list of basic demands: (a) control the volume output from deejays, (b) keep the front doors closed, (c) crowd control so residents don’t have to walk into the street and (d) put the live bands in the basement to better contain the sound. With no results, the Entertainment Commission has scheduled a suspension hearing on June 5th to make the Club comply with its permit.
Which is why I didn’t expect such a hostile interview from Steve Jones, City Editor of the Bay Guardian, when he called me about this last week. During our conversation, Jones asked me why Beyond Chron published a story about the Club Six controversy last March without disclosing my personal involvement in the campaign.
Beyond Chron is published by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a non-profit that works very closely with SRO tenants on Sixth Street and in the Tenderloin. If we cover a story that deals with that community – and issues facing the neighborhood are important to our readers – it’s fair to assume that we are involved to a certain extent.
As Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, I felt that it was a conflict-of-interest for me personally to write about Club Six – although the story matters to the community and I routinely write about campaigns run by other organizers at the Clinic. So I asked Ben Malley, a journalism student at S.F. State, to write a story about it. Ben was taking a course in which he had to write about the neighborhood, and he later submitted the article for class credit. We did not pay him for the story.
But while Beyond Chron’s Managing Editor is involved in the Club Six campaign and therefore has a “bias,” there is no financial conflict-of-interest. We do not stand to gain or lose financially from what happens at the June 5th suspension hearing. I have an opinion about what happens because I have worked with and organized the neighborhood residents, but none of them are paying me or the Clinic to help them out.
Meanwhile, the Bay Guardian receives advertising revenue from Club Six so they arguably do have a financial stake at hand. Besides regularly featuring an ad in its paper edition, the Guardian’s blog has posted a “Save Club Six” ad urging concerned patrons to contact the Entertainment Commission. The Guardian even created a “Save Club Six” page on its own web server at http://www.sfbg.com/six, presumably at its own expense.
If the Guardian wants to make an issue of how Beyond Chron and Paul Hogarth have a stake in what happens to Club Six, they are free to do so. But it’s only fair for us to point out the Guardian’s own agenda in this matter, and that it has actively helped Angel Cruz’s letter-writing campaign to the Entertainment Commission.
But the issue doesn’t stop there. Yesterday, I stumbled upon a May 9th entry on the Guardian’s “Pixel Vision” blog that covers entertainment news. Far from a random piece by an unaccountable blogger, the entry – called “NIMBY’s Wanna 86 Club Six” – was written by Marke Bieschke, one of the Guardian’s Editors:
So now some whiny “Not In My Backyard” folks are after one of the best big hip-hop/dubwize/ragga/house spots in the Bay – the six-and-a-half year-old Club Six.
I love Six – the subterranean downtown-ness of it – definitely a little rough around the edges, but nice and soft inside. The irony of this whole sad affair is that the complaining neighbors are saying that Six is too loud – ON SIXTH STREET!
Bwahahaha! Are they kidding? Not only has Six’s owner, Angel Cruz, invested a ton o’ duckets into soundproofing the place, but – C’MON! – it’s SIXTH STREET. The rowdies on the street fart louder than Club Six. [my emphasis]
Still, Six faces its license getting pulled for a month, which would break the place. Click here to read an open letter from Angel to the nightlife community, and see how you can help. Folks like us helped save Hole in the Wall last week – let’s pitch in and keep nightlife diverse in the Bay!
I hope that’s not what the Bay Guardian really thinks of SRO tenants on Sixth Street, but to let that stand on a blog for over two weeks was deeply insensitive. I don’t like NIMBY’s either – but I also believe that residents deserve the dignity of getting a good night’s sleep.
Angel Cruz must be really worried that he’s pulled out all stops to save his Club before the June 5th hearing. But it’s distressing that the Bay Guardian fell for the bait, and insulted Sixth Street tenants in the process.
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