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article imageOp-Ed: Artists have been ousted but Point Alameda awaits to fill a need Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Jul 13, 2016 in Lifestyle
San Francisco - As the cast and crew of "The Soiled Dove" make preparations for this weekend's two-day extravaganza event, they are one among many who have displaced by the dramatic redevelopment of San Francisco's Mission District.
"We had been having our annual Barbary Coast-themed event in the same spot in The Mission for the past eight years," said founder and spokesman for 'The Soiled Dove' Mike Gaines. "But we knew eventually we would have to move." Gaines noted that rent for a space between 18th and 19th Streets along Bryant went up as high as $4,500.00 and climbing. He also mentioned that for more than 17 to 20 years or so, the South Of Market and Mission District area was a haven for artists and artistic endeavors.
But as the dot-com boom took hold in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the price of real estate through out the City soared. Real Estate developers saw potential in the discarded industrial and blue collar areas. Soon after, the demand for housing changed the landscape.
 The Soiled Dove  now has a new home at Point Alameda just across the Bay from where they had been i...
"The Soiled Dove" now has a new home at Point Alameda just across the Bay from where they had been in San Francisco's Mission District along Bryant Street.
Courtesy of "The Soiled Dove" and the Vau de Vire Society productions company
Native San Francisco artist Cynthia Tom knows this all too well. She has lived in many areas of the City growing up. But for more than 22 years she made The Mission her home; especially the 1890 Bryant Street Studio and artists collective.
"It is a travesty," she told this reporter. "That area (where 'The Soiled Dove' had been held) was one of those massive spaces where you could incubate just about anything and invite an audience." Cynthia as a surrealist artist has grown both artistically and professionally, as well as personally over the years. Her talents and skills include event planning for her one-of-a-kind art installations, curating historical exhibits, counseling with a focus on healing and music. "My band, 'Manicato' even did some recording there at one time," she said.
"1890 Bryant, the building I am in is highly affected by all this gentrification. We are 2 blocks away (from where 'The Soiled Dove' used to be). Our parking is slowly being taken away and I mean removed," she said. For her to talk about it struck a nerve and then a list of spilled over.
The tenants and artists of the 1890 Bryant Street Studio of which surrealist artist Cynthia Tom is a...
The tenants and artists of the 1890 Bryant Street Studio of which surrealist artist Cynthia Tom is a part of.
Courtesy of 1890 Bryant St Studio artists collective
"All bikes only, no parking all along 17th Street. 1 to 2 hour parking limits, so non-residential," she said. 1890 Bryant, where I am is in, is an industrial versus residential area, eventhough parking is permittable for residential customers only. No one can park for long. Artists need vehicles to move our stuff around and there is no parking sometimes at all. They just built two large condos on Potrero Street and purposefully didn't put in parking for every condo because they (the Planning Dept.) want to attract non-car residents." For Cynthia and others like the artistic community she shares 1890 Bryant with, all this drastic 'gentrification' makes no sense.
"Basically the City is making it impossible to be a creative business," Cynthia said, "Which is one of the reasons people come to the City. Taking the bus and biking is cool if you don't have to transport large objects daily or if you rely on clients driving into town to buy your work and needing a way to get it home."
"Space for creative businesses is disappearing with the snap of a finger," she said. "Eventually San Francisco, it will be all restaurants and bars all too soon. But nowhere to visit after your meal." This makes little sense to Cynthia and to the local artists that have thrived here for decades. "I guess you can stand in the street and admire all the condos," she said.
Once a former naval base Point Alameda is becoming a viable spot for businesses  events and yes  eve...
Once a former naval base Point Alameda is becoming a viable spot for businesses, events and yes, even new housing.
Courtesy of City of Alameda, CA
Ceramic artist Catherine Merrill would agree. "It is all heart-break, this gentrification," she said. "Where do we (artists) keep moving to?" Originally from the Midwest, Merrill came to San Francisco, specifically to expand her artistic talents. That was back in 1994. Since that time, she has watched the City change and the Mission District be transformed drastically, from a blue collar-industiral area made up of immigrants and middle class family to a 'nouveau riche' hub all made over by 'start up companies' and technology-based business ushered in by the dot com boom.
Merrill has recently found a new spot out, a former five & dime store front out in the Sunset District. But she still lives in the Mission. And as she said, "Little by little I try to push back, maintain my artistic stance."
While Gaines and his Vau de Vire Society production company will miss The Mission District, the fact that another venue not far became available has been providential. Once a Naval Air station and base during and after World War II, Point Alameda (East of the San Francisco Bay) is eager to welcome businesses and creative endeavors. The City of Alameda in partnership with Alameda Point Partners, WrightSpeed and others seek to help transform the former naval base into a revitalized and viable area for growth.
"To locals here in Alameda it is simple called 'The Point,'" said Rachel Campos de Ivanov. She serves as coordinator at Alameda Point Partners who is one of several companies and partnerships that are overseeing the revitalization of the former naval station. It officially closed in the 1990's, part of the U.S. Government downsizing and closure of military bases across the country.
"It's pretty exciting," said Campos de Ivanov, "Because we are taking underutilized space and bringing it into full potential." She noted that they want to keep most of what is already there, such as the large aircraft carrier hangers, base buildings, etc. "All of our efforts is to make this into a 'regional destination.' Alameda Point Partners manages 68 acres of a 1500 acre area she said and that is a lot to fill."
Speaking on behalf of the Alameda Point Partners as communications director, Becca Perata noted that the Alameda City Council in July of last year, unanimously approved a development agreement between the City of Alameda and Alameda Point Partners.
The City Council back on July 7, 2015 affirmed a decision to move forward on the first major development at the former Naval Air Station since its closure in 1997. The project includes nearly $100 million in infrastructure improvements to aging water, sewer, electric and gas lines, as well as streets, sidewalks and storm drains; 800 housing units, including 25 percent affordable; 600,000 square feet of commercial-retail space in new and rehabilitated buildings; a new ferry terminal; and 15 acres of parks and open space.
Emphasizing that to revitalize Alameda Point was a community-driven decision Joe Ernst, Project Lead of Alameda Point Partners said. "We heard from residents, business owners, regional planners and decision makers who’ve worked for decades to get something started at the Base that they want this plan," "We look forward to our ongoing work with the City and the community, he said, to build a real legacy project for Alameda and to serve as a catalyst for further capital investment and replacement of the 18,000 jobs lost when the U.S. Navy left."
This past April, Point Alameda Partners coordinated the very first "Whimsy Fest," a weekend street fair, with a parade and an art gathering. More than a thousand people attended and as the Marin Independent Journal reported attendees had a fun and different experience.
An epic circus theater inspired by San Francisco s notorious Barbary Coast era where guest can expec...
An epic circus theater inspired by San Francisco's notorious Barbary Coast era where guest can expect an engaging evening filled with world-class performances, live jazz, aerialists, cocktails and more! Brought to you by The Vau de Vire Society.
Lynn LaRocca, courtesy of The Vau de Vire Society, producers of "The Soiled Dove"
Recognizing the potentials, Campos de Ivanov thought of Gaines and his Vau de Vire Society productions. "I had been to 'The Soiled Dove' once before some time ago and I just knew this is the place for them. Mike and all of his creative endeavors at Vau de Vire Society have a passionate following."
Gaines said he is pleased so far with how all has turned out in finding a new venue. "When my wife and I were in Italy we purchased an authentic circus tent from a family of tent-makers," he said. Like his Edwardian Ball, attendees and guests are encouraged to dress up for the theme. A bit like the Great Dickens Christmas Fair where patrons experience an "immersion" of live theater, all of Vau de Vire Society productions and events encourage audiences to be a part of the experience. Only, unlike the Dickens Fair, 'The Soiled Dove' is definitely a grown-ups affair, made for the evening.
Campos de Ivanov is confident that in providing a new home 'The Soiled Dove' "that will plant some creative seeds to encourage other artistic events and endeavors to grow." When I asked her if the space that Gaines and his crew have set up will be able to accommodate the circus tent from Italy, Campos de Ivanov replied; "oh Yes! there is more than plenty of space and then some."
For more information about 'The Point' at Alameda see the special Facebook page. And, to learn more about Point Alameda Partners visit the web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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