Invisible Geographies New Media Exhibition

FLEFF

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project by Erin McElroy, project lead, and team

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project

United States, 2013–present

www.antievictionmap.com

With its tagline “Visualizing Bay Area Displacement and Resistance,” the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is a database of information and resources that allows users to mobilize against gentrification. The project includes practical information — most in English, some in Spanish — and reports to empower communities and individuals to understand how they can avoid dispossession and the erasure of their histories and geographies.

Neighborhoods in San Francisco, Oakland, and other Bay Area cities in northern California (United States) have been home to immigrant and working-class communities, who have shaped them into desirable locations for newcomers. These residents developed local businesses, community identities, and vibrant cultures long before the rise of information technology (IT) corporations, such as Apple, Alphabet (Google), and Facebook, that transformed the Santa Clara Valley (the southern portion of the Bay Area) into the Silicon Valley. 

The IT sector grew due to the proximity of universities with strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and arts programs, military infrastructure and investment, and venture-capital firms for “clean” technologies. It also grew due to an under-acknowledged resource: relatively inexpensive real-estate, both for research parks, corporate headquarters, and housing for managers and employees.

As neoliberalism becomes further entrenched through privatization, other threats to neighborhoods emerge in new forms—not new residents, but new nonresidents, who profit through trendy platforms like Airbnb, which is headquartered in San Francisco.

Designed so that homeowners can host guests like a conventional bed-and-breakfast — that is, “book unique homes and experience the city like a local” — Airbnb has been used by venture capitalists, who acquire multiple properties for the sole purpose of short-term rentals. These properties often belong to longtime residents who can no longer afford them due to higher taxes and expenses related to neighborhood gentrification. Others are rent-controlled apartments, intended to provide housing for working-class families, not to provide speculators with high profits.

Some of the most egregious evictions are propelled by real-estate and development  speculation. Many of Airbnb’s hosts are not individuals with a spare room or flat to let. They own numerous properties that are listed as “rooms to share” in “homes,” conveying how neoliberalism encourages individuals to act like corporations and enabling realtors who profit from eviction by “flipping” properties.

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project also includes narratives about eviction and gentrification that add layers of meaning to these processes that are not possible to convey quantitatively. Narratives include oral histories and murals. In “I Belong Here,” for example, residents explain in first-person accounts why they belong in the places they know as home.

Built on the open-source Ushahidi platform (rather than the proprietorial Google Maps), the project’s crowdsourced map, allows users to contribute their own stories of eviction or sightings of gentrification projects.

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project asks users to take the pledge to boycott those who profit from dispossession, suggesting a radical shift in thinking for a country whose national myths have long sought to erase the history of genocide and dispossession of indigenous peoples.