August 13th, 2002


Bad idea or political statment?

Wow. If you’re around 14th and Harrison, behind the new Butt-Ugly Best Buy, check out the mural on the new condos going up. A burning apartment. Who OK’d that? I know I’d think twice about moving in. It just seems like an invitation to a budding arsonist. Provocation even.

It’s not done yet so it’s a little hard to tell what it’s supposed to represent. I thought at first it was 1906 earthquake-related, but it’s on the wrong street to represent the fire break.* I’m hoping it actually might be a political statement about landlord arson in the Mission, another benefit of the dot com nightmare. To be fair, landlord arson is actually fairly cyclical, but it’s been on a big upswing since 1998 or so.

Or maybe there was a historic fire at that address at some point. It is just a block away from the famed building collapse at the Big Game, written about in Murder Can Be Fun, where spectators at a Cal/Stanford football game fell into vats of molten lead when the roof of a Metal foundry they were sitting on collapsed. I’d love to see a mural honoring that.

* The Mayor of San Francisco in 1906 ordered all the houses on 20th Street demolished to make a fire break to stop the Great Fire roaring through the city from downtown after the earthquake. Coincidentally, his house sat on South Van Ness between 20th and 21st. Bringing it full circle, there is much evidence to point to landlords arson starting the great fire as owners set fire to their own earthquake-damaged buildings in order to collect insurance money. No one had earthquake insurance in 1906.