No to Jack Spade protest sign.
San Francisco eccentric person and one-time mayoral candidate Chicken John Rinaldi plans to hold a “Jack-off” protest tomorrow night at 3166 16th Street. He and his flock promise that the action will be "the world’s largest masturbatory action to end gentrification [...] An ocean of male semen could help wash away the sin of gentrification once and for all."
First question—how many men would it take “to jack off until we fill the streets with semenz"? Well, the average man produces 2 oz. of semen per ejaculation, which covers maybe a square inch in diameter. The roadway plus the sidewalk on one block of Mission Street is about 50 feet wide and 250 long (we used Google maps). That's 12,500 sq. feet. At 144 square inches per square foot, that means that it would take the ejaculate of around 1.8 million dudes to cover an area from 16th and Guerrero to 16th and Valencia. That's more than half of the adult male population in the Bay Area. And what about the logistics of getting 1.8 million men to jerk in the same place? Are they all going to take public transit? Where will they stand? What happens if a fraction can't complete the task?
Second question—what about the phallo-centrism of the protest? Is semen the only fluid that can subvert capitalism? Chicken John should know that gentrification is an issue that transcends gender. Why not include breast milk too?
The real question is even though the proposed Jack Spade store has become one of the most public symbols of many San Franciscans struggle with gentrification, what's the larger narrative here?
Ever since the company announced plans to move into the spot once held by the cherished (but broke) Adobe Books, a coalition of activists and the Valencia Street Merchants Association have tried to prevent its entrance. (Yesterday, the Board of Appeals voted 4-1 to re-hear an appeal, which means #TeamNoJack will have another opportunity on December 11th. We reached out to Supervisor Scott Wiener's office, which had no comment on the issue.)
We can laugh at Chicken John and his “That’s so San Francisco!" protest, but there's a serious side to this action as well. Rinaldi has been successful in repelling chains from moving in the Mission in the past. In 2009 he led the charge to keep American Apparel from moving to Valencia. The Chron at the time noted “that American Apparel would have filled one of Valencia Street's 27 vacant storefronts with 15 employees earning $12 to $14 and hour plus healthcare—and during a recession.” That wasn't enough for Mr. John. And it's a strange kind of parochialism at work too—after all, the Haight has an American Apparel. What's so sacred about the Mission district?
It's not as if Jack Spade would be the only chain store in the hood. Just around the corner from the old Adobe, at 560 Valencia Street, is the newly-opened Blu Dot furniture store, which is a chain from Minnesota. Since they’ve shown up, we haven't heard of a single protest or community action in opposition of a store that sells $400 chairs. Besides, there are already chains in the Mission—the Chase at 14th and Valencia, the McDonald's on 16th and Mission, even the block-long complex that includes Boston Market, Kohl's, and Starbucks on 16th and Potrero.
Though #TeamNoJack may succeed in keeping out the store, it won't be because of spunky shenanigans like the Chicken John Jack Off. It will be because of old-fashioned political hardball. But the larger question remains—win or lose, will the fight have any larger implications for the city's retail? Or is it just another chance for John to choke his chicken?
Update II: Chicken John says the protest has been changed to a celebration.