Tucked behind the imposing concrete and glass buildings of the new Mission Bay, the bright yellow New England clapboard and cobalt blue trim of the Bay View Boat Club is a time capsule of a different era on the San Francisco waterfront. It was there last Friday evening that the nascent mayoral campaign of Francisco Herrera, the musician and community activist, held a meeting while club regulars watched the game, drank a beer, and cracked jokes about the nearby Mariposa Hunters Point Yacht Club, which, every member of the Bay View was quick to point out, doesn't require members to own a boat.
"How many boats at the Mariposa?" one man asked a group of old-timers, to illustrate the difference. Answers were quick and to the point: "Two." "Four." "Any joker can join there." "They ask how much do you drink a week. Three to four gallons? You can join!"
The Bay View, with its proudly native boat-owning membership, might be a somewhat incongruous location for a meeting of Herrera's largely Latino, Mission-based supporters. But both groups are united by their defiance in the face of the changing San Francisco.
Ted Sailor, a San Francisco native who arranged to host Herrera for the night, described the boat club as "the last stronghold of San Francisco that's holding on as the entire area is being Manhattanized" and complained that residents of the new condo buildings that loom over the Bay View were taking up all the parking and trying to shut down the club's Monday night sailboat races due to the noise of the shotgun used as a starter. "Money doesn't talk," he said, "it screams."
That's the same spirit that's animating Herrera's campaign. "There's a lot of beauty here that needs to be preserved. San Franciscans don't want to be Manhattan in the West," Herrera said Friday. "That's an imposition."
Herrera and his acoustic guitar are longtime fixtures of the Mission's cultural and political scenes. Raised in Calexico, Herrera first moved to San Francisco in 1983 to attend a Jesuit seminary. After spending time in the conflict zone in El Salvador, where he says he used his music to provide mental health support to those affected by the civil war, he returned to San Francisco. He's released several albums and for years has performed for children at music classes in Mission community spaces.
Herrera is a reluctant mayoral candidate; he says he is walking, not running for mayor. But when "none of the big names that we expected" stepped forward to challenge Mayor Ed Lee, Herrera decided to take a chance. "If we as a community can build a popular campaign that pulls in the wisdom of the neighborhoods, them I'm willing to throw my hat in," he says.
"We know it's a huge effort but somebody has to start it," said Miguel Perez, Herrera's campaign manager. "He's not interested in a political career. He's interested in waking up people to start a movement."
Perez says that Herrera's platform will include support for the Mission market-rate housing moratorium and a "Bank of the City" that would put "most of its revenue toward social investment." Herrera's values and politics mostly mirror those of the progressive stalwarts who chose not to enter the race, but with a cultural spin. While the campaign is fuzzy on plans to seek endorsements from local Democratic clubs or unions, it does plan to hold community meetings, house parties, poetry readings, and concerts.
"Ed Lee's not a politician either. He's just a bureaucrat who got elected," said Michelle White, a radio producer helping with the campaign. "What's wrong with being a musician?"