Marcus%20Books%20Eviction.jpg
Having fallen behind on the rent, the locks have been changed at Marcus Books in San Francisco, the nation’s oldest continuously operating and independent Black-owned and Black-themed bookstore, and the bookstore has been evicted from their Fillmore Street location which was designated a city landmark earlier this year.
As a plugged-in reader wrote at the time the building was landmarked:

This is all very well and good. However, the effort is motivated to save the book store business. In this day and age of Amazon and the demise of the ethnic book store, it is problematic how long Marcus’ will survive. Then there will be a landmark building without Marcus’.

It’s not the end of the story for Marcus Books, however, as the business does have another chapter in Oakland, at least for now.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Zig

    Like my older brother was asking me the other day after driving down Bayshore for the first time in a decade, “What happened to all the black people?”
    They don’t live in SF anymore and I would venture to guess the majority who still do are either old or in public or subsidized housing and don’t buy books. The market for book stores is obviously tougher in general too.
    Kind of a train wreck intervening here by government.

  2. Posted by SFLooking

    Owning a house in SF (or anywhere for that matter) is NOT A RIGHT it is a PRIVILEGE. For those who want to play the race card (like I heard on the news) and say they should stay, need to know all of homeowners play by the same rules – you don’t pay you can’t stay.

  3. Posted by mow

    I have many African American friends who still live in SF and are not old or live in public housing. It’s a shame people stereotype others in “liberal” San Francisco.

  4. Posted by Desert_Guy

    From all the articles mentioned on this website, I’m getting the feeling that San Francisco will be nothing but rows upon rows of houses and apartment buildings. It’s getting to the point where residences will have to travel outside the City to get their services, ie, groceries, cars fixed, shopping, etc as it has gotten way too expensive/troublesome to start a mom/pop store in the city any more.

  5. Posted by Wonkster

    This seemed inevitable given the plight of bookstores generally and the changing demographics in the area. I agree that they should have evolved and perhaps become more of a cultural center, or even a museum (the Beat Museum on Broadway used to be a used bookstore, for example).
    As to the larger issue of who lives in San Francisco, even if you buy into the idea that living somewhere is a “privilege” that is always subject to market pricing, it’s pretty clear who has the resources to pay for the privilege, and in our society it is clearly not minorities. You can make all the arguments as to why that is, but it is clearly the case when folks are saying “Where did all the black people go?”
    And even if you assume everything should be determined purely by market forces at all times you still might bemoan the lack of diversity, both ethnic and economic, now overtaking SF. There have always been the rich in SF but there have also been working class and, yes, even poor people. The housing stock in the city reflects that. Now however even the homes which were built for the working class are being sold for prices which no working class person or even middle class person could afford (the recent sale in Glen Park, for example). You might say this is just the free market at work – like an immutable rule of nature or something – but the result is that the city is becoming increasingly homogenous and bland. While it’s not the result of any clear government mandate, the effect certainly resembles a form of apartheid.

  6. Posted by enzo

    Imagine the world-class jazz blaring wonderfully from that space at 3am in today’s beige climate. This site died long ago, but my hope is that places like this exist today, hidden somewhere I’m not cool enough to know about.

  7. Posted by eddy

    I’m all about free markets and if the business can’t operate profitably than it should close and move on to another location. However, I do find this particularly tragic and would donate to some cause or campaign if someone pointed me to it. Even if it only staved the problem in the short term. There is a lot of history and pride on that section of Fillmore and its sad to see places like this close up. Sadly there was a time when this property may have been affordable to the owner of the store but those times have passed. My best to the owner. Cheers.

  8. Posted by zig

    “I have many African American friends who still live in SF and are not old or live in public housing. It’s a shame people stereotype others in “liberal” San Francisco.”
    Lets start with basic numbers. When my brother was in HS there was over 20% AA in SF. It is surely going to be below 6% at the next census.
    The black working middle class has left SF like the white working middle class has. How can they form families in this city?

  9. Posted by Strike

    Yeah this has nothing to do with race but of course it’s publicized that way. Black, white, red, green…if you don’t PAY YOUR RENT like every other hard working person in this city then you are NOT ENTITLED to operate a business and/or live here. Someone earlier pointed it out, and it’s true: living here is a privileged not a right.

  10. Posted by Rillion

    Same thing happened to “A Different Light” in the Castro after all the gays moved out of SF. Clearly it is because of demographics and not the economic realities of the bookstore business.

  11. Posted by Sierrajeff

    ^^^ this – same thing happened to LGBT bookstores across the country; between the internet and mainstream bookstores carrying more and more LGBT titles (even before Amazon came along), these niche-focused bookstores were dying.

  12. Posted by Sausalito_res

    @Wonkster: +1
    When the ones being shut out of San Francisco are “Poors”, it’s the market at work. Righteous punishment for those who haven’t “earned the privilege”.
    When the upper middle class is being stepped-on by 20-something instant millionaire newcomers and plutocrat heirs with dirty money from developing nations, it is an abomination that must be stopped.
    This trend doesn’t stop with the poor people. The middle class and upper middle class are next. If we don’t make room for the people who perform the services that we all rely on, this city dies.
    This has already happened in several of the close-in suburbs of San Francisco. How many who grew-up in Mill Valley, Belvedere, or Tiburon during the 60s through 80s can afford to live there now? I’m referring to middle-class and upper-middle class people with decent jobs. Pushed-out by venture capitalists and partners of large law firms.
    Too bad for them that they didn’t Earn the Privilege(TM) to continue living in their towns!

  13. Posted by eddy

    The same thing happened to meg ryan when tom hanks opened up his mega-chain and killed the shop around the corner. This is clearly a signal of manhattanization!

  14. Posted by Joseph A

    The easy solution would be that a Church with a African congregation donate part of their structure for the book store, so the store can live on , and will just need to move

  15. Posted by Jackson

    Walking by, I always wondered how Marcus Books stayed in business.
    Neighborhoods change and businesses evolve or perish.
    They will not be the only book store to close and being “independent Black-owned and Black-themed bookstore” should be irrelevant to the discussion.

  16. Posted by curmudgeon

    ^ Joseph Not a bad idea for the short term. But those black churches in the Western Addition aren’t going to last forever either. They’re insulated by the fact that they don’t pay property taxes, but as their congregations continue to dwindle they will close down too. It’s actually been happening for years.

  17. Posted by frog

    Why am I so reminded of the the Yogi Berra quote, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” We’re concerned about destroying the culture of SF when more people want to come here than ever?
    Things change. My mom grew up in the Bronx when it was Jewish, now it isn’t. And my hometown was farmland, now it’s suburbia. I came to SF over a decade ago and I’m not even the same person I was when I got here. We can’t preserve the past and just because something was important to some people a long time ago has absolutely no bearing on what we should do today.
    I say this not ironically, but bookstores have moved online, but there are now 10 different places to buy a custom messenger bag in SF. It’s changing culture and changing priorities and changing methods of buying things. And in 30 years people will be protesting the removal of the historic messenger bag stores and the destruction of blue bottle coffee will be considered a crime against San Francisco’s hipster past.
    Lastly, this entire thing is a giant argument for owning your own home. My friends just bought at place off Oakdale from the widow of a working class African American man. She sold it to them for 10X what she paid for it. She was happy, my friends are starting a family, they’re handy so they’re making it nice and they told her that if she ever comes back to SF, she’s more than welcome to visit. And this older woman is moving somewhere else with enough money that she will live out the rest of her days very comfortably. Who lost here? Who was kicked out?

  18. Posted by cfb

    “When my brother was in HS there was over 20% AA in SF. It is surely going to be below 6% at the next census.” -zig
    SF was never over 20% black. The black population peaked in 1970 at 13.4%. As of the latest census stats SF is 5.6% “black alone” and 7% black when including mixed race.

  19. Posted by jsimms3

    Frog, awesome quote!!!

  20. Posted by Sausalito_res

    @frog said:
    “I came to SF over a decade ago and I’m not even the same person I was when I got here. We can’t preserve the past and just because something was important to some people a long time ago has absolutely no bearing on what we should do today.”
    This city has a history and tradition that goes back to the Gold Rush. Since your arrival here “over a decade ago”, you may not have had the opportunity to absorb that tradition.
    There is this thing called historical preservation. Successful cities around the world (Paris, London, Rome, Florence, etc.) all do it.
    Large parts of London were bombed to smithereens in the Second World War and they rebuilt not with a bunch of stucco garbage but with elegant structures that look like they might have been there for many years. Compare that to much of what was built in San Francisco during the same period…Not exactly our architectural Golden Age.
    I read somewhere (perhaps in the comments on this blog) something to the effect that “it’s a good thing gold was discovered in 1849 and not 1949 based on the what was built in the following years.”
    Returning to London, take a look at the City of London (their CBD) sometime. They build glass and steel towers next to tiny Thomas Wren churches, some of which no longer have congregations. Speaking as someone who enjoys visiting London, I’m glad they have kept those no-longer-used churches the Lloyds of London Headquarters, the “Daikon” and the “Shard” are also examples of spectacular newer buildings, the likes of which we do not build in San Francisco).
    Some change is good, but not all change. Your citing the conversion of farmland to suburbia is one example of a bad change.
    San Francisco already has a lot of good things about it (and some of them have been here for awhile). Maybe we can agree to make well thought-out improvements, but not throw out things just because they are old or not the flavor du jour.
    Finally, the story about the African American woman in Oakdale was heartwarming. But I’m not sure how you know where she moved to or how you can be so confident that she will “live out the rest of her days very comfortably.”

  21. Posted by REpornaddict

    “Why am I so reminded of the the Yogi Berra quote, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.””
    That’s definitely true about Valencia Street these days!!

  22. Posted by around1905

    What jumps out at me here is that the bookstore owner pushed it to the point where the building owner needs to pay the sherif to evict.
    Classy.

  23. Posted by frog

    Starting with the African American woman: she owned her house outright and she’s moving near extended family “in the South.” I don’t know her debt situation or her health, but I do know that her place was sold for a lot of money. If you don’t live in SF, half a million dollars or so goes a very long way. Plus social security and medicare.
    My country example is perfect. I will never never get my childhood home back, not the way I remember it. But where else are people supposed to live? Either we build up in the cities or we convert the country to suburbia. There’s really no other options and we’re doing both. My loss of getting to visit farmland is turning into someone else’s childhood memories of going to Starbucks with their parents on a lazy sunday.
    You think you have history in San Francisco? My hometown dates to General Washington crossing the Delaware. My elementary school had on its property the last still used “one room schoolhouse” in Pennsylvania (of course it was just used as a classroom, not the entire school.)
    But that’s all an aside, the point is that things change. Some periods are focused on architecture. Processed foods like velveeta was the pinnacle of the 50s, now we fetishize small farms for some reason. Similarly, sometimes we value homogeneous culture and sometimes we love our ethnic foods. These things seem to move in waves, as does architecture and everything else.
    Yes we should preserve part of it. But here’s the real story, I’ve been out here for a decade and I am now part of California’s history. And the tech hipsters that came after me, they are what California is too.
    History is in the past.

  24. Posted by Sausalito_res

    Also, frog said “Lastly, this entire thing is a giant argument for owning your own home.”
    What this is an argument for is having bought a home many years ago and to be sitting on a big capital gain. Not sure how this helps the less-well-off among us now. And not everyone has the desire (or the ability) to be a homeowner.
    The comments on this blog seem to be reverting to the viewpoint popular in America about 225-250 years ago that Landowners should have more rights than those who rent. If I recall my American History class, most of the adherents of that theory were landowners.

  25. Posted by Sausalito_res

    @frog 1:53
    “Yes we should preserve part of it. But here’s the real story, I’ve been out here for a decade and I am now part of California’s history. And the tech hipsters that came after me, they are what California is too.
    “History is in the past.”
    So, is history *good* or *bad*? Is it in the past, present, or future? You seem to be confused.

  26. Posted by Sausalito_res

    @ frog
    I’m glad you’re proud of the history of your town in Pennsylvania. You mentioned some things from many years ago (“in the past”, to use your words) that still seem to have some meaning to you.
    Some of us here also feel a strong connection to the history of this place and want it to be preserved. Pennsylvania’s history has lasted as long as it has because some people bothered to give a damn about it.
    That’s all I have to say on this subject today.

  27. Posted by frog

    My point, quite simply is that things naturally change and there isn’t much you can do to stop it. You can have fragments of the past, say a one room school house, but you can’t teach all the kids in one room in 2014.
    About 5 years ago, people in my hometown were scared because there’s a new Mexican supermarket. Here we’re up in arms because the Hispanics are being pushed out of the Mission. In Pennsylvania, people are concerned because they’re moving in. And in another decade or two there will have always been a Hispanic community in small-town Pennsylvania.

  28. Posted by curmudgeon

    ^ Sausalito Res…preserving a building is much different than preserving a use. No one can mandate that there is a market for African American books in a largely white neighborhood.
    I sympathize with your attraction to history, but I don’t know WHAT you would do in this case. I’m with frog, for the most part. Things change. Preserve the memories of what was, by all means, by keeping important buildings and landscapes. But that’s all you can do.

  29. Posted by frog

    Some people need help, so I’m pro raising the minimum wage and having a minimum guaranteed salary for all Americans (if we can figure out how it affects immigrants.)
    But on the question of land owners versus renters, of course land owners have more rights. I could sign a 50 year lease and then I’d have rights for 50 years as spelled out in my lease, but after that time, I still wouldn’t own the property. That’s the entire point of owning vs renting. And no one says property has to be land. Put 10% of your money every month into dividend earning stocks or bonds and you will own an asset that’s “property.”
    As for helping people who can’t afford things now, we have subsidized housing and we should probably have income based subsidized rents, but get rid of rent control.

  30. Posted by Wonkster

    One of the points I was making is that the fact that black people are less able to “pay for the privilege” of living in San Francisco is evidence that the equal playing field that zealous freemarket advocates espouse doesn’t really exist. If it did, we’d see just as many black people in San Francisco as before, just more affluent ones. Frog’s whole narrative pretty much says it all: he grow up in what I can only surmise was a somewhat affluent suburb (where folks were actually alarmed about the opening of a Hispanic grocery, presumably to cater to a growing Hispanic working class population) and now, due to the advantages he had, he can afford to outbid working class Hispanics in San Francisco for the limited available housing.
    The idea that “things change, get used to it” only goes so far when populations are being displaced due largely to inequality of opportunity and an aggregation of wealth at the higher levels. Clearly, as San Francisco has boomed economically many San Franciscans have not participated in that economic boom. We’re about to see that visually when areas like the Bayview transform from largely African-American to other races (as happened in the Western Addition).
    I don’t know that the equality of opportunity problem can be solved in San Francisco alone, but I don’t think we should ignore it and pretend that everyone has an equal chance to join the “ownership society.”
    My other point is that these changes in San Francisco are making it bland and homogenous. Perhaps it can’t be avoided but it’s not an improvement from where I sit.

    • Posted by wrath

      I remember when Harlem was mostly Dutch… Nowadays… ehhh..

  31. Posted by Jake

    Marcus Books is a very small book store. Hopefully, they will find a new home. Maybe as part of a larger business.
    Natural to have some sympathy given the history of gov’t acts vs non-europeans in that area.
    Anyway most all of us are relative newcomers.
    A ~4,500 year old Miwok burial site was recently relocated to build multi-million dollar homes in Larkspur.
    march of progress through the graves of history.
    http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_25624833/archaeologists-lament-loss-indian-artifacts-at-larkspur-development

  32. Posted by Sausalito_res

    @ curmugeon
    My comments weren’t directed at preserving the use at this building (or really any particular use of any property). I’m just pushing-back against the “out with the old” mentality and the belief in the Inherent Wisdom of Unregulated Markets that seems increasingly pervasive here.
    We should have respect for the city that has been built-up in a very special way over many generations. Think of the San Francisco portrayed by Tales of the City, Sam Spade novels/movies, and several Hitchcock movies.
    It’s only natural for people to want to maximize benefits to themselves. However, we’re dealing with a “Tragedy of the Commons” situation here and it is the job of government to look after the commons. Policy tools tend to be blunt instruments but that doesn’t mean we should leave everything to the private sector.
    And, yes, I know that isn’t what you were suggesting.

  33. Posted by FormerAptBroker

    Around 1905 wrote:
    > What jumps out at me here is that the
    > bookstore owner pushed it to the point
    > where the building owner needs to pay
    > the sheriff to evict.
    I know a lot of apartment landlords in the Bay Area and I don’t know why it happens (racism, lack of financial training in the schools, they like to be evicted?) but over the past 30 years it seems like while Blacks/African Americans are under 3% of their tenants they are over 90% of the people that make you go all the way through the eviction process. I managed a lot of (crappy) units in college and both blacks and whites didn’t pay the rent, but the whites always left on their own once the eviction was started. I can still picture the look on a couple poor Black little boys (~3 & ~5) faces ~1986 when I came to their apartment with the Sheriff who made them and their Dad leave. One boy was holding a truck, the other boy had a stuffed dog and the Dad was holding his giant ~26″ TV. The three of them were just staring at me as I changed the locks while the Sheriff was telling them that they would be arrested if they tried to re-enter the unit.
    P.S. On a lighter note I would say it is a good thing when you assume that Blacks are now saving money by getting books on line (maybe even for their Kindle) and saving money like just about everyone else….

  34. Posted by Hitman

    This is so stupid… who cares? Book stores are not exactly a great business model – put a cassette tape, 8-track and record store in!

  35. Posted by frog

    Hitman, you just said most of what I’ve been trying to say in 2 sentences.

  36. Posted by FormerAptBroker

    Wonkster wrote:
    > One of the points I was making is that
    > the fact that black people are less able
    > to “pay for the privilege” of living in
    > San Francisco is evidence that the equal
    > playing field that zealous freemarket
    > advocates espouse doesn’t really exist.
    I we don’t have an “equal playing field” did the “white overlords” just decide to let Obama become president and let Opra become a billionaire to F with other Black people…

  37. Posted by jeremy

    To be completely fair, we obviously need to bulldoze all of SF to the ground and deed the 7×7 to the descendants of the Native American tribes who REALLY “were here first”. Everyone else needs to get out – including all of those whining about how “their city” has changed since THEY first got here.

  38. Posted by soccermom

    “What this is an argument for is having bought a home many years ago and to be sitting on a big capital gain.”
    Ironic because this is what actually happened. The Marcus Bookstore owners WERE sitting on a big capital gain, purchased the building in ’94 for $400K. (see namelink)
    How did they wind up in foreclosure?

  39. Posted by Jake

    @soccermom, thanks for the link.
    This story is only nominally about a book store or an eviction.
    It is a loss of place in a neighborhood rich in lost places.
    Perhaps the loss of one of the few remaining cultural remnants of a community means little to some now.
    When SF bulldozed much of the neighborhood it meant little then too.
    Past being prelude.

  40. Posted by Sausalito_res

    soccermom,
    Not sure what your point is, but the notice reproduced at the top of this blog posting states that it is a landlord eviction of a tenant. Not a foreclosure.
    That four-year-old article that you dug-up may have some incorrect facts.
    [Editor’s Note: The property was foreclosed upon in 2013.]

  41. Posted by SFRealist

    Desert Guy: “It’s getting to the point where residences will have to travel outside the City to get their services, ie, groceries, cars fixed, shopping”
    What are you talking about? Just today I got my oil changed (in SF), walked to the store to buy milk (in SF), and got new shoes (in SF). I never buy anything outside the city.

  42. Posted by soccermom

    The bookstore owners chose to borrow money they were subsequently unable to pay back.
    Apparently the new owners may finally be able to take possession.
    There is a much longer story than what has been summarized in this post.

  43. Posted by Joseph A

    It still comes down to this ,
    If those that identify themselves as part of the Black Community want the store to continue then they should open up their wallets , and or doors to make it happen ,

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