Flowers unempowered

Pub date January 24, 2007

It’s been quite a year for local florist Guy Clark. His dad passed away about a year ago, and Clark suffered a heart attack shortly afterward. Two weeks later, the building at 15th and Noe where he rents garage space to sell flowers caught on fire. The good news was that his space was not damaged. The bad news was that his landlord, Triterra Realty, didn’t immediately renovate the destroyed apartments and let most of the tenants move out, telling the two who remained, Clark and Irene Newmark, that they would have to move soon, too: once the renovations were completed, the building would be put on the market and possibly sold as Tenancy-in-Common (TIC) apartments.

Some more bad news came the other day, on the morning of Jan. 22 when Clark discovered his space had been vandalized in an apparent hate crime.

“KKK” was scrawled across the garage door in blue paint. “Fuck you” with an arrow pointing to the door was written in off-white paint on the sidewalk. Additional garnishes of white and blue were splashed and smeared throughout the area.

“They totally trashed the place,” Clark told the Guardian. “I imagine that it’s geared toward me because I’m an African American.”

Clark said he notified the San Francisco Police Department, and an officer came by to file a report and take some pictures. The case will be referred to the Hate Crimes unit.

“I can’t really think of anybody who would do something like this,” said Clark, adding that he recently had a minor altercation with a neighbor up the street but no other suspects immediately came to mind. “Ninety-nine percent of the people who come by are a blessing.”

Clark has been living and selling flowers in the neighborhood for 25 years, and renting this particular space for five. The Guardian awarded his shop a Best of the Bay in 2005.

“This is more than tragic. Guy is very loved by this neighborhood,” said Irene Newmark, who lives in the building where Guy’s Flowers is housed. Newmark thinks increased gentrification, while not directly related to the hate crime, is changing the place where she’s lived for many years. Newmark listed off several nearby properties that have been sold recently or are on the market, including one that sits vacant across the street.

“They offered to buy me out for $10,000, but that’s not a financial incentive to move,” she said, adding that by the time she paid taxes on the money and found a new place to live most of the money would be gone. She said the owners of the building told her their intent was to sell the building on TIC speculation and “the day it sells you’ll receive your Ellis Act notice.”

Riyad Salma, a spokesperson from Triterra Realty, based on nearby Sanchez Street, said the company has joint ownership of a few other properties in the neighborhood and would be putting a different TIC on the market shortly. He didn’t want to comment on the TIC prospects for the building where Guy’s Flowers is housed, saying it was too market dependent and difficult to say at this point what they will do. He did confirm that the building would be put up for sale soon, “marketed as a whole building or TICs. Whoever will take it,” he said.

Salma also expressed dismay about the crime. “The vandalism seemed to be hate-motivated and race-motivated and it’s not something we’ve ever seen in the neighborhood,” he said.

Sitting on a bench among pots of flowers that decorate the sidewalk in front of her building, Newmark said, “It’s so ironic that those that are beautifying the neighborhood are being forced out.”

Nearby a Department of Public Works employee wielded a hose like a magic wand, trying to make the hateful slurs disappear.

Clark said he plans to keep doing what he does for as long as he can, whether it’s in this building or the one where he lives, four doors down the street.

“I’m usually closed on Mondays and Tuesdays,” said Clark. “But I was thinking about just going and selling whatever I had left. The idea of selling flowers makes me feel better.”