Property prices have skyrocketed, and something strange and terrible has started happening: a spate of mysterious fires. There were 45 of them in 2015 and 2016, displacing 198 people and killing three, including a child. Legal evictions in San Francisco are costly and difficult, and so a lot of locals have started wondering: Could there be a plot by landlord arsonists to clear out the district to make way for the tech people?
I later spoke with the former head of the San Francisco Fire Department’s Arson Task Force, John Darmanin. He told me he didn’t know of any cases of arson explicitly tied to landlords wanting to get rich from gentrification but that the arson department was so overloaded and under-resourced that cases “do not get the level of professionalism and investigation that they deserve.” There were fires, he said, that “very well could have been arson, but we just didn’t have the manpower to devote to those cases.”
Thursday, June 22, 2017
"A series of strange and unsettling fires in the Mission District have people wondering: Are the city’s landlords using arson to drive out low-income tenants?"