An Open Letter to Lloyd Silverstein


Since my recent email sent to you on August 11th has gone unanswered and because you have taken this matter up in public via recent media posts, I’m compelled to respond to you as your recent claims are based on factual inaccuracies and above all maligning insinuations which I will address here.

It must be noted that you are an elected Board Director of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association (HVNA) and HVNA Committee Chair of the Business Group. As a leader of the community, I believe you should be leading with positivity, instead, your recent statements have stirred distasteful divisiveness in our neighborhood that needs to be highlighted. 

It’s hard to ascertain which fallacy is less credulous: that you did not read the petition I presented you on a single 8” x 11” piece of paper consisting of a mere 377 words, or that you were so unfamiliar with the HVNA petition that you did not recognize it, or that when I spoke to you face to face I was acting to deceive you to sign the HVNA petition.

Having been a long time citizen of this neighborhood, my activism has been and remains steadfast. Back in the early 1990s, I was part of a core group of neighbors that petitioned to take the freeway down. We had a bold vision. However complex that vision was we persisted. I petitioned door to door with paper and pen in hand. One by one I canvassed the neighborhood for support; which always preceded with a shared conversation. I believed then as I do today, numbers speak volumes – a petition needs a substantial number of co-signers to make things happen.

The idea and vision to petition for a cleaner, better, and safer Hayes Valley arrived only after countless meetings were had and numerous inquiries were sent to our supervisor which left us with more questions than answers in search of a resolve. Mid-June many of us had grown weary, frustrated, stressed, and scared about the encampments. You can read some of your neighbors’ testimonials about this trying period here. We do not believe that it is up to the residents and businesses to solve the problems of homelessness; this is the responsibility of our city and state representatives. The homeless deserve better than a tent, to be treated humanly, and to be provided the city services they are in dire need of. 

In truth, what was playing out with the encampments shined a light on growing community sentiment:  HVNA doesn’t represent the broader voice of Hayes Valley. You can read more about what prompted the community discussion about a petition in the first place here. You will find my points of view and intentions all laid out there in the company of the HVNA Board Corresponding Secretary and others.

The Tent Free Zone petition has been and remains an independent collaborative effort apart from the neighborhood association.  It is duly noted that some co-signers are members of HVNA.  It also became apparent when we did our outreach that there were those that did in fact sign the HVNA petition; which by all accounts started circulating on or around July 6th.   One week later I walked into your place of business and approached you with our petition early afternoon on July 14th. My intent was to get 50 businesses to co-sign to demonstrate broad community support as the HVNA petition did not list supporters.

Some Businesses I spoke to acknowledged the circulation of HVNA petition so that opened up a dialogue of the differences between the petitions. 

To list a few:

  • We are not in favor of the parking garage as a homeless shelter. We feel that the homeless deserved a better housing plan.
  • The 33 Gough St. as a Navigation Center, was a failed option.
  • The possibility of a sleeping site at 360 Grove concerned many merchants on the Hayes business corridor because of its proximity.
  • The HVNA deadline of July 20th was approaching and specifics and plans of what would follow hadn’t been communicated with the community. 
  • Neighbors were confused with the petition name: Hayes Valley Action Network.
  • By all accounts, the HVNA petition had only circulated online; personal one on one outreach hadn’t been applied, whereas ours did.

On July 22nd we mailed our letter to the mayor and we went online with our petition effort. When I returned to thank a few businesses for their support after the encampments were cleared on July 31st they were elated. Irrespective of whether you signed the HVNA petition or the Tent Free Zone petition or both: since when is signing multiple petitions a crime?  I’m asking you to stop suggesting that I gathered signatures on our petition to deceive businesses simply because 10 days later a twitter storm ensued due to a Hoodline post. While both petitions share common goals we believe our petition emphasizes that solving the problems of homelessness is not a burden that citizens and businesses should carry. The HVNA petition proposed solutions that weren’t properly vetted by neighbors here in Hayes Valley.

As a board director of a neighborhood association, you had the opportunity to foster a better sense of community via inclusion with diverse opinions and a unified common goal of making a better Hayes Valley. You and the board of HVNA could have made a statement acknowledging that both petition efforts had an impact and that it would be in the best interest of the community to forge forward in looking for ways to keep our neighborhood safe while seeking viable solutions to the homelessness issue. Instead you went on the attack to point fingers at your neighbors and fellow members of HVNA. Unbelievable.

I’ve been a patron of your business for years. First at your Union Square location, and now in Hayes Valley. I wholeheartedly believe our businesses are the lifeblood of our community; they need as much help and support at this time as we can give them. This is why I petitioned my neighbors. I will not hesitate to do it again. In the remote chance that I present you with a petition to sign for a critical issue impacting citizens who live and work here, should you find yourself in a position of wanting to retract your support; I recommend that you concoct a better story than having been “bamboozled”.

~Stephen Albair

August 18, 2020

“It wasn’t until a few days later that he found out he signed the wrong petition. The HVNA had indeed drafted a petition, but the one Silverstein signed, advocating for a tent-free Hayes Valley, wasn’t it. Silverstein said he wasn’t the only one that, in his words, was “bamboozled.”
I signed it since I was with a customer,” Silverstein said. “It’s a decision I regret. I had seen other merchant names on the list. In my opinion, this was intentional deception. I don’t know what the intent was.”

Hayes Valley merchants allege they were tricked into signing tent-free petition

SFGATE, August 14, 2020