Upscale culture and gang violence share a small space

In San Francisco’s Mission District, gang violence is layered atop the flourishing restaurant and club scene that has grown up in recent years.

Recent shootings are reminders that half of the one-square-mile Mission District in San Francisco is gang territory.

The first in a spate of casualties in this city’s hipster haven was a quiet 22-year-old who held two jobs and sent money home to his mother in Mexico’s Yucatan region. Gaspar Puch-tzek was grabbing a cigarette outside the swank Mission District restaurant where he worked on Aug. 30 when he was mistaken for a gang member and shot in the face.

Killed less than 12 hours later was 29-year-old Edson Lacayo — a member, police said, of the Sureno gang, which for decades has battled the Nortenos in the Mission. Sept. 5 brought another fatal shooting near a strip of popular nightspots; two days later, a 19-year-old man was shot in the hip outside the bustling 24th and Mission transit station, sending bystanders scrambling. And at dusk Monday, a man who had opened fire near Guerrero and 15th streets was shot in the stomach before driving erratically across the Mission and crashing.

San Francisco’s compact neighborhoods have for decades been a laboratory for change, undergoing identity-shifting transformations. But nowhere have the economic contrasts been as pronounced as in the Mission.

Here, the cluster of shootings has laid bare a reality many cafe denizens and bar-hoppers in this gentrifying landscape tend to tune out: About half of the neighborhood is gang territory.


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