Cafe owner, activist, and lightning-rod for leftie quarrelling Manny Yekutiel is London Breed’s new nominee for one of two empty spots on the SFMTA board.
You may recall last month when a giant “F*CK YOU” was spray-painted across the storefront of Valencia Street cafe and event space Manny’s. Suffice to say that owner Manny Yekutiel is not universally beloved in the Mission District, nor the local progressive community. But the big “F*CK YOU” was not enough to deter Mayor London Breed from unexpectedly nominating Manny Yekutiel to the SFMTA board of directors, as the Examiner reports today, at a time when that board is short two members, and the Muni system looks likely to cut some service.
We want to congratulate our boss, owner and very dear friend, Manny, on this huge nomination! Bringing the perspective on how transportation affects small businesses is important to have in the room 🗣 https://t.co/1GcQQUg8VO— Manny’s! (@welcometomannys) October 5, 2020
The Chronicle notes that Yekutiel serves on the Small Business Commission, and chairs the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, so he has some civic policy bona fides. His ‘community space’ Manny’s did just organize a Scott Wiener-Jackie Fielder Zoom debate this weekend, and in the Before Times, the venue hosted speeches from longshot presidential candidates like Julián Castro, Amy Klobuchar, and (sigh) Marianne Williamson. The Bay Area Reporter notes he’s openly gay, so he’s got that box checked as well.
Hi, there. We've noticed a post circulating online calling out Manny's. We take these post very seriously and understand the importance of holding ourselves accountable, especially given the moment we're in*. Thread: pic.twitter.com/SACHvz5kq7— Manny’s! (@welcometomannys) July 25, 2020
But Yekutiel is a controversial figure too, as is his oft-tagged venue, described by critics as a “gentrifier wine bar.” The ‘Boycott Manny’s’ movement has been a thing since not long after the venue opened in 2018.
Last night, Black and Brown Social Club, the Lucy Parsons Project, QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism) and allied groups showed up to fight the Zionist-Gentrification cafe Manny's while white supremacist Zionists ate a meal in support of Manny's: pic.twitter.com/Ff7g8VhZcx— LucyParsonsProject (@LucyParsonsProj) December 27, 2018
“Yekutiel is attempting to commodify social movements to promote his establishment and his agenda to the Mission’s new residents and their friends,” Mission District activists Margot Goldstein and Rachel Lederman wrote in a 2019 Chronice op-ed. “He is also taking advantage of some of the few resources set aside for community organizations. According to his own statements, he receives reduced rent from Mission Housing due to the ‘progressive’ nature of his business.”
Yet Yekutiel may stand a better chance than Breed’s previous (and rejected) board pick Jane Natoli. The Board of Supervisors has to approve the nomination, and Yekutiel has far more favors to withdraw from that favor bank, because Manny's has often hosted events for supervisors on the board’s left flank. Yekutiel does not have a ton of transit experience, but he’s awfully good at glad-handing supervisors who are critical of Breed.
Monday Memo: The Board of Supervisors— Manny’s! (@welcometomannys) June 22, 2020
D11: @Ahsha_Safai pic.twitter.com/lkgEebf6w9
It’s fair to say that a lot of the hostility toward Manny Yekutiel and his eponymous cafe springs from how he is sort of a central casting specimen of a yuppie gentrifier. But it’s also fair to be pretty uncomfortable at how his critics focus so much on his “Zionism,” a term that, frankly, one does not often hear conversationally among sane people. Mission Local describes Yekutiel’s antagonists as a “diminutive group of attention-seekers going on about Zionist gentrifiers in the Mission and using Jew-as-interloper-and-parasite language (‘invading and destroying our community…’).”
In other words, the debate over Yekutiel’s SFMTA board nomination might contain more discussion of Israel and Palestine than, you know, San Francisco transit.
Image: @welcometomannys via Twitter