Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
“You face rejection all day long.”
Name: Dana Roze
City: San Francisco, CA
Even on drizzly, overcast afternoons, Dana Roze (“think of Dana Carvey drinking rosé”) stands on street corners in San Francisco’s Mission District, soliciting signatures on warped pieces of paper. He totes laminated fact sheets outlining various causes. His current project: gathering signatures opposing a plan to move the century-old San Francisco Flower Mart underground.
The bazaar—which has been in its current location since 1956—faces an uncertain future in the hands of Los Angeles-based developer Kilroy Realty. Curbed reported that firm plans to construct 1.5 million square feet of office space in the facility, relocate the market within the building, and allocate nearly 46,000 square feet of retail space—at a total cost of about $350 million. A local ballot measure endorsed by former mayor Art Agnos seeks to halt development by prohibiting the rezoning and height limit increase necessary to break ground. It already has more than 25,000 signatures, and according to one recent poll, 78 percent of San Franciscans oppose the development. (That’s good news for Roze, who is paid by the signature.) Bike helmet still strapped to his head after a short ride from his home on Valencia, Roze chatted with CityLab while waiting for locals to wander over.
What’s hard about this job?
You face rejection all day long. It’s hard to get people to stop. I’ve been doing this for about ten years, and even with the best causes, getting ten signatures an hour is good. People are busy. Some people hate signing these things or think they’re useless. And this only applies to San Francisco voters, so tourists can’t sign.
Do you work a consistent schedule?
It’s cyclical. Sometimes I work up to 12 hours a day, five or six days a week. You can choose any location you want. This spot [at Valencia and 20th Street] is not my best location, but it’s close to home and the BART. It’s best to stay near a busy store. But even with a good group of people, the vast majority pass you by.
What do you like about this gig?
I interact with people, talk about interesting issues, and learn a little bit about each subject. You’re outside in fresh air. And you’re your own boss, which is wonderful. There a bunch of good things about it.
Do you choose which causes you canvas for?
Yes, totally. This is a wonderful thing to work on. It’s a local issue. People love the flower market. From time to time, people come by and say, “I got my wedding flowers there.” Many people really have an attachment to it. And the other thing [that attracted me to this issue] is rampant development. We’re losing so many cultural institutions. I used to program computers—I have nothing against it. It’s an important thing to do. But as former mayor Agnos says, “This city can’t be entirely for programmers.”