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A Payday Without the Payoff

Thursday, June 20, 2019
Sara Haji | Zora
Charla Rios

On Saturday mornings, locals shuffle through the ACE Cash Express at 16th and Mission in San Francisco, greeting one another in Spanish, if at all. The storefront signage — “Fast Loans Prestamos” — is unremarkable here, between pentecostal churches and stands of Tajin-salted mango. Here, in the city’s historically Latinx Mission District, the median family income hovers around $67,000 and one-third of households speak only Spanish. ACE is surrounded by its payday-lending competitors: one per block, each somehow more excited than the last, promising cash quicker than the last.

But three miles away, the garish storefronts are gone. Sidewalk grocers are traded out for Lululemon in the Marina, a neighborhood that’s 83% white with a median family income of nearly $200,000. And instead of Money Marts and Check ‘n Gos plastered with “deposito directo, pregunte aqui,” traditional banks stud the streets: two Chase Banks, Bank of America, a Wells Fargo if you’re feeling colorful.