District 9 Supervisor David Campos gave a glimmer of hope to activists and residents protesting recent evictions in the Mission District telling Mission Local on Saturday night that he plans to introduce legislation “in the next few days,” that would offer incentives “against the Ellis Act” evictions.
“I think we are facing an affordability crisis, a displacement crisis and we have to act like it is a crisis,” Campos added.
Campos, who was in the Mission to celebrate Día de los Muertos with thousands of others from across the Bay Area, declined to expand on what that legislation will look like.
“We’re here to honor Día de los Muertos…and to mourn the displacement that’s happening in the Mission,” said Campos. “At the same time it’s very heartwarming to see the energy that is here, all these people who are coming together to support one another.”
Dressed in black with many carrying lit candles and signs reading “Our Mission, No Eviction,” approximately 80 protestors joined the thousands of Bay Area residents who participated in Saturday night’s Día de los Muertos procession through the Mission District.
Evictions rose by 26 percent between March 1, 2012 and Feb. 28, 2013, according to San Francisco Rent Board annual eviction report. The Ellis Act, which Campos said he would address with new legislation, is a 1986 state law that permits owners to get out of the rental business by evicting all the tenants in a building and keeping the units off the market for five years.
Present at the march was artist René Yañez, one of the founders of the Mission Cultural Center and the person credited for making Día de los Muertos a citywide event. The artist, who is terminally ill, is facing an eviction order to leave the apartment he’s called home for 35 years by July, 2014.
When asked what he thought about the protest called take Día de los Muertos back, Yáñez said: “I’m not sure that we’re going to take it back or not but I’m glad to be participating with people that are concerned with evictions.”
“A lot of the artists that participated with me doing exhibits have been evicted from the city and it’s not the same as it used to be,” Yáñez said. ”Myself included, I’m not too happy to be evicted. The kind of work that I do, as an artist, I’m not doing necessarily for the money.”
Marchers said they were also there to applaud the Latino and Meso-American culture that has defined the Mission for decades and to build support for citywide legislation to counter displacement of longtime Mission residents.
“The little culture that is left here is being molded and changed and not being respected,” said Rodrigo Durán, one of the protestors as he held one end of a banner leading the marchers. “Money talks, people are being moved away…but if there is one thing people can take from this procession, from this celebration tonight, is to be more socially and culturally conscience of what’s happening.”
Marcher Víctor López added, “The reason I’m here is because the Mission is dying every single day. My sons grew up here in this district. My mom lives near Mission Dolores and the new owner of that land, he tried to kick out my mom because he wants to make more money. My mom, she’s lived at that place for at least 30 years and I understand my mom pays less money compared to these days, it’s very low, but it’s not right. We’ve got to support each other.”
The protestors gathered at the corner of 24th and York streets Saturday evening in advance of the annual Día de los Muertos procession. While they were waiting for the procession to start, the protestors chanted their message to a lively drumbeat and listened to local poets and musicians play from a truck-bed stage.
“Working class people, everybody except rich people are being driven out of the Mission,” said Bernal Heights resident Bob Mason.
Mason and his wife said they wanted to join the march to protest an avalanche of rent hikes. “What is astounding and demoralizing about the whole thing is that the very reason these people are coming here is because they like multi-culturalism and artists …and they are driving these people out. It’s almost like cannibalism,” said Mason.
Organizers of the march said they hoped the effort would encourage people to get involved with similar protests in the future.
“I’ve been living in the Mission for the last 25 years and I’m sad to hear all the things that are happening,” said María Calles, who carried a ’Our Mission, No Evictions’ sign. “And it can happen to me too. I want people to take action, to be more political…[politicians] say they are helping the people but they are not really helping the people, they are helping the big corporations to do whatever they want with the city. I want the politicians to hear us.”
Asked how he feels about the changes he’s seen in the Mission over the past few years, Día de los Muertos spectator and Mission resident Jerry Connolly said, “uncomfortable.”
“It’s awkward I mean it’s unfortunately in a lot of regards and the people who have lived here for a long time aren’t able to anymore. But that extends beyond Latinos in the Mission. It’s a problem, I don’t have an answer,” said Connolly.
Organizer Roberto Hernandez added, ”It’s the spirit that Latinos bring and our culture, it’s rich. If we’re not here, then what’s left?”
Hélène Goupil contributed to the reporting.