A large crowd gathered in front of City Hall on Saturday afternoon to protest citywide evictions and advocate for affordable housing.
The rally, which was sponsored by the SF Anti-Displacement Coalition, drew together a diverse range of housing advocates and organizations; including the Housing Rights Committee SF, the Chinatown Community Development Center, Tenants Togther, and more.
It kicked off at noon with a series of speeches (in Spanish, English, and Chinese) by tenant activists and continued into the afternoon as sign-toting participants played tongue-in-cheek games, like life-size “Eviction” Monopoly with customized board spaces such as: “Eviction Notice,” “Condo Conversion,” and “Ellis Act.”
Blanca Reyes, a member of the advocacy group CausaJusta/JustCause and longtime Mission resident, took to the microphone in front of a large map displaying the number of citywide Ellis Act evictions since 1997.
“I’m another victim of the Ellis Act,” she began, “and I have been constantly harassed by my landlord. He bought the house recently. He’s even taken away the keys to our home. It’s really damaging to me and my family. We’re constantly afraid about what’s going to happen with our eviction.”
According to a report released earlier this month by CausaJusta/JustCause, more than 1,000 Latino families have left the Mission in recent years. “The Mission right now is in chaos with evictions,” writes CausaJusta’s Cecilia Alvarado. “There is also nowhere to go. The units available are for people who earn $6,000 to $7,000 more than I do per month—not for middle-class or working-class families, which had always been the status of the Mission—families with kids.”
Reyes urged Latino and undocumented members of the crowd to advocate for housing rights locally and in Sacramento. Legislators, she said, want to hear Latino stories about displacement in California. “It’s really important that communities of color go before legislators and let them know the changes that need to be made so that we’re able to stay in our neighborhoods and our communities,” she said. “They are our elected officials and they need to listen to us. Our stories matter.”
Dean Preston, the founder and Executive Director of Tenants Together, spoke about upcoming legislation to curb predatory speculation and Ellis Act evictions, dubbing 2014 “the year to stop speculators.” Like Reyes, Preston said that groups commonly targeted with evictions, like Latinos and elderly Chinese citizens, need to elevate their voices “in the halls of power,” where legislators are hearing from “paid lobbyists” that support speculators.
Lori Nairne, who has been living in San Francisco since 1974, said she came to the rally to represent a group that’s crucially important but regularly overlooked in the Ellis Act conversation: women.
“They never talk about the impact this has on women and children,” said Nairne, a volunteer for Global Women’s Strike. “Homes are women’s workplace. It’s where women have children, raise children, and do the caring work. So the housing crisis is an attack on a whole set of women. We’re the ones that keep these homes together, deal with all the emotional crisis of everyone in the household. It has to be acknowledged and recognized, the impact on women.”
Other event-goers included Mario Landau-Holdsworth and Liz Pettit, both fighting their eviction at an apartment at Haight and Fillmore. “The building was just sold to Prado Group,” said Landau-Holdsworth. “The old landlord didn’t care very much about what was happening in the building. Now that’s changed because Prado is just trying to make as much money as possible off of the units.”
According to the duo, Prado Group is raising their monthly rent by more than double — from $2900 to $6200. They commissioned the help of a lawyer, Joyce Jordan, formerly of the AIDS Housing Alliance, “and we’re not planning on leaving,” Landau-Holdworth said. But they recognized that not all tenants have the financial resources to fight looming evictions with lawyers.
“We want to stand in solidarity with all the people in the city who are getting evicted right now,” said Pettit, “Who maybe don’t have the privilege or the information to know that they can fight it.”