Several dozen protesters gathered at the corner of 24th Street and Bryant Thursday afternoon to protest more than just one or two evictions in the neighborhood, but all of them. Organized by ACCE (Alliance of Community Empowerment), the event aimed to kick off what the group was calling an “eviction free zone.”
“We’re focusing on the area between 20th and Cesar Chavez, from South Van Ness to Potrero,” said ACCE organizer Noemi Sohn. “But we plan to circle out from there… We’re here to say no more evictions, we’re here and we’re not going anywhere.”
In addition to protesting evictions, the action was intended to draw neighborhood attention to ways tenants can fight threats of eviction or potential buyouts from landlords.
Of particular interest was the small site acquisition program—a fund launched last year by the Mayors Office of Housing to purchase small multi-unit buildings and convert them to permanently affordable housing.
“I’ve seen actual victories here in the Mission, the Community Land Trust is keeping homes in community hands,” said Carlos Gutierrez, whose own home was a stop on the march as it worked its way down 24th and up South Van Ness to the three-unit building at 22nd Street. Over the past two years, the land trust has been successful in converting buildings at risk of eviction into cooperatively run affordable housing.
Gutierrez said that when he saw that the building’s owner Joseph Montero had put it up for sale in November, alarm bells went off. He said he wasn’t going to wait for eviction notice to take action. “Nine out of ten times, when there’s a sale, there’s an eviction,” he said.
Gutierrez got the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) and the San Francisco Community Land Trust involved. It’s his hope that one of the non-profits could potentially purchase the building using funds from the small site acquisition program. So far, the building’s owner hasn’t responded to the offer. Montero couldn’t be reached for comment.
The small site acquisition program subsidizes affordable housing developers at $250,000 per unit—so, $750,000 for this three-unit building. When it started last August the program’s fund only had $3 million. The building at South Van Ness is currently listed on Zillow for around $1.75 million. It’s also unclear if this particular building qualifies for the program, which is generally intended for buildings with five to 25 units.
As the protest moved from the Gutierrez household to 20th and Shotwell—where Patricia Kerman and her roommate Tom Rapp who have been fighting an Ellis Act eviction for over two years, the conversation about the small site acquisition program continued.
“I believe you can get anyone to do anything with the right carrot and stick,” said Rapp. “Fully funding the small site acquisition program is the carrot to get landlords to keep tenants in place.”
The stick? Rapp said that’s tenants who are willing to put up a fight. After taking their landlord to court, Rapp explained that he and his roommate have at least another year. MEDA also reportedly put an offer on the building to develop it as affordable housing.
As the protest winded down, ACCE organizer Anna Slavicek handed out big yellow signs with the phrase, “I’ve lived here for______ years. I am not leaving,” printed in English and Spanish.
“We’re creating an eviction resistance zone…this is about establishing solidarity in the neighborhood,” said Slavicek. “I want to see a sea of yellow signs on people’s windows.”
Slavicek instructed protesters to disperse through the neighborhood going door to door to hand out the window signs, arming tenants with veritable sticks to ward off the grim prospect of eviction.