In a bid to bring more affordable housing and an end to evictions in the Mission District, housing activists and residents from the Mission and other parts of the city are gathering at City Hall today and rallying in support of a market rate housing moratorium.
With SFPD barricades in place on the steps of City Hall to narrow the entrance and exits to the building, activists were beginning to gather at around 11:00 a.m. for their noon rally. By 11:30, about 50 had arrived.
Activists inside City Hall said they planned to go to each supervisor’s office individually and announce their demands. Mercy Jimenez, of Our Mission No Eviction, was among them.
“Affordable housing is the main thing we’re demanding,” Jimenez says. “All this housing is coming in, and there’s no way to stop it.”
By noon the crowd of activists has grown to more than 200, including those outside and inside. They filed in to the city hall building, going through a security scan one by one.
Supervisor David Campos, coming from his office to meet the protesters, told newscasters that the Mission needs 2,400 new units of housing just to maintain the level of families in the Mission.
The crowd gathered inside city hall launched into a series of chants. Oscar Grande, an activist with PODER, led them, shouting “Welcome to our house! It’s been bought and paid for! Whose house?”
“Our house!” the crowd shouted back at him.
After singing a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” the group moved up the stairs and marched through the hall that leads to the doors of the supervisors’ offices. As the gathering passed by Supervisor Jane Kim’s office, the District 6 supervisor and staffers were there to greet the protest with a sign showing their support. Kim, and a short way along the hall, Campos, shook hands and exchanged the occasional embrace with the steady stream of protesters that moved past them.
— Mission Local (@MLNow) May 8, 2015
After making the rounds, the crowd stopped in front of Mayor Lee’s office. “Mayor Lee, can’t you see this is an emergency?” they chanted. They recited a list of demands, including that Lee ask owners of burnt buildings to provide the right to return to both businesses and residents, that homeless families be housed in empty units on Treasure Island and in the Presidio, and that 3000 units of new affordable housing be constructed. “Right now Mayor Lee, you are putting the budget for the city together and we demand that $150 million be put in budget for … affordable housing,” said activist Roberto Hernandez as the group echoed him, amplifying him as a human microphone. “With all the taxes that the city’s collecting right now, they should go to La Misión.” “Se ve, se siente, el pueblo esta presente,” the group chanted outside Lee’s door.
It seemed the protesters were settling in for a long wait. Someone had ordered several pizzas for them, which were quickly distributed and eaten by activists who now sat, stood, or leaned in small groups around the atrium in front of Lee’s office doors.
“We’re all here because it’s unjust that just because of money, we’re getting pushed out,” said Sheila Hernandez, a Mission resident for 17 years who says she’s been evicted three times. “You start to feel powerless.”
Ivy Jeanne, another Mission resident, has had her own close brushes with eviction.
“I have a slumlord who is trying to find every excuse to evict us,” she said. She says those excuses have included trying to evict tenants by deciding a bike storage area could no longer be used as such, and by accusing them of withholding rent and then suddenly “finding” their rent checks. Jeanne was at the protest “to support my friends and the community that I’ve given to over the last 18 years.”
Her friend Laure, who declined to give her last name, said she used to live in a house in the Mission with two other mothers and their children. They dubbed it the “Mama House.” Their landlord kept their rent consistent for many years, but one year raised the rent the allowable percentage that had accrued.
“We couldn’t take the hit, so we left,” Laure said. Now, she lives in Mission Bay in an affordable unit, but struggles there because her rent can still rise incrementally, but her income does not keep pace.
“I’m here because I don’t want to live in a city that uses hygienic metaphors that make it okay to kick out disabled people, to kick out poor people, to kick out people of color,” she said.
Carlos Saez, a student at City College of San Francisco, lives with his parents in the Excelsior, but said their situation is no less precarious. Their home, which they purchased in the 80’s, is still under mortgage, and the payments are too much for his parents to handle.
“My folks work around the clock and they’re struggling to pay the bills. They’re looking at leaving the city,” Saez said.
It’s not just his parents’ generation that’s affected by a rising cost of living. His grandmother used to run a daycare in the Mission, but she was recently evicted from her building.
“We have all our memories there, but it’s just not the same,” Saez said.
Amy Farah Weiss, who is running for mayor, has also experienced displacement. Standing outside City Hall talking with other residents after most of those attending had departed, she said she has been displaced twice before landing in her current living space, a cooperative of seven people living in a single family home. She said she didn’t consider the days events a protest so much as “a marriage of democracy and action.”
The mayor did not make an appearance, and protesters departed, though they promised in a chorus: “We’ll be back!”
Edwin Lindo, of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, called the action a “victory,” and said a representative from the Mayor’s office had come out to take a list of demands. As for the mayor’s absence, that wasn’t a drawback, Lindo said.
“This wasn’t for the mayor to see. This was for the city to see,” he explained. “The city’s consciousness has been raised.”