Multiple people of different races stand under a yellow awning and brandish colorful posters that demand funding for tenant programs.
Ralliers outside of 2334 Mission St. advocate to keep tenant programs in the budget. Photo by Annika Hom, June 8, 2023.

The “before” and “after” photos showed a clear picture: Without enforcement, the mold, leaks, and broken doorbells at 2334 Mission St. would have persisted. 

But the programs responsible for intervening between tenants and management, the Code Enforcement Outreach Program and the SRO Collaborative, could be completely eliminated if the mayor’s proposed budget is finalized. 

On Thursday, more than five dozen tenants and organizers protested outside apartments at 2334 Mission St. against funding cuts that sustain these programs. 

“We are the bridge to [Department of Building Inspection] services,“ said Maria Ixchel Zamudio of the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee, about the city department responsible for alerting landlords about needed fixes to their buildings. The department, she said, is “hard to get a hold of” and requires advocates like the Housing Rights Committee to intervene on behalf of tenants. “That’s why we’re called enforcement.” 

The enforcement groups helped the tenants at 2334 Mission St. send nine letters to the landlords between March and September, 2022, to demand fixes to inhabitable conditions. Following surveys, multiple inspections, and pressure from the organizers, the landlord finally committed to repairing the problems. 

Jose Marquez, who has lived at the building for 20 years, attested to the program’s success to the multilingual, multiracial crowd Thursday. He recounted his issues flanked by yellow and red posters that read “Budget cuts = Collapsed Ceilings. Fund CEOP Now” in reference to the Code Enforcement Outreach Program.  

“When there’s something wrong with our building, they’ve improved it,” Marquez said in Spanish. “We need it.”

In total $5.2 million is being cut from both these programs, which will come from Department of Building Inspection cuts overall, said Li Lovett, a spokesperson for the Council of Community Housing Organizations. The Code Enforcement faces a $4.86 million decrease in grant funding. The cuts are an effort to deal with a projected $780 million budget deficit over the next two fiscal years. 

“As a self-funded department, the Department of Building Inspection is facing a severe budget deficit,” spokesperson Patrick Hannan wrote in a statement. “As a result, we cannot continue to financially support these programs as we need to preserve our remaining funds for the core public safety services required by law, including code compliance plan review, enforcement of housing laws and tenant rights, and building construction inspections.”

According to the proposed budget, the department faces a $25 million deficit, thanks to a decline in construction and the permit and other fees that come with it. The annual budget must be decreased by $11.5 million. Tenants fear poorer living conditions if these programs are wiped out. 

The Code Enforcement Outreach Program was established some 20 years ago and has enabled tenants to pressure their landlords to fix longstanding issues. “Without them, we’d be lost,” said Brindissy Garcia in Spanish, standing under the yellow awning of her Mission Street boutique, Pikitos.

Garcia, whose boutique borders 2334 Mission St., said the continued leaks from upstairs ruined merchandise and her store, requiring her to replace essential items like cash registers. It wasn’t until tenant organizers at 2334 Mission St. teamed up with her that the group pressured the property owner into making adequate repairs. 

Cuiping Tan, a mother living with her children in the single-room occupancy hotel, said in Chinese that she’s had habitability problems since her daughter was as tall as her waist. Now, she’s at her mother’s eye level. Without the help of community organizations, she doesn’t think any of her issues would have been resolved. 

“Our organizations will fight for them will support them in navigating the DBI process in language, and putting in the number of hours necessary to get a landlord to be code-compliant,” Zamudio said. “All the work that you’ll see on this poster,” she said, referring to one showing 2334 Mission St. before and after repairs, “took hours and hours and hours of work.”

Two women hold a poster that show before and after photos of a building that benefitted from code enforcement remediation.
An organizer displays “before” and “after” photos of 2334 Mission St. to show the difference tenant organizing can make. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June 8, 2023.

The SRO Collaborative, a program designed to bolster tenants’ rights and organizing in single-room occupancy hotels specifically, would be on the chopping block too if cuts go through. Low investment has made city SROs report some of the worst habitability conditions, including rampant rodent infestations, and are notorious for faulty elevators that have previously trapped tenants inside. 

Maria Rinaldi, the director of community engagement at Dolores Street Community Services, which oversees the Mission SRO Collaborative said in Spanish, “Every day, they cut our services by 20, 30, 50 percent. They say our hotels have to be like this, we have a code, but they favor the owners corporations and neglect our people.”

Selina Luo, an SRO organizer, said she’d assisted in fixing issues for seven hotels. In one instance, a water pipe broke on Jackson Street, leaving residents without working water for three days. Water issues are deemed an emergency, and need be rectified within 24 hours, according to the San Francisco habitability code. 

Though Luo was on her day off, she phoned the landlord and prompted them to call a technician to fix pipes immediately, she said in Chinese. Thursday’s crowd roared. 

Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, the Housing Rights Committee executive director, closed the rally that filled the sidewalk outside of Pinkitos.

“This is winnable. The budget isn’t finalized,” Sherburn-Zimmer said in her faint New Hampshire/New York accent. “We’re going to continue going to DBI and City Hall if we need to, until these cuts are put back.”

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REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

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5 Comments

  1. Why is the city paying to advocate for tenants who are in city supported housing? The nonprofits that run these places need to be accountable if they are keeping them in substandard conditions.

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  2. You can file a complaint on the DBI website in about five minutes. It is assigned within 24 hours and must be addressed within 72 hours. These so called non profits are just grifters like the majority of non profits in the city. Sorry folks, when the funds stop coming in the City would rather keep working people on the payroll. Don’t worry the gravy train will return. Or will it?

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  3. Breed threatens to defund nonprofit political assets and they charge the red cape, leaving Breed free to spend as she sees fit for the remaining 99.5% of the budget.

    Every time.

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  4. Do we really need to spend $700 million on “homeless services”. There might be a couple hundred million of excess there that could be put to better use. Not sure, just thinking out loud.

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