Hundreds March to End the Displacement of San Francisco’s Educators
On the evening of April 11, 2014, several hundred tenants and community supporters, including many children, gathered in Dolores Park and marched to six locations as part of the ongoing campaign to stop the evictions of San Francisco residents during this current speculator-fueled real estate boom. Eviction Free San Francisco organized this event to highlight the rash of ongoing evictions of San Francisco educators and caregivers in the Mission District. Endorsing organizations included Chinese Progressive Association, Chinatown SRO Collaborative, Central City SRO Collaborative, North Beach Tenants Committee, BiSHoP (Bill Sorro Housing Program), Our Mission No Eviction, Senior Disability Action Network, and Causa Justa/Just Cause with other groups like Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Tenants Together and United Educators of San Francisco marching behind their banners.
Although the action covered about one and a half miles and lasted two and a half hours, approximately two to three hundred participants remained steadfast. A large and aggressive police presence including motorcycle squads and foot patrols carrying riot gear shadowed the non-violent, mutual aid, direct action.
The assembling crowd inaugurated the festive event at the southeast corner of Dolores Park with chants including “Keep Teachers in Their Homes” followed by a call to action from Claudia Tirado, a teacher at the Fairmont Elementary School facing an Ellis Act eviction from her home at 812 Guerrero Street. A tearful Tirado thanked the large group, explaining that she needed to take the day off from work in order to campaign to save her home. She captured the desire of many when she declared, “San Francisco is not for sale.” Then off we went marching in the streets to six locations.
812 Guerrero Street: Chris Sideris, better known as Johnny, one of many residents facing an Ellis Act eviction at this seven unit apartment building, shared the history of their ongoing struggle. Jack Halprin, an attorney who works for Google, purchased the building within the last couple years and immediately evicted one household for an owner move in (OMI), followed by a second illegal OMI eviction for his ex-domestic partner who never moved into the unit. In late February, Halprin initiated Ellis Act evictions for the remaining five apartments, which include the homes of teachers Claudia Tirado and Evan Wolkenstein.
Johnny made a direct appeal to Google CEO Larry Page, “Why are Google employees evicting people?” perverting the commonly known Google slogan to “Do Some Evil.” Jeff Wu from the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, who is helping the 812 Guerrero Street community, cautioned that unfortunately no San Francisco tenants are safe from eviction as speculators thirst for real estate profits. From there we moved to the next stop,
Mission High School: The always excellent Brass Liberation Orchestra awaited the growing group at Mission High School. There Ken Tray, a San Francisco USD teacher since 1985 and Mission resident since 1979, made the connection between scorched earth public education and land use policies which are destroying public education through funding cuts while conveniently and falsely blaming teachers and at the same time dislocating the economic and cultural diversity of our neighborhoods. Tray’s union, United Educators of San Francisco, is in contract negotiations seeking the first raise for educators in seven years, which have seen massive layoffs and furloughs.
Natalia Arguello-Inglis, a senior at Lowell High School, explained how several of her teachers have involuntarily moved from San Francisco as she sent us off to our first stop on Dolores Street.
255 Dolores Street: One of the long time residents of this ten-unit building greeted the group for a brief “eviction party,” complete with creative decorations highlighting the unethical activities of landlord Bruce Helmberger of Glen Canyon Properties. The children among the marchers especially loved the piñata in the shape of the head of an evictor lawyer. Onward to our next location on Dolores Street,
55 Dolores Street: Fred Sherburn-Zimmer from Eviction Free SF educated us about the shady business model of this building’s owner, serial evictor Urban Green whose CEO David McCloskey buys buildings, then scares, bribes or evicts tenants before flipping the properties for huge profits. Fred then led a happy birthday serenade for Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a resident here who recently turned 98 and whose deadline for her Ellis Act eviction has just passed. She remains in her home along with her friend and neighbor, Sarah Brant, a teacher facing eviction from this building, who explained that because of a combination of her age and the stress of her pending eviction, Mary Elizabeth could not join the marchers but appreciated their support and concern.
Imagine that a wealthy real estate developer speculator is putting a 98-year-old woman onto the street in order to make a buck.
A moving speech by lifelong Mission resident and activist Roberto Hernandez described the recent police killing of Alejandro Nieto at Bernal Hill Park and decried the replacement by gentrification of the authentic San Francisco attitudes of cooperation and mutual respect with suspicion and avarice. A Native American activist led us in chanting, drumming and blessing for Nieto’s spirit before we marched to our next destination.
49 Guerrero Street: Mervyn, a tenant at this Urban Green owned building, shared that he and his 77-year-old paraplegic mother for whom he takes care received an Ellis Act eviction notice in May, 2013. He reiterated Urban Green’s process of flipping buildings for big profits without “caring who lives there.”
Marla Knight, a tenant in yet another Urban Green targeted building in North Beach, encouraged community members to stick together to fend off evictions. With the help of the Chinatown Community Development Center and the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, she and the fellow residents of the 11 occupied apartments in her 14 unit building refused buyout offers from Urban Green after it bought their building in November, 2012 and filed Ellis Act evictions in February, 2013. On February 3, 2014, Urban Green withdrew those Ellis Act evictions, showing that solidarity, resoluteness and community support can succeed.
Next, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos announced the passage by a 9-2 vote earlier this week of increased relocation benefits for Ellis Act eviction recipients. Once confirmed and signed by the Mayor, this legislation will raise relocation payments from about $5,200 per tenant, maximum of $15,500 per apartment, to the difference between a household’s current and market rents for two years, which can easily be upwards to $50,000. The upsurge in tenant and community activism in response to the current eviction epidemic created the political climate which forced the Board of Supervisors to respond. The announcements of these two successes sent us to our final stop,
151 Duboce Avenue: Benito Santiago, an Eviction Free SF activist and SFUSD para-professional who works with special needs children at Phillip and Sala Burton High School and who is resisting an Ellis Act eviction from this building, concluded the successful, comprehensive, fun and well-attended action with a speech that encouraged the participation of the crowd and led to an impromptu concert by the Brass Liberation Orchestra. You can read more about Benito’s campaign to save his home here: https://evictionfreesf.org/?p=1006.