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Rally Targets Real Estate Speculation, Serial Speculator Elba Borgen
The San Francisco Tenants Union protested real estate speculator Elba Borgen today, August 29, during a rally in support Proposition G, the anti-speculation tax, in the Panhandle as the campaign to stop real estate speculation begins in neighborhoods across San Francisco.
AUGUST 29, 2014 -- Stop the flip, stop the evictions was the call through the Panhandle in western San Francisco today as dozens of tenant advocates marched in support of Proposition G, the anti-speculation tax up for vote in November. But even more, they were protesting a changing city, a city becoming increasingly unrecognizable by the day, even hours.
Coming from the city’s western neighborhoods of the Richmond, Sunset, and Haight, construction cranes--jokingly referred to as the city’s “official bird”--litter the skyline when cresting the twin peaks that divides the city.
But looking back over one’s shoulder will reveal a slow death similar to that of the now all too familiar Mission District and South of Market neighborhoods. Perhaps slower because of the mythology of suburbanization and the nuclear, familial home, of homeownership, that symbolizes these neighborhoods out west. But Google buses stop out there, too.
The San Francisco Tenants Union, as part of the Anti-Displacement Coalition, organized a rally on Friday to call attention to this epidemic of displacement. Real estate speculation has been identified as one of the driving forces of gentrification in the city, as speculators have been buying property, evicting tenants, then flipping them for enormous profits, all without regard for the livelihood of the tenants living there or the social fabric that sustains a neighborhood.
Since 2009, the Richmond District has seen 1043 housing units displaced by Ellis Act evictions. The Sunset has seen 285 units displaced and 173 units in the Haight.
The small demonstration was targeted at two real estate speculators, Elba Borgen (https://antievictionmap.squarespace.com/dirty-dozen-worst-evictors#/elba-e-borgen/) and Bonnie Spindler (https://antievictionmap.squarespace.com/dirty-dozen-worst-evictors#/bonnie-spindler/), both of whom have evicted tenants in the Richmond, Sunset, and Haight. Bowling pins representing each of their likenesses were out in display, a mocking caricature that mimics the falseness that each displacement brings, the arrivals of a new, wealthier, paler class of folks. As evictions threaten to split the city into haves and have-nots, these demonstrations are collective acts of refusal.
Capitalist logics suggests the inevitability of the neoliberal hegemony of finance capital, of real estate speculation. These markets prey on vulnerable communities, often those targeted by previous regimes of housing discrimination. In San Francisco, redevelopment and urban renewal both ravaged the city’s black communities and created the conditions for so-called urban revitalization projects in which gentrification is its driving force.
A little over a decade ago was the first dot-com boom, but today, it’s “Class War 2.0”.
In an eerie parallel to that period’s profound sense of technological apocalypse, arises its more monstrous, hyper-destructive form. In 2001, at the height of the dot-com boom, Elba Borgen Ellis Act evicted tenants from 1879 Oak St in the Panhandle, starting her now over decade long reign of terror in San Francisco.
The rally, after brief speeches in the park, marched to this building, not as an act of nostalgia, but an act of critical remembrance. The residence’s current tenant walked in and out with demonstrators surrounding the building, but was unaware of the cry’s and demonstrations that occurred once before.
Susan Prentice, a resident of the building at the time of its eviction, was present at the rally and spoke in front of her former home about Elba Borgen and the wreckage caused by her displacement. She spoke about pickets and the organizing she had done to prevent the eviction that happened right where we were standing. Borgen was one of the earliest abusers of the Ellis Act, and she continues to haunt the city today.
Borgen was only just beginning the destruction of the city in 2001. Since then she has Ellis Act evicted 6 more buildings. The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project has created a detailed profile of Borgen (http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/borgen.html) and has listed her as one of the “Dirty Thirty” serial evictors in San Francisco.
In front of the Oak St. building, Rose Eger spoke, too, of her eviction. Eger is currently in the process of being evicted from her longtime home in the Inner Sunset on 10th Avenue by Borgen. Like many tenants facing eviction, Egar called for continued resistance and action against this eviction crisis.
Her call was echoed by Ken Tray, an organizer with the United Educators of San Francisco, the union representing San Francisco’s public school teachers, who spoke at the rally. The UESF recently voted unanimously to strike because the city has failed to address the fact that a majority, now, of teachers in San Francisco cannot afford to even live in the city, along with the countless students being displaced, too.
And with each story of displacement, of loss, comes the realization that as much as the discourse of neoliberal governance that San Francisco city politicians, the tech industry, and “sharing” economy frame as an isolated problem of “underdevelopment,” of a housing crisis brought upon itself by anti-development policy, is the realization that we, in fact, are the crisis.
These narratives are interrupted daily as people rise up to speculators like Elba Borgen or fight back against the police state that targets black and brown people in the Mission, the murder of Alex Nieto by SFPD. They are interrupted when queer activists challenge the homonormativity of a prison themed kink party fetishizing the prison industrial complex that locks up queer and trans people disproportionately. Gentrification is dispossession, and so marches are happening, too, in solidarity with Palestine, against their colonization and genocide by the Zionist Israeli state.
The rally today was a call to stop speculation, but it is ultimately about stopping gentrification, and imagining a city of resistance that was always here already.
Vote YES on Proposition G