San Francisco
San Francisco
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Indybay Feature
SF Tenants Continue Fight To Save Homes From Demolition
by Michael Steinberg (blackrainpress [at]
Tuesday Apr 24th, 2018 11:40 PM
The Midtown Tenants Association and supporters gathered at SF City Hall today to continue their fight to save their homes from demolition by the city.
San Francisco, April 24-The Midtown Tenants Association and supporters gathered at SF City Hall this afternoon to continue their struggle to stay in their homes. According to their press release, "For the past three years, Midtown tenants have organized a campaign to return to tenant self management,rent control and a transition to tenant equity ownership. The campaign has included petitions, legal actions and San Francisco's longest-running rent strike."

The Midtown Apartments are located in the City's Western Addition between Divisadero and Geary. The city built them in the 1960s after it demolished the African American community, in an attempt to make some amends for that disaster.

The low income black residents formed their own tenants association, including a Board of Directors, and governed their own housing.

But about four years ago the Mayor's Office of Housing tried to destroy that decades old institution, abolishing the Board of Directors without consulting the residents, and installing Mercy Housing, a supposed non-profit, as the supposed management.

Mercy, known by the tenants as No Mercy, attempted to force rent hikes so high that they would have caused mass evictions. It emerged that the plan was to kick everyone out, tear down the buildings, and replace them with "market rate," that is, unaffordable housing.

In response, the tenants, mostly low income people of color, as well as some immigrants, many of whom are now seniors who have been in their 139 apartments for 30 years or more for, organized a rent strike, withholding the portion of the rent that No Mercy was trying to force on them. At the same time, the tenants took their story to the people of SF, gaining a lot of community support.

To the surprise of many, they are still in their homes, despite total lack of support from public officials.

Today's action expressed all that and more. Signs proclaimed "Black Homes Matter," "Don't Steal Our Homes," and "Eviction Is Violence."

Chants included "No Displacement, Save Midtown," and "We Want a Co-op!"

Long time resident Rufus Watkins encouraged the assembled, "Keep on keeping' on!" He singled out SF supervisor (and mayoral candidate) London Breed, whose district 5 includes Midtown, for special criticism: "Where is London Breed? How can she be mayor if she can't help her own district?"

Another longtime organizer, Phyllis Bowie, added, "We want our buildings rehabilitated, not demolished. We're your mothers, sons, aunts and uncles, cousins."

Meanwhile sheriff's deputies lurked on the steps of City Hall, forbidding the demonstrators and their signs from appearing on those steps and discouraging things like freedom of speech and other human rights in and around the "people's house."

Nevertheless, despite other discouraging words from the agents of repression, people trooped inside at the conclusion of the rally to distribute petition signatures they've been collecting as part of their ongoing campaign for justice and the right to stay in their homes.

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