Castro tenants prep for citywide tenants convention

Castro Tenants Convention crowd (photo: Patrick Connors)
Castro Tenants Convention crowd (photo: Patrick Connors)

About 150 Castro-area residents, city politicians, and members of statewide renters organizations showed up yesterday to the Castro Tenants Convention at the LGBT Center to brainstorm legislative solutions and actionable ideas to combat the growing problem of housing displacement in San Francisco.

Legislative solutions are being brainstormed at all of the neighborhood tenants conventions being organized by the Housing Rights Committee of SF, AIDS Housing Alliance, and Harvey Milk Democratic Club. The most popular ideas will be distilled down into real legislative possibilities by advocates and lawyers who will then write the legalese.

The actionable ideas are ideas from convention-goers about what they could do now to protect people being displaced from housing while legislative solutions are being formed.

Community activist Tommy Mecca opened the convention by asking how many people in the crowd had been evicted, knew someone who had been evicted, or knew someone who had been priced out of San Francisco and forced to move out of the city. Nearly every person in the room raised their hand.

Fred Sherburn-Zimmer leads the discussion (photo: Patrick Connors)

Fred Sherburn-Zimmer leads the discussion (photo: Patrick Connors)

Housing rights activist Fred Sherburn-Zimmer led the discussion/brainstorm with the crowd and came up with a list of 20+ possible legislative solutions and 20+ possible actionable ideas. The legislative solutions and actionable ideas were filtered down to just a couple by a vote from the room.

Legislative Solutions

Among the many legislative solutions offered by attendees including banning Google bus runs in certain neighborhoods; demanding on-site housing from developers and closing city-fund loophole; expanding area median income definition to include a wider range of income for affordable housing eligibility; regulating AirBnB and similar hotelization of units; legalizing illegal units and placing them under rent control; working with Silicon Valley to make it a more desirable place to live (that one elicited big laughs from the room); a few suggestions grew wide consensus: Ellis Act reform and setting relocation fees to meet the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance standard codified in 1971.

Tim Redmond offering is ideas (photo: Patrick Connors)

Tim Redmond offering is ideas (photo: Patrick Connors)

Actionable Solutions for Right Now

Tenants were ready to start protecting other citizens and themselves at the meeting. Actionable solutions included disseminating more information about eviction and housing by going door-to-door and offering leaflets, a larger awareness push for the city-wide tenants convention, and putting banners on houses that have had Ellis Act evictions. The actionable items that attendees thought were the most doable were blocking the physical eviction of a tenant by law enforcement and staging more displacement theatre throughout the city. Attendees broke off into groups with organizers to plan strategies for executing thee ideas.

City Hall took note

Castro’s District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener showed up and spoke with citizens before and after the meeting. David Campos (District 9) and David Chiu (District 3) showed up during the meeting and stayed to speak with many folks after.

There are a few more neighborhood tenants conventions planned before the city-wide convention taking place February 8th at 350 Rhode Island Street including one for the Tenderloin.

Roy McKenzie

Roy has been a Castro resident since 2010 and is passionate about drag queens, bicycling, and food. Follow his babbling on Twitter.

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18 Responses

  1. You neglected to mention that we had our first public bonding experience, Roy. I’m totally sore today. Thanks for the hickeys!

    Plus – where’s the pic of the cute guy? There was one in attendance!!

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  2. Mitch Mansfield says:

    I’m sure everyone at the meeting felt better for going.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

  3. Rob says:

    Just curious if anybody at the meeting spoke about the rights of the landlord. Just curious…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 8

    • Hey Rob,

      I don’t recall anyone advocating for landlords during the Castro Tenants Convention as it was a tenant specific meeting discussing issues surrounding not only eviction, but also the lack of affordable housing inventory.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

    • sjg says:

      I’m guessing a Tenant’s Convention was pretty much about tenant’s rights. Perhaps you could organize a landlord’s convention so landlord’s don’t feel snubbed.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

      • Rob says:

        It would probably be difficult for me to organize a landlord’s convention since I am not a landlord. However, there are at least two sides to every story. It would be worth hearing from the other side.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

        • sjg says:

          I think the landlord’s side is pretty obvious. However, I don’t think it’s the “mom and pop” landlords evicting people (mostly). It’s speculators.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

          • What about it is obvious?

            I’m a “mom and pop” landlord in the Castro.

            Or rather, I was. My unit now sits vacant because of the toxic housing politics that are exemplified by the one-sided “dialog” at this meeting.

            Multiply that vacant unit by 10 or 20 thousand (per estimates) and you have a pretty big part of the explanation for why the rent is too damn high.

            Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

          • …and no, I didn’t evict anyone.

            Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  4. Sanchez Resident says:

    Roy – I’ve been thinking about something and now I just have to ask you. Do you identify as a “techie”? Your profile says you moved here in 2010 and you do JavaScript programming. I think you have a unique perspective on the housing issues since the techies seem to be the top problem with rents going up.

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    • Roy McKenzie says:

      Sanchez Resident,

      My professional life is in a bit of flux right now, but I do consider it tech. I’m more of a website developer than I would say a JavaScript developer. My skills in JavaScript are not as strong as the industry demands, especially here in SF. I currently work for myself right now while I figure out what I want to be doing next. My goal is to find work in the non-profit sector with an organization that needs some help with their web presence. Working for very little money is fine for me as I’ve learned to live on very little since I was laid off in the middle of last year. I’d rather be doing some sort of good with my skills than using them to build an app that doesn’t do anything except keep the tech machine running. I think that tech should solve real problems instead of perpetuating the industry. I don’t have a Facebook account for various reasons and I maintain a Twitter presence because I can get breaking news from national sources and local pundits very quickly.

      I have learned that giving my opinion in the articles I write on the blog is not desirable to most readers and that really shouldn’t be the focus of the blog anyway. The blog should report on things and allow readers to decide what they think. Sometimes I stray a little away from that. I know when I first started the blog I completely strayed from that.

      Since you asked though and this is the comments section: I am sensitive to the idea that “techies” are the problem with rising rents; I don’t think that’s the answer, though I can see why they are an easy target. Tech shuttles carting employees from the great personal and social life that San Francisco offers down to their place of employment in another city doesn’t look good in the current social and economic climate and also gives the impression that these people are not giving back to San Francisco, but only consuming San Francisco. However, there are tech people, like myself, that do live in the city and that do give back in some way to the unique culture of this city. This blog is my attempt to give back and also stay informed. Not all people working in tech are bad. Not all people going down to Silicon Valley for work are bad either. Being a tech worker is not inherently bad, though it has been equated as such.

      I think that poor planning and housing policy in San Francisco is mostly to blame. I do not claim to know all the answers and in fact running this blog has allowed me to have a more broad understanding of the issue by forcing me to stay informed on a neighborhood and citywide level. I keep an open mind, but am also sensitive to the fact that this is a real problem with real people being affected. Not just a few people either. I think the fact that during the tenants convention nearly everyone raised their hand when asked if they knew anyone who was suffering because of the housing displacement that is going on right now in the city is telling. I think there a lot of hands in the housing pot right now when it comes to making housing available for people who need it. That includes developing more housing. These are important hands, too. Making sure there is oversight so developers aren’t taking advantage of city policy for unfair gain. Making sure the growth is strong and makes sense for future projects and future generations. That’s important. But the other side of this is that it’s extremely difficult to get new housing projects from concept to reality. The fact that developers can decide to contribute to a city fund for housing in lieu of developing onsite affordable housing is frustrating, but the argument the other side offers is that offering BMR units will de-incentivize developers to start projects because the projects may not be economically viable. In this housing climate with prices where they are, however, that is difficult for me to believe. Perhaps this “loophole” should be rescinded temporarily as units are going for so much it seems hard to imagine developers won’t be making a profit. The fact that the Mayor asked city departments to make pushing through new affordable housing project builds a priority is a great step, but feels akin to placing the first or second puzzle piece in place of a 1,000 piece puzzle. New development is nice, but might take 5-10 years to offer any relief. I think there we need creative solutions that offer relief now.

      I do think attitudes that dismiss and characterize these types of events as big group hugs or activist wailing are counter-productive and myopic. I also am disappointed when I hear about people breaking the windows of these shuttle busses or who demonize tech workers. This is a real issue and there is so much vitriol on both sides regarding the issue of housing and housing displacement it’s more important than EVER that we have great leadership. I think good leadership is important most especially when there are so many factors to be considered. When there are so many interests to be juggled. I don’t envy the politicians for this job, but it *is* there job and things are reaching a fever pitch if neighborhoods are having to take matters into their own hands to solve housing problems when politicians can’t.

      We need smarter and creative housing policy and we need leadership to build bridges and come up with creative solutions.

      What those solutions are is a mystery to me. I wish I knew.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

      • Sanchez Resident says:

        Roy, thank you for a thoughtful and complete reply.

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      • sjg says:

        Beautifully stated. I do agree that the current problem is a failed (well non-existent) city housing policy and speculative developers ravaging housing stock all over the city.

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      • MarketSt says:

        People love a simple explanation to complex problems, especially when the explanation is in some form of “it’s because of those people”. Disturbing to see how readily people are to stereotype and scapegoat an entire, diverse group of people. It’s the classic point of view of the extremist, left or right.

        Most technical workers I know can’t afford the city either. A relative few hit it rich with shares. Most I know are as concerned and active about fighting poverty as anyone.

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  5. Peter says:

    “staging more displacement theatre”, a.k.a. trying to find some new and different ways to say “Scott Wiener is an asshole”. (Actual sign that was brandished at an anti-Wiener demo last fall.)

    Maybe Michael Petrelis, who has taken to referring to Wiener as though he were Voldemort, actually does some innovative ideas for repealing the law of supply and demand and ensuring that only the “right people” are allowed to reside in District 8. It would be interesting to know what they are.

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  1. February 17, 2014

    […] an election year cycle and Supervisor Wiener (so far running largely unopposed) and City Hall are facing pressure from housing rights advocates to do SOMETHING about housing availability and evictions in the city. Many people see […]

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