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“Don’t Sell To Zell!” shouted East Palo Alto tenants and supporters, as
they rallied on August 22nd in front of a Wells Fargo branch in downtown
Palo Alto. The demonstrators protested Wells Fargo’s pending
arrangement with investment group Equity Residential, of which Sam Zell
is the founder and chairman. The proposed sale would transfer ownership
of more than half of the rent-controlled housing in East Palo Alto.
East Palo Alto is one of the few affordable communities on the San
Francisco Peninsula and is home to many people of color. Sam Zell is a
well-known opponent of rent control, and has jokingly called himself a
"vulture capitalist". His company, Equity LifeStyle, has sued multiple
California cities to invalidate local rent control laws, and funded a
statewide ballot measure to end rent control in California.
Wells Fargo made a stated commitment to involve the community in
transitioning the property to new ownership. Protesters accused the bank
of breaking their promise to East Palo Alto tenants.
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