They’re Coming to Evict You!

Saturday, January 19, 2008
Tommi Avicolli-Mecca


The auditorium at La Raza Centro Legal in San Francisco's Mission District was packed to the brim last Saturday, January 19th. That may not be unusual for a weekend in the Mission, but this gathering had an especially urgent task: Organize to fight a California state proposition that could wipe out thousands of people's chances to remain in their affordable apartments.

Sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Association (the folks behind California's Proposition 13), the measure (which doesn't have a number assigned to it yet) purports to reform eminent domain or the right of government under certain circumstances to seize private property. What it will actually do is repeal rent control throughout the state.

It's not an exaggeration to say that this will devastate San Francisco, not to mention Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and other cities with renter protections and large progressive communities.

Without rent control, thousands will be forced out of San Francisco. Even if, as proponents say, rent control will only be lost after the current occupant vacates the unit, landlords will have an incredible incentive to evict or buy out tenants, as they did during the dot-com boom when the city saw a huge spike in Ellis Act and Owner Move-In evictions. Thousands were displaced from apartments they had lived in for years.

Saturday's tenant gathering brought together many of the people who have been fighting this displacement for the past decade. Organized by the San Francisco Tenant's Union, St. Peter's Housing Committee, Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Eviction Defense Collaborative and others, it was attended by hundreds from all areas of the city, especially those with heavy renter populations, including the Mission, Castro, Haight and Chinatown.

Politicians came in great numbers, too. Two of the three candidates for State Senate District 3, Carole Migden and Mark Leno, were there, as were Supervisors Tom Ammiano, Chris Daly and Gerardo Sandoval. In addition to antiwar leader Cindy Sheehan, who is vying for Nancy Pelosi's Congressional seat, many candidates in this November's local races showed up, including three of the Mission's ninth district frontrunners: David Campos, Eric Quesada and Mark Sanchez.

By the time the political speeches, the opening strategizing and the Q&A session ended, many people had left the overcrowded room. About 100 activists remained for the breakout workgroups that tackled such important topics as media, fundraising and public events.

In the final moments of the three-hour conference, workgroup representatives reported back on their groups' activities. It was obvious that a coalition had come together and San Francisco was not going to roll over and play dead as right-wing forces in California try and take away our homes.

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