Conventions Aim to Galvanize SF Tenants

by on June 1, 2017

A Tenant Rights Bootcamp, 2015

The San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition (SFADC) is hosting tenant conventions across the city in a critical effort to galvanize and educate the city’s renters.

Neighborhood tenant conventions have proved an effective recruitment and mobilizing tool since 1992. A series of tenant conventions in 2014 led to the placement of an anti-speculation initiative on that November’s ballot. Tenants Together joined with the San Francisco Tenants Union and the SFADC in 2015 to put on Tenant Rights Bootcamps in various neighborhoods, which were a huge success.

Return to Basics

Since  SFTU leader Ted Gullicksen’s death in 2014 the tenants movement has shifted from his laser-like focus on strengthening rent control and tenant protections to addressing inclusionary housing and affordable housing policy overall. As a result, focus on rent control issues has suffered. For example, there has been little attention to closing the massive operating and maintenance passthrough loophole which imposes huge, unfair rent increases on tenants. Tenants who have gotten these passthroughs should attend conventions and explain the problem.

San Francisco has passed so many tenant protection laws in recent years that many tenants are not aware of their expanded rights. The city’s housing counseling and eviction defense groups are primarily complaint driven; people contact these organizations for specific advice and help rather than for basic tenants’ information. Even in the Chinatown, Tenderloin and Mission where paid staff do outreach there are many tenants who work during the day and are not contacted.

That is why Saturday Tenant Conventions have always attracted newcomers to the movement. Tenants are eager for the opportunity to get basic education on their rights.

Action Plan?

Historically, tenant conventions have solicited input for tenant ballot measures. We used this method to gain support for Prop H in 1992, which ended up cutting tenants’ annual rent increases in half after winning in November (See my 2012 story, “After 20 Years San Francisco’s Prop H Has Saved Tenants Billion$”).

Although the anti-speculation measure that came out of the 2014 conventions failed, it was a new idea that might have passed in a revised form if it had been on the November 2016 ballot. It still offers a way to slow speculation and bring new revenue to the city, and could find its way on the November 2018 ballot (Jane Kim’s “Free City College” initiative last November was not an anti-speculation tax but it did show strong voter support for increasing real estate transfer taxes on certain types of transactions).

San Francisco has otherwise pretty much passed every rent control law the courts will uphold. The new owner move in measures will easily pass the Board. There is not the interest among tenant groups to push for sprinklers inside apartments. My many stories promoting this issue to stop tenant displacement due to fire failed to convince others to take on major landlord opposition in this fight.

I have long felt that our push to enact stronger tenant protections needed to be better matched by tenant education. That’s why these conventions are vital without connection to legislation or a ballot measure.

The “Action Plan” for tenants can itself consist of ongoing conventions, outreach and meetings that bring people together. There are a lot of new tenants in the city upset about high rents; it is up to tenant groups to mobilize them.

Here is the convention schedule:

Excelsior: Saturday, June 3rd, 9am-2:30pm, Leadership High, 350 Seneca Ave, Spanish and English

Castro/Noe/Duboce: Saturday, June 3rd, 11:00am–2pm, Women’s Building, 3543 18th St,  Interpretation Provided

Mission: Wednesday, June 7th, 5:30-8pm, Buena Vista School: 3351 23rd St

In Spanish, with English translation, food and childcare provided

Western Addition: Saturday, June 10th,10:30am registration, 11-2pm, Rosa Parks Senior Center, 1111 Buchanan St. Food provided, contact brad@hrcsf.org with translation requests

SOMA: Wednesday, June 28th, 5:30pm – 7:30pm, Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission St. English, Spanish and Tagalog

Tenderloin and North Beach TBA!

For more information on the conventions, SFADC is at www.sfadc.org & www.facebook.com/sfnodisplacement

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron and Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. He chronicles the 1992 Prop H campaign, the first winning tenant ballot measure in the city, in The Activist’s Handbook.

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Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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