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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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!
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.