Responding to Mayor Gavin Newsom’s recent veto of a piece of legislation designed to slow evictions in San Francisco and his promise to veto another proposal aimed at achieving the same goal, over 50 tenants and housing activists gathered at City Hall yesterday to blast the Mayor’s decisions. A wide variety of tenants forced out of their homes by the Ellis Act spoke at the rally, providing human faces to the statistics that show the current wave of evictions sweeping across the city represents one of the worst in recent history. Tenant advocates also announced plans to push for a citywide moratorium on allowing buildings where evictions of seniors and disabled people occurred to be converted to condos. Should it fail to pass the Board of Supervisors, advocates announced their plans to take the moratorium to the ballot.
Late last Friday, Newsom vetoed legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors requiring realtors to notify potential home buyers early on if any seniors or disabled tenants were evicted to empty the building for sale. Considered a common-sense measure by most, the veto represented more of a statement to landlords by Newsom that he remained on their side in the battle over evictions than a policy decision. Newsom also has promised to veto another measure recently passed by the Board forcing any attempted Ellis Act evictions to go before the Planning Commission for a hearing before gaining approval.
By allowing homebuyers to refuse to buy a building if evictions occurred there, and by allowing more governmental oversight of the eviction process, both proposals could have helped to slow the rapidly rising number of evictions occurring in the city. But the vetoes dashed the hopes that such a decline would occur anytime soon.
Multiple tenants evicted from their homes through the use of the Ellis Act voiced their anger at the loss of this hope at yesterday’s rally. In particular, they called attention to the fact that the vetoes come in the face of one of the highest spikes in such evictions since the dot-com boom, and reveal a lack of compassion on Newsom’s part for the city’s most vulnerable residents.
For Marti Sousanis, recently evicted from her home of 19 years by the Ellis Act, the Mayor’s unwillingness to try and solve the issue also represents a wholesale attack on a certain part of San Francisco.
“I think this is similar to when countries go through ethnic cleansing,” said Sousanis. “San Francisco is now going through an economic cleansing…my heart and soul is in this city, and my heart is breaking.”
For Herbert Weiner, also evicted from his home after 19 years of living there, the matter is a little easier to sum up.
“If anyone should be evicted, it’s Mayor Gavin Newsom,” said Weiner.
Despite the myriad of Ellis Act victims detailing their battles with landlords, overall the rally purveyed a strong message of hope. Tommi Avicolli-Mecca and Renee Saucedo kicked off the event with songs, including ‘We Shall Not Be Moved’ and an original song called ‘Evicted By the Greed.’
Sister Bernie Galvin ended her speech about Newsom proving once again he stands on the side of the rich and powerful with a spirited chant of ‘There ain’t no power like the power of the people.’
And Milk Club President Greg Shaw voiced the support of the LGBT community, saying, “While it’s great that Newsom and Dufty (referring to Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who led the charge at the Board to try and defeat the proposals) are good on queer issues, if everyone is living in Portland and Oakland, it doesn’t make much of a difference.”
Finally, Tenant’s Union leader Ted Gullicksen vowed to continue the fight to stop Ellis Act evictions by pushing for a moratorium on allowing buildings where the evictions of senior and disabled people occurred to be converted into condos.
“If we can’t get that through the Board of Supervisors, we’ll simply take it to the ballot,” said Gullicksen.