Elderly activists and SF natives march to preserve San Franciscan culture at Our Mission: No Eviction

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Gum Gee Lee recognizes that she’s not the only one. 

Dressed in her now signature floral patterned blue jacket, she climbed the white flatbed truck that served as a makeshift stage of the Our Mission: No Eviction rally on Saturday, and with the aid of a translator she spoke to the 300 or so protesters. 

“Its not okay to use gentrification to takeover,” she said. “It is disproportionately affecting the elderly and disabled.”

Lee, 73,  took to activism as she, her husband and her disabled daughter were evicted from their Jackson street apartment near Chinatown. Her home of more than 30 years is one of many casualties as rising prices push long time San Franciscans out of the city. 

The demands the rally organizers made were to address just that, asking Mayor Ed Lee to halt all Ellis Act evictions and put a freeze on rent increases and for the city to declare a state of emergency as the culture of the city experiences a dramatic shift. 

The rally was inspired by a wave of nonprofit and tenant evictions in the Mission district over the past year, like the recent threatened Ellis Act evictions of Chicano artists Rene Yanez, Yolanda Lopez, and Rio Yanez. The march started at the Brava theater on 24th street, a mostly feel good celebration of a shared San Franciscan culture. The elder Yanez, 71 years old, bemoaned the loss of the Mission’s heritage.

“If a mural gets painted over, no one gets upset, but if a muralist gets evicted no one says anything,” he said to the crowd. He later told us that though he has seen many changes in San Francisco since he landed here, he feels the new tech culture only has dollar signs in their eyes. “In the 70’s people came here for love, not for money,” he said. “Those were hopeful times. That’s bohemia.”

Gum Gee Lee and Rene Yanez weren’t the only elderly rabble rousers, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise, Ted Gullickson, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union told us. 

Its the elderly who are most often targeted, he said, because they’re the ones who pay the lowest prices by virtue of being tenants the longest. 

Landlords who are “okay with” taking smaller amounts are more likely to house elderly tenants with reduced rents, he said, and those landlords are targeted by real estate speculators who want to flip the place to sell as tenancies in common. The landlords themselves are often elderly, and may be looking to get out of the market. This makes buildings with elderly tenants fertile ground for Ellis Act evictions, he said.

“There aren’t going to be a lot of landlords willing to sell if they’re renting to pricey tech people,” Gullickson said. 

But older activists weren’t the only ones to make it out to the march. A surprising number of those the Guardian talked to were San Francisco natives, born and bred.

Paul Altamriano is a strapping guy with shoulders like a football player, so it made sense that he and his young son (also named Paul) both sported Joe Montana jerseys like true 49er faithful. They marched together with the procession, except for the occasional burst of energy causing the younger Paul to run excitedly ahead. 

Altamriano went to Mission high, and so did his two daughters. When his son is old enough, he hopes he can carry on the tradition. 

“I was born and raised here, you’ve got to fight,” he said.”I want my son to grow up here.” 

His face grew dark when he said that his father died shortly after being evicted from his San Francisco apartment, passing in a city that was not his home. 

Vida Ramirez was also out with her children, Cynthia, 16, and Jose, who is “seven and a half,” he said. 

“This is our barrio and our neighborhood,” she told the Guardian, as she held her children and marched. Her mother, grey haired and graceful, kept pace. Ramirez remembers when the first Mexican coffee shops and bars packed up in the first tech boom in the 90s.

She felt wronged, as if someone had attacked her personally. Maybe they had. 

That’s the heart of it. Longtime San Franciscans fear their culture is being left behind, erased. And its not just the Mission. As has been widely reported, Chinatown is a target for evictions as well as the Castro and Sunset districts. 

But despite the expressions of grief at the rally, San Franciscans also used the day to enjoy the culture thats left in the neighborhood. As dancers in colorful headdresses bobbed and stepped to the beat of a drum, local luminaries stopped to watch along with everyone else. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Sups. John Avalos and David Campos, Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, housing activist Sara Shortt, and a sister of Perpetual Indulgence showed up to the rally. Though they were all the usual suspects, there was something different about this march. A barely perceptible change, but there all the same.

There was hope. 

“There’s been a lot of despair around seeing so many people unfairly pushed out, but people are starting to wake up,” Mani Drayton said. He’s an SF native who said he was “a Mustang” (he went to Lincoln High). He agreed that there were a lot more cheers and a lot more smiles than the usual SF protest. As the rally of folks made their way up to Mission street, he speculated on why. 

Maybe it was the amount of kids in the crowd, maybe it was the good weather, he said, but maybe it was a newfound feeling of agency.

“I think there’s a positive vibe because a lot of people believe there’s a difference that can be made,” he said. He smiled, pushed up his glasses, and went back to marching with the crowd. 

Comments

to the city such as I would want to vote to keep them in their homes at the expense of then denying those homes to new migrants who will deliver much more economic value to our prosperity and taxbase?

Seems to me these tenants are people who aren't really economically suited to SF and who would probably be happier living somewhere cheaper.

I'm really not buying this hype and whinery. People who want to move to SF want homes and they are being deprived of housing opportunities because of incumbents, squatters and lifelong tenants clinging greedily to their subsidies and discounts. Something stinks about that.

If you cannot afford SF then you should not be here, and should make room for those who can. Ellis is the one tool we have for aligning SF residents with SF economic opportunities.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

of the rally/march. He could actually do something by refusing to execute economic evictions like Ellis Act evictions.

Will he have the courage?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

since he knows what that feels like after his wife-beating interlude, don't expect any heroics from him.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

It is true that it is illegal for Mirkarimi to not enforce evictions. Still he could stop evictions.

I have heard many people say that he can re-prioritize monies within the Sheriffs department so that enforcing evictions on Wednesdays is completely defunded. Ross should do this, or not pretend to care.

Posted by Nate on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 8:52 am

as well then, by that argument?

What you are overlooking is that evictions are ordered by the Courts, and anything Ross does (or doesn't do) that frustrates the orders of the court will land him in trouble. If Ross doesn't do evictions the city will replace him with someone who will. Thats the law.

Ross's bigger problem, apart from the fact that all his political power and capital was destroyed when he slapped his wife, is that the sheriff really isn't a policy-making job at all except in the narrowest of senses. Mostly he just has to carry out the policies of others, which doesn't suit him at all. In fact, I am surprised he wanted the job at all but I guess he needed a job.

Ross is probably doing what he can, and that Asian family in Russian Hill got delayed, by a few weeks anyway. More than that just isn't possible. Sorry.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 9:22 am

He would probably need to sell his TIC first.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

and has bought a 3- bedroom house in Potrero.

Getting a detached house makes more sense as the neighbors won't be able to hear the screams.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

A 3-bedroom single family home? Impressive. The SF Sheriff must get paid really well.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 5:31 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

Eleana is off in Venezuela making a movie/soap opera about Simon Bolivar.

She's an actress married to a politician. Like Eva Peron.

In any case, leave him alone. It's a private matter. A personal matter.

Posted by Guest Lecturer on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

When people say, "Why should we protect these people at the cost of those who are still coming to the city," I say, what city would they be coming to if it wasn't for them?

The people who are moving to the Mission cite "arts and culture" as their #1 reason for wanting to move there. Who will paint in Mural Alley when all the artists are gone?

The culture and community of this city is what brought early tech founders who wanted a place free of convention and tradition so that they could innovate and create the industry that's currently booming. What brought the Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniaks and other innovators here? Again, culture, atmosphere. A place where you could wear a tophat and monocle while riding a 19th century bicycle to work.

The fact of the matter is that while we have a very wealthy, young, affluent generation coming here in droves in search of tech money, they have no roots in this city, no interest in the history, and no desire to invest in the city itself. It's a place to live and work, not a home. When the tech money goes, so will they. What will be left when they are gone?

We are building condos, highrises and apartment buildings to satiate these people. They will get their glass-enclosed condos overlooking Market St. Why push out the elderly and the sick, the people who have spent decades investing in the city and giving their all to their community?

Yanesz has cheap rent because he's lived in that apartment for almost 30 years. That was decades of regular income for a landlord, decades of involvement in the community, decades of investing in the city and neighborhood in which he's living. Why get rid of the people who make the culture people have been flocking here to see?

If it wasn't for Prop 13, developers could have been building these condo towers years ago to meet demand. Instead, we reward property owners for sitting on property until the city is in a housing crisis, allowing them to milk tenants for decades then toss them out as trash when a better deal comes along. No city or community can survive an atmosphere like that.

We should be directing our anger at Prop 13 that creates SF's housing crisis, then focus on developing housing for all income levels over the long term instead of sitting on parking lots and empty lots until we get a property boom, then attack our city's poorest and weakest to make room for new people who will leave the instant the latest bubble bursts.

Posted by bassguitarhero on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

Well Said.. Some of these people are ignorant to the culture and diversity of the city. They are just bandwagon wanna be tenants because of the tech money..

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

Hispanic culture isn't my culture.

And many liberals drone on about diversity while making sure they never intersect with anyone who isn't exactly like them.

It's a crock. Give me money any time and I will buy all the culture and diversity I need.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

an uninterested and uninteresting person missing out on the richness of life. And I don't mean money. Why spread your misery here?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

mixing much with poor Hispanics in the mission. The two groups largely ignore each other.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 6:45 am

nobody believes that you are a different poster

and i mean

nobody

when you refer to your own lame barricaded troll post saying "he has a point though"

you are an idiot

(now proceed with your weak attempt at distraction by crying like a punished child that troll barriers are ineffective)

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 9:28 am

Who do you think believes that?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 9:49 am

you're even more of an idiot than your previous response indicated

let me spell this out for you

unlike yourself

i wasn't trying to pretend that "wally" wasn't my handle dumb-fuck

got any other swift responses that will reveal you are an even bigger ass than we previously believed....?

that's a tough one

but i'm willing to bet you can accomplish it

go ahead

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 10:12 am

Why try and hide the fact that you were agreeing with yourself?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 10:43 am

idiot

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 11:54 am

So denying it now just makes you look doubly stupid.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

please cut and paste the post where I supposedly admitted that i was pretending that i was a different person by using a different handle

the fact that you are continuing to try to prove this, just so that that you can avoid the reality that you are both wrong, and brainlessly so

is incredibly pathetic

i used a different handle to show that I was posting only for the purpose of setting up troll barriers and told everyone that i was doing so, you fucking stupid ass moron

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

Both handles are you, so doing that is deceptive.

Anyway, why plays games?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

"wally" is like "barrier"

it is just a generic name to show that a barrier is being put up by anyone

i replied to my own post with a preemptive barrier to keep others from replying, and so used the wally handle

it was not an attempt at deception

as anyone who has been following the troll wars on this site would know

hopefully your pea brain understands now and you will shut the fuck up

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 1:23 pm
Posted by bumper on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

Some host sites ban it for that reason.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

especially when one admits it openly and calls attention to it so it can't be a deception

pure genius

Posted by o on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

If someone like you can buy it, then by definition it is not culture.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

they are not encouraging culture?

That's an odd point of view for a white person who has helped displaced poor hispanic people from the Mission.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 6:45 am

because they are both very similar programs. In both cases, rents and property taxes are moved to market every time there is turnover and then, again in both cases, increases are limited.

So i'll make a deal with you. I'll agree to repeal Prop13 if you agree to repeal rent control. Playing?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

Only a few losers, in a few cities, care about rent control. The ENTIRE STATE cares about Prop 13… You have a hard time acceping reality?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

just build more housing... build all of it.

-raise ellis act reqs (but don't delete it).
-keep the rental % by 'hood intact.
-keep rent stabilization (but don't freeze rents).
-and most importantly, BUILD MORE HOUSING. Any kind of new housing is better than no new housing.

This way, everyone can win.

People wanting to move to SF is a GOOD thing.
Progressive taxes on the wealthier residents will bring more cash to city coffers to deliver services that all help residents.

The city is big enough for the wealthy, the young high-salaried, the middle and working class, the artists, everybody. Just build more.

Posted by mike on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

they know it's the only solution but they would rather suppress construction than create more affordability for housing in SF.

The left always fights with the left.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

"Progressive taxes on the wealthier residents will bring more cash to city coffers to deliver services that all help residents."

This is simply not true. Housing does not cover its up-front costs on infrastructure and due to Prop 13 does not cover its ongoing tab for city services.

This myth is perpetrated by the fly by night developers and their boosters pursuing their get-rich-quick schemes.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

Prop13 revenues have increased by an average of 7% a year since 1978, when Prop13 was enacted. But the allowable increase in property taxes is only 2% a year. So clearly that extra 5% is due to new construction and changes in ownership - the very factors you claim to oppose.

Maybe the fact that you own a 800K condo in the Mission colors your view that you do not want to see new build. A lack of housing pushes up home prices and rents.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 6:48 am

There is no such thing as Prop 13 revenues.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 8:08 am

and so everyone here except a petty-minded, anal-retentive, pompous, pedantic bore knows what is meant.

And the fact that you did not seriously address the point made shows that you know you have been refuted. Again.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 8:25 am

You mean that 7% growth (higher in SF) in revenues doesn't cover our millionaire pension collecting police and firefighters? (Is this why our streets are not paved??!)

Of course property taxes are not the only source - there is always $10.00 an hour metered parking and $100 parking meter tickets on the horizon!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 8:58 am

most things that do not. How about property transfer taxes, DBI fees, funding from the State and Federal governments, payroll taxes and a bunch of other extortions.

But of course it is never enough, at least not if you have the highest municipal spending per head in the nation, and outrageous city employee benefits.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 9:25 am

All you can do is whine about taxes.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 17, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

You fool, if not for get-rich-quick schemes, there would be no apartments for you to steal with rent control.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

This street fair didn't have funnel cake OR men in chaps being whipped. What's this city coming to? But I did see Sheriff Ross, shirtless, wearing snakeskin boots and a neon-pink thong, and riding a Shetland pony. Oh well, at least it was free.

Posted by Chromefields on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 6:17 am
Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 6:36 am

I see the title of this article mentions SF "natives"

The Ohlone indians were represented ? Can someone please confirm?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

they thought it was hip and then discovered that the skills that get you paid well enough to live here are the same as everywhere else. They don't like that, think they should get a free lunch, and endlessly whine about "displacement" and "gentrification" - code words for not being able to support themselves here and so crave charity and subsidies.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

The greediest creeps in San Francisco are the ones who want to strip the rightful owners of their property and keep if for their own selfish use EVEN THOUGH THEY DON'T OWN IT !

Posted by Guest on Oct. 17, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

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