Tenant convention rallies the displaced

from June 9, 2017 at 02:21AM http://bit.ly/2sno9XE

Along with legislative solutions to curtail real estate speculation and luxury developments a tenant forum on Wednesday night stressed that community resistance and engagement are key to halting displacement.

“There are speculators who come in with a lot of money to get us out,” said Alicia Sandoval, a counselor with the Housing Rights Committee referring to a 27 percent decrease in the Mission’s Latino population from 2000 to 2013. “You know your community best, you all have the power as tenants and as neighbors who know each other. It’s important to create a type of family to support each other – especially in the Mission.”

Working class families living in the neighborhood have also been hard hit by the displacement crisis, shrinking by 26 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to Carlos Bocanegra, an attorney with La Raza Centro Legal.

The forum at  Buena Vista Horace Mann attended by 50 people was conducted in Spanish and centered around four key key housing issues – habitability, tenants rights after a building changes ownership, luxury development and evictions. Participants were instructed to split into groups depending on the specific issue had inspired their attendance.

“We’ve come here looking to find out information about what we can do to help,” said a woman who gave her name as Julietta, a Mission resident for 18 years. The woman said that many families who attend her church have been effected.

“One family has been here for 34 years and another for 17, and they were each given a verbal eviction,” said Julietta. “Because the landlords are going to fix up their homes.”

Such evictions are illegal, said Deepa Varma, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, who informed tenants of their rights in the event that their buildings are sold. Varma advised tenants who are living in a building that is in the process of being sold or tenants facing an eviction to capture all communications with their landlords in writing.

Varma shared her personal experience with eviction when her three-unit building changed hands some four years ago.

“The family downstairs was undocumented and they were really scared and immediately they left,” said Varma. “I noticed that the landlord kept finding ways to talk to me verbally. I started reaching out to organizations and do everything by writing. All of a sudden everything changed.”

Mission District tenant convention at Buena Vista school. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Varma managed to stay in her building, and made it her goal to help others in the same predicament. Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, of the Housing Rights Committee, said that according to the organization’s data, three-quarters of the people who move out in such situations “probably didn’t need to.”

“I almost never see a tenant who fights who doesn’t do better off by fighting. You get more money, more time – thats huge. And a good percentage of tenants get to stay,” she said.

Other advice given by the tenants rights specialists included insisting that landlords give a 24-hour notice before entering their units and that tenants should heed three-day, five day response notices.

“Those count even on the weekend,” said Varma.

Dairo Romero, community planning manager with the Mission Economic Development Agency, said that the nonprofit developer is spearheading a “small sites program” to use city money to acquire buildings and ensure that the tenants remain.

Still, the aggressive market presents some challenges in this process.

“Some problems we have with this program is the closing time is three months. The investor who has money to do it right away they can do it in a month,” he said, adding that with the help of tenants, a sale can often be facilitated much quicker.

“The way that we go around this problem is organizing the tenants ..they start talking with the owner,” said Romero, referencing such a situation when the organization acquired a building at 3800 Mission St.

“When the tenants have a good relation with the property owner..they have basically convinced the landlord to accept MEDA’s offer because that was their only guarantee that they can stay in the building.”

After listening to the advocate’s advice, one participant broke out in tears. “I don’t live in the Mission, I live in the Tenderloin, but we also have these issues there,” she said. “This is so important.”

The tenant convention was one of several held over the course of a month by the housing advocates in neighborhoods throughout the city, including the Castro, Excelsior, Western Addition and South of Market. The sponsors included the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Causa Justa and various other Mission based community organizations.

Read more at: MissionLocal http://bit.ly/2pgo3iW

USF panel explores link between fascism and Trump

from May 19, 2017 at 05:41AM http://bit.ly/2rzVtY5

Reiko Redmonde speaks at a panel the “Is this Fascism?” discussion hosted by the Gray Panthers of San Francisco at USF on May 7. Photo: Esteban Pinilla

“This is a state of emergency,” Reiko Redmonde said during a panel discussion at the University of San Francisco (USF) on on May 7 called “Is This Fascism?”

The panel was hosted by the Gray Panthers of San Francisco, to analyze historical fascist regimes, discuss political uproar in the face of oppressive governments, and compare and contrast white supremacist dictators to the Trump administration.

“No one is too young, too busy, or too old to take responsibility to drive out the Trump/Pence regime,” Redmonde  said. “It is a fascist regime, and for the future of humanity and the planet, we the people must drive this regime out.”

One of five panelists, Redmonde is an activist with Refuse Fascism and manager of Revolution Books in Berkeley. According to her, the current administration is working to intensify the oppressive nature of American society, “with assaults on immigrants, Muslims, women, black people, Mexicans, LGBTQ people, science, and the environment.”

This Machine Kills Fascists. Graphic by Jonathan Byxbe

She explained the difference, in her understanding, between a “bourgeois democracy” where government has a constitution and a rule of law (even if it is not applied equally to everyone) and fascism, in which the government shoves aside constitutional norms and attacks the press, “clamping down on critical thinking and attacking the very concept of truth itself.”

Panelist James Dahlgren, a toxicologist and internist (physician in training) for the Unitarian-Universalist Church San Jose, said that one common way for a fascist government to establish a dominant population is to target members of the society and make them feel inferior.

Dahlgren brought up scapegoating, that it was how Hitler convinced Germans to blame Jews for their troubles, and that now President Trump is targeting Muslims, refugees and immigrants in a similar fashion.

Trump’s designs to “make America great again” are an effort to create a form of American exceptionalism and nationalistic rule, according to Dahlgren, who pointed out that Hitler’s totalitarian government—born after the Reichstag fire—was supported by the corporate state in Germany.

Similarly, Dahlgren notes, the Trump administration is doing what the corporate state would like to see them do. This includes increased funding for the military, and gutting regulations by defunding government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

Redmonde said that in a fascist government, “violence is whipped up and then unleashed against demonized groups” and the ability of people to resist is “obliterated with democratic rights essentially eliminated.”

Gerald Smith, a former Black Panther and organizer for the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and the Labor Committee to Free Mumia, disagreed with other speakers in thinking that fascism has come to the United States.  

Smith discussed Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule over Italy from 1922 to 1943. He said right before Mussolini came to power, it became pretty clear that the bourgeoisie couldn’t control society and the mass uprisings of labor organizations had to be stopped. In contrast, “the working class [today] is not even in motion, let alone rebellion,” Smith said.

Steve Martinot, an author and human rights activist, argued that it’s possible to say the United States has always been fascist, according to his definition of fascism as, “a society with an organized mode of administrative violence that is designed to suppress pro-democracy, progressive movements, and socialist movements.”

Martinot discussed how white supremacy was born in the Virginia colony in the 17th Century. From the evolution of a structure of slavery, “there emerged a white racialized identity as a cultural identity.” Martinot argued that as this identity developed throughout history, white people demanded allegiance from each other in the same way the Nazis did in the 1930s.

He explained that today, we see this white racialized identity materialize in the form of “a police department that shoots people down in the street by the thousands.” Martinot said the police use racial profiling to direct their focus, which was legitimized by the Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio, a 1968 decision that allows law enforcement to search anyone they deem to be suspicious.

“Seventy percent of all the people in prison are there for victimless crimes,” Martinot said. “They are not violent people. That prison system itself becomes the hard material fact of what fascism in the U.S. is all about.”

Despite these challenges, Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics and international studies and global peace and conflict studies at USF, remains hopeful, especially in light of the resistance that has already emerged since the election.

Zunes cited in particular the Women’s March earlier this year, which brought 3.1 million people together throughout the United States to protest Trump.

“This was the largest single mobilization in U.S. history—topping the height of May Day marches in the early ‘30s, Moratorium Day in 1969 against the Vietnam War, and the protests against the Iraq War in San Francisco in 2003,” said Zunes.

Zunes also drew comparison to a number of oppressive leaders including Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia, and Louis Weichardt in South Africa. He pointed out that these countries were far less developed than the United States, had regimes that were far more oppressive, and lacked an alternative media to report the atrocities.

“Many of these regimes had the backing of the United States and other foreign governments,” said Zunes. Yet these movements were still able to mobilize and bring these governments down.”  

Read more at: News – El Tecolote http://bit.ly/1ulrLOZ

Immigrants around the Mission close their businesses for day of protest

from May 1, 2017 at 06:18AM http://bit.ly/2qxgOjE

On a day workers around the world have traditionally marked as a day to protest for labor rights, immigrants have added their voices, or rather their absence, to make a point. On May 1, or May Day, many around the Bay Area and the Mission closed up shop for a day without immigrants.

“I want to support my community,” said Robert Sanchez, owner of El Taco Loco at 3274 24th St. Although Sanchez could be found inside of his business on Monday, his staff was absent, and a sign hung up in the storefront read in bold letters “Cerrado – Por Apoyar (closed – in support).”

Most of those employed with the 30-year-old business, said Sanchez, are immigrants.

The owner of El Taco Loco at 3274 24th St. said he shut down his business on May 1 to support the immigrant community. Photo by Laura Waxmann

“No hay pan, nada (There’s no bread, nothing),” said a woman walking past La Victoria Bakery at 2937 24th St.  The panaderia, nearly 70 years old, also closed its doors Monday in a show of support. Those who walked a few blocks up to try their luck at La Reyna Bakery, located at 3114 24th St., were met by locked doors and a storefront devoid of pastries.

Other neighborhood staples and legacy businesses along the 24th Street Corridor, a designated Latino Cultural District spanning roughly from Mission Street to Potrero Avenue along 24th Street, participated in the day-long action.

Signage on the entrance of Precita Eyes Muralists at 2981 24th St. stated that the local arts organization would be closed all day for “repairs and for Day with No Immigrants.” Outside of the shuttered storefront of Alley Cat Books at 3036 24th St., a poster board was decorated with the word “Resist.”

And a Coca Cola delivery truck driver who was en route to delivering inventory to Belmar La Gallinita Meat Market at the corner of 24th and Harrison streets, looked inside of the shut-down storefront, visibly puzzled.  The man snapped a photo of a poster announcing the action that was hung in the market’s storefront, before retreating to his truck.

“I didn’t realize they were closed today, but it makes sense,” he said, upon being informed about the ‘Day Without Immigrants” protest.

Taqueria Guadalajara at 3146 24th St. was closed on May 1 for “Day Without Immigrants.” Photo by Laura Waxmann

Staffed largely by immigrants, most corner stores along 24th Street also followed suit – George’s Market at the corner of Shotwell Street, Maurice’s Cornerstone at Treat and 24th Streets and Sammy’s Liquor and Groceries on Bryant Street were shut down for the day.

A sign in the window of Temo’s Cafe at the corner of 24th and Harrison streets offered would-be patrons an explanation for the business’ closure. “San Francisco and the Mission District, as well as other neighborhoods in the city, are characterized by their cultural diversity whose richness is due to their communities of immigrants who live and work there,” the sign read. “The Day Without Immigrants will be a way to express our support for these communities and to recognize them as an essential part of this city.”

Outside of Taqueria Vallarta, which was also closed for the day, a maintenance worker and a passerby could be overheard discussing the effectiveness of the protest.

I don’t think it will make a difference personally – these stores will be closed. But go up to Valencia Street and they will be open because its a more Anglo area,” said the woman, who gave her name as Carmen. “I think the Latinos [in the Mission] have to be more unified.”

At 38 percent, the Mission has the densest Latino population in San Francisco despite that proportion dropping from 50 percent since 2000. Overall, immigrants make up 35 percent of the city’s population. A more aggressive federal stance on immigration has prompted protests and marches citywide since the election, including one prior day without immigrants in February. On Monday, protesters took to the streets all over the city, including at Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters. That was followed by a march from Justin Hermann Plaza to Civic Center later in the day.

Freddy, who was overseeing repairs inside of the shuttered Taqueria Vallarta and is a friend of the owner, said he supports the business’ decision to close on the busy corridor, adding that he himself had called out of his other job as a plumber to participate in the action.

“I think its a good thing, I have friends and family who are all immigrants,” said Freddy, who is from Mexico. 

A few businesses along Valencia Street also closed their doors in protest, including Arizmendi Bakery, the Mexican goods store Casa Bonampak, and the nonprofit Dolores Street Community Services.

One woman read the notice on the door of the Mission Street felt goods store Peace Industry and remarked, “It’s good. Something’s got to change.”

“As a business founded by an immigrant, Peace Industry will be closed on Monday, May 1st to express our support for the immigrant community who is being targeted unjustly by laws that tear apart families. No business as usual,” wrote the owners of Peace Industry.

The popular Peruvian ceviche counter and restaurant Cholo Soy also remained closed Monday in support of the protest, as did bar and restaurant Cha Cha Cha.

Just a few doors away, Chely’s Beauty Salon was also shut, its windows sporting flyers encouraging immigrants to join the march.

“For the defense of immigrant rights! No to the wall, no to the anti-muslim ban!” the flyers read.

Read more at: MissionLocal http://bit.ly/2pgo3iW

Demonstrators protest DA’s decision to exonerate officers in fatal police shooting

from April 12, 2017 at 02:37PM http://bit.ly/2pk6Fah

Some 25 people took to the street in front of Mission Police Station on Wednesday night to protest the San Francisco District Attorney’s decision not to bring criminal charges against the two officers involved in the February, 2015 shooting of Amilcar Lopez Perez.

The decision was announced hours earlier and comes after more than two years of demonstrations and public scrutiny of the officer-involved shooting that anti-police brutality activists and some community members say was unjustified.

At 8:45 p.m., several protesters held up an 8-foot banner banner imprinted with the slain man’s image, using it to block off Valencia Street at 17th Street. Officers who had been redirecting traffic then told a reporter on site that their “time is up” and the officers began to retreat.

The protest’s organizers briefly contemplated moving the protest elsewhere, but decided to remain at Mission Station and as the demonstration continued,  so did traffic congestion at the intersection, and the officers returned by 9 p.m. to direct traffic.  Protesters could be heard chanting “indict, convict, send these killer cops to jail” and “stand with your community, end police impunity.”

“This city is for the struggle,” said one of the protesters.  Another said in reference to the District Attorney’s decision that the weekly vigils held in honor of the Perez Lopez for the past year in front of the station are likely over.

“We now are in a new phase of our struggle,” said Father Richard Smith of St. John’s Episcopal Church, who organized the vigils and spearheaded a movement calling for police accountability in the shooting. Just what they would be doing in the future was unclear.

Several passersby stopped to check in with the protesters amid the honking of passing cars – their drivers raising their fists in the air in a show of support. Others passed by the intersection in silence.

By 9:10 p.m., the group of protesters had dwindled down to about a dozen people. Those who remained locked arms and formed a human chain along a crosswalk at the intersection – in unison, the group began reciting the names of civilians who have died at the hands of law enforcement.

This is a developing story. We will update as more information comes in.

Some two dozen people gathered on the street in front of Mission Police Station to protest decision in the police shooting of Amilcar Perez Lopez. Photo by Laura Wenus

Photo by Laura Wenus

Read more at: MissionLocal http://bit.ly/2pgo3iW

Homeless encampments are being removed but homeless remain

from January 12, 2017 at 10:16AM http://bit.ly/2jfRtKT

Editor’s Note: This article is a project of San Francisco State University’s Latina/Latino Journalism class taught by Katynka Martinez.

Edwin Mus, a 49-year-old man originally from Guatemala, has been homeless on the streets of San Francisco for about six years. He and his dog ‘Cabezon’ live in the area around 16th and Mission streets. Photo: Marisol Cabrera

“There’s not enough room for everybody,” said 49-year-old Edwin Mus, who is known by his fellow homeless neighbors as “El Vampiro.”

Mus, originally from Guatemala, is a homeless man who has lived in the Mission for over eight years, and has been homeless six of them.

Mus used to have a family and a job, but after being stopped for a DUI and unable to pay for his $8,000 bail, he was jailed. His money and personal troubles led his wife to leave him.

He eventually found a loyal companion in his dog “Cabezon,” whom he met while dog sitting trying to earn money for food. They’ve been together since. But finding a shelter has proved difficult due to overcrowding and shelter regulations that prohibit animals from entering. Mus would rather sleep on the street than leave his dog for a warm bed.

“I can’t be without the dog. He’s the only thing I have,” said Mus. “He is the only one that makes my life happy. He is attached to me and I am attached to him too.”

Edwin Mus, a 49-year-old man originally from Guatemala, has been homeless on the streets of San Francisco for about six years. He and his dog ‘Cabezon’ live in the area around 16th and Mission streets. Photo: Marisol Cabrera

The San Francisco Point-in-Time Homeless Count has noted that despite efforts to solve the homeless problem, the city’s general homeless population actually rose slightly between 2005 (6,248) and 2015 (6,686). And in San Francisco, immigrants and people of color who are homeless have less access to housing and shelters.

Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 states that only certain categories of noncitizens are eligible for benefits under the housing programs. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) also states that undocumented people, unless they are “qualified aliens,” are not eligible for federal public benefits. Immigrants have faced extreme marginalization with laws that prohibit their eligibility for housing programs.

PRWORA coined the term “qualified alien” to differentiate noncitizens, who can receive federal public benefits from those who are prohibited.

The director of Homeless Services at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, Laura Guzman, has been an advocate for immigrant homeless in San Francisco for more than a decade. Guzman has served as chair of the only shelter that offers housing for Spanish-speaking immigrants with limited access to shelters or subsidized housing from other organizations.

She says recent San Francisco propositions “Q” (which made tents on city sidewalks illegal) and “R” (which failed, but would’ve created an SFPD Neighborhood Crime Unit to respond to “quality of life” crimes, including homelessness)  only meet the needs of the wealthy in the city, and ultimately won’t resolve the city’s homeless problem.

“The neighbors that are pushing for some of these initiatives are the very people that will not allow you to build housing or shelter,” Guzman said.   

There are about 900 people currently living in encampments for whom there are no shelter beds according to Guzman.

Mus explained how he and a couple of his friends came to live in a tent in the Mission this year near 15th street, and how police forced them out of their tent.

“They came in at around 5:30 in the morning and threw everything [out],” Mus said. “They took everything from us. They threw all our dishes and clothes to the trash. That hurt me the most.”

Paul Boden, executive director of Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), argues that the system of laws encompassing homeless immigrants and minorities are structured to criminalize people that fit both categories. He agrees that the system cannot resolve homelessness through the removal of tents.

Boden thinks these laws are designed to make residents believe that over time, homelessness will no longer be a problem because they aren’t able to see it anymore.

“You can’t have a discussion around homelessness without talking about racism, criminalization, [and] class,” said Boden. “This is that liberal pretense that ‘neoliberalism’ promotes so much. It’s: ‘We’re going to make the person you see today disappear and once that person has disappeared you’re [the community] going to figure we fixed the problem.’”

WRAP’s report “Without Housing,” which Boden presented, found that the department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) budget authority was cut by 77 percent from 1978 to 1983. Since 1983, there has been a significant increase in laws criminalizing homelessness in California. The main “offenses” that homeless people are being targeted for are sleeping, sitting or lying down and loitering.

Despite his difficulties, Mus continues to search for ways in which he can provide a better life for himself and for his companion dog.

“I’m fighting to move ahead. I’m always working anywhere,” Mus said. “Thank god right now I’m not missing much, only a roof over my head for the cold nights.”

Read more at: News – El Tecolote http://bit.ly/1ulrLOZ

Woman Handcuffed And Held Down By BART Police Suffers Miscarriage

from December 22, 2016 at 01:23AM http://bit.ly/2iNGf0F
Woman Handcuffed And Held Down By BART Police Suffers Miscarriage
This stemmed from a widely covered incident in July in which an African American couple was detained with great force by BART police after exiting a train at Embarcadero Station, following an alleged incident of racism aboard the train. [ more › ]

Read more at: SFist http://sfist.com/

Academy Of Art, Longtime Zoning Scofflaw, Agrees To $60 Million Settlement With SF

from December 19, 2016 at 03:43AM http://bit.ly/2i850jt
Academy Of Art, Longtime Zoning Scofflaw, Agrees To $60 Million Settlement With SF
"Academy of Art University and its real estate affiliates behaved for more than a decade like they were above the law," said Dennis Herrera, but "those days are over." [ more › ]

Read more at: SFist http://sfist.com/