Trying to have hope

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OPINION I get it, as Harvey Milk famously said: "You gotta give them hope." But how do you do that when the LGBT community you love so much is being priced and evicted out of the city?

When immigrants, people of color, artists, the poor and working-class, people with AIDS, seniors, persons with disabilities, and so many others are being pushed out — like you, Harvey, were forced out of your camera store and apartment on Castro Street when your rent was tripled. Just before an assassin's bullet took you from us, you were preparing an anti-speculation tax to deal with the rising rents and displacement caused by speculators and real estate investors.

We tried to curb their dirty work via a state bill limiting use of the Ellis Act, but Democrats buckled in to pressure from the real estate industry that owns them. Shame on Democratic House Speaker Toni Atkins from San Diego, an out lesbian, whose inaction on the bill helped kill it.

Our only hope is the anti-speculation tax on the November ballot. Brian Basinger of the AIDS Housing Alliance is calling it the Harvey Milk Anti-Speculation Tax.

The stakes are high right now. Our housing crisis is destroying our community. According to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, which tracks displacement throughout the city, District 8 (which includes the Castro) has the highest rate of Ellis Act and Owner Move-In evictions, almost 2,000 units emptied since 1997. That doesn't include buyouts and threats of evictions, de facto evictions that have pushed out many more, most of them tenants with AIDS. Far too many people with AIDS are homeless in a city that used to be called the "model of caring."

The motive for these evictions is obvious. A two-bedroom across the street from my Castro apartment rents for $4,200. An apartment above the new Whole Foods at Sanchez and Market can cost you as much as $8,000. A month! I don't want to upset you, Harvey, so I won't tell you how high commercial rents are, and how poorly neighborhood businesses are faring these days.

The economic disparity has never been greater. Two Williams Institute studies show that our community is as poor as, and in some instances poorer than, other communities. In our city's latest homeless count, 29 percent of respondents identified as LGBT and an additional 3 percent as transgender. Other reports say that 40 percent of the city's homeless youth are queer.

Forget Altoona, that homeless queer kid in the Haight or Castro needs a sense of hope. We have a sit/lie law similar to the one you opposed that prevents these kids from getting subsidized housing if they have an unpaid citation. They sleep in the park because they're not safe in the shelters. Sadly, Human Rights Campaign and Equality California have never made them — or the poor — a priority.

Cranes and rainbow flags may be all the rage in Upper Market these days, but what's being built will not be affordable to homeless, poor, or working class (even some middle-class) people. The Castro has only one affordable housing project in the pipeline: 110 units for LGBT seniors at 55 Laguna. Our D8 supervisor and City Hall have let us down big time.

Harvey, I want to think that 10 years from now, our community will still have the Castro as a refuge. I want to believe that poverty, homelessness, and hunger will be greatly reduced. That we can stop the evictions. That we can give young people a piece of the dream. That we can provide seniors a secure place to spend their final days. That we can have elected officials who truly represent us, as you did.

I really want to have hope.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a longtime queer and housing rights activist (and an organizer of the first Philadelphia Pride march in 1972), is a grand marshal of this year's Pride Parade.

Comments

There are a lot of people moving here who love things about San Francisco. Tommi loves the most important thing: its people as part of a community.

Thanks for sharing Tommi.

Posted by Robert Kolbe on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

The city is no longer for creative people but for employees who can afford expensive rents.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 8:43 pm

article. Could he be any more excruciatingly annoying?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 5:56 am

Tommi, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!
Your friends are getting evicted because you keep putting small mom+ pop out of business. Everytime I see you walking around the Castro - hanging out at the bars, (while I'm working 2 jobs) I wonder what's it's going to take to get you to realize that all these anti landlord laws you're trying to pass - hurt the community!

The community is going because you're destroying. Look to yourself.
You build hate and division.

What you should do is propose changes that are positive, how about a law whereby a landlord would agree not to evict if the rents were raised 3%/yr for 5yrs. This way the tenant feel safe for 5yrs, and the landlord might be more amenable?

Otherwise all these anti-landlords laws your behind, are dealt anti-tenant laws - and they will just mean more evictions, and the owners of these building will not have the compassion that mom + pop may have.

Posted by SF Resident on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 7:13 am

He thinks nothing else matters, and that he is doing good works. When the reality is that his brand of identity politics sets progressives back decades. And you are correct - such policies hurt the poor while helping the rich.

The good news is that he well into his 60's now and will fade away soon enough

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 7:36 am

Tommi and the nonprofit sector labor under the misapprehension that their good intent means that whatever they do is right and should be rewarded. The fact is that the nonprofit sector is funded by government and foundations precisely to intercede between popular demands from government and capital to give capital a free hand.

Wishing and hoping are the stuff of fantasy. Organizing to win elections to change the law and own the public decision making process is what it takes. Now Tommi and Brian are nice guys who do good work. But those good works are clearly insufficient to stop the rampage of neoliberal capitalism and development. Yet they get rewarded for failing to do what they are paid to do--advocate successfully for different outcomes.

If there were not nonprofits to run interference, then neoliberal capitalists would have had to have invented them. Hey, they did invent them and they've been successful at neutralizing popular demands for non-corrupt policies and have become part of the mix of corruption. This conduct should not be rewarded.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 7:48 am

Marcos repeats himself a dozen times each day. Boring and trite are the kindest adjectives to describe him. He considers himself a "progressive," but no one else does since he's just another self-serving gentrifier. But he's a beacon of hope for would-be future gentrifiers everywhere. the Mayor's office loves him since he sets a great example for other gentrifiers. If you have a high paying job, or a trust fund or if the grandparents have some spare scratch, follow Marcos' lead and buy one of the dozens of former rent-controlled apartments currently on the market and be a part of the Marcos "Gentrify The Mission Now" forces. If he can make a few hundred thousand helping to gentrify the Mission, you can too.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 8:16 am

Progressivism has been hijacked by the economic masters behind the mayors to include only poverty non profiteers economically dependent upon the mayor for funding. Our home was never rent controlled housing, it has always been owner occupied and our downpayment was funded by affordable housing dollars. That means that your tax dollars financed our economic independence. Thanks!

Posted by marcos on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 8:39 am

because it was built before 1979 UNLESS it was built as condo's, and that is highly unlikely.

It may not have been rented out in recent times but, prior to its condo conversion, it was not exempt from rent control.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 9:41 am

Except that this building has been consistently owner occupied throughout my entire life. We chose a home like that intentionally to not be part of the eviction problem. Haaland et al researched this up exhaustively back in the day for those dossiers he maintains on everyone, and came up with nothing.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 10:04 am

you have no idea whether that building had been rented.

And it would definitely have been under rent control prior to condo conversion.

So you have taken a unit of housing away from a low-income colored family of colorfulness.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 10:13 am

Marcos - you are a classic neoliberal capitalist homeowner, are you not? You can be a homeowner without being a capitalist.

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

"...The good news is that he well into his 60's now and will fade away soon enough"

True that! So tired of hearing hippy-dippy Mecca rant year after year about how HRC and EQCA are the "bad guys" and how marriage equality isn't important compared with housing and income inequality issues. And don't forget, he's employed by the Housing Rights Committee of SF. He's got a vested professional interest in trying to co-opt LGBT nonprofit resources to further his own organization's goals.

(Also, what's with dude's hair? Seriously. Michael Jackson called from 1982 and wants his mullet back.)

Posted by Karen on Jun. 29, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

Tommi, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!
Your friends are getting evicted because you keep putting small mom+ pop out of business. Everytime I see you walking around the Castro - hanging out at the bars, (while I'm working 2 jobs) I wonder what's it's going to take to get you to realize that all these anti landlord laws you're trying to pass - hurt the community!

The community is going because you're destroying. Look to yourself.
You build hate and division.

What you should do is propose changes that are positive, how about a law whereby a landlord would agree not to evict if the rents were raised 3%/yr for 5yrs. This way the tenant feel safe for 5yrs, and the landlord might be more amenable?

Otherwise all these anti-landlords laws your behind, are dealt anti-tenant laws - and they will just mean more evictions, and the owners of these building will not have the compassion that mom + pop may have.

Posted by SF Resident on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 7:14 am

The inability of tenant activists to see the landlords position is their biggest problem. When the allowable annual rental increase is 60% of the CPI, a landlord is experiencing a decrease in their real rental return each year. Compounding this over decades and it's easy to see the problem. Of course, the tenant activist typically rationalizes this by pointing to the market value increase in the property not realizing that the market value of the property can only be realized through a sale/Ellis transaction.

Now if the activists really wanted to make a difference they would look at solutions that find some middle ground. Such as raising the allowable rent increase to 100% of CPI. Or providing for reduced property tax rates for landlords who purchase multi-unit properties with below market rents AND who agree not to Ellis the building.

Instead you have the activists and their lap-dog supervisors proposing all sorts of restrictions on landlords including the new transfer tax proposal. The politicians pretend to care about tenants but then exclude 30+ unit buildings since the landlords of these buildings tend to also be campaign contributors. It's really quite cynical and corrupt.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 9:43 am

the tenant activists for enacting policies that constrain supply, remove competition for my units and drive up property values thru their NIMBYism

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 10:00 am

Mom & Pop landlords should consider selling their properties while buyers still have the legal option of exiting the rental business. Activists like Tommi Mecca are promising to renew their fight to remove that option next year.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 11:07 am

Tommi has zero influence at the State level, even assuming that he has any at the local level that isn't a pity gesture.

Ellis doesn't have anything to do with who owns the building, but rather how much subsidy its tenants are getting, and how viable that is.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 11:21 am

Maybe so. But the new laws Tommi and his ilk advocate only get more extreme and never benefit Mom & Pop landlords. Their latest attempts show that their definition of "hope" is that they hope someone else will be forced to subsidize them for the rest of their lives.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

And as we have seen with ParkMerced, when a real heavy-hitter takes over a rental property, the city caves and agrees to let them do what they want.

If Tommi and his ilk don't like SF's small landlords, they are going to really really hate when the big boys run all the rental housing here, like they do in NYC and Chicago.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

Good to see Tommi get some recognition in the Pride parade. The city and world could use thousands more committed activists like Tommi. He's always positive, focused and energetic, with nary a negative word said about anyone including his adversaries. He's one of the few "real" progressives in the city and it's always an honor and privilege to work with him on his latest projects.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 8:29 am

How's it hangin'?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 9:42 am

Now Tommy complains about gays being displaced?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 10:29 am

leaving the mission when of course they displaced the Irish and Italians just a few decades ago.

Tommi is just a dried-up old boomer queen, whose relevance is slipping away.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 10:34 am

No actually, the neighborhood was undergoing a change typical of the post-WWII period, in which working class people went to live in the suburbs. Yes the resulting influx of gay men into the now-cheap neighborhood made it more valuable (although it was still incredibly cheap by today's standards to live there up into the '90s) -- but gays by no means filled up the Castro and caused a housing crisis, there were plentiful options elsewhere in the city, and you could make a case that major tenant protections like rent control were helped along by the city's gay occupants and their elective voice. History is so weird when you don't generalize!

Posted by marke on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 11:11 am

least by gay-dominated realty operations like Zephyr. Their influence extends way beyond the Castro although that remains the epicenter of SF gentrification, as the average building price in 94114 is nudging two million.

Young gays who arrive in SF aren't living in the Castro. While Diva's financial problems are directly attributable to the fact that young trans folks can no longer afford the TL. And the gay scene is booming in much more affordable Oakland.

Gays aren't being driven out of the Castro. They are exporting their gentrifying tendencies to places as close as the Mission and as far away as Vallejo.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 11:25 am

and the housing crisis in the Castro is actually being exacerbated by the straight people moving in -- thus the gay people being pushed out. As for gentrifying, Pac Heights and Marina prices have been sky-high for decades, and you can hardly call those trendy gay neighborhoods. You can also hardly lay the dotcom boom rent hikes at the feet of gentrifying gays. And if you actually look at what's happening in Oakland, most new queer residents are making a conscious effort not to displace the residents of the neighborhoods they move into, because they realize the value of community.

Also, for every gay with the means to flip Victorians, there are dozens living on the streets -- Pride seems like a good time for you to explore the stereotypes you hold.

Posted by marke on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 11:46 am

the real estate business in the Castro, which is dominated by gay realtors,. landlords, developers, homeowners and gentrifiers.

I never said that all gays are like that. I said they are an important source of gentrification in the Castro and, by extension, throughout the city.

I realize it suits your agenda to paint all gays as victims, but they are in reality much more like straights than you care to admit.

And if you really thought about it, then you'd realize that gays behaving exactly like straights is a hallmark of real progress and emancipation. You fit in, at last, but I guess that isn't a story.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

"if you actually look at what's happening in Oakland, most new residents are making a conscious effort not to displace the residents of the neighborhoods they move into, because they realize the value of community."

The first wave of gentrification makes a neighborhood more appealing to the next wave. It doesn't matter whether first-wave gentrifier a directly displace residents or not. The result is the same.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

Exactly. What a remarkably naive comment.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

in Oakland, particularly West Oakland, of the white interlopers who bought the "Jerry Brown" condos that were erected side-by-side with a traditional black family community. This has caused much friction, not to mention a spike in crime, as the whites seek to deny the blacks their normal lifestyle.

And now there is a massive plan being considered in WO to massively develop that area, leading to still more problems.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:33 pm

Oh, please - provide some examples of how "whites seek to deny the blacks their normal lifestyle" - better yet, please give us examples of "blacks normal lifestyle". I can't wait...

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

who have their new white neighbors filming them in the street doing things that presumably those white interlopers would rather they not do.

I'll leave you to figure it out

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

and backyard chickens for one - racist Amerikkkans have changed zoning rules just to destroy traditional black cultural foods like melons, OE800 and chittlins.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2014 @ 10:43 am

Just wait and see how fabulous and plentiful Tommi's contingent is on Sunday at the Pride March!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

Tommi, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!
Your friends are getting evicted because you keep putting small mom+ pop out of business. Everytime I see you walking around the Castro - hanging out at the bars, (while I'm working 2 jobs) I wonder what's it's going to take to get you to realize that all these anti landlord laws you're trying to pass - hurt the community!

The community is going because you're destroying. Look to yourself.
You build hate and division.

What you should do is propose changes that are positive, how about a law whereby a landlord would agree not to evict if the rents were raised 3%/yr for 5yrs. This way the tenant feel safe for 5yrs, and the landlord might be more amenable?

Otherwise all these anti-landlords laws your behind, are dealt anti-tenant laws - and they will just mean more evictions, and the owners of these building will not have the compassion that mom + pop may have.

Posted by SF Resident on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

Hey Tommi and all you tenant activists: Wake up. It's you're landlord providing housing to you. Give him/her some props. If you don't like him/her and what he/she does, move! The feeling is mutual.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

Tommy and his ilk truly don't understand how out of touch they look and sound. The tired St. Harvey quotes, the same lame class warrior rhetoric - people like Tommy and Steven Jones have become living fossils.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 9:35 pm

Who was the housing activist that disrupted the Frameline screening of the George Takei bio-doc with a completely irrelevant rant about queers being evicted in the Castro and racial discrimination at Badlands?

Was it you, Tommi?

Posted by Peter on Jun. 26, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

I am pretty sure that Harvey Milk would have recognized that SF has built a miniscule percentage of its housing burden for the last 30 years or so. Everyone here has this ridiculous fantasy that SF is a static thing. That we must maintain the housing that exists for the people who occupy it forever, because we cant change SF!
We can never add housing, because everyone in the world wants to live here, so instead we have to live in some quasi museum city.

Posted by Ben Dover on Jun. 26, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

Look, Harvey Milk did a lot of good things and accomplished a lot. But that doesn't mean I agree with every ideal he had or every policy he supported. Then again, he was a flawed human being just like the rest of us. That being said, could people please stop trying to put words into his mouth. It seems almost every cause has a "Harvey Milk would..." Enough.

I suppose if your arguments aren't logical or your proposed solutions unworkable, then perhaps only recourse is cheap appeals to emotions and nostalgia. Quit trying to have a conversation with a dead man. He can't answer back. He can't give his actual opinion.

Fortunately, we have made a little progress in the last few decades. The Castro isn't the only safe place any longer. There are gayborhoods all over the country now. Instead of constantly taking us through time, let's instead look to the future. More people live here and want to live here. The policies of the last few decades have failed to meet housing demand, or effectively deal with the homelessness issue.

Harvey Milk accomplished quite a bit. He's earned his rest. Leave him be.

Posted by robco on Jun. 30, 2014 @ 10:36 pm

With all of the new development going up in the city, I'd propose a fee paid to the city to buy properties on the open market and only allow people of low income to occupy them. Sublease them or turn them into unlicensed hotels via air nb and you're out immediately with no recourse. Take some of the hotel tax from the arts budget and buy housing for artists rather than paying to subsidize museums. Even more extreme audit All housing in SF and make landlords with illegal in law apartments pull permits and pay penalties. The avenues probably have 5000 illegal in law apartments. Charge landlords a rental tax that goes into a fund to buy housing stock. I don't think cheap housing is a right for all mind you but seniors, disabled folks, and public servants should be provided for by society, in my opinion. Artists provide a valuable service to society but I'm not sure they should be subsidized , an artist is a business like any other. While we're at it let's look at the cost of churches not paying ANY tax in a secular society. The same goes for student housing for private art schools. I don't blame landlords, I blame government for not doing it's job.

Posted by A different guest on Jul. 01, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

Crack down on linaws and you'll lose 1/10th of the city's low- to moderate-income housing.

Posted by No so different, guest on Jul. 01, 2014 @ 5:56 pm

St. Harvey's name needs to be evoked for all proposition measures:

"Our only hope is the anti-speculation tax on the November ballot. Brian Basinger of the AIDS Housing Alliance is calling it the Harvey Milk Anti-Speculation Tax."

Posted by Guest on Jul. 02, 2014 @ 7:14 am

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