Saving Midtown: San Francisco Renters on Strike

  • February 24, 2016

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Commons & Cooperation

This is the story of Midtown Park, where the largest rent strike in San Francisco since 1978 is taking place.

Residents of the embattled Midtown complex, engaged in a 5-month rent strike refusing to pay what they allege are unlawful rent increases averaging 102 percent, are filing a historic lawsuit against the city and their property manager Mercy Housing. Having lost the largest rent-control petition in San Francisco history and the subsequent appeal to the rent board, residents are seeking adjudication in the California Supreme Court.

Midtown is owned by the Mayor’s Office of Housing, which faces charges of constructive eviction based on rent increases that residents allege are intended to banish long-time African-American tenants from San Francisco. Mercy faces allegations of gross mismanagement and tenant harassment, including illegal unit entry, car towing, issuing eviction threats.

For decades 130 Midtown families have been pursuing equity ownership of their property and satisfied mortgage in 2007. However, in 2013 the City awarded a master lease in a no-bid contract to Mercy Housing that immediately hiked rents and put an end to the ownership model.

Distressed by Mercy actions, long-time residents demand that Mercy terminates its month-to-month lease with the city and leaves Midtown. A legal victory would grant rent control protection and allow the work towards equity ownership to continue claim residents. Furthermore, residents call for a halt of Mercy Housing plan to demolish the complex, since no plans for relocation of the residents has been put in place.

“Midtown is part of the last 3 percent of Black population in San Francisco. We fight for economic empowerment of our working class community, and wholesale demolition of our apartment complex will result in the largest flight of Western Addition residents since Redevelopment” said 30-year Midtown resident Pat Smith.

Via Save Midtown

Brandon Jourdan

Brandon Jourdan is an award-winning independent filmmaker, journalist, and writer. Together with Marianne Maeckelbergh he runs the Global Uprisings documentary series. Brandon has contributed to the New York Times, CNN, Babelgum, Reuters, Deep Dish TV, Democracy Now!, the Independent Media Center, Now with Bill Moyers, Foreign Exchange, and Free Speech Television.

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Marianne Maeckelbergh

Marianne Maeckelbergh is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Leiden University in the Netherlands and IOF Marie Curie visiting scholar at University of California, Berkeley.

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