[News] Angered by senior evictions, Filipino American activists decline award
news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Nov 2 12:26:32 EDT 2013
*Angered by senior evictions, Filipino American activists decline award*
Created /10/31/2013 - 1:22pm/
The board members of a local Filipino heritage organization, with ties
to a high-profile eviction defense battle at San Francisco's
International Hotel in the late 1970s, have declined to an accept an
award that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee had planned to extend to them as
part of a Filipino American History celebration because they are angry
about a growing trend of senior evictions.
In a written statement sent to media by board member Tony Robles, the
Manilatown Heritage Foundation explained that it couldn't accept the
award as long as "elders are being preyed upon, evicted and given a de
facto death sentence thereof."
The Manilatown Heritage Foundation board members were informed by Board
of Supervisors President David Chiu that Lee had planned to recognize
the I-Hotel as part of an annual cultural history celebration at City
Hall, the statement noted. "Part of the occasion was to honor the
I-Hotel and its many tenants and activists for its contribution to
Filipino American history," board members explained.
In 1976, the I-Hotel was targeted for demolition, prompting an historic
eviction defense battle led by housing activists who rallied to the
defense of the impacted tenants. A significant fixture in what was once
a predominantly Filipino neighborhood known as Manilatown, the I-Hotel
housed 196 tenants, predominantly low-income Filipino immigrants.
"The I-Hotel fight was for dignity and it lived by the premise that
housing is a human right," Manilatown Heritage Foundation members
explained in the written statement. "The fight for the I-Hotel
galvanized the community around the fight for affordable housing,
particularly for seniors---who sacrificed much and on whose shoulders we
stand. The fight included tenants, elders, activists, artists and
students who recognized that the real estate developers and financial
interests were out of control---power unchecked."
The fight dragged on, at one point more than two thousand people
surrounded the building to blockade the doors in an effort to prevent an
eviction from going forward. The battle over the I-Hotel also brought on
a famous San Francisco episode in which then-Sheriff Richard Hongisto
served five days in his own jail for refusing to carry out the eviction
order. In the end, the tenants were finally ousted. But the epic battle
ultimately helped to produce a different outcome, many years later: The
property became the site of low-cost senior housing, complete with a
commemorative display in the interior documenting the dramatic I-Hotel
As a young attorney who worked with the Asian Law Caucus, San Francisco
Mayor Ed Lee was involved in that fight -- as an activist defending
tenants' rights to stay. He frequently referred to this chapter of his
personal history while running for mayor in 2011, to demonstrate his
sensitivity to concerns about affordable housing.
But now that Lee is well into his mayoral term, a surge of evictions of
low-income seniors is worsening on his watch. Tenant defense
organizations such as Eviction Free San Francisco are showing up outside
landlords' homes and offices to protest eviction notices that threaten
to push low-income seniors with few options out of the city. Some
evictions have caught the attention of mainstream media, such as the
ouster of elderly Chinatown couple Gum Gee Lee and Poor Heung Lee and
their disabled daughter, Shiuman Lee.
Some advocates have proposed legislative solutions
; meanwhile, the situation has evidently become so criticial that
even city's Human Services Agency is seeking outside assistance
to provide eviction prevention services for elderly and disabled tenants
facing Ellis Act evictions.
And today, the board of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation drew a line
in the sand to send Lee a clear message by refusing to accept the honor
of recognition in the current housing climate. So far, mayoral
spokesperson Christine Falvey has not responded to the Bay Guardian's
request for comment in response to the Manilatown Heritage Foundation's
"Given the current state of San Francisco housing by forces out to make
a killing by killing our communities, we as the torch bearers of the
I-Hotel struggle and in the memory of its displaced elders and advocates
Al Robles, Bill Sorro, Felix Ayson, Wahat Tampao and others, cannot, in
good consciousness, accept any honor or award while elders are being
preyed upon, evicted and given a de facto death sentence thereof. And it
doesn't matter if the honor is bestowed by Mayor Lee, President Obama or
the pope. We have to say no."
Here's the full statement
from the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. Here's an historical essay
 about the I-Hotel from Shaping San Francisco's digital archive at
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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