[News] Angered by senior evictions, Filipino American activists decline award

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat Nov 2 12:26:32 EDT 2013

*Angered by senior evictions, Filipino American activists decline award*
By /rebecca/
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 
[1]; meanwhile, the situation has evidently become so criticial that 
even city's Human Services Agency is seeking outside assistance 
<http://mission.sfgov.org/OCABidPublication/BidDetail.aspx?K=7278> [2] 
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 
<https://www.dropbox.com/s/i3autlqqpc0xypi/Manilatown_DeclineLetter.docx> [3] 
from the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. Here's an historical essay 
[4] about the I-Hotel from Shaping San Francisco's digital archive at 

*Source URL:* 

[2] http://mission.sfgov.org/OCABidPublication/BidDetail.aspx?K=7278
[3] https://www.dropbox.com/s/i3autlqqpc0xypi/Manilatown_DeclineLetter.docx

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