Join our list:

WEB SPECIAL: Incite.../Insight! Free Monthly Film Series

Campfire: Eviction Community Stories

On January, 17, 2014, the “village” gathered around a campfire to hark the horrors of no-fault evictions of lifelong Mission residents and other San Franciscans provoked by rampant real estate speculation in the City. Fourteen brave storytellers shared their horrific experiences. The event titled “Campfire: Eviction Ghost Stories and Other Housing Horrors” was co-hosted by Adriana Camarena with the project Unsettlers: Migrants, Homies, and Mammas in the Mission District and Erin McElroy with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project at the Silverstone Cafe (24th Street near Mission Street), 6 -9 p.m.

Below is the resulting documentary film series Campfire: Eviction Stories Series. The series is composed of a documentary video (14 minutes) highlighting three Mission District eviction stories, followed by 12 mini-clips with bios for each participating storyteller or storytelling duo.

Benito SantiagoPatricia Kerman and Tom RappSarah BrandtPolo GonzalezRio YañezDonna JohnsonLisaRuth ElliottMichael “Med-o” WhitsonZeph FishlynSteven BlackLauren Montana SwigerJason Wallach and Sandy Juarez

“Campfire: Eviction Stories from the Mission District”

Three residents of the Mission District of San Francisco: Polo Gonzalez, Sarah Brandt , and Rio Yañez share their on-going stories of eviction. They are lifelong San Franciscans, respectively, a cafe manager, a public school teacher, and an artist. In their narratives they also represent their elders: Ana Gutierrez (Polo’s senior mom), Mary Phillips (Sarah’s 98 year old neighbor), and Rene Yañez and Yolanda Lopez (Rio’s parents and legendary Mission artists). All of them are being Ellis Act evicted from their homes. This short documentary also includes an opening prayer by Catherine Herrera (Ohlone descendant and artist), and a closing prayer by Roberto Hernandez (Mission community organizer and protector of ancestry.) Song “La Mission” by ©2014 Ramon Garcia, Mission-born and -raised musician.

Benito Santiago

(Lifelong San Franciscan, disabled elder, musician & public school teacher), Duboce Triangle resident

[Text by Tony Robles, San Francisco Bay Guardian, 4/15/2014.]

Benito is a teacher with the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a senior with a disability resulting from a car accident more than a decade ago. Benito is a musician — a percussionist — and he teaches music to developmentally disabled children. Despite the effects of the car accident on his mobility, he has dedicated his life to sharing music with children who have benefitted greatly from his love and patience. He is an excellent teacher with a love for life and music [that] is contagious.

Benito lives in his rent-controlled Duboce Triangle unit, but to investors and speculators, there is no room for him. To them, rent control is a cancer, a disease, a rape of the holy mother. Yet it is the evictions that have spread across the city — a 178 percent increase in Ellis Act evictions alone in the last three years — that are the true cancer.

It is not without irony that Benito moved into his unit in 1977, the same year of the eviction of elders of the I-Hotel on Kearny Street. As a Filipino, Benito remembers that event vividly, an event that garnered worldwide attention and support from wide segments of the community in San Francisco for the elder tenants who refused to leave the I-Hotel, the last building standing that was part of a Filipino neighborhood called Manilatown.

There was no room for Manilatown, no room for those brown elders walking around on property that had so much value. Manilatown was systematically removed by speculation and real estate interests. The I-Hotel eventually fell in 1977 with the forcible eviction of its elderly tenants, with baton-wielding police ramming though a human barricade of more than 3,000 supporters who chanted "We Won't Move!"

The year Benito moved into his unit, 1977, was the year that the fight to rebuild the I-hotel began. After a 30-year struggle, it was finally rebuilt — 102 units of affordable senior housing. Many tenant protections arose from the ashes of the I-Hotel struggle. Another irony is that Mayor Ed Lee began his career defending the tenants of the I-Hotel.

Now, 37 years later, we see the desecration of the I-Hotel struggle by the same greedy speculators who do not care for the city. They have been the stewards — not of community, or sharing, or culture — but of eviction, misery, and even death to elders. They disrespect the I-hotel struggle and the elders of the community and the legacy of the I-Hotel. They are a blight to San Francisco.

Benito is fighting his eviction. He is refusing the buyout. The sound of resistance is the sound of Benito's drum, which calls for all of us to rise in defense of our homes. Benito is a part of the Manilatown/I-Hotel Family, and we support his fight, along with Eviction Free SF, his lawyers at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, and others in the community. The Manilatown Heritage Foundation/I-Hotel calls for an end to out of control evictions and reparations for elders who have been displaced through eviction via the Ellis Act.

What speculators have done is criminal, nothing less than elder abuse. Their presence is the true blight. [...] Benito Santiago is battling to keep his home of more than 30 years from the clutches of real estate investment company Vanguard Properties. Vanguard and its co-owner Michael Harrison, who also goes by the alias "Pineapple Boy LLC," notified Benito of their intention of evicting him and two other tenants by invoking the state's Ellis Act. We know the scenario — building gets sold, tenants get evicted, and the speculator/investor pimps ride off into the sunset, latte in hand, behind the wheel of a sports car (or utility vehicle).

Patricia Kerman & Tom Rapp

(Lifelong San Franciscans; disabled elder and jack-of-all-trades; musician), 20th Street, Mission District

Born and raised in Detroit Michigan, Patricia Kerman first came to San Francisco in 1970 while hitchhiking her way around the state. As soon as she set foot in the City she felt like she finally found her home and has lived here ever since. As Patricia says “it’s the people who make San Francisco what it is.”

In 1988, Tom Rapp moved to the Bay Area from a tough, San Joaquin Valley town with his best friend to start a band. His first stop was the notorious Oakland punk rock squat known as “The Ashtray”. He crashed there for a couple of months until moving on to San Francisco. At first he struggled with under-the-table, day work and having to live in seedy, residence hotels, but somehow always got by. Tom says that the City has always given him what he really needed and that “San Francisco took me into its heart and I took it into mine.”

Patricia, now a disabled senior citizen, has lived in her current flat for the past 27 years and Tom has lived there as her roommate for the last 15 of them.” [...]

Read more at Eviction Free San Francisco

Tom and Patricia’s landlord, Kaushik Dattani, recently named one of the 12 worst San Francisco landlords by the Anti-Eviction mapping project, started threatening them with an Ellis Act eviction in February of 2012 and sent an actual notice in August. Since Patricia is a disabled senior, they have a year to move and are supposed to be out by August 27th 2014. Some buyout money was offered but not enough to last very long and the roommates felt that there was a bigger principle at stake. After a couple of months of bad advice, running into walls about what could be done, and a general lack of information about what their rights as tenants were, the roommates happened upon Eviction Free San Francisco, a direct action group who confronts landlords on behalf of tenants being evicted, and finally found people willing to fight with them to save their home. [...]

To date, the eviction is still pending and the fate of the roommates is uncertain. Patricia is on a fixed income and has no idea where she’ll live if forced out of her rent-controlled apartment. Tom has more options, but may have to move out of the city he loves and has called home for the last 25 years. So, with the help of Eviction Free San Francisco and their allies, their fight continues for their own home and for the homes of so many others also undergoing the Ellis eviction process throughout the City. They have become part of a city-wide movement now in a fight against the ever-increasing displacement of long-time San Franciscans and, ultimately, for the very soul of San Francisco.”

Sarah Brandt

(Born San Franciscan, public school teacher) Dolores Street, Mission District

[Text by Adriana Camarena] Sarah Brandt was born and raised in San Francisco, and she is a public school teacher. Sarah has lived at her current address for 15 years and is currently being Ellis Act evicted from her Mission District apartment by the infamous Urban Green, now known around town as Urban Greed. She is neighbors with Mary Elizabeth (M.E. or “Emmy”) Phillips, who will be forced to move out of a lifelong home shortly after her 98th birthday in April. Emmy has lived in her home for over 40 years, and has nowhere to go to.

When Sarah is not teaching teens to resist internalized adultism by appreciating the crap out of each other and critically questioning our surroundings, she can be found wiggling at the sounds of passing parrots and encouraging bicyclists to wear their helmets on their *actual* heads.

An Interview with Mary Phillips by Carol Ann Rogers, 640 Heritage Foundation

The Woman’s Athletic Club was only six months old, awaiting the completion of its clubhouse, when Mary Elizabeth (“M.E. or Emmy”) Phillips was born on April 2, 1916, in Shreveport, LA. Emmy’s family had roots in Alabama. Her grandfather was on his way to Texas when the train broke down in Louisiana and he decided to stay, opening up a country store in Lafayette.

Emmy attended LSU, hoping to enter the newspaper business, and met her first husband, an Annapolis graduate, while visiting her sister and brother-in-law in Houston. A young bride, Emmy and her husband moved to San Francisco in 1937. “I almost start to cry when I think how wonderful San Francisco was at that time,” remembers Emmy. “We had a lot of wonderful restaurants. And we used to go over to Larkspur in our second-hand convertible where there was an open-air place to dance.”

The happiness of those years was interrupted by the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor – Emmy’s husband was on the battleship USS Pennsylvania, and for seven days she did not know whether he had survived. Although unhurt in that event, he was killed in the South Pacific in 1944, and Emmy found herself a young widow working in San Francisco as an accountant and sharing an apartment with two other young women. The rent was $40 a month. Following the war, Emmy moved briefly to Hawaii but soon returned to her beloved San Francisco.

In 1947, Emmy joined the Woman’s Athletic Club. She recalls her primary interest was to swim. Work kept her from getting actively involved until the 1970s. She loved participating in the Aquacades. “I was not one of the top performers,” recalls Emmy with a smile. “But it was a lot of fun and there was great camaraderie.”

She remarried, becoming Emmy Long, and moved to Redwood City. Finding herself with little time to enjoy the Club, she resigned but reinstated in 1962. During her years away from the Club, she opened Elizabeth’s Antique Shop in San Mateo. The February 1952 issue of Antiques Dealer did a feature story on her that stated she wanted to ” put her prospective customers in a buying mood” so she opted for giving “the feeling of approaching an old southern home with high windows, gabled porches and ‘old south’ French windows.”

Moving into the field of interior design, Emmy was eventually hired by the sales department of Leisure World Walnut Creek, now known as Rossmoor. Emmy lost her second husband and moved back to San Francisco. While working for Rossmoor, she was invited to a dinner party given by past Club president Helen Lamont, and met her third husband, John Phillips. “All three of my marriages were happy,” says Emmy.

Emmy and John joined friends at the Club weekly to play bridge and have dinner. Smiling, Emmy recalls how they made plans to ring in year 2000 at the Club, but were so sleepy after dinner that they were asleep as the new century dawned.

Emmy has fond memories of the Club’s Boutique which sold Club bathing suits, caps, robes and gifts, and was run by Club volunteers. “It was one of the saddest days for the Members when it closed.”

“There was a very close relationship between the Club employees and the Members,” explains Emmy. She remembers how happy she and her friends were for then very young employee Luz Reyes when she got married. Patrick, Pepe and a very handsome, Harvard educated bartender – a favorite of the young members – are other memories she has of Club employees.

“I have been privileged to live an interesting life,” reflects Emmy on her 97 years.

“The Metropolitan Club has been very important in my life and I have met some of my dearest friends there – very interesting, stimulating ladies. I am an optimist, although like everybody I have had my down periods. Now, when I am alone, I live in the past too. I look at pictures and they remind me of the good times.”

Should you be fortunate to sit with Emmy over a cup of tea, you will find she is still creating good times as she shares her grace, humor and life stories with any privileged to be within earshot.”

To More Campfire Eviction Community Stories...

To Home & Eviction...