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Campfire: Eviction Community Stories (page 4)

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.

The resulting documentary film series is Campfire: Eviction Stories. 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

Steven Black

(Librarian) Capp Street

Steven has lived in San Francisco for 30 years. He was evicted from his apartment at 940 Capp Street after 26 years of living there by the resident owners of the house via family members move-in. He feels this move-in eviction was retaliation for, among other justifiable actions, his declining to sign a new and illegal rental agreement that would have doubled his rent. Karen Uchiyama, Esq. was their counsel.

Steven builds the rare books collection, as well as the historic Bancroft Collection (located in Berkeley) focusing on California and the Western U.S., as well as Mexico and Central America. This special collections library was founded in San Francisco in 1860, and was latterly located (until 1906) where St. Luke's Hospital is today at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Valencia Street. During his time on Capp Street, Steven was haunted by the elusive history of Mr. Capp, the namesake of his street, until he was able to lay his hands upon a rare biography book of said early San Franciscan. Only then did he learn that he was being haunted by Mr. Capp, an early real estate speculator of San Francisco. Steven identifies with an elusive sidewalk tag “ghost modern” that he has found on the sidewalk pavements of the Mission.

Lauren Montana Swiger

(Single mom, musician & activist), Mission District

Lauren Montana Swiger is an activist, musician, and community member who was evicted from the Mission, along with her teenage daughter. It was an Owner-Move-In eviction, one of three kinds of no-fault evictions displacing San Franciscan families and communities. Montana and her daughter were forced to relocate to Berkeley. It’s pretty there, but they mourn the loss of daily living in a community that they toiled to create with other parents and kids to challenge the stereotypes of oppression replicated through formal education. You can often find Montana drumming with the Brass Liberation Orchestra in protests throughout the Bay Area.

Jason Wallach and Sandy Juarez

(Bicycle mechanic & activist) and (Medical interpreter), 6511 Raymond St. Oakland

Jason and Sandy were evicted from 6511 Raymond St. Oakland by Dan Daigle. They had been living there 3 years and 5 months, since they arrived to the Bay Area. An Oakland story was included because few people understand that the epidemic of evictions is wrecking havoc in Bay Area wide communities. Residents of San Francisco have approved regulations to protect tenants, and despite this democratic exercise, real estate speculators find loopholes to damage communities. Residents pushed out of San Francisco find themselves in places like Oakland, which also face gentrification but without decades long tenant protection laws in place. In Oakland, there is very weak rent control.

Jason is a rambling rover of Ukrainian, Italian and Jewish descent living in the settler colonialist state of the USA. He thinks story-telling is sexy; believes everyone has a right to housing, and spends his time dreaming about the eviction of the combustion engine from our collective psyche while building rebellious bicycles for his friends.

Sandy is a medical interpreter in many bay area hospitals and clinics. She would like to dedicate this story to two wonderful co-workers who have left the city due to housing issues. One left her living space after over 20 years of tenancy and one year of eviction notices and harassment. After one too many gas leaks and uninhabitable conditions brought on by "repairs" to the other empty unit in the building, she complied with the eviction notice and relocated herself and her mother to Sacramento on December 31st. The other, a young man, could no longer afford the rent increase on a 450 sq ft. studio he shared with his partner and decided to move out of California, where he now quote "has enough space for a full couch!"

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