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UncategorizedTed Gullicksen's legacy

Ted Gullicksen’s legacy

The Brass Liberation Orchestra welcomes people to the Ted Gullicksen memorial
The Brass Liberation Orchestra welcomes people to the Ted Gullicksen memorial

By Tim Redmond

NOVEMBER 17, 2014 – It felt as if the whole San Francisco Left was at Mission High School Sunday for Ted Gullicksen’s memorial. The auditorium was packed. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of people coming out to honor the life of a tenant hero.

I ran into former Sup. Harry Britt, a hero himself, in the lobby afterward. He’d gotten there a little late and missed some of the speakers, and like any good atheist, he asked me with disdain if there had been “any prayers.”

Well, no – but Rev. Norman Fong did offer a community blessing. He told us that he remembered a day when he and Ted were about to get arrested at some demonstration or other, and Ted, every practical, told Norman: “Put on your collar.” Maybe the cops would be less likely to beat up a man of the cloth.

“So I put on this collar now for memorials, and for when I am about to get arrested,” he said.

Don’t worry, Harry: His blessing was a reminder that the two most important things in life are compassion and justice. Oh, and he added in joy. That would have made Ted, who loved a good time, happy.

Mara Raider: Super Glue and bolt cutters
Mara Raider: Super Glue and bolt cutters

My favorite speaker, I think, was Mara Raider, who described the early days of Homes Not Jails, when Ted helped launch a group that used civil disobedience – and the takeover of vacant spaces – to make the point that a rich city with empty buildings shouldn’t have homeless people on the streets.

The altar outside was full of bolt-cutters, Ted’s weapon of choice to get into locked buildings. She talked about the time when Ted showed her how to use Super Glue to jam a lock and keep the police from closing doors at the Transbay Terminal when the authorities were trying to throw out homeless people.

At the same time, of course, Ted was working his day job at the Tenants Union drafting legislation to address the problem.

“We were,” Mara said, “the only organization to write the laws during the day and them break them at night.”

Falcor, Ted's beloved dog, was onstage too
Falcor, Ted’s beloved dog, was onstage too

Sara Shortt, who knew Ted as well as anyone, remembered him (as I did) as both “the calm during the storm” – the voice of reason in a crazy political world – and as someone who could laugh at himself and everything around him.

“He was the solemn movement leader – and the kid cracking jokes in the back of the classroom,” she said.

He was, of course, also very effective: As Randy Shaw pointed out, TRed in 1992 led a campaign to cut annual rent increases that was “probably the biggest transfer of wealth from landlords to tenants in the history of San Francisco.” His list of accomplishments filled the whole back of the event program.

But the people in the room, particularly the younger people, are his greatest legacy. He trained so many tenant activists; he was, as former Tenants Union staffer Rebecca Gourevitch noted, the dean, the professor, and the chief counselor of his own Left University.

And that will live on as long as there is a tenant struggle in San Francisco.


Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Last line….LMAO!

    And hopefully another setback for SF’s famously biased Rent Control Industrial Complex ™, the Monsanto of rent control.

  2. Not to mention that a 4% predicatable yearly increase allows tenants to know what to expect and plan accordingly, while also allowing LLs a reasonable income increase and not feel so pressured to try alts.

    However, I would go even further: I would back a form of Vacancy Control that would NOT include Eviction Control – thus the price would remain stabilized (not frozen) but problem tenants could be removed with only State limitations (30/60 day notices). Of course, I would only endorse such a measure if it were a choice the prop manager – one or the other.

    Oh wait, we’re talking about a memorial to Ted.

    But, seeing as how he was instrumental in dropping Rent (and Eviction) control on small owner-occupiers, I’m just suggesting something that might help tenants – which I assume was his ultimate goal. And helping a tenant get an apt that didn’t cost $3000/mth seems like “help” to me.

    Would Ted approve? I doubt it. After all, part of his legacy is


  3. That alleged “shift” in wealth is a more mixed picture. When allowable increases went from 4% a year to 60% of CPI, nobody realized that the CPI (a notoriously unreliable indicator of inflation) would collapse and therefore hurt landlords as much as it did.

    The response to that was as predictable as it was painful – a tidal wave of evictions. And those evictions transfer wealth from tenants (who then have to pay a much higher rent) to the landlords who remain, and of course those who TIC’ed their units.

    Put another way, economic good fortune is now much more concentrated. the beneficiaries being the dwindling number of controlled tenants and landlords who benefited from the turnover.

    If we were still getting 4% annual increases, many of those evictions would not have happened. A doubling of rent every 18 years is tolerable to a LL, although not great. A doubling every 50 years is not.

  4. And because of the lack of under-40’s, San Francisco left’s sole focus is preserving what they have, and not building a future

  5. He will always be remembered for effectively replacing the small mom and pop landlords with corporations and land trusts by the wealthy tech workers through ridiculous rent control laws that have thrown the rental market off balance which drove rents so high. Perhaps he will be reincarnated as a San Francisco landlord. RIP

  6. Wish I could have been there, but had to work that day. I did, however, on the way home spot a woman about to get off the 38 Geary bus with a program sticking out the back of her backpack. So I hurried out of my seat to ask her how it was. She said, among other things, she was hoping to get some inspiration from the event, and she definitely got that out of it…Then she got off the bus, but I was happy to have bumped into her—a stranger—and to have heard her words…

  7. Ted was effective, his work shifted billions of dollars from the pockets of property owners into those of tenants and kept neighborhoods stabilized for two decades in the face of massive economic pressures. He will be missed and there are no comparable replacements ready to fill his shoes.

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