Huge crowd fills the rotunda and demands that the mayor recognize the emergency in the community
By Tim Redmond
MAY 8, 2015 — At least 500 people, maybe more, packed the City Hall Rotunda today and then marched through the second floor hallways to the Mayor’s Office demanding an end to the evictions in the Mission and halt to market-rate housing.
“Mayor Lee, can’t you see, this an an emergency,” they chanted as they called for the mayor to come out and talk to them.
But Lee was nowhere to be found.
In fact, the only three elected officials I saw at the mass rally were Public Defender Jeff Adachi and Sups. John Avalos and David Campos.
Campos has introduced legislation calling for an emergency moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission.
The rally was scheduled to start at noon, but the Sheriff’s Department had (for reasons that were never clear) blocked off the front steps of City Hall and left a narrow path for people who wanted to enter. It took quite a while for the crowd to get through security, and as the speakers began, more people kept arriving.
Organizers wanted to send a loud message to Lee and to the supervisors who are still wavering on the Campos plan: Residents of the Mission want some dramatic action to end the hyper-gentrification of their neighborhood.
One of the main targets: The giant development plan for 16th and Mission known as “the Monster in the Mission.”
At one point, the demonstrators unfurled banners from the second floor railings, but sheriff’s deputies, citing a long-time ban on signs inside City Hall, tore them from the hands of the activists and carried them away.
(That’s an odd law, by the way: I can understand why you can’t mount a poster or a sign on the walls of the historic structure, but why can’t you hang one for a few minutes over the balcony?)
Then the crowd went upstairs.
The mayor has been unsupportive of attempts to limit high-end housing, arguing that more housing of all types will eventually bring down prices. But it’s pretty clear that the longtime residents of the Mission don’t buy that. Rising land values fuel gentrification — that’s been the case for decades all over the country. And luxury housing fuels rising land values.
After a couple of loops around the second floor, where most of the supervisors were nowhere to be seen (although Avalos opened his door and his office to the protesters), the march wound up in front of the Mayor’s Office, where the door was tightly closed and blocked by deputies.
Nobody made any effort to enter, although Mission community leader Roberto Hernandez knocked on the door and announced: “Mayor Lee, open the door so we can pay you a visit.”
At one point, the door cracked open just a tiny bit — but nobody came out.
Among other things, Hernandez said the activists wanted the mayor to call a State of Emergency and use those powers to halt the evictions. He called on the mayor to take all the tax money coming from Airbnb in the Mission and put that back into affordable housing in the neighborhood. And he said “no more luxury condos for the Mission.”
By 2pm, a huge stack of pizzas supplied by SEIU Local 1021 arrived, and the protesters sat down to wait for the mayor. But it became clear he wasn’t going to show.
“He’s waiting for Mayor Ron Conway to tell him it’s okay,” one activist quipped.
Still, the message was delivered, and below the general festivity of the event, the anger was clear. This isn’t going away.