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Home News + Politics African American displacement — and the Midtown battle — becomes an issue in mayoral debate

African American displacement — and the Midtown battle — becomes an issue in mayoral debate

Leno, Kim vow to support tenants in struggle against Mayor's Office of Housing; Breed is a no-show

The SF mayoral candidates – except for Sup. London Breed — debated their positions on housing issues Saturday at the Kelly Cullen Community center in the Tenderloin.

It was the first debate that the issue of Midtown Apartments – and the related displacement of the African American community – played a central role.

Residents of Midtown came to demand support from the candidates

Positions from progressive front runners Jane Kim and Mark Leno were fairly similar and consistent—closing eviction loopholes by repealing Costa Hawkins, passing a billion-dollar bond specific to affordable housing, and implementing varying measures meant to force vacant units on to the rental market. Both candidates agreed that more needs to be done to build affordable housing over market rate.

Angela Alioto was the only candidate to say that San Francisco’s designation of what constitutes “affordable” housing is not actually affordable for many working-class people.

I asked a two-part question about African American displacement from San Francisco in general and the displacement of the majority African American tenants at the Midtown Park Apartments.

Kim discussed creating a Mayor’s Office of Race and Equity, and referenced a program in Portland, Oregon, that is attempting to bring displaced African Americans back into the city, and suggested that San Francisco could implement something similar.

Alioto enthusiastically recommended that the Midtown tenants sue the Mayor’s Office of Housing in the Superior Court. Leno said that a local-hire program for tech companies would help existing residents in vulnerable communities earn the money that’s needed to afford housing in San Francisco.

Most candidates initially did not directly answer the question about Midtown.

After the moderator had moved on to the next question, Kim asked if she could to circle back to the question posed about the tenant campaign at Midtown, and asserted that she supports the tenants’ demands for no displacement and demolition “100 percent.” After the forum, Leno approached the Midtown tenants in the audience and also pledged his support. A call to his office confirmed that Leno is in support of the tenant demands.

Midtown tenants say they were not surprised by Breed’s absence from the forum. Breed has repeatedly cancelled or simply failed to show up at many Midtown community meetings where her attendance was promised. Some tenants even expected that Breed would cancel her appearance at Saturday’s forum if she knew that Midtown tenants or supporters would be in the audience.

“Breed says she represents the Black community in the Fillmore Western Addition, but she’s done nothing for us,” said Mary Watkins, longtime Midtown resident and former union organizer present at Saturday’s town hall. Breed has made her position on Midtown clear on previous occasions: she does not support the tenant demands for tenant self-management or equity ownership, and is supportive of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Mercy Housing’s goals to demolish and redevelop Midtown as a Mercy Housing property.

We asked Breed’s campaign for comment on her absence at the forum and her position on Midtown, but they haven’t answered by press time.

Midtown tenants say they will continue to be present at future mayoral forums to make sure the question of restitution for Midtown residents and African American tenants in general is on the table.


  1. It always amazes me how bad the reporting is at 48 Hills. They NEVER give all the facts so the reader can get a fair, unbias story. If the reporter did her homework, she would have found out that Mid-Town is an affordable housing complex. A complex that the City let get out of control, letting the residents that didn’t have management experience run the complex. That included how much rent residents paid, so very low-income seniors paid the same rent as a tenant making over $100K, or letting tenants AirB&B their units, there was even a tenant that owned a home. And some tenants rented out their parking spaces to Kaiser employees. And in the meantime Mid-Town was falling apart. Units had mold from leaking roofs, rotting stairwells, and other structure issue. What a F-ing mess. I blame the City for waiting so long to take action with Mid-Town, many Supervisors & Mayors kick the can when it came to Mid-Town. No one had the stomach to go into a Western Addition housing complex with a majority of African Americans and try to clean up the mess the City turned a blind eye to continue the decline.
    It’s ridiculous that Mid-Town residents say they were promised ownership but they still want rent control, HUH? You have to pick one or the other, not both. If you’re an affordable housing complex with tax payers dollars helping to subsizdize your rent, you must pay 30% of your income, you must live there, you cannot AirB&B your unit, cannot own property or rent out parking spaces. Or you can work towards ownership which means you have to be able to afford it and the upkeep of the buildings. You can’t have both! I want to thank Supervisor Breed for having the courage to address this complicated issue. The fact NO one has been evicted for bad behavior or cheating on the affordable housing rules is remarkable and a testament to Supervisor Bredd’s patience and empathy with a community that the city has rolled over and almost destroyed. I’m voting for London bc of the way she’s handled the Mid-Town problems, gave the residents the chance to right the behavior, lowered rent for the low-income seniors and funded the work to make it a safe place to live, all along making sure affordable housing isn’t being misused and taxpayers dollars aren’t being spent in a irresponsible way.

  2. Heart,

    Only way she can win is if the fix is in and it very well may be.

    Ask Director Arntz how many ballots he has in inventory.

    Ask how many he is sending out for mail-in voting.

    How many are going to each poll.

    What are the serial numbers on all of the above.

    The leftovers could already be in different garages with Breed’s name as 1st or 2nd choice as needed.

    A poll supervisor and her grandchildren died in a fire a day before she was to testify that this was happening in the Bay View …


    Get ready to wait if you access this Chron article but you’ll note that the fact that she was a poll worker getting ready to testify against Willie has been erased.

    Also, Willie refused to pay the judgement against the City for missing smoke detectors and swore he never would and never did.

    Newsom sold City property to pay it off years later.

    Funny, but Willie and the Fire Chief were onsite by morning declaring that the fire was not arson.

    Kinda like at the North Beach fire a few days back.

    Unlike the North Beach fire, if I had to make a hypothetical I’d say that the fire that killed grandma and the kids was murder.

    Death at the International Hotel was accidental in the pursuit of greed.

    Same for last Saturday’s St. Pat’s day fire.

    There used to be ‘reams’ of stuff on the internet about the Willie Brown fire and it is all gone now.

    Only those of us with the memories/archives of elephants still retain the knowledge.

    You recall this fire, Tim?

    Alioto for Mayor Again!

    Gascon for DA Again!

    Peskin for Board prez Again!

    Go Giants Again!


  3. Sponsored link?

    I’d be concerned that Breed doesn’t show up at these events because she has been assured by Willie Brown that he has John Arntz in his back pocket and that the extra ballots Willie ordered some 20 years back are still in play and that she is guaranteed a victory.

    Peskin should demand an audit of the ballots-on-hand at the department of elections and get right in Arntz’s face and tell him not to fix the election under the guidance of Jim Sutton.

    Alioto for Mayor Again!

    Gascon for DA Again!

    Peskin for Board prez Again!

    Go Giants Again!


  4. A couple of years ago Breed gave $5 to Midtown at one of their fundraiser barbecues, so it isn’t really fair to say she’s done nothing. That five bucks could have paid for one eighth of a glass of wine at the restaurant she took Willie Brown to last year. In his column in the Comical Willie said the steak was fifty bucks. A good deal at only ten bucks more than a glass of wine, right? Even he thought that was excessive.

    In late 2015,when asked about her future by an audience member at the tenants right forum she arranged (ripping of the TU’s tenants rights bootcamps) Breed said after finishing her stint as a supervisor her time in politics was up. Would that that were the case.

  5. Great piece. And a shout out to the Midtown folks for staying strong and staying organized! No demolition. No displacement.

  6. Excellent piece on eerily familiar behavior from Breed. Pretty speeches. No follow through. Iris Canada being evicted? No nothing from Breed. Church of St. John Coltrane being evicted? Radio silence from Breed. Community meetings to try to find solutions for Midtown? London Breed no shows every time. The woman is our district supervisor and she has her eye on higher office. What good is being President of the Board of Supervisors if all you do with that power is make deals with the devil developers and the serial evictors? Maybe London just thinks she can make a speech and everything will go POOF! and magically everyone will have a roof over their heads. No. This is about billions of dollars of budget and housing policy and homeless policy and public transpirtation and safety and taking care of the most vulnerable people in a city where income disparity is astounding!!! SF is currently a Third World Country from our sidewalks. And all throughout this rapacious housing Gold Rush, developers, realtors and market rate speculators have done/will do whatever they can to evict and displace people from their homes. London Breed has harmed us. She must never become mayor.

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