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Fil-Am activists slam Twitter, SF officials for wave of low-income evictions

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Fil Am activists protest Twitter’s tax breaks. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/ Vivian Zalvidea Araullo

SAN FRANCISCO—On the same day that Twitter went public, about 200 protesters staged a rally in front of the social media giant’s corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco to protest the increased evictions of low-income renters resulting from the new high tech boom.

The protesters, among them members of the Filipino-American nonprofit Manilatown Heritage Foundation, denounced Twitter, other tech companies and the city of San Francisco for displacing low-income, immigrant and elderly residents.

Manilatown Heritage Foundation last week declined to receive an award from San Francisco officials on the occasion of Filipino American Heritage Month to protest the wave of evictions that has hit the city.

Manilatown Heritage Foundation board member Tony Robles, who was at the protest rally, said, “Elders are being lied to, and intimidated out of their rent control apartments.”

More evictions, higher rent

Manilatown Heritage Foundation Board Member Tony Robles (right) turned down an honor from San Francisco officials to protest senior evictions. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/ Vivian Zalvidea Araullo

Two trends are affecting low-income San Francisco residents—more evictions and higher rents.

Tenant rights advocates say real estate speculation in San Francisco is triggering the highest rate of evictions the city has seen in 12 years, partly because of the influx of highly paid tech workers.

Under the Ellis Act, landlords are allowed to evict existing tenants, in order to build group-owned tenancies-in-common flats or condos. More landlords are evicting low-income tenants, as more affluent tech workers seek to buy real estate.

A similar trend is evident in the rental market, as more high-end rental properties are built to accommodate the wealthier new residents.

“The way this affects Filipinos is you have a company here that employs people making in excess of $100,000 a year. They’re building  (apartment buildings) right across Twitter (where) a one-bedroom rents for more than $3,000 a month,” explained Robles. “The (new apartment buildings) have some inclusionary low-income units, but not really enough to accommodate the regular people. What happening here is that immigrant folks and their families are having to move.”

The area where Twitter is located, the Mid-Market, also referred to as the South of Market, has been an enclave for low-income, new Filipino immigrants.

Multi-million payroll tax breaks

Twitter and other tech companies set up headquarters in Mid-Market San Francisco, attracted by payroll tax breaks meant to entice new businesses to the area. Twitter is reportedly receiving an estimated $56 million tax break.

Fil Am activist Jeremias David supported calls to reinstate taxes for Twitter. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/ Vivian Zalvidea Araullo

“The city government is giving tax breaks to Twitter, and we know they’re making a lot of money,” said Jeremias David, a member of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, who attended the rally. “We also know that families in San Francisco are struggling. There’s no affordable housing. Giving tax breaks to Twitter does not represent their concern for the people.”

“The mayor and board of supervisors realized the existing tax structure taxed job creation, so to keep startups like ours in the city, they created a limited exemption for the Mid-Market zone,” a spokesperson for Twitter told the New York Times last week.

On the eve of its initial public offering, Twitter priced its shares at $26 on Wednesday night, giving it a market value of $18.1 billion. On Thursday, the same day as the protest, Twitter closed at $44.90 a share, 73 percent above its initial public offering price, reported the New York Times.

 

Erasing the legacy of Filipino seniors

Manilatown Heritage Foundation is known for fighting the eviction of elderly Filipino tenants of the International Hotel in 1977.

“One of the reasons we have rent control is because of what happened in Manilatown. (With the rise of evictions and gentrification) they are erasing the history, the legacy of Manilatown, of the manongs and manangs,” said Robles.

“We’re trying to honor the people who came before,” said Robles, which is also why the organization turned down an honor from District Supervisor David Chiu on Filipino American Heritage Month.

In a statement after the snub by Manilatown Heritage Foundation, Chiu’s office said: “(Chiu) agrees that protecting tenants from displacement should be a top priority, and that’s why he has worked hard to pass legislation to put a moratorium on condo conversions and to make it easier for tenants to apply for rent increase exemptions at the Rent Board. He has also introduced legislation to ensure that tenants who get evicted because of the Ellis Act do not become homeless by giving them a priority in affordable housing projects.”

Chiu’s office instead conferred the honor instead to Filipino youth leader Genevieve Jopanda, for her work to combat Hepatitis B in Chinatown.

“Filipino American History Month in October is a celebration of the contributions of individuals and organizations to the fabric of America. It is unfortunate that Manilatown, a very prominent organization in District 3, used (the celebration of Filipino American History Month) to voice their opinion on the current housing issues in San Francisco,” said Jopanda. “(But) I respect their voice and applaud their courage,” she added.

Robles said his organization plans to be involved in a tenant campaign to strengthen laws to protect rent control laws, along with a coalition called “Eviction Free San Francisco.”

Twitter was contacted for comment on the protest but has not responded as of press time.

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  • John_Cruz

    Lots of low-income housing in San Diego. You cannot beat $200 a month utilities paid in a gated community. Also lots of Food Banks and Distribution by Churches and Charitable Organizations.

  • riza888

    The culture of bums, drug addicts, vagrants, gangbangers, and the downtrodden is making that area so nice now?

    I bet the organizers on this protest have Twitter accounts. How ironic….

  • bok

    Lumipat nalang kayong sa San Francisco del monte sa Quezon city.
    America is NOT for filipinos. There is no such thing as american dream only “american nightmare ” for discriminated filipinos.

    Umuwi na kayong lahat !

    • Ulysses Grant

      Wag na..overpopulated na ang Maynila. They should just stay there and continue whatever they are doing. Problema na nila yan at wag na natin pakialaman. They chose to stay in United States and brag to their Filipino kins that they are having a good life in America. True Story…

      • bok

        Good time in america indeed. I’m sure they will not win if a lawsuit progresses. San Franciso and other neighboring states are kicking out poor immigrants. MONEY rules in america.
        Montalban Rizal is a good relocation site for them if they don’t like San Francisco Del Monte in Quezon City.

        “Kapag walang kang pera sa tate sa imburnal ka titira.”

        Filipinos should just come home.

  • Chameleon08

    If the eviction is within the bounds of law, bark at the lawmakers who enacted the law. You’re a low-income, find a state or place appropriate for you. San Francisco is such an expensive city so you have to adjust.

    • pinayako

      mismo! kung di kaya ang high standard of living sa Frisco, mag move sa maraming rural states. problem solved. baket kelangan magsiksikan sa Frisco at Bay area eh mahal talaga ang real estate sa mga lugar na yan.

      worse come to worst, mag petition sila na buksan uli ang Alcatraz at baka dun mura ang upa per selda. kung di pa rin kaya at ayaw mag move sa rural states, eh umuwi na lang sa pinas.

      • Chameleon08

        My niece left her job in New York and transferred to Pearland in Texas. Now she has already a house and a comfortable living there. House in Texas is cheap and one can select from many jobs available there. Why drag yourself to a difficult life just to be in Frisco?And blame the government and businessmen for raising rents? You’re in America, don’t forget.

  • marienkind

    Talk about barking at the wrong tree.

    • barangayboso

      I suppose you mean barking UP the wrong tree..



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