Saturday, November 15, 2014


Truthout's article on San Francisco single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels portrays the battle for low-income housing as a challenge that tenants and organizers are struggling with in a city where "wealth inequality is on par with Rwanda's." As San Francisco Tenants Union advocate Ted Gullicksen remarked before his passing in October, "They are the most affordable housing in San Francisco," and "Any pressure on that housing stock needs to be vigilantly fought back."

In the summer of 2000, as rent control repeal loomed in the form of a slumlord-backed ballot initiative, I met Gullicksen at a ParkMerced tenants meeting held at San Francisco State University. Working with these tenants of one of the largest residential apartment complexes in the Western US (3,482 units), Public Good Project's research director Paul de Armond and I advised the tenant organizers Gullicksen was recruiting for the electoral battle that fall.

As a Bay Area tenant, myself displaced in 2011 by skyrocketing rents, it seemed that at best we might have delayed homelessness for San Francisco's 30,000 SRO tenants for a decade. While an important achievement at the time, today's challenge is to convert and upgrade these "last resort" housing units (where kitchens and bathrooms are shared) to co-ops, where safety codes are enforced and slumlords no longer control tenants' lives.