On July 2, activists from "Eviction Free Summer," formed to defend tenants facing eviction, gathered outside landlord Rick Holman's South Park office building in San Francisco to protest an eviction he'd initiated against a Mission-based activist collective.
Organizer Fred Sherburn-Zimmer said it was one of many peaceful protests the housing activists plan to stage against property owners this summer. "We're taking it to the landlord's homes and offices," Sherburn-Zimmer said. "They can't pretend they're not ruining people's lives by displacing them."
This past April, collective members from In The Works, an organization that rents space in what is often called the "17 Reasons" building, at 17th and Mission streets, received an eviction notice from Holman alleging illegal subletting.
Holman is a managing partner at Asher Investment Group, and from the perspective of Sherburn-Zimmer and other protesters, his move to evict the collective is helping to propel a trend of gentrification in the Mission. "We need this space, and if the whole neighborhood is high-end realty, then it's not really helping the community," Sherburn-Zimmer said.
The In The Works Collective bills itself as an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist arts and events collective, which regularly hosts skill-sharing workshops and other activism-oriented events. A collective member who introduced herself as Madeline said Holman has not been the most hospitable landlord.
"When he first came to talk to us, he said we had bad posture and body language," she recounted. "The day after we got the three-day notice, the locks were changed."
When the Guardian reached Holman this past May seeking comment for a longer article about widespread evictions, he declined to comment on the matter but emphasized that he planned to keep the building as commercial office space rather than convert it into high-end condos, and said his other tenants had expressed no complaints.
Like many folks facing eviction from San Francisco rental properties, In The Works may be forced to find another space. Currently, Madeline says the collective is paying 72 cents a square foot for the 5,200 square foot place -- and it’s highly unlikely that they’ll find a place in the Mission for a similar price. That's why they welcomed support from the activists at Eviction-Free Summer.
"I totally respect them helping us out," Madeline said. "It's important that we stick together. Our place has always been big on solidarity and community building."
Eviction Free Summer hasn’t revealed what other landlords they might target, yet they plan to continue staging protests outside landlords' homes and offices in coming months. "This is just the beginning of this direct action group," Sherburn-Zimmer said. "We will do anything to prevent people from losing their homes and spaces."