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by Michael Steinberg, IndyBay, 21 May 2008

San Francisco, May 21-Hundreds of tenants rallied against Proposition 98 today late this morning on the steps of City Hall. Then they filed inside to vote against it.

Proposition 98 is on the June 3 state ballot. Prop 98 would eliminate rent control across the state, and remove local protections against evictions as well.

At today’s rally, tenants chanted, “Save our city, save our state, vote No on 98,” accompanied by a lively drumbeat. Renters held colorful banners from community organizations in Chinatown, Bernal Heights, South of Market and the Mission, and waved “No on 98” signs.

SRO Families United’s Yue Hua Yu, representing over 400 families living in 8 X 10 residential hotel rooms, said Prop 98 “is anti-family.” She urged people to unite to fight against it.

SF Supervisor Aaron Peskin called Prop 98 “the most insane, dangerous piece of state legislation in my lifetime. 98 will take power away from all of us. We have to devote ourselves to getting everyone we know to vote” against it.

Liana Villasenor of Community Housing Partnership called Prop 98 “an eviction notice for our families waiting to happen.” Her co-worker James Tracy said their organization “builds housing for people coming out of homelessness, but we can’t build enough if 98 passes.”

Chinatown Tenants Association’s Qing Zhi Deng said his organization, with over 600 members, “has been fighting for the past 21 years to save rent control. It will be very sad for all our tenants if 98 passes.” Deng spoke in Chinese, except for his last words, which were, “I hate 98.”

Dean Preston of the statewide group Tenants Together, said, “People in LA, Fresno and across the state are getting together, and going door to door to tell people why to vote against 98. The landlords admit they put 98 on the June ballot because they expect that not many people will turn out to vote then.”

Young Workers United’s Saybah Russ said, “I work in the city, and I should be able to live here.”

The Sierra Club’s Rick Galbreath pointed out that Prop 98 would be bad for the environment as well. “Everyone who cares about clean air should vote against 98,” he said. “If it passed the California ban on coal fired plants could go away.”

Angelica Carbande of South of Market Community Action Network/Filipino Housing Collaborative said, “The I Hotel echoes here today with you. We won’t take this from big developers, seeing highrises overshadowing our people. We’re tired of developers telling us how to live and using us for their profits. What justice will 98 bring to renters? None.”

PODER’s Oscar Grande told the crowd, “It’s a struggle to live in this city, but we’re down for the struggle.” He urged people to gather at 24th and Capp streets at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 31, to pick up No on 98 literature to distribute in Mission and Excelsior voting precincts.

Lupe Arreola of St. Peter’s Housing Committee said, “Without rent control it’s impossible to live in San Francisco—the wages don’t match up.” She reported that “today people in LA are protesting at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer’s Association there, the founder and funder of 98.”

Arreola also announced that on Sunday, June 2, there will be a protest at the San Francisco Association of Realtors, at 301 Grove Street, near City Hall. “The California Association of Realtors gave over $600,000 to 98,” she said.

Rally MC LaShawndra Price of Community Housing Partnership noted, “After June 3, if 98 passes, they might as well put a gold fence around San Francisco—we won’t be able to afford it.”

When the speakers concluded, the crowd took up another spirited chant of, “Save our city, save our state, vote No on 98.”

Then they went inside City Hall to do just that.

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