In recent months, residents at the Sunnydale housing project have been organizing against the city’s HOPE SF initiative. HOPE SF is a privatization scheme designed to attack poor people and enrich big banks and developers. The city wants to demolish public housing buildings, and hand projects over to private developers to build and manage new high-rises.
Construction at Sunnydale has already started. Some residents have already been forced to move, and others are now being pressured. At the end of January, the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) and the new management company, Mercy Housing, sent some residents 90 day notices to vacate. They want to clear the block to build a community center, even though there is already a community center one block up. Residents have been very clear they do not want this new one.
With these 90 day notices looming, organizing efforts kicked into full gear. Residents and UFAD members drafted a petition within a day and collected 100 signatures by the week’s end. Since then, there have been weekly meetings to coordinate organizing efforts and plan events. We have hosted two barbecues, multiple protests, and dozens of door knocking shifts. The barbecues have been great opportunities for people to talk to each other about basic issues and realize that their problems with SFHA and Mercy are widespread. The protests have been very positive events where residents have spoken out about the need to stop the privatization and development.
The city presents these privatization efforts as beneficial for the residents, even though moving into the new high-rises means moving from Section 9 to Section 8 housing. This means losing tenant protections and leaving public housing. Since many residents see HOPE SF for what it is, a plot to kick working people out of the neighborhood, Mercy tries to bribe residents with gift cards, and they are even paying off some people to support the privatization. Despite the attacks on working people and the shady stuff Mercy tries to pull, people at Sunnydale will continue to oppose the privatization efforts.
In the coming months, one goal is to connect with residents at Potrero Hill, the only other public housing project left in San Francisco. Potrero is also a victim of HOPE SF and it will be important to build links between the projects so that working people across the city can oppose the privatization of San Francisco’s public housing.