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Racialized evictions are part of Treasure Island redevelopment

January 13, 2018

by Anti-Eviction Mapping Project

The highest number of San Francisco eviction cases represented by the Eviction Defense Collaborative in 2016 were in District 6, which includes Treasure Island. TI is the orange spot on the right side of the map.

Treasure Island (TI), according to various censuses, is the third most diverse neighborhood in the U.S. Seventy percent of tenants are Black or Latina/o, and the majority are low-income. TI is a human-made island with a radioactive history due to past military usage and is part of San Francisco’s District 6 with a history of military and federal ownership. Not coincidentally, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC) documented District 6 to have the most eviction cases represented by the EDC in courts in 2016.

Radiation warning signs are common on Treasure Island. This one marks a remediation exclusion zone on the side of the island facing San Francisco.

The area on the map bordered in yellow encircles all Treasure Island housing. Dr. Smadar Lavie states that mostly white people pay market rate rents for housing on the northwestern side of the island facing San Francisco and will receive comparable-size units in the new development. She observes that most tenants of color are housed on the northeastern side facing Oakland and Berkeley and experience discriminatory treatment designed to exclude them from the new development.

The island’s better housing units, on the northwest side, are destined for redevelopment in the form of new, upscale apartment buildings as part of a larger development project. According to Dr. Smadar Lavie, an American-Israeli Mizrahi and woman of color who lived on TI from January 2012 until her eviction last week, mostly white people live on the northwestern side and pay market rate; they will receive comparable-size housing units in the new development.

Most tenants of color live on the northeastern side, and Lavie says that they are facing systematic discriminatory treatment designed to exclude them from the new development. The northeastern side is deemed by the state’s Department of Public Health Division of Radiation Safety and Environmental Management to be so polluted and radioactive that in the development plan it is destined to be reserved as open space.

Dr. Smadar Lavie states that mostly white people pay market rate rents on the northwestern side of the island facing San Francisco bordered in yellow on the map. They will receive comparable-size housing units in the new development. Most tenants of color live on the northeastern side facing Oakland and Berkeley and experience discriminatory treatment designed to exclude them from the new development.

Lavie is both a UC Berkeley anthropologist and a co-founder of Israel’s feminists-of-color movement. She says that she experienced repeated anti-Arab and anti-Semitic slurs, abuse and five years of eviction threats and that other tenants of color have received similar treatment but are too terrorized to come forward with their experiences, some of which involve physical violence. Prior to her eviction, Lavie had repeatedly whistle blown about the environmental racism and a host of infrastructural problems, among them frequent electrical outages and polluted drinking water.

According to Dr. Lavie, the goal of the Treasure Island Development Authority’s (TIDA’s) aggressive strategy, executed through the John Stewart Co. (JSCO), is to exclude low-income tenants of color from the upscale new development, of which a portion is to be set aside to be rented or purchased at below market rate. She comments: “The leases Brown and Black tenants, including me, were given to sign were not approved by the San Francisco city attorney, which makes them illegal.

“These leases actually rob us of relocation rights and non-lottery access to the new units, and they permit no-cause evictions. We were not offered relocation fees and one-for-one new apartments, which is a further violation of the law, given that TI is public land belonging to the military and to the city of San Francisco.” A short video of Lavie describing her eviction is posted below.

When Dr. Lavie contacted JSCO’s attorney, Mercedes Gavin, requesting the eviction date be moved to after her Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur, the attorney replied: “No. We’re not going to change anything. Your holiday thing is perfect. While you’re at church [sic], we’ll go ahead and file the unlawful detainer. And then on Sept. 29, we’ll recover possession of your unit and change the locks.”

Lavie was first notified in July 2017 that she was being evicted for “no cause.” She contacted JSCO’s attorney, Mercedes Gavin, to tell her that her 60-day notice ended on Sept. 22, right during Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). She asked that the eviction date be moved down to after Yom Kippur, Sept. 30. Lavie says that the attorney replied: “No. We’re not going to change anything. Your holiday thing is perfect. While you’re at church [sic], we’ll go ahead and file the unlawful detainer. And then on Sept. 29, we’ll recover possession of your unit and change the locks.”

When Lavie moved her case from state to federal court, JSCO changed the “no cause” rationale and argued that Lavie allegedly violated JSCO policy because she had been using Airbnb to help with the rent while she traveled for work. The federal court then dumped the case back to the SF tenant-landlord court. Lavie notes that as of April 2012, she had sought and received permission from JSCO’s manager to use Airbnb. In spring 2017, when JSCO issued a notice instructing tenants to stop using Airbnb, she complied, and believes she was then singled out because of her history of whistleblowing.

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project reveals that major investors in the Treasure Island development project are connected to politicians including Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, Willie Brown and the late Ed Lee: https://littlesis.org/maps/897-treasure-island-and-yerba-buena-island-development.

Note: The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project does not support usage of Airbnb but is primarily concerned with property owners abusing it and evictions transpiring because of it.

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, visualizing Bay Area displacement and resistance, can be reached at antievictionmap@riseup.net or @antievictionmap. Bay View staff contributed to this story.

3 thoughts on “Racialized evictions are part of Treasure Island redevelopment

  1. Matthew F

    I like London Breed because she was part of the administration that brought in all the tech money. Hopefully she will continue driving the scum of SF out of the city. free run 3 online

    Reply
  2. Ki Di

    My understanding of this situation is that residents, regardless of race, who have lived on Treasure Island before 2011 either have been provided housing relocation options within new development on TI or given a financial compensation package. Residents on Treasure Island after 2011 have not been provided these options. The article should have focused first on what factors before and after 2011 influenced this as the cutoff year versus dive into asserting the evictions as being racially charged. Has a higher percentage of residents of color dating before 2011 been evicted compared to white residents dating before 2011? Has a greater proportion of white residents dating after 2011 been given more relocation options/financial compensation compared to residents of color dating after 2011? If the answers to these questions is YES, then the article title is on to something about racialized evictions. But the author doesn’t appear to have researched or discussed any data related to this.

    Housing on the northwest side of the island is more expensive than housing on the northeast side but both housing development locations were never explicitly intended to be racially segregated. People who can afford more expensive housing units rent in the more expensive housing units. People who need more economical housing options live in the more affordable units. You can only blame past developers so much on how housing market rates over time impact socioeconomic demographic aggregation. Monthly rent disparities certainly influence how income levels segregate. Any racial segregation that may result, is an inadvertent (not an explicitly intended) process.

    Reply

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