Midtown Park Apartments residents, promised ownership, rally against 300% rent increase

by Jay Majitov, Midtown Tenants Committee

On Monday, June 29, over a hundred working class families of Midtown Park Apartments were joined by community activists, concerned citizens and legal advisors for a rally in support of over 55 households whose rent increased 300 percent. The only such property that is owned by the City, Midtown’s original intent by then Supervisors Diane Feinstein and Ella Hill Hutch was to transform this complex into an equity cooperative – a promise that never materialized.

The residents of Midtown Park Apartments – shown here rallying on June 29 – have throughout their struggle show exemplary unity, courage and perseverance. Though they’ve welcomed Asian and Russian neighbors in recent years, the residents are still predominantly Black as they were when
The residents of Midtown Park Apartments – shown here rallying on June 29 – have throughout their struggle shown exemplary unity, courage and perseverance. Though they’ve welcomed Asian and Russian neighbors in recent years, the residents are still predominantly Black as they were when Midtown was built in the 1960s for Black homeowners whose homes were taken by eminent domain by the City when, under Redevelopment, it bulldozed the Fillmore, then called Harlem of the West.

Joshua Arce, head of the civil rights non-profit Brightline, whose team spearheaded the Midtown fight, opened the rally along with Dr. Espanola Jackson. Dr. Jackson served on the Joint Housing Committee that dealt with the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, and she continues to fight for affordable housing.

Vice President of Midtown Board of Directors Donald Griegs stressed that all rent increases in the past were done according to Rent Stabilization Board procedures and were acknowledged by the City.

Longtime resident Phyllis Bowie, a former U.S. Air Force officer and a community leader, revealed her harassment and covert investigation by Mercy Housing and the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH) that led to her rent increasing to over $3,500. One of the many residents who were not given due process during income certification, she was further humiliated by an Office of Housing staffer email that reads “and we will raise her rent to market value. Maybe she’ll get the drift that her days at Midtown are over.”

Ms. Bowie appealed to Mayor Lee to look into the Midtown situation. Mayor Lee was at the forefront of the 1978 Chinatown rent strike.

Former Mayor of Atlanta and United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young passed on words of advice and encouragement to Midtown residents: “Freedom is a constant struggle. Keep faith, stay strong!” Very concerned about the current situation, Ambassador Young worked on a similar situation to the one that Midtown residents face with Dr. Martin Luther King in Chicago in 1966.

Over a hundred working class families of Midtown Park Apartments were joined by community activists, concerned citizens and legal advisors for a rally in support of over 55 households whose rent increased 300 percent.

Jaime Rush of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel has been instrumental in guiding residents bewildered by MOH and Mercy Housing Actions. Having represented San Francisco tenants for over 10 years, Ms. Rush described the situation facing Midtown residents as “the most compelling struggle,” condemning “egregious use of power against community that brings nothing of value for San Francisco.”

Midtown Board VP Donald Griegs speaks to the press at the June 29 rally and press conference. Over a hundred of the Midtown families attended.
Midtown Board VP Donald Griegs speaks to the press at the June 29 rally and press conference. Over a hundred of the Midtown families attended.

Midtown is currently in no man’s land, where the City will not acknowledge that residents are protected by private rental laws but also won’t institute broad coverage that public rental tenants have in the city.

San Francisco County Sheriff Mirkarimi recalled Board of Supervisors Resolution 070858, which calls for no displacement, long-term affordability, tenant involvement and exploration of alternative ownership options at Midtown. Residents paid off the mortgage in 2007, and $55,000 was set aside by resolution to ensure the promise of Midtown becoming an equity co-op.

John Caldera, a U.S. Navy veteran and charter vice president of the SF Veterans Lions Club, is a longtime Midtown resident who is proud to call this community his home. This Olympic torch-bearer had one message to Mayor Ed Lee: “Let us stay!”

Rent increases commencing on Aug. 1 will lead to displacement and destruction of a beautiful community. Midtown residents ask your support in rent control protection for working class San Franciscans who make up the fabric of our society.

If you’re an attorney or a law student who is interested in this case, our legal advisors could use your help. Please email info@savemidtown.org with your information.

Rent increases commencing on Aug. 1 will lead to displacement and destruction of a beautiful community. Midtown residents ask your support in rent control protection for working class San Franciscans who make up the fabric of our society.

We issue a plea for everyone who ever publically mentioned the affordable housing crisis to step forward and be counted!

Jay Majitov, a member of the Midtown Tenants Committee, can be reached at info@savemidtown.org. Learn more about Midtown and how you can help at the Save Midtown website, http://www.savemidtown.org/, and Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/savemidtown?fref=ts.