San Francisco’s and McCormack Baron Salazar’s criminal neglect of Plaza East Apartments

Plaza East Apartments in the Fillmore (Western Addition) has been subject to inhumane neglect, unlawful evictions and mismanagement by owners McCormack Baron Salazar and the City. Despite being the project where Mayor London Breed grew up, she has shown no interest in helping the mostly Black tenants through their issues dealing with infestations and police-like policies.

Bulldozed in the ‘60s, gentrified in the ‘90s and violated in the 2020s: Racism’s hold on the Fillmore

by Dennis Williams Jr., founder, No Racism No Hate San Francisco Grassroots Organization

My name is Mr. Dennis Williams, founder of No Racism No Hate San Francisco Grassroots Organization, and I am writing this regarding the racist, egregious and continuous issues at my place of residence, Plaza East Apartments, located in the fifth district of San Francisco. 

I and the other Plaza East tenants feel that our civil and human rights have been and continue to be violated by the following persons and entities: 

  • Mayor London Breed
  • McCormack Baron Salazar Corp.
  • City of San Francisco
  • County of San Francisco
  • Plaza East Apartments management

McCormack Baron Salazar are the owners of the Plaza East Apartments, a 192-unit residential complex. Maintenance of the property has been performed by volunteers who are untrained and incompetent. In the past 15 years, there have been nine managers. 

This creates a situation guaranteed to obscure accountability and ensures the property’s long-term needs remain unaddressed and unresolved. Of the 192 units located at this property, over 130 units have the following issues which violate our rights as tenants and threaten our safety and health:

  • Outdated appliances
  • Old carpeting 
  • Sewage and plumbing issues
  • Black mold 
  • Pest infestations
  • Sexual harassment 
  • Tenant intimidation
  • Gang violence
  • Breach of tenant lease agreement

When the health inspectors from City Hall do their yearly inspection of the property, they only inspect 5-10 percent of the units, which are kept in good condition and up to code for this reason, while blatantly neglecting the remaining units and the 18 garbage rooms located onsite. 

If the health inspectors performed their jobs thoroughly, they would have seen firsthand the units that are neglected as well as the huge rodent infestations that plague the property. In addition to the squalid living conditions that Black American tenants are subjected to, we also face harassment from Plaza Easts Apartments’ management, staff and maintenance crew.

We have consistently requested the needed repairs to our units, and in return we get incompetent, shoddy workmanship and, in some cases, tenant evictions. This has created an environment of stress, fear and distrust between the tenants and management.

I knew that my eviction was in retaliation for requests for repairs, which left me depressed and despondent.

I personally have experienced this harassment firsthand in various forms by Plaza East’s manager Angela Shaw. When I complained to Ms. Shaw about the condition of my unit, Ms. Shaw attempted to evict me unlawfully and without just cause. 

I was able to discuss this matter with our neighborhood Supervisor London Breed, whom I’d hoped would lend some assistance in this issue – to no avail. I was confused, because I knew that my eviction was in retaliation for requests for repairs, which left me depressed and despondent. Luckily, I and a court-appointed attorney fought the eviction in court and prevailed! 

The judge, the Hon. Adrian Colley, stated that since Angela Shaw admitted to using an independent plumber to illegally spy on my unit, the case could not proceed. Judge Colley also stated that there were no negative complaints regarding my tenancy after I’d resided in the unit for more than 15 years. 

After losing their case, McCormack Baron Salazar, who had 28 more evictions – most of them of Black American residents – lined up, halted the evictions until further notice. In February 2017, McCormick & Baron terminated Angela Shaw as manager. They have never disclosed their reason for doing so. 

In addition to unlawful evictions, McCormack Baron Salazar – based in St. Louis, Mo. – and Plaza East management have violated California civil, health and housing codes. If a private owner would have so many obvious violations of these codes, the city would have him or her fined or imprisoned for being slumlords. 

While the owners of Plaza East have literally spit in the face of the law unchecked, we the tenants have paid the price by suffering ongoing hardships and living conditions akin to that of third world countries. 

We demand that the Mayor stop doing “business” with out-of-state billionaire slumlord developers, whom she has allowed to break the law without consequence.

Mayor London Breed, along with the San Francisco Board of Health and the Department of Building Inspection, among others, annually sends inspectors to Plaza East. These San Francisco agencies falsify findings in reports, enabling billionaire property owners McCormack Baron Salazar Corp. to violate state, city, tenant and housing laws. Meanwhile, corrupt city government officials line their pockets. 

Mayor London Breed brazenly continues to gut our historic, Black Western Addition neighborhood for billionaire developer profit. It is apparent from her actions that she does not care for the Black people who voted her into office. 

In my opinion, Mayor London Breed is in the pockets of the tech workers and other new, wealthy non-Black residents and business owners. While we don’t begrudge others for coming to live in and have businesses in our beautiful city, we must remember the people responsible for making San Francisco what it is. 

How is it that from Fillmore to Hayes and Divisadero streets, Black American businesses are nowhere to be found? My cousin, renowned blues musician Mr. Johnnie Ingram, and other Black musicians came to the Fillmore district from other states and gave it a life of its own through music and culture in the 1940s – now we are being phased out city block by city block. 

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the Fillmore was a proud Black neighborhood – streets lined with Black businesses, famous musicians and personalities – and known as “Harlem of the West.” In this photo, taken by Steve Jackson Jr. in the early 1950s, a group celebrates their record release at a Fillmore bar. As writer Dennis Williams says: “We not only hope to incite change in the current status quo but return the Fillmore district to its former glory!”

We are the residents of the Plaza East Apartments and we will no longer stand for the disrespect and neglect by county and city officials. We have the right to adequate housing without fear of retaliation for simple requests that we are entitled to as tenants. 

We demand that we are compensated for our suffering at the hands of the greedy politicians and corporations that have dropped the ball when it comes to their citizenry. We demand transparency, justice and widespread accountability. 

We demand that the Mayor London Breed stop standing idly by while our Black voices go ignored. We demand that the Mayor stop doing “business” with out-of-state billionaire slumlord developers, whom she has allowed to break the law without consequence.

We are tired of the mayor and unscrupulous housing developers squandering the yearly allotted federal government funding meant to properly house Black Americans in San Francisco. 

The Black American community in District 5 and other districts in the city of San Francisco are collectively frustrated and angry. None of the city’s elected officials are willing to step up to help the Black American community. 

Even after decades of gentrification razed and destroyed business growth in our Black American community, white and non-Black businesses are thriving, with help from San Francisco City Hall. It is tragic that while Black Americans have and continue to live in the Fillmore, we are not able to practice group economics due to there being no Black-owned businesses and an oppressive, racist city government in place. 

I am currently organizing a peaceful protest with other Plaza East residents. In addition, the media will be alerted, as well as community organizations. I will personally draft a letter to President Biden asking for his assistance and to bring awareness to the atrocities that are rampant in our city. We not only hope to incite change in the current status quo but return the Fillmore district to its former glory. 

Dennis Williams Jr. founded No Racism No Hate San Francisco, a grassroots organization, in 2015 to protect the rights of the underserved communities throughout San Francisco. A charity branch sends resources abroad annually to some of the poorest people in Africa, Philippines and Latin America. Mr. Williams is a businessman, activist, philanthropist and a loving father who was born and raised in the city’s Fillmore district. Currently he acts as a liaison between San Francisco’s City Hall and residents whose voices would otherwise go unheard. Email him at biggdenn27@gmail.com.