6 SF Poet Laureates Condemn Diego De Leo Eviction

by on August 4, 2016

Diego De Leo at July 28 rally

In an unprecedented show of support, six San Francisco Poet Laureates have authored a letter condemning the Ellis eviction of North Beach poet Diego De Leo. De Leo’s case is set for trial on August 22.

The poets signing the letter include the legendary Lawrence Ferlinghetti, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 1998-2000, an acclaimed North Beach poet, painter and founder of City Lights Books. Also signing was Janice Mirikitani, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 2001-2003, who combined her poetry with creating groundbreaking social service programs at the Tenderloin’s Glide Church.

Other signers on the letter are devorah major, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 2003-2005, Jack Hirschman, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 2006-2009, Diane di Prima, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 2010-2012, and Alejandro Murguia, current Poet Laureate of San Francisco 2013-present.

Here is the poet’s powerful letter on De Leo’s behalf:

We, present and former poet laureates of San Francisco, fully support

the effort of North Beach poet Diego De Leo, his neighbors and community

advocates in fighting an attempt by his landlord to remove him from his

home of more than 30 years by eviction via the Ellis Act.

Diego lives on Chestnut Street, his home for more than 3 decades. He is

81 years old and a poet. He came to the US in 1956 at the age of 17 and

describes his relationship with San Francisco as “Love at first sight”.

He married his late wife, Josephine, at Saints Peter and Paul Church and

helped build the community of North Beach, whose values of sharing,

preserving history and respecting elders are falling to the forces of

unbridled greed plaguing the city.

Diego’s landlord, Martin Coyne–owner of neighborhood bar, LaRocca’s

corner– is using the Ellis Act to evict Diego. This is Coyne’s second

attempt to evict Diego–his first attempt was described as “fatally

defective” by lawyers representing Diego. Coyne has enlisted notorious

Ellis eviction firm, Zacks, Freedman & Patterson in the upcoming trial

set for late August.

Of course, this is about greed. Speculators and landlords abuse the

Ellis Act to evict tenants with the intention of “flipping”

buildings–selling quickly at a profit. Seniors are preyed upon, some

end up homeless; others, such as North Beach tenant Elaine Turner, die

under the stress.

We condemn the eviction of Diego, a senior and treasure of the community

of North Beach. He is a poet whose verses are a portent to what San

Francisco is becoming–a city devoid of memory and a spirit that is

eroding. We, as poets, have a responsibility to speak the truth and to

denounce the unbridled greed and impunity with which landlords and

speculators are allowed to operate in our city.

We demand that Martin Coyne drop the Ellis Act eviction against Diego.

We demand that he not induce more stress upon an 81 year old man

whose health is dependent on a stable home. Let Diego continue to

enrich his community with poems and the warmth of his spirit.

Signed,

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 1998-2000

Janice Mirikitani, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 2001-2003

devorah major, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 2003-2005

Jack Hirschman, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 2006-2009

Diane di Prima, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus 2010-2012

Alejandro Murguia, current Poet Laureate of San Francisco 2013-Present

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron and Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, whose attorney Steven Collier is representing Diego De Leo in his case

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Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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