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.
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 caseSan Francisco News