Justice for Trinity Plaza Tenants: Is Victory Near?

by Ken Werner, Trinity Plaza Tenants Association (TPTA) on December 20, 2004

In Angelo Sangiacomo’s 10 December letter to Supervisor Chris Daly, the Father of Rent Control stated “it is my hope that you will accept this offer in the spirit in which it is intended … a good faith effort to resolve our differences and commence the discussions necessary to make Trinity Plaza a political reality and ultimately a win for the entire City.”

Even before I saw Sangiacomo’s letter, Randy Shaw had emailed me on 9 December and asked me to call him at home if I got his message before 10 pm. I immediately jumped offline and called Randy, and we had a lengthy discussion about Sangiacomo’s latest “offer.”

At times Randy sounded ecstatic; at one point my brain gasped and I dared utter my thought: we have stopped gentrification on at least 4 acres in Civic Center.

I had another conversation with Randy the following day where we continued our discussion about the proposed tenets of Sangiacomo’s “offer”: a binding development contract with The City that would include lifetime leases for current Trinity Plaza tenants, 496 units of “subsidized” housing for Civic Center, 34% inclusionary, on-site, below-market rate housing using 60% AMI.

The Trinity Plaza Tenants Association held an emergency meeting on 10 December with Chris and Randy as well as others mobilized to save affordable, rent-controlled housing. We followed up with a Coalition meeting on 15 December.

And our tightknit community has communicated either face to face or through email.

Reality has returned.

The keywords in Sangiacomo’s letter are “good faith.”

Is Sangiacomo acting in “good faith” by turning off the heat at Trinity Plaza?!

As of the beginning of November, a number of TPTA members have either met with or called the Human Rights Commission (HRC) because we don’t have heat. Several of us have had an inspector from the Department of Building Inspection in our homes to document the lack of heat. I’m the last to schedule a meeting with Emil De Guzman at the HRC because I’ve just been too busy. But then, I’m more fortunate because I get the morning sun which provides a modicum of natural heat.

It appears that in order to accomplish the destruction of Trinity Plaza, Sangiacomo is using a form of torture * the lack of heat (and occasionally hot water!) * to break the will of the tenants. And he’s been able to get away with his acts akin to domestic terrorism because the right-wing, Republican-donating Hearsts, owners of the San Francisco Chronicle, will only permit trash that passes as journalism from the likes of Ken Garcia, Phil Bronstein, and Suzanne Herel. They will not print the truth.

Trinity Plaza contains one of the largest Filipino communities in San Francisco, and those of us who aren’t Filipino have learned from our friends and neighbors what a righteous, fighting spirit truly is. Do you think Sangiacomo is going to break our will by turning off our heat?


Will there be repercussions to these violations of our human rights?


Those of us who are lucky enough to get access to portable heaters have been heating our homes at our own cost.

Lucky enough?

From 12 August through 13 September I used a total of 8 Kwh above baseline * it was warm and I ran 3 fans to keep cool.

But when the weather turned colder since the middle of October, I’ve consumed 322.8 Kwh above baseline usage because Sangiacomo has turned off our heat!

Do you think I’m going to let Sangiacomo get away with this?


I will continue my tally until he turns on the heat, then I’m going to do a lump sum deduction from my rent.


I congratulate Randy for breaking this noteworthy story and presenting the face value of its terms. And the face value of this “offer” indeed appears to be staggering and history-making not only for San Francisco but for any community facing gentrification.

But we’re talking about Angelo Sangiacomo, the Father of Rent Control. Sangiacomo hasn’t earned his reputation for being kind to San Francisco tenants. In my opinion, he’s about as trustworthy as a rattlesnake.

Now I know many of you reading this article are probably getting angry because I appear to be negative to the concept of the face value of Sangiacomo’s offer. I know Randy is peeved by now because he believes Jack Davis will force Sangiacomo to honor his word.

Well ask yourself this question: What is the value of a lifetime lease to someone who is 80 to 90 years old?

And what is the value of “good faith” discussions from someone who uses acts akin to domestic terrorism in attempting to break your will by turning off your heat?!

And what is the value of an apartment at 60% AMI when it translates to about $758 a month?

No, don’t argue with me that $758 a month is below market rate. If you’re working a minimum-wage job, can you afford $758 for rent?

My rent is $618 a month thanks to rent control and I’ve called Trinity Plaza home for 10+ years; even though I make $19/hr as a legal assistant, I only work part-time because, at 56, I’m disabled with advanced arthritis and fibromyalgia. 43% of what I earned last year subsidized Sangiacomo’s estimated half-a-billion dollars net worth.


We asked Chris Daly to respond to Sangiacomo’s 10 December letter.

Following considerable discussions and exchanges of emails, we decided we wanted Chris to respond with an aloof ‘we will listen to what Sangiacomo has to say, but we want to see complete details of his offer, IN WRITING.’

My gut feeling is before we will conduct a face-to-face meeting with the Father of Rent Control, FIRST HE WILL TURN ON OUR HEAT!

And my further feeling is — at the date of publication of this article, we will have been without heat for 50 DAYS — when Sangiacomo sets a date for a discussion of his “offer,” he’s going to wait a minimum of 50 days before we will sit in the same room with him.

He will NEVER break our will to fight!

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article are those of Ken Werner and do not necessarily represent the views of the Trinity Plaza Tenants Association (TPTA) or any other member of the Coalition to Save Rent Control.

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