Voters Turn In 20,000 Signatures for Rent Control Initiative

by Jeremy Elprin on July 7, 2004

Seniors, disabled and low-income tenants scored a much-needed victory yesterday, as one major project in the campaign to preserve rent-controlled housing came to a head at the steps of City Hall.

Hauling boxes with stacks of signed petitions, tenant organizers brought to a close a two-month grassroots campaign to place the Housing Preservation Initiative on the November ballot.

The measure, sponsored by Supervisor Chris Daly, former Supervisor Sue Bierman and Trinity Plaza tenant Lolita Kintanar, is designed to stabilize existing housing for seniors and working families by protecting rent-controlled buildings with 20 or more units from demolition.

At 10:34 a.m. yesterday, San Francisco Tenants Union representative Ted Gullicksen announced a final count of 19,108 signatures, nearly twice as many as the 10,000-name minimum needed to place the measure on the ballot. But only 30 minutes later, at least another 50 to 100 last-minute signatures reached the Department of Elections office, pushing the tally beyond the seemingly unattainable 20,000 mark.

After tenant advocates carried the boxes to the Elections Department in the basement of City Hall, Daly personally handed over the final pages of signatures.

“All right, they’re in,” Daly announced to a crowd on the brink of well-deserved self-congratulation.

“This is overwhelming,” Daly said. “When the Housing Preservation Initiative passes in November, not only will Trinity Plaza be saved . like buildings across the city will also be saved for years to come.”

The campaign to place the anti-demolition ordinance on the ballot, led by the Coalition to Save Rent Control, collected signatures for two months by mobilizing supporters on street-corners and at local fairs around the city. Amazingly, with intensified efforts and tireless devotion to their cause, organizers collected an additional 10,000 names in the final weeks of the drive, even though the petition had already met the minimum signature requirement.

“I want to thank all of you who put the ‘grass’ back in ‘grassroots,’ Supervisor Tom Ammiano said. “I applaud you for all your hard work in getting these signatures.”

Gullicksen echoed Ammiano’s words. “This is real grassroots politics,” Gullicksen said. “This is what democracy and elections are all about. . This is the way to do it.”

Although the campaign achieved its first major goal of placing the initiative on the fall ballot, the fight to strengthen rent control and protect disadvantaged and long-term tenants is hardly over.

Gullicksen stressed the importance of continuing efforts to promote the ballot measure and to fight already planned demolitions of buildings, such as the Trinity Plaza Apartment complex downtown.

“We can’t afford the loss of any rent-controlled unit in San Francisco,” Gullicksen said. “This initiative means that the people of San Francisco want the demolitions to stop.”

Filed under: Archive