of the ruins of the International Hotel at 848 Kearny Street at Jackson
belies the tumult that occurred here. Between midnight and 3 a.m. on August
14, 1977, the mostly elderly Filipino and Chinese, low income residents
of the hotel were brutally evicted from their units in the building along
a four-block enclave then known as Manilatown. About 400 deputies and police
officers broke through 2,000 protesters to seize the property and evict
the residents. The incident, which was broadcast live on television, marked
the end of a nine-year struggle for the property. The evictions were denounced
as a night of racism and injustice by housing activists and the Asian community.
At one time, a room here cost only $45 a month. When owners of the I-Hotel
attempted to develop the property, its tenants objected and engaged the
City and property owners in an imbroglio over gentrification and treatment
of the poor through three mayoral administrations. Eviction notices were
first given to 200 residents in 1968. In 1977, San Francisco Sheriff Richard
Hongisto served five days in jail for contempt of court after he refused
to evict residents of the hotel. The tenants were dragged off anyway. Torn
down in 1979 and vacant since the evictions, the International Hotel site
is slated to provide 105 units of housing for the elderly and a parking
garage by 2004. In 1983, director Curtis Choy produced an award winning
documentary on the incident titled, "The
Fall of the I-Hotel." The documentary was revised in 1993 to include
details on the impact of the evictions on the lives of evicted tenants.
Affordable housing advocates continue to struggle in San Francisco, which ranks consistently among the nation's top few most expensive places to live.
Copyright 2001 Hank Donat