Tonight, the San Francisco Tenants Union is presenting a Tenant Rights Bootcamp, the first in a series of 10 citywide workshops meant “to empower renters to stand up to speculators and prevent displacement,” according to organizers. Tonight's bootcamp is scheduled to start at 7pm at Club Waziema (543 Divisadero), and upcoming workshops will be held in the Upper Haight, Inner Sunset, Cole Valley, Lower Haight and more.
“This [bootcamp] is the first of its kind,” said organizer Dean Preston, an attorney who’s also a co-founder and Executive Director of Tenants Together. An attorney and activist, Preston has advised renters of their legal rights for years, but “in terms of going more intensively into neighborhoods and taking a hyperlocal approach to educating tenants, this is a first.”
Preston said he got the idea of staging a series of neighborhood workshops after conducting a forum for preschool teachers who are facing the threat of eviction. “It was extremely productive and very well-received,” he said, adding that the information that was exchanged helped teachers stabilize their housing situation. “People really didn’t know what their rights were.” Preston reached out to SFTU to put together a plan and schedule to “train” more renters.
“We’re making sure that tenants leave with tangible information that will help them protect their rights, and others can get referrals,” said Preston. “We want to get them to the right place. Unfortunately, a lot of times when people reach out for help, it’s too late," so giving them critical information that can help them keep their homes "is really the key to success in this project,” he said.
In the first half of each bootcamp, Preston said he’ll walk tenants through their rights before opening up the floor to questions. During the second half, representatives from SFTU, Tenants Together and other organizations will be on hand to answer questions and offer referrals.
“The biggest cause of displacement is 'gotcha' evictions,” said Preston. “Landlords either make up allegations of misconduct by tenants or are evicting tenants over very minor issues.” He described several renters in Chinatown who were facing eviction for hanging their laundry outside to dry. “Had those tenants not been in touch with tenants groups and pushed back,” they would have been displaced, Preston said. “Some tenants don’t know their rights and simply move out in those situations.”
The schedule of future bootcamps is as follows (7pm unless otherwise noted):
- May 13th: Upper Haight (Coffee To the People)
- May 20th: Inner Sunset (Martha & Bros.)
- May 27th: Cole Valley (Reverie Cafe)
- June 10th: Lower Haight (Bean There Cafe)
- June 18th: Japantown (Japantown Cultural and Community Center)
- June 24th: NoPa (St. Cyprian's Church)
- July 8th: Fillmore (West Bay Conference Center)
- July 15th, 6:30pm: Western Addition (Western Addition Library)
- July 22nd, Hayes Valley (Mercury Cafe)