September 17 Occupy Wall Street Anniversary

Date of press release: 



SF Actions, Rally Call for Ending Homelessness, Funding Affordable Housing With Tax on Wall Street

On September 17, to mark the four-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a coalition of Bay Area organizations will hold actions and a rally in San Francisco to draw attention to the affordable housing crisis—coinciding with a day of action in New York City, where activists will march from Zuccoti Park to City Hall.
“It’s unconscionable to see maximum corporate profit and maximum human suffering go hand in hand, as marginalized Bay Area residents are priced out of neighborhoods with healthy housing, healthy food, and healthy urban environments,” said Zenei Cortez, RN, Vice President of National Nurses United. “When neighborhoods change rapidly, existing residents are pushed to the margins, people are displaced—and this all impacts public health and the health of the community at-large. We are calling for change.”

Wed. Sept. 17 Schedule:

7 a.m. (PST)—Wake up call for Ron Conway—765 Market Street, San Francisco
11:30—Rally and Press Conference—Steps of San Francisco’s City Hall
Noon—Occupy the Planning Commission—City Hall Room 400

5:45—(EST) March from Zucotti Park to City Hall
7 p.m.—Massive “die in” to protest lack of affordable housing
8 p.m.—Set up to Occupy City Hall

The organizations behind the day of action are looking at a major cause of this housing crunch—the financial crisis of 2008, created by Wall Street—to propose a solution: taxing Wall Street. Specifically, H.R. 1464 and S. 1371, commonly known as the “Robin Hood Tax” bills—introduced in the House and Senate by Rep. Keith Ellison and Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders—propose a tiny tax on Wall Street trades (about a nickel for every $10 exchanged) that could raise $300 billion a year toward community needs, such as affordable housing.

“The housing bubble and financial crisis of 2008 exacerbated this problem,” said Gordon Mar, Executive Director of San Francisco Jobs With Justice. “The Robin Hood Tax will slow financial speculation and fund safe affordable housing for our vulnerable populations and working families.”

According to the California Association of Realtors’ Housing Affordability Index (HAI), the median house price in San Francisco jumped 103% from the first quarter of 2012, to $1.35 million in July, 2015—leaving only 10 percent of city residents able to afford even a median-priced house. This has dire consequences for the overall wellbeing of San Franciscans.

"This housing crisis is hitting poor San Franciscans like a punch in the gut, while other San Franciscans are experiencing unprecedented wealth,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness. “San Franciscans are being displaced, losing their housing, becoming homeless, while the city is left sweeping encampments, ticketing, jailing and harassing its impoverished residents.  It is time to make sure that San Francisco has the resources it needs to get serious about addressing this housing crisis."

This spike in prices and its accompanying increase in evictions, displacement, homelessness and health issues—driven by the influx of tech industry—has fueled housing activists’ protests against tech-affiliated parties who are influencing current conditions. On that note, the day of action begins with a 7 a.m. “Wake up Call” for Ron Conway, tech investor and backer of Mayor Ed Lee. Conway has come under fire from affordable housing organizations for his use of financial clout to influence San Francisco politics, including his successful efforts to quash potential regulations against short-term housing rental facilitation service Airbnb (a company in which he invests).

A recent report by the City and County Board of San Francisco’s Budget and Legislative Analysis Office shows that Airbnb keeps potential long-term housing off the market, as landlords cash in on short-term rentals. It also reveals that the areas of the city with the most Airbnb rentals coincide with the areas of the city with the highest number of evictions—suggesting that Airbnb short-term rentals provide landlords with a financial incentive to remove existing tenants.

"Our city is being sold to the highest bidder: Ron Conway, developers, speculators. Residents of San Francisco shouldn't have to pay to play to be heard in City Hall,” said Ebony Isler, of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). To that end, during the 7 a.m. event, a special report by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 1021, United Service Workers West (USWW), Jobs With Justice and the San Francisco Tenants’ Union will be released highlighting the deep level of pay-to-play culture in SF politics—specifically exposing fundraising for San Francisco elected officials and donations to elected officials’ special projects, in exchange for favors to tech companies and developers.

At an 11:30 a.m. rally, speakers from organizations supporting the day of action—including California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, Jobs with Justice, South of Market Community Action Network, ACCE, and the Coalition on Homelessness—will speak out about how to close the income and housing inequality gap—specifically with the Robin Hood Tax and other pending legislative solutions. Following the rally, attendees will enter City Hall at noon to “occupy the housing commission.”
“Because of this pay-to-play culture, residents of San Francisco don't have a fair opportunity to unite and work alongside our supervisors and mayor,” said Isler. “The gross disparity in access to necessary resources has got to end.”