Prominent SF black leader supports Mission housing moratorium

One prominent black leader in San Francisco expressed support Monday for the proposed moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission, saying the displacement of Latinos is similar to what blacks experienced years ago.

“I would support it,” the Rev. Amos Brown, president of the local NAACP branch, said of the Mission moratorium Monday during an interview at City Hall with The San Francisco Examiner.

“I think if we don’t stop it, it’s going to run away and all of the regular folks will be dumped out of this town,” said Brown, who served on the Board of Supervisors between 1996 and 2001 and has been the pastor of the Third Baptist Church in the Fillmore since 1976. “It should stop and the stakeholders should be brought to the table.”

In the 1970s, blacks comprised 13.4 percent of San Francisco’s population. Today, less than 6 percent of residents are black, in part due to the Fillmore’s urban renewal — what Brown calls the “black removal” — of the Redevelopment Agency in the 1950s and 1960s.

“What has already happened to us — they have virtually destroyed us — can happen in the Mission,” Brown said. “If they don’t show a concern for us and we collectively stop this madness it’s going to destroy more of the Latino community.”

He was at City Hall on Monday to speak with Mayor Ed Lee’s chief of staff, Steve Kawa, about, he said, “the overall quality of life of black people in this town. Nothing has been done out of a sense of urgency.” Last week, Supervisor David Campos introduced an emergency moratorium on market-rate housing construction in the Mission, which he represents. On Friday afternoon, some 400 protesters stormed City Hall backing the moratorium.

Critics say The City needs to keep building or the housing crisis will only be exacerbated. Some, like Supervisor Mark Farrell have called Campos’ proposal crazy. But Campos contends what’s crazy “is to continue to do the status quo when we know it’s not working.”

If the moratorium doesn’t pass, just 7 percent of the housing units in the pipeline would be below market rate for that neighborhood where rising rents, evictions and cost of living has taken its toll. Some 8,000 Latinos have left the Mission since 2000, reducing the Latino population from 52 to 40 percent.

Efforts to revive the black community, once called the Harlem of the West, in the Fillmore since the 1960s has not met with much success, such as rebranding it as a jazz district. Anchor tenants of the effort such as Yoshi’s and Rassela’s Jazz Club have shut down in recent years.

Brown was also at City Hall on Monday to ask the mayor to help ensure the 28,000-square-foot space vacated by Yoshi’s remains a part of the black community.

“There are some other folks trying to get in there that don’t look like us,” Brown said.

“We are saying if this city is concerned about keeping a diverse, inclusive city it owes some form of ‘reparation.’”

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