Ted Gullicksen, champion of renters’ rights in SF, dies

Evan DuCharme/S.F. Examiner File PhotoTed Gullicksen

Ted Gullicksen, whose labor of love was renters' rights as the executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, passed away at his Bayview apartment Tuesday, his colleagues and friends said. He was 61.

Those close to Gullicksen said they were shocked by his sudden death. The longtime San Francisco renter would bike to many eviction protests and pro-renter legislation rallies, and though he not always spoke at the events, he was often the mastermind.

The Massachusetts native moved to The City in the early 1980s, shortly after renters were galvanized in the fight for rent control in 1979.

“That was exactly the politics of The City that drew him here,” said Sara Shortt, 44, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee. “If it weren't for Ted and the tenants union, I don't think we would have such a continuing and relentless movement that has been fighting for renters from that time up until now.”

Gullicksen engineered so many tenants' rights issues that no single one stood out as his greatest accomplishment, Shortt said. Most recently, he helped get an anti-speculation tax that arose from a citywide tenants convention, on the November ballot as Proposition G.

“Overwhelmingly, we heard that tenants felt like speculation was tearing The City apart. He got right to work and help draft that legislation and make it a reality,” said Rebecca Gourevitch, 28, who worked under Gullicksen at the union for several years until July.

Mayor Ed Lee called Gullicksen's passing “a loss for our city” and acknowledged he played an instrumental role in the Housing Trust Fund, which has helped The City build more below-market-rate housing amid rising real estate prices.

“I am grateful for Ted's help and leadership in pushing for reforms to the Ellis Act at the State level and his lifelong commitment to our residents,” Lee said in a statement.

Gullicksen was remembered as a beacon of calm during often contentious tenants' rights battles.

“Perhaps the irony was he was a very humble, down-to-earth person who in the end was just a great buddy who you could banter with and watch the [Giants] game with and just hang out with,” Shortt said.

That mellow and laid back demeanor played an important role in the midst of a housing movement dealing with crisis, she said.

“He was never rattled,” Shortt said.

He is survived by his sister Sandra Gullicksen Roby, a step daughter, nieces and nephews and his former partner Sheila Sexton, and Falcor, a part-Maltese mutt that he took under his roof after it wandered into his backyard.

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