• Advocacy On Homelessness (6)

    THC’s homeless advocacy in the 1980’s focused on trying to get the Feinstein Administration to stop using SRO hotels for 1-3 night stays rather than permanent housing. The city’s “Hotline Hotel” program spent millions each year removing the only housing many of the unhoused could afford. Frustrated at the city’s failed policies, THC joined other advocacy groups in forming the Coalition on Homelessness in 1986. The Coalition laid out a plan for permanent housing for the unhoused that began the centerpiece of the incoming Agnos Administration in 1988.

    THC’s advocacy on homelessness has always focused on expanding permanent housing. Whether by new construction of affordable housing, leasing SRO hotels, supporting inclusionary housing, or pushing for more federal rent subsidies, we have always seen homelessness as primarily a housing issue.

  • Battle with Slumlord Kaussen (12)

    In 1984, THC heard from Cambodian immigrant tenants at 270 Turk Street about problems with their living conditions. Upon investigation, THC learned the tenants’ rents were being raised illegally as well. We soon discovered that their landlord, German multimillionaire Guenter Kaussen, was the largest apartment owner in West Germany and among the largest apartment owners in the world. This led THC on a long campaign to protect Kaussen tenants. Local television news ran stories on the Kaussen campaign for weeks and the story appeared on the national television news show, Sixty Minutes. The campaign ended in 1985 following Kaussen’s death and the collapse of his financial empire. The stories in this category provide the details.
  • Code Enforcement & Building Safety (34)

    Since its founding in 1980, THC’s core mission has been improving living conditions for tenants.  In December 1982 we worked with Warren Hinckle of the SF Chronicle to expose the heatless hotel crisis in SRO hotels. The story brought local and national media attention to the fact that thousands of SRO tenants across the city were living without heat. The scandal led to the passage of tough new heat and hot water laws. The heatless hotel crisis was part of a larger problem: San Francisco’s Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) was systematically failing to enforce the housing code. Landlords could flagrantly violate the health and safety of tenants without paying a penalty. This caused THC to lead a citywide campaign to expose the lack of code enforcement. The campaign soon confirmed that protecting tenants was not a BBI priority and never would be. The many archived articles from 1993 became the backdrop for THC sponsoring a ballot measure with the Residential Builders Association (RBA), Prop G, replacing BBI with a new department and commission. The two daily newspapers went all out to defeat Prop G in November 1994, identifying THC as a “special interest group.” Our special interest was code enforcement. Voters approved Prop G and the commission soon adopted the nation’s toughest code enforcement procedures by 1995. San Francisco is now a national leader on housing code enforcement.
  • Eviction Defense (31)

    Tenderloin Housing Clinic has provided eviction defense services since our founding in 1980. For over a decade, we provided the in-pro per eviction assistance citywide that is now performed by the Eviction Defense Collaborative. THC has been the leading provider of Ellis Act eviction defense in San Francisco.
  • Frye v Tenderloin Housing Clinic (6)

    THC Goes to CA Supreme Court: Frye v. THC THC attorney Steve Collier won a great jury verdict for tenants of the President Hotel, 935 Geary Street. After the verdict attorneys who routinely battled THC in Ellis eviction cases told the plaintiffs in the case that THC had wrongfully charged them fees. The attorneys convinced plaintiff Roy Frye to sue THC on the grounds that its contingency fee agreement with him was void on the grounds that THC had not registered with the State Bar. The Court of Appeal, which had many judges hostile to THC’s pro-tenant agenda, saw the case as a great way to put THC’s law office out of business. Its published decision held that THC could not do contingency fee agreements because it did not register. THC did not register because it would have required our organization to have an all-attorney Board. The Court did not consider then that the overwhelming majority of nonprofit law organizations lacked all attorney boards and had not registered; the court’s decision against THC would equally impact virtually every nonprofit law office in CA. The articles below explain the path leading to the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in favor of THC. Nonprofits can use contingency fee agreements and they do not need to register with the State Bar of have all-attorney Boards.

  • Galvin Apartments (7)

    In 2003, THC worked out a plan with the Residential Builders Association and developer Joe Cassidy to revise an approved project for 172 live-work condos at Fourth and Freelon in San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood. The project had no affordable units. The new plan gave Cassidy a thirty-five-foot height increase in exchange for building 15% of the square footage (the city’s inclusionary housing rate at the time) of the market rate project as affordable housing off-site. This resulted in Cassidy building a 56-unit apartment building at 785 Brannan and giving it to THC free and clear. THC named the building after longtime ally and fellow activist, Sister Bernie Galvin.
  • Homelessness Programs: Modified Payment Program (27)

    Homelessness became a crisis in San Francisco around 1982. The city responded by using SRO hotels—the last affordable homes for low-income residents—for 1-3 night stays for the unhoused. As a result, these “hotline hotels” eliminated the last housing in the city that single adults on welfare could afford. THC fought for years to stop the hotline program and urged then-Mayor Art Agnos and his team to replace the hotline program with a Modified Payment Program (MPP). The MPP enabled welfare recipients to get housing at much lower rents by having rent paid through a third party. The city told THC that it should be the third party, even though at the time THC was strictly a law office. We agreed to take on the challenge. By early 1990 the hotline program had been almost entirely replaced by THC’s MPP, which provided long-term permanent housing at below market rents.
  • Improving Living Conditions In SRO’s (29)

    From its first day open in February 1980 THC has always prioritized improving living conditions for SRO tenants. THC has spearheaded virtually every improvement in city code enforcement over the past forty plus years.

  • Master Lease Housing (11)

    When San Francisco’s economy began improving in 1995, rents in Modified Payment Program hotels rose beyond the welfare grant. Tenants were priced out of the market and the situation worsened with the start of the dot com boom in 1997. THC thought the city should lease hotels and we brokered the first two city master leases. But the challenge was that no nonprofit housing groups wanted to enter the leasing business, so if THC wanted to keep welfare and SSI recipients housed, we had to become the landlord. THC ultimately became the city’s leading provider of housing for single adults.
  • National Housing Advocacy (34)

    In 1999, THC founded Housing America, a project designed to increase federal funding for affordable housing. Housing America teamed up with the Boston-based Doc4Kids to release a national study “There’s No Place Like Home–How America’s Housing Crisis Threatens Our Kids.” The study focused on the health, education, and economic impacts of the housing affordability crisis and received nationwide publicity. Housing America followed this by joining with National People’s Action and Center for Community Change in a campaign to create a National Housing Trust Fund. THC Director Randy Shaw co-authored a study showing how FHA surpluses could fund the Trust Fund, which passed years later. Housing America also partnered with Religious Witness with Homeless People in a National Religious Call to Action on Housing. Religious Witness leader Sister Bernie Galvin organized the largest group of religious leaders ever to weigh in on a housing issue; the Clinton Administration credited our efforts as helping secure 50,000 additional Section 8 vouchers from Congress. In 2000, Housing America also partnered with Religious Witness With Homeless People on a sign-on letter from over 400 religious leaders in support of allocating $5 billion in FHA surpluses to affordable housing. In order to boost national organizing efforts, THC created Justicecorps, a project that recruited college students into full-time organizing jobs. Many of those we selected went on to long-time organizing careers.
  • Preserving Affordable Housing (34)

    THC has led efforts to protect San Francisco SRO Hotels and tenants since our founding in 1980. We spent years trying to strengthen the city’s 1981 Hotel Conversion Ordinance and finally succeeded in 1990. We soon obtained injunctions against over 25 law-breaking hotels.
  • Prop G (4)

    After over a decade of unsuccessfully trying to get the city’s Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) to vigorously enforce city housing codes, THC concluded that the agency had to be replaced. The Residential Builders Association (RBA) had its own grievances with BBI so we teamed up for a charter amendment creating a new Department of Building Inspection headed by a Commission. Voters approved Prop G in November 1994. Within a year the city’s code enforcement process went from among the worst to the nation’s best. It has remained so to this day.

  • Public Policy (18)

    THC was very involved in the vast majority of tenant protection laws passed from 1982 for the next three decades. THC led and primarily funded the historic Prop H campaign in 1992, which cut annual rent increases by more than half. It has resulted in the biggest transfer of wealth from landlords to tenants of any ballot measure in the nation’s history. THC also worked to prevent the cost of city bonds from being unfairly “passed through” to tenants, even successfully suing the city to stop this. We fought for laws requiring mailboxes and sprinklers in SRO hotels and for laws strengthening eviction protections. We also got a law passed requiring tenants get notification of building permit applications in order to stop evictions due to unnecessary renovations.
  • Randy Shaw’s Books (6)

    Longtime THC Executive Director Randy Shaw has published six books on activism and winning social change. His first book, The Activist’s Handbook (University of California Press1996), chronicles some of his work at THC and in SF politics. He subsequently published a rewritten and updated version (UC Press 2013). In 1999 UC Press published Shaw’s Reclaiming America: Nike, Clean Air and the New National Activism. The book called for activists to engage more fully in the national politics that increasingly shape local struggles. In 2008, UC Press published Shaw’s Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Social Change in the 21st Century. The book shows how strategies and tactics of the farmworker movement still impact current social change struggles. Many alums of the farmworker movement went on to lead national campaigns around immigrant rights, to elect Nancy Pelosi to Congress, and to create a model for Latino voter outreach. In 2015 Shaw published The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco. It is the first book to uncover the Tenderloin’s lost history from 1907 to 2015. Shaw’s research for his founding of the Tenderloin Museum led him to write the book. Shaw’s most recent book, Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America (UC Press 2018, paperback with new preface 2020), highlights the misguided housing policies of San Francisco and a dozen other progressive cities. Shaw lays out strategies to increase affordability in an increasingly expensive urban America.
  • Revitalizing the Tenderloin (41)

    THC has always viewed its mission as being inclusive not only of conditions tenants face inside their homes, but also of conditions tenants face outside their homes. As such, THC has been involved in efforts to get residents of the Tenderloin neighborhood the same level of public safety as those living in other neighborhoods. The articles in this category describe some of the strategies THC used to achieve this goal, which remains ongoing. THC has also worked to preserve the neighborhood’s rich history. THC was a major funder of the Tenderloin Museum and was the applicant for the creation of the national Uptown Tenderloin Historic District. THC also helped get historic plaques placed on over 100 buildings in the neighborhood, along with “Lost Landmark” plaques for Compton’s Cafeteria and other historic places.
  • Sixth Street (17)

    THC’s Modified Payment Program heavily expanded into Sixth Street SRO hotels at the end of 1989. This led us to work with SRO tenants to improve the area. We helped form the Sixth Street Tenants Alliance and got funding to build the first artist live-work units on Sixth Street.
  • THC’s Early Years (11)

    THC was founded by Hastings Law School students, including now-Executive Director Randy Shaw. We opened on February 1, 1980, in a 70 sq. ft. office at GLIDE. We were an all-volunteer operation. Our rent and office expenses were covered by small foundation grants and allocations from Hastings’ student groups. By 1982 we essentially ran out of money to pay rent and were offered a free space previously used as a storage room at the North of Market Planning Coalition at 295 Eddy Street. Randy Shaw secured a Berkeley Law Foundation grant that enabled him to start as THC’s first fulltime employee in September 1982. A combination of CDBG grants and lawsuit revenue kept THC solvent for many years.