Militant Journalism

Interview: San Diego Tenants Union leads local housing struggle

On the sixth floor of the Mid-City Community Clinic in City Heights, organizers, activists and community members gathered for a panel held by the San Diego Tenants Union. The panel took place Nov. 7 in light of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 1482. The bill imposes a rent increase cap of 5 percent (after inflation) starting in January 2020.

Throughout the event, organizers of the panel urged for people in San Diego to fight for more. Panelists shared stories of evictions, rent hikes, intimidation by landlords, and a lack of affordable housing. The panel included members of the San Diego Tenants Union along with Tenants Together, Service Employees International Union 221, Local Initiatives Support Corporation San Diego, and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Panelists spoke both English and Spanish for a diverse and large audience.

Liberation News sat down with SEIU 221 member and SDTU organizer Avery Wear to illuminate the struggle for affordable housing in San Diego.

Liberation News: How did you get involved with SDTU?

Avery Wear: Before the tenants union, in 2015, there was a campaign for a socialist for City Council in San Diego. In the course of that campaign, we led a movement to defend a woman whose landlord refused to clean up roaches. We brought a big crowd, and I was involved with that because I was involved with the City Council campaign. That was my first connection to it.

LN: What pushed you to join SDTU?

AW: I long believed that working-class struggle has to be a workplace struggle. That’s where our greatest power is. But it doesn’t have to start there and it usually doesn’t. And even if it is centered in the workplace, which is ideal, it must involve a broader coalition. So I’m very sensitive to manifestations of working-class organizing around housing or the range of other issues because I believe that it’s often easier to start there.

LN: Do you believe that Gavin Newsom’s recent signing of AB 1482 is a sufficient answer to the housing crisis in California?

AW: No. As far as what I know of it, it will accomplish very little because the biggest problem is that there is no control of vacancies. So as soon as an apartment becomes vacant, which happens all the time, then the rent can be jacked up. Also, there are very poor limits on who’s affected. I think it’s something like, if there are 15 units or less, they’re exempt. If you look around City Heights, the apartment buildings around here … a lot of them are not covered.

LN: Speaking locally, where do you see the biggest need for a tenants union?

AW: I have my greatest familiarity with the issue in City Heights because I canvassed there. I’m aware because of my work and general knowledge that this is an epidemic problem.

LN: Why are you working with the union?

AW: I think we need the working people to take over the world, and its urgent. The world is in big trouble, and serious class struggle has to begin. The San Diego Tenants Union is the most militant I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen no limits on what it is willing to countenance ideologically and in terms of action. I think that’s why it’s dynamic, and really nothing gives me as much hope in San Diego as the Tenants Union.


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