Campfire: Benito Santiago

Benito Santiago: Lifelong San Franciscan, disabled elder, musician & public school teacher; Duboce Triangle resident.

Benito Santiago is a community elder being Ellis Acted out of his long term SF home. Tony Robles wrote about Benito for the San Francisco Bay Guardian:

“Benito is a teacher with the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a senior with a disability… a musician — a percussionist — and he teaches music to developmentally disabled children. […]

“It is not without irony that Benito moved into his unit in 1977, the same year of the eviction of elders of the I-Hotel on Kearny Street. As a Filipino, Benito remembers that event vividly, an event that garnered worldwide attention and support from wide segments of the community in San Francisco for the elder tenants who refused to leave the I-Hotel, the last building standing that was part of a Filipino neighborhood called Manilatown. […] The year Benito moved into his unit, 1977, was the year that the fight to rebuild the I-hotel began. After a 30-year struggle, it was finally rebuilt — 102 units of affordable senior housing.”

The I-Hotel was the single most important housing rights incident in San Francisco history that subsequently lead to increased tenant protections, specifically rent control and increase public housing for seniors. Benito’s lifespan and involvement in San Francisco reminds us that the City’s character —embracing racial, ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity— was built over decades of social justice movements. Robles also writes:

“Benito is fighting his eviction. He is refusing the buyout. The sound of resistance is the sound of Benito’s drum, which calls for all of us to rise in defense of our homes. Benito is a part of the Manilatown/I-Hotel Family, and we support his fight, along with Eviction Free SF, his lawyers at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, and others in the community. The Manilatown Heritage Foundation/I-Hotel calls for an end to out of control evictions and reparations for elders who have been displaced through eviction via the Ellis Act.”

By allowing elder-artist-activist-teachers such as Benito to be kicked out, the traditions of protecting urban diversity are lost. It is also a cruelty to remove elders from their homes. Protect your elders!

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