An Open Letter to Annlia Paganini-Hill c/o The National Institute on Aging

PNNscholar1 - Posted on 18 August 2015

Tony Robles--Board President, Manilatown Heritage Foundation

Dear Ms. Paganini-Hill,

I am writing you as board president of the Manilatown Heritage
Foundation.  Our foundation was established by those who fought the
eviction of seniors from the city's International Hotel, or “I-Hotel” as
it is also known as, in 1977 when mostly elderly tenants were forcibly
evicted from their homes.  That eviction broke the hearts of many and
was the battleground of what became the tenant's rights movement in San
Francisco.  The eviction also spelled the end of a Filipino neighborhood
on Kearny Street known as Manilatown.  

One of the people who remembers the I-Hotel eviction is Theresa
Flandrich.  She remembers the rallies in support of the tenants, she
remembers the mime troupe performing in the park in support of the
I-Hotel and its tenants and she, of course, remembered the night of the
eviction when police rammed through a human barricade of 3000 people to
get to the tenants and forcibly evict them from their homes.

Theresa has lived in her Lombard Street home for more than 30 years. 
The epicenter of her life is North Beach where she raised her son as a
single mother.  She remembers her young son's fascination with fire
engines and how a North Beach Fireman befriended him and gave him rides
on the fire truck—a treat for any young boy.  She remembers the many
smells of North Beach, the many sounds—the falling and rising tenor of
Italian syllables connecting words and sentences and ending with any
number of gestures.  She remembes the African American voices and the
voice of the woman who told her once, 'Until you have kids, girl, you
don't know what tired is...”

Theresa remembers the relationships that existed between businesses who
believed in co-existence—that there was enough to go around for all—that
one not be greedy or prey upon one another.  She remembered the old
Italians who lived in North Beach for generations, and the Chinese, and
the lines that separated the two, a line that became blurry and more
faint in the passing years as both enjoy the sunshine and fresh cool air
of Washington Square Park, sharing conversation, doing Tai Chi—a respite
in a neighborhood whose very fabric is under attack by outsiders who do
not care about its history or its people.

She remembered those neighbors who aged in their homes, whose North
Beach hands built the neighborhood—such as Diego Deleo—who came to North
Beach at 17 and laid brick, who was part of a community whose voices
rang out clearly, rising above St. Peter and St. Paul's and Coit
Tower—for what are landmarks without the people who built them?

Theresa remembered her long time landlady Virginia Paganini.  They were
friends and Virginia maintained a good relationship with all the tenants
in the building.  But eventually Virginia's health began to fail.  The
tenants helped take care of Virginia, doing their best to tend to her
needs.  During the last 9 years of her life, she told the tenants of her
building, “You are now my family”.  Virginia finally passed on, leaving
the building to you—her niece.  And Theresa remembers Elaine Turner,
perhaps you do too, perhaps you don't.  Elaine was Theresa's neighbor. 
She lived in her unit for 25 years.  She was an actress,eternally young 
with an active mind.  Nobody knew she was 88 years old. 

One day Theresa, Elaine and the other tenants in the building on Lombard
Street received eviction notices.  The landlord—that is, you Ms.
Paganini-Hill—invoked the Ellis Act to evict all the tenants in the
building, many of whom were seniors.  An eviction notice from the niece
of the original landlord—who the tenants provided care to in her last
years.  Being a researcher on the care of seniors, did this ever enter
your mind?  Did you know that Elaine used to walk 65 steps to get to her
unit?  It was hard at times, but she'd make it because it was her home,
her community.

Elaine was much loved and after the eviction was served, she wasn't
herself.  The laughter disappeared.  She was steeped in fear wondering
what would happen to her, where would she go?  Her life was in North
Beach.  She was afraid of leaving her life, the life she knew, and the
neighbors and neighborhood that was dear to her.  Elaine's health
suffered due to the stress of the eviction, the stress of housing
prospects being waiting lists of up to 6 years or more and market rate
housing averaging upwards of 4,600 a month.  Elaine's internal organs
began to fail.  She was hospitalized and died in March 2015.
Elaine's neighbors—her small circle of friends—were her family and were
with her until the end, making sure she was comfortable in her last

Theresa has fought her eviction for 2 years, along with neighbor Silvio,
refusing to leave their community at the whim of their landlord—you.  It
is  you that caused the decline of Elaine Turner, cruelly serving a
vulnerable elder an eviction notice that caused so much stress.  It is
hugely ironic that you, a researcher on the 90+ Stufy at UC Irvine,
which is funded by the National Institute On Aging—a study that focuses
on the well being of seniors past the age of 90—can purport to be
concerned about the health of seniors on the one hand while on the other
hand, engage in an activity—in this case, eviction of an elder—that led
to the demise of an 88 year old senior.  How do you reconcile this in
your  mind?  Is the National Institute on Aging aware of this situation?

You have been unrelenting in your mission to evict the tenants in your
building.  Evictions like this are destroying communities in San
Francisco.  At its most extreme, it is killing tenants, particularly
seniors.  You indicated that you wanted to move the tenants out so that
you and your family could move in; but this is false, as your primary
residence is in Laguna Beach.

Stop playing games with lives and stop this hypocrisy.  You bring shame 
to Virginia Paganini's family name and all that this family did in maintaining
the tradition of caring for not only the tenants, but also the community of 
North Beach.  Rescind the eviction of the 2 remaining tenants in your building,
 Theresa Flandrich and Silvio Maniscalco.  

Tony Robles
Board President
Manilatown Heritage Foundation


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