Our Work in San Francisco County
Long known as a city that values diversity and respects human dignity, San Francisco is not the place it once was. Faith in Action Bay Area leaders believe that it’s time to reawaken the soul of San Francisco and make it the true Sanctuary City it claims to be.
The City’s current reality is one of extreme housing costs that are causing enormous human suffering and making countless San Franciscans live in fear of losing their homes and being forced out of the city they love. The amount of affordable housing in San Francisco does not come close to meeting the need, and what we call “affordable” housing is not actually affordable for the people who need it the most. Meanwhile, over 60,000 housing units sit empty, many being used as investment properties by speculators cashing in on our high land values. For more on the history behind this reality, please see our “Reclaiming the Soul of San Francisco” publication.
In 2022, our low-income immigrant leaders teamed up with people of faith and goodwill from across the city to help write Proposition M, the Empty Homes Tax. After a six-month strategic campaign in which we communicated with 60,000 voters, primarily in low-income and working-class neighborhoods, Prop M won on the November 2022 ballot with nearly 55% of the vote. This new tax will allow real estate speculators to pay their fair share while investing tens of millions of dollars annually in housing assistance for low-income seniors and families.
The Prop M victory had its origins back in 2019, when a “Soul of the City” committee of seniors, high school students, and congregations from across the city began to meet weekly and won housing subsidies for low-income seniors. The group led a campaign called “Reclaiming the Soul of San Francisco,” which envisioned a city in which seniors could live in dignity without having to pay more than 30% of their income in rent. These intrepid leaders lead an occupation of Mayor London Breed’s office, where more than a hundred members of Faith in Action Bay Area demanded that San Francisco do right by the seniors who have lived, worked, and raised families in the city for decades.
In addition to fighting for rental subsidies to provide immediate relief, our leaders have pushed for the construction of more affordable housing and worked to ensure that it is truly affordable for those who need it the most. Our Mission-based team of immigrant leaders pushed the City to build the new Casa Adelante building for seniors at 26th and Shotwell. And, in partnership with the Plaza 16 coalition, we won a historic five-year battle to bring 100% affordable housing to the 16th Street Plaza, in the heart of the Mission District!
Faith in Action Bay Area leaders know that systemic change starts by responding to immediate needs of the most vulnerable. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when tens of thousands of people remained homeless on streets, with no place to safely shelter, our clergy and lay leaders organized a “Shelter for All” campaign, demanding that San Francisco move its unhoused residents into the thousands of vacant hotel rooms. Public pressure finally forced the City to move thousands of unhoused people from the streets into hotel rooms, where they could shelter safely during the pandemic. Our immigrant leaders also staffed vaccine and testing centers and helped run food distributions, always using these opportunities to engage in deep listening; some of our strongest current leaders learned about Faith in Action while waiting in pandemic food lines.
Lastly, people often remark on the inter-generational collaboration of amongst our leaders in San Francisco. It’s true, Faith in Action Bay Area members really do come in all ages! In 2018, we formed a San Francisco youth organizing team, comprised of more than thirty students from high schools across the city. The youth organized two deportation defense campaigns that year—one for Hamid, an Afghan teenager fleeing Taliban violence in his home country, and another for Juan Francisco, a Daly City dad who was picked up by ICE. The youth steered all aspects of the campaigns, visiting Hamid and Juan Francisco in detention, putting together press conferences, and lobbying elected officials to intervene on their friends’ behalf. Eventually, both Hamid and Juan Francisco were released from detention.