The International Hotel stood at the corner of Kearny and Jackson and it was the center of a community that no longer exists: Manilatown. Manilatown came down with the Hotel, after the Sheriff cleared the building’s elderly Filipino tenants in a dawn raid on August 4, 1977. I was there, inside the Hotel, representing the City’s Human Rights Commission.
We lost that battle. But it couldn’t happen today.
Here’s what I said about it in a recent KALW radio show on the International Hotel:
I think we’re a more compassionate city as a result of what happened there. I think the boundaries of discussion of what property owners can do has really shifted. And we’re much more comfortable requiring developers to include affordable housing, saying you have to save residential hotels. And understanding, I think, the value of preserving Chinatown, preserving parts of South of Market, preserving parts of the Western Addition, and not just letting private or public redevelopment run roughshod.
Obviously we didn’t succeed in our goal of preventing the eviction and saving the building, but the legacy of the International Hotel is that it couldn’t happen again. And maybe it took that kind of shock, the image of elderly people being let out at dawn. The sheriff smashing down their doors. The cops on horseback charging into the crowds. Maybe it took those images to really understand what was at stake here. We lost the hotel, we lost the battle, but it’s not going to happen again.
If you’d like to hear the show, or just read the transcript, you could click here.