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San Francisco's International Hotel

Mobilizing the Filipino American Community in the Anti-Eviction Movement

Estella Habal

Publication Year: 2007

The struggle to save the International Hotel and prevent the eviction of its elderly residents became a focal point in the creation of the contemporary Asian American movement, especially among Filipinos.  Like other minorities who were looking for positive models in their past to build an identity movement, Filipino youth found their "roots" in the stories and lives of the "manongs" (respected elders), and the anti-eviction movement became a key site for the formation of a distinct Filipino American consciousness. Estella Habal, a student activist during the anti-eviction protests, relates this history  within the context of the broader left politics of the era, the urban housing movement, and San Francisco city politics.  Ultimately, the hotel was razed, but a new one now occupies the site and commemorates the residents and activists who fought for low-income housing for the elderly and their right to remain in their own community.

Published by: Temple University Press

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pp. vii-x

I BECAME INVOLVED in the struggle to save the International Hotel soon after I arrived in San Francisco in 1971, and it seems that I have never left that struggle, even since the eviction of the elderly tenants in 1977 and the building’s demolition in 1979. Now, with the resurrection of the International Hotel in 2005, I am still deeply involved. I played a key role working with the...


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pp. xi-xii

Chronology of Legal and Political Events

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pp. xiii-xix

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Introduction: "Coming Home to a Fresh Crop of Rice"

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pp. 1-8

WE WON’T MOVE!” thousands chanted on August 4, 1977, as police on horseback clubbed their way to the front door of the International Hotel at 848 Kearny Street.1 The hotel was the last remnant of the ten-block Manilatown neighborhood that stretched along Kearny Street between San Francisco’s Chinatown and financial district. After hours of attacks by police swinging batons...

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Chapter One: Manilatown, Manongs, and the Student Radicals

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pp. 9-32

Manilatown cannot be found on any maps of San Francisco, although it was a very real place. The neighborhood was built from the human results of the annexation of the Philippines, the establishment of colonial relations, the drive for cheap labor in the United States, and racial segregation. When the struggle to save the International Hotel began in 1968, few knew about its elderly tenants...

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Chapter Two: A Home or a Parking Lot? Human Rights versus Property Rights, 1968-69

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pp. 33-51

“We Want to Stay in Our Neighborhood,” read a placard carried by a demonstrator as elderly members of the little-known Filipino community on Kearny Street marched in front of the International Hotel on November 17, 1968. A San Francisco Chronicle reporter commented that the march to save the elderly Filipinos’ home and the remnants of their once vital community was a “sad...

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Chapter Three: "Peace with a Lease": Renovation and Revolution, 1969-74

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pp. 52-76

The signing of the three-year lease in 1969 ushered in a new period of renewal that the tenants and their supporters called “Peace with a Lease.” The tenants and students felt proud to have defended their community. The Asian American students believed that they had combined militancy and service in ways similar to the Black Panthers’ free breakfast programs for children and other...

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Chapter Four: The Tiger Leaps: Fighting the Four Seas Investment Corporation, 1974-77 [includes image plates]

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pp. 77-98

On September 24, 1974, the tenants of the International Hotel received an eviction notice from the new landlord, the Four Seas Investment Corporation. After five years of relative calm, the tenants had to fight for their survival again. This time, however, information regarding the tenants’ new nemesis was not immediately known. Mounting an anti-eviction campaign against the new landlord...

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Chapter Five: “Makibaka! Dare to Struggle!” The IHTA and the KDP, 1977

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pp. 99-123

Seven thousand people chanted as they circled the block of the International Hotel on Sunday, January 16, 1977, a day before the expected eviction. Swaying in unison like a giant snake, the crowd shouted in staccato bursts: “Stop the eviction! We won’t move! Stop the eviction! We won’t move!” A large portion of the demonstration was composed of African American families from San Francisco's...

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Chapter Six: People’s Power versus Propertied Elites, 1977

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pp. 124-145

In 1977, a complicated network of supporters worked to give the International Hotel considerable grassroots political power. This network emerged from the various Asian American storefront radical groups early on in the struggle. When many of these radicals joined Maoist communist organizations by mid-1975, organizing public support became far more systematic and consistent. In the last...

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Chapter Seven: The Fall of the I-Hotel: Eviction and Demolition,1977–79

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pp. 146-170

On Wednesday, August 3, the IHTA and the KDP team thought that a last-ditch effort to save the I-Hotel was still be possible. Organizers from the campaign to defeat Propositions A and B, fresh from their victory, told us that they were going to turn their energy toward saving the hotel. We received support from community leaders and even a letter from Art Agnos, the majority whip in the...

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Conclusion: The Rise of the I-Hotel, 1979–2005

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pp. 171-187

On August 26, 2005, I stood with an excited crowd of seven hundred who gathered to cut the ribbon to the new International Hotel Senior Housing. Gordon Chin, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, greeted the throng of people and admitted, “I have waited over 28 years to welcome you back to the new I-Hotel.” He was not the only one who had waited a...


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pp. 189-208


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pp. 209-218


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pp. 219-227

E-ISBN-13: 9781592134472
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592134465

Page Count: 227
Publication Year: 2007