Saturday, December 8, 2007

SF Journal San Fran Tenants Fight August 1977

San Fran Tenants Sue Six Companies

Vol.2 no.3 August 3, 1977 p.1

by Katheryn M. Fong

"Tommy Yee, 68, has lived in the San Fran Hotel for 12 years. Out of his $340 a-month combined social security and welfare checks, the retired restaurant worker pays $70 a month for his room in the San Fran Hotel. He shares a communal bathroom with all the other tenants on his floor.

Up until 1973, there used to be telephone service; but after the new landlords leased the hotel from the Chinese Six Companies, all the phones were taken out. The new landlords, Wai-mln Tom and his uncle Foo Hum, also raised the rent 25 percent without making any improvements on the hotel.

Last May, the landlords raised all the tenants’ rents by $10 and asked for another $5 increment to be effective In August.

Rent Strike

In protest to the higher rents, fewer services and deteriorating facilities, the tenants collectively decided to go on a rent strike. Since May, all of their rents have gone into a bank account, to be held until the landlords agree to sign leases with the tenants.

In retaliation against the tenants, the landlords closed the communal kitchen used by the tenants, discontinued the biweekly linen service, and turned off the heat in the, hotel.


At a press conference Sunday, July 31, the tenants of the San Fran Hotel announced that they were filing a suit against Wai-min Tom, Foo Hum, and the Chinese Six Companies for damages inflicted upon the tenants.

The press conference was held in front of the gaudy front doorway of the Chinese Six Companies which owns the San Fran Hotel building.

Mr. Yee and about a dozen other tenants testified about the landlords’ acts of retaliation against them for insisting on building repairs and hotel services covered by their rents.

Mr. Jew said that there was no maintenance staff at the 51-room hotel and the ‘manager’ comes in for about an hour a day -- supposedly to clean up the hotel.


Mr. Yee said there are 40 men and six women living in single rooms In the hotel. All are older, mostly retired people on fixed Incomes from social security with the exception of the 16-year-old son of one of the tenants.

Yee, who has lived and worked in the United States for over fifty years, said that the rents are not uniform and no explanation was given for the discrepancies in the rates charged to tenants.


Despite the acute shortage of low-cost housing for elderly, .retired workers in Chinatown, the tenants at the San Fran reported that they were determined to go on rent strike and demand improvements even though the landlords threatened to lock tenants out of their rooms.

The tenants received Inspiration, from tenants at two other hotel-rooming houses in Chinatown --833 Kearny and 666 Sacramento--who won leases and building improvements after successful rent strikes forced landlords to deal with tenants’ complaints.

Mrs. Lau of the Chinatown Tenants Organizing Committee accused the Chinese Six Companies of soliciting money from the people and using these funds to purchase buildings such as the San Fran Hotel. She said the Six Companies, also known as the Chinese Benevolent Association, deceived the people.

The tenants of the San- Fran Hotel asked why those who claim to be the benevolent leaders of Chinatown do not stop the rent hike, reopen the kitchen, reinstate linen service and repair the building.


The San Fran Hotel is no palace, but for Tommy Yee the San Fran -- like many other Chinatown hotels and rooming houses --offers the only housing option to low-income fixed-income people who cannot afford any other: housing.