'Racist, offensive, propaganda': San Francisco leaders react to political mailer

SAN FRANCSICO (KGO) -- A political mailer that many people received this week and saw on TV and online is being called racist propaganda.

"It's offensive, it's hurtful, it's disrespectful," said Mayor London Breed, who is disgusted by the political mailer, which equates a state housing bill with "negro removal"-- a reference to a painful time in San Francisco history.

"I lived through it and it happened and we are still sadly living with the impacts," said Mayor Breed. "This is a person, along with so many other people, who continue to take advantage of our community and use it for the purposes of propaganda. They have no idea what it feels like to have had to suffer over the years in a situation like this."

The mailer and TV ads have been seen throughout San Francisco this week, with a 1963 quote from author and activist, James Baldwin, which says, "San Francisco is engaging in something called urban renewal, which means moving the negroes out. It means negro removal."

"You don't take someone else's tragedy and then use it to your own political ends," said State Senator Scott Wiener, who is the author of SB50, a bill which seeks to put more multi-unit housing near transportation hubs.

The mailer accuses Wiener of making the housing affordability crisis worse for working class communities of color.

"We went through a terrible time period where we were pushing African American people out of San Francisco and bulldozing neighborhoods," said Wiener, who explained, "this bill is designed to stop that from happening in the future."

The mailer was paid for by Healthy Housing Foundation, a division of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is based in Los Angeles and run by Michael Weinstein, who spoke to ABC7 by phone Thursday night.

"We stand by it," said Weinstein about the mailer, after learning that many people found it offensive. "The truth may hurt, but the reality is that San Francisco has become a place that only rich, and mostly white people, can live in," said Weinstein, who says he is concerned about further gentrification.

"To think that someone would be that unprincipled to prey upon the pain of black people," said Reverend Amos Brown, who is the president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP. He points out the San Francisco's black population has dropped from 15 percent to about 4 percent.

Brown also received the flyer in the mail and said it's racist and offensive to the black community, "as if we don't know how to think and we don't know our history and were gullible, that's offensive. So I hope that the fair minded, thinking people of San Francisco and this region will rise up and show whoever is behind this, that you don't deserve being heard at all."

SB50 is controversial. Mayor Breed supports it, but the majority of San Francisco supervisors oppose the bill. But even those opposed, like Supervisor Gordon Mar, were concerned about the flyer.
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