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The Filipino neighborhood San Francisco destroyed

A hotel at the heart of San Francisco’s housing wars.

San Francisco has struggled with a notorious affordable housing crisis. But the history of that crisis goes far beyond the city’s tech boom.

In the 1960s, as San Francisco officials pushed plans for the “Manhattanization” of its downtown area — their master plan targeted the removal of tens of thousands of low-income residents. By 1968, one community decided to fight back. They lived in San Francisco’s Manilatown, a once-thriving neighborhood where much of the city’s Filipino population lived. For many in Manilatown, the only affordable places to live were small, cheap rooms in residential hotels.

In the coming years, the development of the Financial District would nearly swallow all of Manilatown — except for one structure: a residential hotel called the International Hotel. The fight to save its elderly tenants from eviction, and to preserve the last vestige of Manilatown, would evolve into a nearly decade-long battle that came to a head on one violent night in 1977.

Watch the video above to see how that night unfolded, and why it was this fight that brought together thousands of supporters and became a symbol of the campaign for affordable housing for decades to come.

If you want to learn more about the International Hotel, you can watch Curtis Choy’s 1983 documentary, The Fall of the I-Hotel. Or for more reading, check out Estella Habal’s book, San Francisco’s International Hotel.

This is the sixth installment in Missing Chapter, where we revisit underreported and often overlooked moments of the past to give context to the present. Our first season covers stories of racial injustice, political conflicts, even the hidden history of US medical experimentation. If you have an idea for a topic we should investigate in the series, send it via this form!

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