New documentary looks at the fight to save 1921 Walnut Street tenants from eviction in so-called Berkeley, California.
photo via Indybay.org
1921 Walnut St. is a 112 year old rent-controlled apartment building in downtown Berkeley home to several long-term tenants. In 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, the University of California (UC) purchased 1921 Walnut St. UC’s plan was to displace the tenants and demolish the building so that notorious real estate heiress Jackie Safier could redevelop the block for luxury, short-term, student-only apartments.
The Berkeley community came together to protest UC’s plans. The 1921 Walnut St tenants and their allies held several protests, marches, community BBQ’s and events. The Berkeley City Council supported the tenants, along with the Sierra Club, the ASUC, Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Tenant and Neighborhood Councils, Berkeley Tenants Union, and countless community leaders and local groups.
3/ Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin had been supportive of the tenants at 1921 Walnut Street who have been fighting to save their rent controlled apartments from UC Berkeley eviction, but he voted along with council to stop any legal action or opposition to the project from the city https://t.co/Tg3F82p7cm
— Zack Haber (@ZZZZZZZZZZZack) July 14, 2021
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin also supported the tenants. Then suddenly in July 2021, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin held closed-door negotiations with the University of California and surrendered 1921 Walnut St. to UC. The tenants and the community felt deeply betrayed. Without the support of the City of Berkeley, the tenants could not mount a defense.
Today @JesseArreguin sold-out us tenants & our friends at People’s Park. They used us as a pawn & gave us up to UC. Mayor Arreguín came to our homes & said he wouldn’t let this happen…Today, he didn’t even call us first. We had to read about it in the news. We are horrified 🙁 https://t.co/ha7vyz4maC pic.twitter.com/LnjSSrWI1N
— 1921 Walnut St Association (@save1921walnut) July 15, 2021
After over one and a half years of struggle, the tenants at 1921 Walnut St. are set to be displaced by November 2021 and the building is set to be demolished starting in November 2021. But this was never just about winning or losing – this was about putting up a fight! And we put up a damn good fight!