YDSA member Bethany Padilla holds a sign for a student housing protest at SF State’s Malcolm X Plaza, on April 24, 2023. (Leilani Xicotencatl/ Golden Gate Xpress) (Leilani Xicotencatl)
YDSA member Bethany Padilla holds a sign for a student housing protest at SF State’s Malcolm X Plaza, on April 24, 2023. (Leilani Xicotencatl/ Golden Gate Xpress)

Leilani Xicotencatl

YDSA convenes to fight for affordable on-campus housing

Rising rent may be linked to SF State’s large backlog of maintenance issues and deficit.

April 26, 2023

The Young Democratic Socialists of America convened in Malcolm X Plaza to protest the conditions of SF State student dorms and to march to the University Housing office on April 24.

The group set up signs along the plaza and wrote slogans in chalk, leading up to the entrance of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, advocating for fair and affordable housing. Dolly Parton’s equal pay anthem “9 to 5” played as members of the group danced and asked passers-by the amount they pay in rent. 

YDSA members at a student housing protest at SF State’s Malcolm X Plaza, on April 24, 2023. (Leilani Xicotencatl/ Golden Gate Xpress) (Leilani Xicotencatl)

Bethany Padilla, a freshman and new member of the group, knelt on hands and knees to draw the colorful symbol of YDSA: a red rose in between two clasping hands. Just as colorful as the symbol, Padilla continued to decorate the plaza with messages advocating for affordable housing. 

Padilla says that even though the cost of housing has gone up, the conditions of the units do not fit the ever-rising price. 

“The plan is to stick with this issue until we see change,” Padilla said. “We’ve had representatives from Associated Students check us out and even someone from the Dean of Students came by, but I think that was them just trying to appease us.” 

Maya Bilyeu also expressed concerns regarding the conditions and rising costs of university housing. Padilla and Bilyeu are roommates in Mary Ward Hall and recently canvassed the dormitory to inform their neighbors about the incoming $100 increase in rent.

Those who were not residents of Mary Ward were immediately kicked out by the resident advisors, but Padilla and Bilyeu claim that RAs tried to kick them out and threatened to call the University Police Department. The pair say very few people in the building were aware of the rent increase.

“I shouldn’t be going into debt to get an education,” Bilyeu said. “It’s not that we don’t like living here, but it should be affordable, and for a school that claims to care about equity and social justice, you’d think they’d listen to the students.”

CSU institutional aid is currently awarded in a tuition-focused—not housing-focused—model for low-income students who do not already receive tuition-specific aid, according to the 2022 California State University Systemwide Housing Plan

The rent per student at Mary Ward Hall is $1,253, which is the cheapest on-campus housing available at SF State. Both Padilla and Bilyeu feel as though the financial aid offers given are not enough to cover the living expenses necessary to live comfortably. Padilla said that even with financial aid, the awards offered cannot possibly cover all the living expenses and claimed that their newest award report will only cover one-third of next semester’s housing costs. 

Bilyeu believes another obstacle affecting the affordability of campus housing is the mandatory meal plan for all first-year students. Averaging around $550, three meal plans are available that offer either 12, 15 or 19 meals per week plus an additional amount of Flex Dollars that can be used toward smaller purchases, like snacks, at City Eats. Though the website for the meal plan markets it as a money-and-time-saving process, the mandatory meal plan does not roll over on a week-to-week basis. 

A graph from the 2022 CSU Systemwide Housing Plan detailing SF State’s deferred maintenance deficit. (Courtesy of CSU Business and Finance Legislative Report).

A graph included in the 2022 Housing Plan details SF State’s severe deficit. Over $48,000 per bed, the highest deferred maintenance deficit in the California State University system, is needed to completely address the issues in the current campus housing options. 

Juan Ovalle, draped in a bright red YDSA flag, said the recent stories of broken washing machines are contributions to this deficit and the stories of campus rent fluctuation and new student housing are moves in response to this deficit. Ovalle currently lives in a studio for $1700 a month but shares the space with one other roommate who pays an equal amount. He says a one-bedroom costs $2,200 a month. 

“SF State currently has the highest rent in the CSU system,” Ovalle said, referencing the 2022 Housing plan. “The next closest market comparison is San Jose State, but their maintenance deficit is one-fourth of ours.”

As Alexis Grenier walked past the YDSA members holding signs, she held a fist up in solidarity and yelled that she pays $1,900 a month for student housing. She ran to the QR code provided to sign the petition for lowering the cost of campus rent.

Though she graduates this semester, Grenier has lived at Manzanita Square, SF State’s newest on-campus housing for the past two years. She pays $1900 a month for a room where she and her roommate sleep with the foot of their beds touching, where the fire alarms are constantly going off, and where the halls smell of smoke.

Grenier says the rent was around $1700 at Manzanita Square during her first semester. She claims neither she nor her mother, who was able to save enough money to put her through school, were told that rent would be increasing. 

“There was no email, no letter on the door, no meeting,” Grenier said. “My mom was the one to question it when the bill came in, but it just happened one day with no warning.”

Grenier says communicating with the housing office is hard enough just to get simple repairs done, but her biggest stressor right now is waiting for a response for a day to vacate her apartment. Grenier comes from Southern California and doesn’t plan to stay in San Francisco because the cost of living in the city is too high.

“The plan is to graduate on the 26th of May and leave with my family on the 27th when everyone has their cars and can help me take my belongings,” Grenier said. “I don’t know if I’ll get my preferred move-out date, but if I don’t, I’ll have no way of taking my things with me.”

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About the Contributors
Photo of Anessa Bailon
Anessa Bailon, Staff Reporter
Anessa Bailon is the Campus Recreation reporter for the Golden Gate Xpress newspaper. She is majoring in Print and Online Journalism and minoring in Classics. She was raised in Soledad, California, but moved to San Francisco in 2013 to pursue her lifelong dream of a career in sports journalism. Her favorite sport is baseball, and when she has time to go to the ballpark, her scorebook is always in hand. Anessa also enjoys playing her banjo, dancing to hardcore techno music, collecting vinyl records and hearing a good joke.
Photo of Leilani Xicotencatl
Leilani Xicotencatl, Staff Photographer
Leilani Xicotencatl (she/her) is a staff photographer for the Golden Gate Xpress. She was born and raised in Anaheim California. Although she began her college experience at SF State as a sociology major, she soon after discovered her passion for photography. She is now a photojournalism major and race and resistance minor. Aside from photography, she also enjoys hiking all the beautiful trails in SF, powerlifting with her partner and watching Netflix after a long day.

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