Randy Shaw

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Randy Shaw
Born (1956-08-19)August 19, 1956
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Attorney, Author, Activist.
Spouse(s) Lainey Feingold

Randy Shaw is an attorney, author and activist who lives in Berkeley, California. He is the Executive Director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a non-profit organization in San Francisco that he co-founded in 1980. Shaw also co-founded and is the Director of Uptown Tenderloin, Inc., a nonprofit organization that spearheaded the creation of the national Uptown Tenderloin Historic District in 2009. Uptown Tenderloin, Inc. is also the driving force behind the Tenderloin Museum, which opened in the spring of 2015.[1] Shaw is also the editor of Beyond Chron, and has written five books on activism.



Randy Shaw grew up in Los Angeles, where he attended University High School. After graduating he attended the University of California at Berkeley, where he graduated in 1977. Shaw began Hastings Law School in the fall of 1979, and received his J.D. in spring 1982. He was admitted to the California Bar in December 1982.

1980's Activism[edit]

Shaw worked on tenants rights campaigns in Berkeley, which led to his helping to open the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC) in 1980.[2] Shaw quickly became active in tenant rights, particularly the Tenderloin’s struggles against luxury hotel development and the conversion of single room occupancy hotels (SROs) to tourist use.

"Heatless" hotel scandal[edit]

Upon graduation from Hastings, Shaw was awarded a $12,000 grant from the Berkeley Law Foundation[3] to become THC’s first full-time staff attorney (and Executive Director). In 1982 he exposed the “heatless hotel” scandal whereby thousands of San Francisco’s SRO tenants were living without heat. The story rocked the city and was front-page news for a week, ultimately resulting in the emergency enactment of tough new heat and hot water laws that Shaw helped author.

Protecting low cost housing[edit]

Shaw went on to work with tenants to win new police rules preventing illegal lockouts of tenants in lieu of legal evictions. In 1984 he launched a campaign against Guenter Kaussen, known as the “worlds biggest slumlord.” Kaussen’s overcharging rents to Cambodian immigrant tenants in the Tenderloin led Shaw to bring in media to investigate the West German-based real estate mogul. At the time Kaussen was the Tenderloin’s largest apartment owner; the campaign led to a story on 60 Minutes and Kaussen’s suicide.[4]

New San Francisco homeless strategy[edit]

In 1988, Shaw proposed to the city that it adopt a modified payments program (MPP) to enable homeless single adults receiving welfare to obtain permanent housing. Shaw had talked to hotel owners and found that many would be willing to charge rents affordable to welfare recipients if they could ensure rent payments. Under the MPP, welfare recipients agreed to have their checks “modified” so that THC was also named on the check. These two-party checks would be delivered to THC’s offices, and THC would then deduct the rent from the check and give the tenant the balance.[3]

The incoming Mayor Art Agnos Administration said that Shaw and THC should implement the MPP on a trial basis, and that if it worked the City would fund it. Shaw obtained a small grant for THC to start the program in 1988, and it proved successful. By 1989 over 1,000 formerly homeless single adults were living in permanent housing through enrolling in the MPP. The program is still used by housing providers throughout San Francisco’s extensive supporting housing system

In May 1999, Shaw and the THC again created an innovative approach to housing homeless single adults in launching the Department of Housing Services’ hotel leasing program. THC became the City’s leading provider of permanent housing for homeless single adults, and the leasing program was the foundation of the city’s Care Not Cash program which began in 2004.

THC currently leases and manages 16 SROs (over 1,600 units) for homeless single adults and owns and manages the Galvin Apartments at 787 Brannan Street.

Legislation drafted[edit]

In addition to authoring San Francisco’s heat and hot water laws, Shaw has drafted key city ballot measures and state laws strengthening rent control and housing code enforcement.

Prop H: rent control[edit]

After the major defeat of a pro-tenant ballot measure in San Francisco’s November 1991 election, Shaw committed to rebuilding and restructuring the city’s tenant movement. He worked with other tenant counseling groups to hold a series of neighborhood tenant conventions designed to solicit input for a tenant initiative for the November 1992 ballot. This process led to Shaw drafting Proposition H, which would cut annual rent increases in half. The Prop H initiative became the first tenant ballot measure to prevail in San Francisco, despite tenants being outspent 10-1. Prop H (San Francisco Administrative Code Section 37.3)[5] has since saved San Francisco tenants billions of dollars, and represents the greatest transfer of wealth from landlord to tenant in the city’s history.

Prop G: housing code enforcement[edit]

After spending years trying to get city officials to enforce the housing code, Shaw authored a ballot measure in 1994 to improve housing code enforcement by creating a new department under a public commission. The measure (San Francisco City Charter Section 4.121) [6] creating the Department of Building Inspection passed in November 1994, and San Francisco’s housing code enforcement has dramatically improved since that time.

State laws[edit]

In 1999, Shaw worked with California State Senator John Burton in drafting legislation (SB 948) to strengthen tenant protection under the state Ellis Act (Cal. Gov't Code 7060),[7] and to prevent the Act from preempting local land use laws. The measure passed the Legislature and became law. In 2003, Shaw worked with Assembly member Mark Leno to pass AB 1217,[7] which exempted SROs from the Ellis Act; this bill also became law.

National housing advocacy[edit]

In 1999, Shaw founded Housing America to build national pressure for increased federal affordable housing funds. To this end he co-authored the study, There’s No Place Like Home: How America’s Housing Crisis, Threatens Our Children,[8] which generated several widespread media coverage. In fact, the study was voted the 9th most censored study for 2003 by Project Censored.[9]

Later in 1999, HA teamed with Religious Witness with Homeless People in getting what the NY Times described on September 10, 1999 as “an unusually broad coalition of religious leaders” to send a letter to President Bill Clinton urging the issuance of 200,000 new Section 8 housing vouchers. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo later credited the letter with securing 50,000 more vouchers.

In June 2000, he co-authored the first national study urging Congress to allocate Federal Housing Administration (FHA) surplus to create a National Housing Trust Fund. “A New Direction: How FHA Surpluses Can Solve America’s Housing Crisis” provided a city-by-city analysis of the impact of FHA suppliers on ending the national’s affordable housing shortage.

As an author[edit]

Shaw has authored five books on activism and social change.

The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco[edit]

Randy Shaw’s ‘The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco” offers an incisive history of one of the nation’s most under-appreciated neighborhoods. From its wild swings through vice and repression, surprising presence at the heart of the domestic Cold War, unique role as the locale where today’s transgender movement began out of a strange mix of federal anti-poverty programs and faith-based political organizing, and as the landing pad for refugees from U.S. wars in Southeast Asia, San Francisco’s Tenderloin is an historic neighborhood whose stories unfold at an astonishing pace. Shaw’s thoroughly documented, and profusely illustrated work will be a basic resource for scholars and urban investigators for years to come.[10]

The Activist’s Handbook, 2nd ed.: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century[edit]

A completely revised and updated edition of the original book, bringing the principles of activism into the Obama era. The book describes the tactics and strategies of the immigrant rights, marriage equality, and other movements that grew in strength in the 21st century. Author Van Jones described the new edition as “ a must-read for grassroots activists. The new edition signficantly expands and updates the original, which is an organizing classic.”[11]

Beyond the Fields[edit]

Described by UFW community and labor organizer Fred Ross Jr. as a "powerful and moving account of how the UFW transformed people's lives, instilling a lifetime commitment to social justice,[12] Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century also traces the roots of Barack Obama’s 2008 election outreach model to the UFW campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s, and the electoral strategies that UFW alumni brought with them to 21st Century campaigns.

Reclaiming America[edit]

Reclaiming America: Nike, Clean Air, and the New National Activism (UC Press 1999) argued that local activists needed to also focus on the national issues that increasingly shape local communities. Medea Benjamin, political activist and Co-Director of Global Exchange, said of the book "Randy Shaw provides the definitive account of the historic national campaign to reform Nike's labor practices. Reclaiming America is a must read for everyone seeking to achieve greater social and economic fairness in the 21st Century."[13]

The Activist’s Handbook: A Primer for the 1990s and Beyond[edit]

A guide to making social change happen, The Activist's Handbook: A Primer for the 1990s and Beyond (UC Press: 1996, 2001, 2013) is described by Howard Zinn as “enormously valuable for anyone interested in social change. It is practical in its advice, and inspiring in its stories of ordinary people successfully confronting powerful interests." [14]

Other writings[edit]

His article “Tenant Power in San Francisco" appears in the anthology, "Reclaiming San Francisco" by James Brook, Chris Carlsson and Nancy J. Peters.[15]

Shaw’s essay Building the Labor-Clergy-Immigrant Alliance is included in the book “Rallying for Immigrant’s Rights” (UC Press 2011)[16]

Shaw also contributed the section on SROs to the 2012 Encyclopedia of Housing (Second Edition, SAGE Publications).[17]

Uptown Tenderloin Historic District[edit]

In 2007, Shaw initiated the effort that resulted in the creation of the national Uptown Tenderloin Historic District, which is included in the National Register of Historic Places. The District covers over 31 city blocks and over 400 contributing structures. Shaw helped form Uptown Tenderloin, Inc. to help economically revitalize the neighborhood, and is currently its Executive Director. Uptown Tenderloin has restored historic advertising signs, developed murals on neighborhood history, gotten nearly 100 historic plaques on Tenderloin buildings, and installed nine “Lost Landmark” plaques on Tenderloin sidewalks. See uptowntl.org for more details.

Founder/editor of an alternative news source[edit]

Shaw is the editor of the online daily news service Beyond Chron which he founded in April 2004. Shaw’s writings in Beyond Chron cover local, state and national politics.


  1. ^ "Tenderloin Museum". http://www.tenderloinmuseum.org. Retrieved 2015-01-30. 
  2. ^ "THC History". http://www.thclinic.org/. Retrieved 2015-01-23. 
  3. ^ a b "Randy Shaw's Power Plays". http://www.sfweekly.com/. Retrieved 2015-01-30. 
  4. ^ "W. German Landlord, Deep in Debt, Kills Self". http://www.latimes.com/. Retrieved 2015-01-30. 
  5. ^ "San Francisco City Administrative Code Section 37.3". The City and County of San Francisco. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  6. ^ "San Francisco City Charter section 4.121". The City and County of San Francisco. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  7. ^ a b "State of California Government Code section 7060". State of California. Retrieved 2009-05-27.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Ellis_Act_-_SB_948" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  8. ^ Sandel, Megan; Sharfstein, Joshua; Shaw, Randy (1999-03-00). "There's No Place Like Home: How America's Housing Crisis Threatens Our Children" (PDF). Housing America. Retrieved 2015-01-31. 
  9. ^ "Project Censored Top 25 for 2003". Project Censored. Retrieved 2009-05-15. 
  10. ^ Shaw, Randy (21 Apr 2015). The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco. San Francisco, California: Urban Reality Press. ISBN 0692327231. 
  11. ^ Shaw, Randy (26 Aug 2013). The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century. Oakland, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520274051. 
  12. ^ Shaw, Randy (28 Sep 2010). Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. Oakland, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520268043. 
  13. ^ Shaw, Randy (7 Jun 1999). Reclaiming America: Nike, Clean Air, and the New National Activism (1 ed.). Oakland, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520217799. 
  14. ^ Shaw, Randy (1 Jun 1996). The Activist’s Handbook: A Primer for the 1990s and Beyond (1 ed.). Oakland, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520229280. 
  15. ^ Shaw, Randy (1 Jan 2001). "Tenant Power in San Francisco". In Brook, James; Carlsson, Chris; Nancy J., Peters. Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture (1 ed.). San Francisco, California: City Lights Publishers. ISBN 978-0872863354. 
  16. ^ Shaw, Randy (6 Jul 2001). "Building the Labor-Clergy-Immigrant Alliance". In Voss, Kim; Bloemraad, Irene. Rallying for Immigrant Rights: The Fight for Inclusion in 21st Century America. Oakland, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520267558. 
  17. ^ Shaw, Randy (13 Jun 2012). "Single Room Occupancy Housing". In Carswell, Andrew T. The Encyclopedia of Housing, Second Edition. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-1412989572.