Out of place - Page 6

Evictions are driving long-time renters out of their homes -- and out of SF. Here are the stories of several people being evicted

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By Rebecca Bowe

Hester Michael is a fashion designer, and her home doubles as a project space for creating patterns, sewing custom clothing, weaving cloth, and painting. She's lived in her Outer Sunset two-bedroom unit for almost two decades, but now she faces an Ellis Act eviction. Michael says she initially received notice last June. The timing was awful -– that same month, her husband passed away after a long battle with terminal illness.

"I've been here 25 years. My friends are here, and my business. I don't know where else to go, or what else to do," she says. "I just couldn't picture myself anywhere else."

Michael rents the upstairs unit of a split single-family home, a kind of residence that normally isn't protected by rent control. Yet she leased the property in 1994, getting in under the wire before that exemption took effect. Since she pays below-market-rate rent in a home that could be sold vacant for top dollar, a target was essentially inscribed on her back when the property changed hands in 2004. That's about when her long battle with the landlords began, she says.

From the get-go, her landlords indicated that she should look for a new place, Michael says, yet she chose to remain. The years that followed brought things falling into disrepair, she says, and a string of events that caused her feel intimidated and to fear eviction. Finally, she consulted with tenant advocates and hired an attorney. A complaint filed in superior court alleges that the property owners "harassed and retaliated [Michael] when she complained about the defective and dangerous conditions ...telling [her] to move out of the property if she did not like the dangerous conditions thereat ... repeatedly making improper entries into [the] property, and wrongfully accusing [her] of causing problems."

Records show that Angela Ng serves as attorney in fact for the property owner, Ringo Chung Wai Lee. Steven Adair MacDonald, an attorney who represents both landlords and tenants in San Francisco housing disputes, represents the owners. "An owner of a single family home where the rent is controlled and a fraction of market has virtually no other choice but to terminate the tenancy," MacDonald said when the Guardian reached him by phone. "They've got to empty it, and the only way to empty it is the Ellis Act."

While Michael received an extension that allows her to remain until June 5, she fears her custom sewing business, Hester's Designs, will suffer if she has to move. There's the issue of space. "I have so much stuff in this house," she says. And most of her clients are currently located close by, so she doesn't know where her business would come from if she had to relocate. "A lot of my clients don't have cars," she says, "so if I live in some suburb in the East Bay, forget it. I'll lose my business."

The prospect of eviction has created a major dilemma for Michael, who first moved to San Francisco in 1987. While moving to the East Bay seems untenable, she says renting in San Francisco feels out of reach. "People are renting out small, tiny bedrooms for the same price as I pay here," she says. With a wry laugh, she adds: "I don't think there's any vacant apartments in San Francisco -– unless you're a tech dude and make seven grand a month."

Comments

Gosh, why didn't you mention David Weissman in this article?

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

construed as a way of landlords being able to move into their own properties. In fact, thatw as never the intent and, in any event, there already existing the just cause eviction of an "owner move in" to achieve that.

No, Ellis was introduced because Santa Monica, which has vacancy control at the time, was encoutering a spate of rental units being left vacant. LL's were too scared to rent them out because of vacancy control.

So Santa Monica passed a law that effectively forced LL's to rent out their units against their will. A LL sued the city over this, won on constitutional grounds, and Jim Ellis then sponsored and passed his eponymous act to ensure that a LL could always go out of the rental building, and change it's use.

If you are looking for something to blame for the Ellis Act, it's rent control itself. Ellis evictions ONLY occur in places with rent control.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

If rent control leads to evictions, what is it like to not have rent control? People who live in brand new condos in SF, which are not subject to rent control, face rent increases of $300-500 a month after their first year lease comes up. On a studio apartment, no less. Even a single person receiving a decent salary might find they can't afford that kind of jump in rent, so the increase amounts to an eviction.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

(like Phoenix, Las vegas, Dallas etc.) there is a high vacancy rate - often as much as 20%. What that means is that LL's fight with each other to offer TT's the best deal - free this, free that etc..

Could you imagine a greater contrast with SF? LL's undercutting each other to ensure that you choose them rather than another LL? It's like any normal business where the customer is king.

Sounds terrible, doesn't it?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

And that's why there are so many rentals available. Also, they have a lot of sprawl in those "cities," so there's a way bigger supply than in our land-locked SF. Those cities don't need rent control to keep rents affordable. SF does.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

then that's where you must go. Not everyone can afford the world's favorite city.

Posted by anonymous on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

San Francisco is not and should not be a pay-to-play city. Perhaps you should rethink why you are here and see if your intentions are aligned with those of the heart and soul of this city, for it seems the are not.

Posted by Brad on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

They don't have a clue what you're talking about, Brad.

Bottom liners and Drinkers of Infinity are on different planes of consciousness.

Posted by San Francisco's Lovely Soul Murdered by Greed on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

are "aligned with the heart and soul of the city"?

How adorable.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

Exactly. I'm sick of feeling like I'm destroying the city I wanted to live in my whole life just because I moved here when I could actually afford it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 12:21 am

know in their heart that they cannot afford it. They expect some other person to give them a cheap deal so that they never have to face the consequences of their earlier decisions not to get a decent education and not to work hard at a career.

Fuck them.

Posted by anon on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 3:11 pm
No.

Fuck you.

You'd eat shit and say it tasted good if there was some money in it for you.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

You start using obscenities rather than address the issues.

Posted by anon on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

"Fuck them."

Troll who lives in glass house.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

And neither can you.

Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

San Francisco is not the world's favorite city.

Posted by marcos on May. 01, 2013 @ 7:29 am

If rents are not "affordable" they will not go up at all. Some one has to afford them to pay them. You are not talking about affordable rents, you are talking about greedy renters who want others to pay for what they can't afford.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

You'd also have to own a car in sprawl cities, and incur all the costs involved in that.

Posted by Guest on May. 01, 2013 @ 7:07 am

So, I understand not everybody can afford a rent in the City, but why can't they move out of the city? Why should someone who worked and paid for a house financially support someone who wants to live in the city with a lower rent? How does that make sense?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

The remedy is for those people to move to Oakland, Richmond, Stockton, Vallejo or wherever else suits their fiscal power.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

Only because the builders have to provide housing to people who, essentially, do nothing for a living. If I spend $1 million to build 5 studio condos, but have to give two of them away for pretty much free to a low income person, I can't sell them for $225K each and make a profit--I've got to sell them for $400K to make up for the slackers.

And PLENTY of people are using rent control to their advantage. I have a friend who pays $700 a month for a 3 bedroom apartment. She rents out two of the bedrooms for $500 a month apiece. She's making more than her landlord, and doesn't have to pay for any repairs.

Another woman I work with has a $900 a month rent-controlled apartment. She used the savings to buy herself a nice small vacation condo up in Sonoma county.

When I decided I wanted to make S.F. my home, I scrimped and saved and gave up all the fun stuff: eating out, coffee shops, etc. and scraped together a down payment for a small place in a marginal neighborhood. A few years later, I used that leverage to move to a better place, etc. Now I have a two unit building, but leave the second unit vacant for visitors--not worth the hassle of being a landlord.

I see so many people whining about being unable to afford a house as they play with their $800 iPads and drink $5 coffees and eat at $75 a person restaurants.

Posted by Scott on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

The frugality argument doesn't hold. An iPad costs $800. Not buying an iPad does not magically give a person $800 per MONTH. My first flat in San Francisco sold (long after I moved out) for $850K. The lattes of 20 subsequent years would not pay for that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

If there was no valve between the rent you are paying and the market value of the property there would be no speculators. If is a function of your stupid rent control that makes speculation possible…so you reap what you sow in the end.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

I love it. You are lecturing people about the competitiveness of SF housing yet hoarding an apt that could be used to house some of the poor souls in this article. I bet you're on VRBO renting it as an illegal hotel while you're at it. Ah well, fate will catch up to you when you realize you can't take your greedy earnings to your grave.

Posted by Sigmarlin on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

Because he'd be an idiot to return it to rent control. Property ownership is not about morality - it's purely economic. Those without an economic interest don't understand that but when it's their money on the line - believe me they come around REAL quick.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

A month is a long tenancy for me.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

Yeah, I 'd love to see these same rent control advocates face salary conrtol at there work…Why should you greedy workers get any raises?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

that situation as employers are using mass unemployment as leverage to drive wages downwards.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:18 pm
Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:34 pm
Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

Yeah, and it will catch up with you when you can't take your crummy rent controlled apartment to your grave….

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

Having been on both sides of the fence - tenant and landlord - I've seen it all, from tenants illegally subletting their below market units on AirBnB to tenants paying so far below market they can afford to buy condos for rental income. The problem with rent control is that it perverts the market and when that happens people act perversely. One of the issues that needs to be addressed is the situation of 'true' owner occupied buildings. These people are true small businesses and can ill afford onerous regulations. Some owners are subsidizing their rent controlled tenants to the tune of $1,000/month or more based on the actual market price, and yet landlords have only been allowed to increase 2.5% (in total) for the past three years 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

Now I have a two unit building, but leave the second unit vacant for visitors--not worth the hassle of being a landlord....I see so many people whining...

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

You are hoarding empty units? Even tho they are condo's and so largely exempt from rent control?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

Marcos thinks that being a landlord is "hassle".

Can't imagine why he would think that - I thought that all you had to do as a landlord was sit back and watch the money roll in.

Amazing that Marcos would forgo the income that he would get from renting out a condo at San Francisco uncontrolled rents - I suspect there is something more to this story.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

is still too scared to rent it out, thereby depriving a SF'er of an affordable home.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

Our home is our affordable home.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

Marcos, if you rented out the other unit, you could afford something in Southeast Portland west of 50th street, which would be in your prime demographic.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 11:15 pm
Posted by Eddie on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

What your friend is doing in her three bedroom apartment is illegal. She cannot charge a disproportionate amount of rent in relation to the whole. The law protecting her as the master tenant is also extended to the subtenants. Someone should let them now. I hear of this a lot, and it's greedy and lame.

Posted by Loquasica on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

badly as the landlords they love to whine about.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

I heard that a welfare queen is living in a rent controlled apartment and she parades around town in her Cadillac, her son's name is Willie Horton.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 5:41 pm
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

That's SFHA, subsidized housing, not rent control which is not subsidized.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

Subsidized housing is just more blatant about it. Prop 13 is homeowner tax subsidization by newer owners too. You know that Marcos. We all subsidize one another.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

Oh, poppycock, rent control is market regulation, housing as a regulated utility.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

in the world's favorite city is most certainly not guaranteed to you by the Constitution.

Anyone who cannot afford SF can move somewhere cheaper, apply for Section 8 vouchers, and have their rent paid.

Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

"Housing as a regulated utility", you have got to be kidding. Housing is essential, yes, but does not act like a monopolistic utility as does PG&E or the old Ma Bell. The housing market in the U.S. is one of the most competitive markets in the United States with many small players - owning 2-3 small rental properties. It has none of the barriers to entry as does the Electrical energy or Telecommunications markets, anyone can save up enough money to become a property owner.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

It is a necessity in a sector where the market often fails and that is the reason why it should be a regulated utility, not the barriers to entry which are indeed substantial in a place with hyper scarcity of supply and commensurate market failure like San Francisco.

Adding the amount of housing supply the likes of which would saturate the market and depress price would require an amount of infrastructure investment that nobody is prepared to make. And the resulting built form would render the city less livable and more alienating.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 4:16 pm

having a home in a city you cannot afford most definitely is not.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 04, 2013 @ 5:40 pm