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

You can't easily compare cities in Texas to San Francisco for the simple reason the level of real estate investment and speculation is much higher here. At the height of the last real estate boom, in the hottest neighborhoods, nearly 50% of the properties sold were to investors, not owner occupiers. Such speculation artificially raises valuation of properties and consequently, rental costs.

In many parts of the Bay Area, this is again true. Rental costs are going up *because* of evictions and turnover of the property to investors who, although not monopolizing the market, greatly influence valuation increases in the shelter market. Sure, increased demand from the tech industry is driving both increased valuation and speculation also. But I am not sure the type of incomes in tech can continue substantively as high as they are presently. Many already are calling this dot com 2.

Many of the tech workers are, frankly, young and naive ... which is why they are willing to overextend themselves to bid up valuations against speculators. The real estate industry is taking full advantage of the fact these are young people with money.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

Evictions increase income volatility for those displaced, since there are often no viable work alternatives elsewhere, and commuting from another city would be prohibitively expensive both in time and money. Often decades of business or professional connections can be lost in eviction displacements, a stealth loss which is rarely properly valued.

Given that the article suggests people move completely away from the area might suggest a period of unemployment and perhaps increased unemployability. Again, these are issues that must be addressed when valuing the cost of displacing long term residents.

I would think that the true cost of compensating a long-term tenant would approach $100,000 to $200,000 if all the capital losses of an employed tenant are properly valued.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 9:10 am

The minimum wage crowd can work anywhere, while professionals have skills that are marketable anywhere.

Wrongful eviction lawsuits never take into account such alleged costs, and any attempt to impose them would be deemed an unconstitutional "taking".

People move. It happens - part of life. Deal with it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 9:22 am

Actually many professionals have licenses that are restricted by state, and are not marketable anywhere, and the building of a professional career involves a lot of expense, so your uninformed implication that such costs are irrelevant is incorrect. Those costs should be recaptured through the legal process, either on the front end in buyout negotiations, or on the back-end as a part of an eviction lawsuit. Property rights should not precede civil rights, as you imply.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

just a few miles away, say to Oakland. You'd have to move a long, long way to leave the State.

Property rights ARE civil rights, you idiot. Nobody rents a place if theyw ant long-term security because all renters know they can and probably will be evicted periodically. Deal with it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

You got person A who currently depends on Rent Control and person B who does not. Parties who are engaged in landlording are sometimes writing poor contracts to prospective tenants and tenants are not always experts in the field of tenant laws. You got folks that spend a great deal of their time finding ways to meet their america dream and folks that spend a great of deal of no time achieving that same goal. There is a balance for densely populated city's that have the human need to simply coexist and it needs to be enforced. Another reason why communities have counterbalances like rent control is that helps Joe Machanic help Joe Workman achieve his goals or Jane Coffee helping Jane Daytrader move our consumer economy. A productive city makes a productive local economy and you need people to be close by to help you achieve your goals. Rent Control works. Without it we wouldn't have checks a balances. Greed eats away at your human right to live like a bunch of pitbulls mauling a defenseless baby. Fact, Native Americans were displaced in America in our not so distant past. We should displace hardworking laborers that did or did not do what you were doing 10 years ago?! Rent control aids local economies and help a community to thrive in a capitalist society as well as protecting your place of residency while you achieve your longer term goals. P.S. the housing boom was the only time in recorded human history that homes went as high as it did. Check the data on the US Home Price Index. We have enough problems with our economy today.

Posted by Someone is guilty on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

The incivility in these comments is sickening. I can't stomach it. Hearing people talking (anonymously, no less) about the greed of relatively low-wage workers wanting to get a raise (and probably not getting it) or wanting to be able to live in the city, as they work full-time and still cannot afford market rate...and you call THEM entitled. What about the entitlement of those earning six figures who feel they have the right to own everything and everyone, up to and including the entire city, by virtue of having a huge salary? And then they once again blame the working poor for their poverty (though this problem affects the middle class as well, as the city has priced them out) by saying they must have made poor choices in their education or career. Bullshit. First of all, some of our most intelligent, educated people work in fields that do not carry six-figure paychecks, like social work or nonprofit work, because they care about things other than just money. Does that mean they don't deserve to live in SF? Second, the idea that everyone is born equal and has an equal opportunity in life in this country is pure BS. This country has lower social mobility than any country in the developed world. If you are born poor, you will probably die poor. It is the few exceptions that prove the rule. These jackasses talking about "entitlement queens" as they try to buy out the city almost undoubtedly come from families that were well-off enough (at least) to afford them a good college education, and were educated enough themselves to make this a priority. They probably never had to work as teenagers or young adults to help their family. They have undoubtedly never faced an eviction because, despite working full-time, they couldn't pay market rate on overpriced rental units. And before one of you brings it up, I'm sure there are a few token examples among you who can brag about the poverty you overcame, but again, it is the exception that proves the rule.
The truly entitled class in this country are those at the top, who feel entitled to their tax breaks, entitled to buy out what others have worked so hard to get or keep, entitled to exile those who don't make as much money as they do, entitled to dictate politics because they can write checks to politicians. This makes me sick. I moved to the bay area last summer and felt at home here--though naturally I cannot afford to live in SF, even on a very solid middle-class salary, and had to get a place in Oakland, which is still expensive. Little did I know I was moving in among vultures who feel entitled to six-figure salaries and property but call those who struggle to pay the bills "entitled." Disgusting.

Posted by Irene on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 11:23 am

Irene, I agree completely with your points.

This site needs more input from people of our perspective and less of the infestation -- which, by-the-way, is mostly just one anti-social kook with probable issues around his relationship to his mother or toilet training -- but know that the trolls' *purpose* here is to cause a disturbance among right-thinking people.

To that point, I'd recommend you avoid feeling sickened by it, but rather put more effort into rhetorical tacks that are positive; such as expressing ridicule.

Less of dismay and more of righteous scorn will have greater effect towards making the trolls STFU.

One more tip: if you are going to spend the time to write detailed comments, split them up with ore paragraph breaks adding a carriage return after each one to make them easier to read.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

get these losers out of the city and let a new breed of people in.

the people mentioned in this article need to move on with their lives and stop being so jewish and greedy

Posted by Guest finn bell on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

we can start by dumping all the riffraff, homeless, overgrown hippies and self-entitled.

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Posted by Royston Dan on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 1:34 am

I'd love to get paid to leave my apartment! San Francisco is losing it's character, and many of my friends have already fled for better places. Change is really hard, I know, but it happens. You can either fight it (and likely lose) or you can try to turn it to your advantage.

My heart goes out to those of you who are having a tough time making ends meet! I hope you find your way through this.

P.S. If you are offered money to leave your rental, consider asking for 3 to 4 times the amount you are offerred. You'd be surprised how much "the rich people" are willing to pay.

Posted by Change Happens on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 12:53 pm