- This Week
The trio recently joined tenant advocates in visiting Sup. Norman Yee, their district supervisor, to tell their stories. Yee, who is expected to be one of the swing votes on an upcoming debate about condo-conversion legislation vehemently opposed by tenant activists, reportedly listened politely but didn't say much.
As for what the next few months have in store for the Egers? "I can't really visualize the outcome," Rose says. "I can only visualize the day-to-day fight. And that's scary."
Fighting for a home in the Mission
By Tim Redmond
Eleven years ago, Olga Pizarro fell in love with Ocean Beach. A native of Peru who was living in Canada, she visited the Bay Area, saw the water and decided she would never leave.
Fast forward to today and she's built a home in the Mission, renting a small room in a basement flat on Folsom Street. The 55-year-old has lived in the building for eight years; polio has left her wearing a leg brace and she can't climb stairs very well, but she still rides her bike to work at the Golden Gate Regional Center. She's a sociologist by training; the walls in her room are lined with bookshelves, with hundreds of books in Spanish and English.
The place isn't fancy, and it needs work, but it's hard to find a ground-floor apartment in the Mission that's affordable on a nonprofit worker's salary. Since 2011, when she moved in, she and her three housemates have been protected by rent control. And Pizarro's been happy; "I love the neighborhood," she told me.
The letter warning of a pending eviction arrived Jan. 16. A new owner of the building wants to turn the place into tenancies in common and is prepared to throw everyone out under the Ellis Act. There's no place else in town for Pizarro to go.
"I've looked and looked," she said. "The cheapest places are $2,500 a month or more. Maybe I'll have to move out of the city."
Pizarro's building is owned by Wai Ahead, LLC, a San Francisco partnership registered to Carol Wai and Sean Lundy. I couldn't reach Wai or Lundy, but their attorney, Robert Sheppard, had plenty to say. "San Francisco is going the way of New York," he told me. "Manhattan is full of co-ops that used to be rentals, and lower-income people are moving to Brooklyn and Queens. That's happening here with Oakland and further out." He argued that TICs, like co-ops, provide home-ownership opportunities for former renters.
Sheppard, who for years represented tenants in eviction cases, said the Ellis Act is law, and America is a capitalist country, and "as long as there is a private housing market, there will be shifts of people as the housing market shifts." He agreed that it's not good for lower-income people to lose their homes, but "the poor will always be hurt by a changing economy. It's called evolution."
Pizarro told me she's shocked at how expensive housing has become in the Mission. "It's gotten so gentrified," she said. "People show up in their BMWs. It's starting to feel very isolated."
She's fighting the eviction. "I didn't intend it to be this way," she explained. "I just want to live here." Lacking any family in the area, the Mission has become her community — "and I'm frustrated by the violence of how expensive it is."
Affordability goes out of style