Tenants fighting evictions from their 1049 Market home suffered a major setback this week as their landlords filed an appeal that may clear the way for conversion of their apartments into an office space.
The landlords want to knock down the walls of the now-apartment building to reap the benefits of the tech loving Mid-Market area, and will make their case to do so at the Board of Appeals on Wednesday, Dec/18, according to appeal documents.
At a press conference for the tenants today held on Market, tenant Marcele Wilson said that there are many people still living in the building despite the eviction notices. There are around 60 units in the building, but it is unclear how many are still occupied. But those remaining may lose their homes this winter, Wilson said.
“What kind of human being evicts people during the holidays?” he asked the crowd. The tenants have yet to see any eviction notices rescinded.
The landlords, John Gall and Amy Bogart, didn’t return calls or emails from the Guardian.
The tenants first received their eviction notices in September, which became highly politicized because San Francisco suffered an exodus of the working class, families, and artists as rental prices continue to surge. But the building was never up to code for rental units and was zoned as an office space.
When that was revealed the Department of Building Inspection moved swiftly to work with Gall to bring the building up to code to stave off the evictions, but a DBI official told the Guardian that Gall quickly begged off. They haven’t heard from him since early October.
“The way this works is the owner would come in with an architect or a designer so they could talk about what part of the building code needed to be addressed,” William Strawn, a spokesperson from DBI told us. Officials offered to meet with Gall on Oct. 11 in order to clarify what needed to change in the building to make it safer for residents -- like having access to light and air.
“We haven’t heard from him since making that offer,” Strawn said.
Though in other coverage Gall told reporters the cost for making modifications were extensive, a Planning Department official told the Guardian that there were less expensive alternatives.
"The owners had a variety of options available to them," said Dan Sider, senior adviser for special projects at the Planning Department.
April Veneracion Ang, an aide to Sup. Jane Kim, said that Kim’s office had been working with Gall, but hadn’t heard word on if he’d rescind the evictions yet.
— Joe A. W. Fitzgerald (@FitzTheReporter) November 12, 2013
Despite his silence, Gall has been hard at work to remove the tenants from the building. The eviction notices came in waves, and he continued to issue them through all of these negotiations, Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee told us.
But on Oct. 28, the Planning Department suspended Gall’s application to turn the building into office space, writing that the building had been used as a residence in violation of planning codes for quite some time. The suspension was a win for the tenants and housing activists.
It was that suspension that Gall appealed to overturn on Nov. 8.
In his appeal, Gall wrote that the suspension of the permit for office space was “arbitrary and capricious” and not consistent with the “plain language” of the planning code. He also said he spent over $120,000 in relocation fees for tenants.
Tenants at the rally told us they were given checks by their landlord to move on and find new places to live, but in a story that is exceedingly familiar, it didn’t help a bit.
Many couldn’t afford to live in San Francisco if evicted, they said.
“I can take that $5,000 and not get anywhere in the city,” said Jonathan Stoker, 47, a three-year resident. A former server who injured his arm waiting tables on Hornblower cruises, he’s now a freelance graphic designer looking for a new job, a tall order, he said. If evicted, he was certain he’d have to leave the city.
“[Living in San Francisco] was my dream. People are engaged here, they’re creative, they’re thinkers,” he said. “I’d probably end up in Oakland in a basement somewhere, but even that’s going fast.”
The rents at 1049 Market range between $900 and $1,200 a month, the tenants told the Guardian.
Inside the building after the press conference, some tenants gathered around inside an ornate red-hued apartment belonging to Peter Taylor, 70.
Glasses of wine in hand, Taylor, Stoker, and another neighbor from down the hall traded tales of the sordid ways they’ve been pressured to leave the building in the past month.
Their security guards were let go, Tony Antori, 40, said. The property is across from Civic Center, a hub of suffering souls who’ve now been making their way into the building and some of them “have been living in our bathrooms now,” Antori told the Guardian, to nods from his neighbors. “A guy was found with his pants down and a hypodermic needle in his arm.”
Tony Antori in his apartment in October. Photo by Bay Guardian News Editor Rebecca Bowe.
Stoker said that they’ve also been losing hot water periodically, forcing them all to shower in the cold or go without. Antori said the YMCA has been a savior for hot showers.
Taylor sees this all as a sign that Gall is ready to play hardball, no pun intended, as the now-landlord was a former Major League Baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“This is the king of guy this is,” Taylor said. He felt in his bones that his landlord wouldn’t back down easy.
The tenants will find out for sure on Dec. 18, when Gall makes his case to turn the apartments into offices at the Board of Appeals. Until then, they fight, hoping they’ll keep their homes for the holidays, and longer.
— Stop SF Evictions (@stopsfevictions) November 12, 2013