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UncategorizedCity Hall Gives Money to Evil Landlord's Pet Charity

City Hall Gives Money to Evil Landlord’s Pet Charity

Urban Green has been evicting tenants -- and is linked to a nonprofit that's supposed to help tenants
Urban Green has threatened to evict a 98-year-old tenant — and is linked to a nonprofit that’s supposed to help seniors and low-income people

By the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project

Urban Green, the real estate investment firm, has received a lot of bad press lately. By sending an eviction notice to 98-year-old Mary Phillips and displacing hundreds of tenants throughout the city, the company seems to exemplify a cold-hearted speculative industry that runs roughshod over the city.

Fortunately, there is a network of altruistic nonprofits fighting to keep long-term San Franciscans in good housing.

Right?

Not so fast. It turns out that one local nonprofit, Rebuilding Together SF, actually enjoys Urban Green’s support and has flattered one of its principals, Kevin M Skiles, by putting him on the board. To complete the developer-nonprofit-politician circle, in 2012 the Mayor’s Office of Housing awarded Rebuilding Together SF $100,000 while Skiles was Board president.

Rebuilding Together SF mobilizes volunteers to provide repairs to homes, nonprofits, and schools. Like a smaller-scale Habitat for Humanity, it is supposedly a force for good. Its Mission states: “We believe that low-income seniors and people with disabilities should be able to age gracefully in their own homes.”

Skiles fundraises for Rebuilding Together SF by running marathons. Two other Urban Green principals—Peter Lynch and Michael Karpowicz, the lawyer who handles evictions and coercive buyouts—have also donated to the cause. Urban Green is a featured sponsor of this year’s Liberation House Project.

As recently as May 2014, Rebuilding Together SF sprinkled the Urban Green logo all over its website, despite the fact that Mary’s eviction story had been in the news for more than a year. And, likewise, Urban Green touts its support of Rebuilding Together SF in its own press releases. In one of these, the company describes itself as a “real estate investment firm . . . giving back to the community through employee volunteerism and through contributions”.

How can we understand this peculiar alliance? Is Rebuilding Together SF simply naive about who is wrecking the city? Or does the nonprofit turn a blind eye to egregious behavior? Tax filings indicate that Executive Director Karen Nesmick’s salary doubled the same year that Skiles joined the board.

We tried to contact Nesmick for comment, but she didn’t respond to our email.

Who knows? But it would make more sense for the city to stop speculators like Urban Green than award grants to milquetoast charities that try to clean up the damage they cause. Indeed, both the city and Rebuilding Together SF should renounce Urban Green instead of helping Skiles get a touching photo op with a Bayview homeowner while his company is desperately trying to run away from its eviction efforts of a 98-year-old woman across town.

However we unpack this riddle, San Franciscans should understand that some of the nonprofits focused on serving low-income housing needs are actually in bed with businesses fueling widespread displacement.

 

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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