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Uncategorized54 residents displaced in raging Mission fire

54 residents displaced in raging Mission fire

One dead, six injured — and a lot of families and small businesses out on the streets

Flames shoot up from 22nd and Mission.  Photo by Fran Smith
Flames shoot up from 22nd and Mission. Photo by Fran Smith

By Calindra Revier

JANUARY 29, 2015 — The four-alarm fire last night at 22nd and Mission destroyed a Popeye’s Chicken outlet, a number of small local businesses — and more than a dozen rent controlled apartments, which will perhaps be the hardest to replace.

One person died and six were injured in the fire. Fifty-four people, including nine children, lost their homes.

“To be displaced in this housing market, it’s just horrible,” Sup. David Campos, who is working with the Red Cross to find temporary housing for the residents, told us.

Hundreds of people lined 22nd and Mission staring in awe at the raging fire, which engulfed 3200 Mission Street and threatened the surrounding buildings, including the brand-new luxury condos just finished next door.

A body was pulled from the flaming building and carried across the street to a Wells Fargo Bank, where rescuers attempted in vain to resuscitate the man. Police haven’t released his name yet. It’s speculated that the he died from a heart attack as well as second-degree burns.

Among the 12 people rescued from the raging fire, five escaped down the internal stairwell and the rest out the fire escapes on the Mission Street side. Four were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and burns.

Firefighters and police, as well as unpaid fire reserves, contributed to the containment of the fire, which is aptly referred to as a “surround and drown operation.” San Francisco is the only city in the world with a triple-redundant water system, which was set up after the 1906 earthquake.

According to Officer Grace Gatpandem, mixed reports indicate that the fire possibly started in the basement but was amplified when it reached the attic of the building. Arson inspectors are now looking into the cause.

San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White told us that “open buildings like this tend to have a lot of fuel.”

San Francisco Fire Commission member Michael Hareeman echoed Hayes’s sentiments: “I just heard firefighters talking a moment ago about how the older buildings tend to have a lot of fuel and this one here you can see has quite a bit of age on it. A lot of plaster and wood, not conducive to when the fire starts. It becomes difficult.”

But then added “It started in multiple places it looks like, it makes you wonder what’s going on.”

Dianne Brennan, a resident of San Francisco, said “I wonder how much arson is in play. I don’t know but it sure seems like there’s been a lot of fires in the Mission District these last few years.”

Ironically, as the families – many of whom have lived in their rent-controlled units for many years – were out on the streets, the brand-new luxury condos next door seemed to be untouched as multiple water streams blocked the fire from jumping over.

Campos was on the scene. “It’s tragic but we are very grateful to our firefighters who are working with Red Cross and other city agencies,” he said, and added: “The city will work to find a place for the displaced families to stay.”

People were told that they would not be allowed into the building until tomorrow at the earliest. In the wake of the devastation of property and home loss, the next steps for them seem to be frustratingly still unknown.

When the landlord rebuilds the apartments, the current residents will by law have the right to move back in and retain their rent-controlled tenancies. But that could take months or years – the damage is massive. Sometimes buildings this badly burned need to be demolished and entirely replaced. And if history is any guide, many of the current residents will be forced to find permanent housing somewhere else – most likely out of the city.

Small businesses have no rent protections – and while a big chain might be able to weather the loss of many months’ business, the locally owned shops may have trouble surviving.

Rachel Lederman posted the following info on Facebook this morning:

From the SFTU: If you know a tenant or family displaced from the fire that occurred at Mission and 22nd yesterday (1/28/15), they have the right to return to their unit and possibly to financial support to relocate as repairs are happening to their units. Please connect them to the tenants rights/housing organizations in the Mission to find out more: Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco , San Francisco Tenants Union ,Eviction Free San Francisco, Causa Justa Just Cause, and Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA). The Tenants Union can be contacted at sftu@sftu.org and at our office 2 blocks away at 558 Capp St.


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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  1. SFAA landlords coming to help their community! Please help if you can
    Please Help: Seeking Good Samaritan Landlords for Displaced Tenants

    As you may have heard, three apartment buildings have suffered fires in the past week. The Mission Fire left 54 people displaced, including 15 children, and subsequent fires in the Tenderloin and Western Addition have left more San Franciscans without their homes.

    There is a dire and immediate need to help house the displaced individuals. SFAA’s Good Samaritan program allows for landlords to provide temporary tenancies to displaced residents at or within 10% of their current monthly rental rate.

    Upon expiration of the temporary tenancy or upon completion of the repair work, the landlord has the option to end the tenancy or continue it with the opportunity to raise the rent to market value.

    Below are basic profiles of the displaced units and their rental rates. If you can offer an apartment for the next year at one of these rates you will make a tremendous impact in that person’s life and in our community.

    6 Studios

    2 One Bedrooms

    7 Two Bedrooms
    $200.00 (Please note that this was a property manager with an artificially low rent. We will ask what they can afford.)

    4 Three Bedrooms

    Upon expiration of the temporary tenancy or upon completion of the repair work, the landlord has the option to end the tenancy or continue it with the opportunity to raise the rent to market value.

    Please consider using a vacancy for a Good Samaritan tenancy. Help San Franciscans stay in San Francisco. More information about the Good Samaritan program is available upon request.

    Please call Ben Amyes of the Human Services Agency at (415) 557-5370 or Charley Goss of the SFAA at (415) 255-2288 to help with this important initiative.

  2. But such proof would need to be continual, as a tenant could not renew any policy, or even cancel it the day after they showed you the proof.

    What you would really want is the same deal that the mortgage banks have i.e. the landlord is named as an “interested party” and is notified if the policy ever lapses. Not sure if that is possible.

  3. So-called “progressives” like Gary and the others here never actually do anything to help the poor. they just tell other people that they should help the poor.

  4. Do you see GarySFBCN telling any of the newly homeless Latinos from that building to come & live with him? I don’t. And GarySFBCN has money. Surely he could open his door to a family….he’s “early retired” and wealthy. But no, nothing.

  5. Oh yes. And I wonder about the “slant” the enviable 48hills article would have taken. (titled Poetic Justice?) And the celebrations on the comments here by the usual intolerant-jealous-haters.

  6. Welcome back, SFRentier.

    And yeah, how can so much hatred be expended on what is just a building? Weird.

    It’s the most exciting new structure on Mission Street. What’s not to love about it?

  7. Yeah it’s pretty funny how these guys go ape shit over Sam’s comments, who’s generally within a moderate norm. They should watch Fox News to see what real provocative conservatism is. Ann Coulter anyone?

  8. Gary, you’re dilusional. You also must have serious wealth-guilt issues too. I like the way you bash landlords for charging market rent on vacancies, when it’s rent control that creates those high prices to begin with.

    But I will say, your hypocrisy is quite entertaining, so thanks for that. Kindaofa nice compliment to Sam’s sensibilities.

  9. Let’s face it, if your home is destroyed by fire, there isn’t any law that can be passed that is going to solve your problem. The best you can hope for is the right to return when the unit is rebuilt. But that could take years and, chances are, you will make other arrangements long before your home is rebuilt. In fact, the owner may “take his time” precisely in order to reduce the risk of tenants returning.

    I have heard of a case where a building was Ellis’ed after it was vacated due to a major remodel. Most defenses to any form of eviction are best mounted when the tenant is in their home. Once they are living elsewhere, it becomes very hard to effectively defend an eviction because the tenant has already given up his main weapon – possession.

    Banning such “in absentia” evictions is probably as much as you can hope to achieve there. And even then I’m not sure it would work for an Ellis eviction which, by its very nature, involves the business use being terminated, and therefore any tenancies.

  10. If you live in a rent-controlled apartment that burns down, you don’t automatically have the right to return. There are laws that state that if the property is “destroyed, then the tenancy is terminated”. There are loopholes and there are fires to prove that, not once has a rent-controlled unit been rebuilt and offered back to the original tenants. The Ellis Act threat is a means to discourage people from pursuing a legal battle to prove that they have the right to return. Legislation needs to be passed to protect the rights of tenants under the circumstances of fires. Our community needs this protection because if a building burns down, regardless the reason, the tenants are likely to be barred from returning to their homes, their normal lives.

  11. Yes, that seems to be the pattern. That seems to be working. There are no laws in place that guarantee a return to a rent controlled apartment because you can always be Ellis Acted. And if you want to fight the battle, you need to get a lawyer that is willing to fight Zimmerman who is the city’s top Ellis Acting lawyer.

  12. Don’t fool yourself. Vida is a joke. Vida? Come on. Named “Vida” to echo the character of the neighborhood? Please. Call it Gentry, or Castle. Or rather – gntry, or cstl to make it cool.

  13. One has to wonder if Campos would be so quick to vow housing solutions if the fire had happened next door to his constituents at Vida.

  14. Are Mission District fires burning down rent-controlled units SF real estate’s version of white cops killing black men?

  15. “Sadly most rent controlled tenants whom have the most to lose in a fire do not carry it, even though it. . .”

    Do you have a source for that ‘fact’ or is that your perception?

  16. @4th gen SF’er Almost all of my funds came from me working, which, combined with being very conservative in fiscal matters, allowed me to retired ‘early.’

    I’ve don’t ‘blame’ tech workers for being anything other than brash and sometimes ill-behaved. My generation allowed university level education to go from being very affordable to outrageously expensive, and I’m happy that those who have tens of thousands in student loans are able to find some work.

    But I’m saddened to see them again being fleeced by landlords. If there is a macro-level plan here it is to condition young people that there is enormous debt and high expenses involved with everything in life.

    And I am repulsed at those who scream ‘but rent control’ every time the vacancy rate slips. Here’s a thought – everything in life doesn’t go to the highest bidder, and while rent control is it law of the land, I say to them: Next time get here first.

    As you and others have said, not everyone can live in San Francisco. You and others prefer that housing go the the highest bidder. I think that just as prop 13 for homeowners is just, so is rent control. SF benefits from long-term residents.

  17. This is advocacy journalism, which translates as always trying to find an ideological angle to every story, even if it is just an accident.

  18. I could care less about vida but that would be very difficult because I care about vida so little if at all.

  19. I think you mean you couldn’t care less.

    Wishing harm on your neighbors doesn’t strike me as a life-affirming gesture.

  20. Russo, it would be really uplifting if for once you would post about the topic, rather than endlessly attacking anyone here who holds different opinions from you.

  21. Both are true. A landlord may enter a renter’s ho for an annual inspection which can include checking and replacing the batteries in a smoke detector. And in fact I do that.

    But it is not a legal requirement for a landlord to do that. and you would think that tenants care enough about their safety to ensure that their detectors work. The detectors usually indicate when the battery is getting low, so it’s easy enough to keep them functional.

  22. Renters insurance can be a life saver in an event like this. Sadly most rent controlled tenants whom have the most to lose in a fire do not carry it, even though it can run as low as $10 a month. It’s also worth noting the rent ordinance does not allow landlords to require tenants who don’t have the provision in thier lease to carry insurance, which considering this story it would be worth amending.

  23. Was the author trying to imply that this was an arson to get rid of the rent-controlled tenants? Or that the SFFD was trying to protect the luxury condos next door at the expense of this building?

  24. Just got this email from one of the affected businesses, Wise Sons Deli:

    “Last night the building which houses our production kitchen and bakery caught fire. The destruction was significant. There were many long time residents and businesses located here that are permanently dislocated and our heart goes out to all of them. We are fortunate to report that the Wise Sons Team is safe- and that is the most important thing we can ask for.

    Unfortunately, it is looking more and more like our facility is going to be down for a long time with no timetable for it’s return. In the mean time we are searching for a short term location to bake our breads and a long term space to be our new home. If you have any leads, we are on the hunt!

    It is important that we continue business as usual and we look forward to seeing you all soon. The restaurants remain open and the best thing we can ask from our community is to come in for a bite- or even just to say hello.

    This is a tough time for Wise Sons but we are optimistic that we will come out stronger and better than ever!”

    Their deli is at 3150 24th Street – I think they do the Ferry Bldg Farmers’ Mkt on Saturdays, too.

  25. So, GarySFBCN you’ve attained financial success but it’s not okay for anyone else to live in SF that has financial success. I just want to understand where you’re coming from. You’re not a landlord in Spain, but you own property there, just curious, did you work for your wealth or was it inherited? Because SF is really too hard to live in without wealth of some sort these days and something like teaching is not going to allow you both of those things. Thanks in advance for answering as I am curious.

  26. Spam is a compassionate communitarian now? What a larf! (Note a few dozen of his messages above, where he calls the non-rich “failures, whiners and losers.”)

    Real piece of work, that Spam. Angry, lonely, vindictive, starved for attention, but oh, so community-minded!

  27. As a Person who worked in the building I will say this. I totally agree with Gary and could care less about Vida.

  28. Maybe Campos could work w/the owner and Planning/DBI to fast-track demo, rebuild plans & permits? It would help the tenants (the quicker it gets built, the less likely the tenants are permanently displaced (out of SF)). But, in reality, we all know that the majority of tenants will never move back in because it will take 3-4 years to re-build.

    Campos to the courtesy phone please………….

  29. pdquick, can you confirm that a fire alarm would have needed on such a building. The overwhelming majority of buildings in SF are not required to have them.

    Smoke detectors would have been required and landlords know to provide them. But it is up to tenants to test them and ensure the batteries have life. In my experiences, most do not both.

    It is routine for fire escape ladders to not extend every inch to the grade, but rather down to a distance where one can jump to the ground. Otherwise they would be a serious risk of home invasion. It’s a compromise.

    It is DBI who do home inspections It is rare for SFFD to do that unless requested.

  30. Calindra, et al., can you confirm that there were no fire alarms to alert residents of the fire? Also, there were reports that fire escapes would not go down to the street because business awnings had been built in the way. Victims reportedly had burning debris falling from the eaves on them.

    These issues should have been detected on inspection, but the fire department’s inspection division appears to be in disarray. I have a friend in the FD who tells me the inspection division has become a holding assignment for firefighters on light duty, so there’s no continuity to the work of the division.

  31. 4th, Those on the left rarely offer any practical tangible help themselves. They think they are “helping” by demanding that classes of people that they just happen to not belong to should be the only ones to give.

    And ironically it is usually the successful who do give of their time, skills and money. It is the failures, whiners and losers who endlessly demand that someone – anyone other than them – should do the heavy lifting.

    Unadulterated hypocrisy.

  32. @4th gen SF’er: I’ve never been a landlord. Regardless, financial luck (good or bad) in life is 100% independent of a person’s ability to experience empathy, compassion and being a decent person.

    It is delusional to think that those who have attained some financial success work any harder than those who struggle just to ‘get by’.

    There is no irony, but it says a lot about you that you think that there is.

  33. Does anyone know the process on how displaced families can find housing in these situations? My heart goes out to these folks.

  34. Which is ironic since GarySFBCN is a homeowner and a landlord himself. Remember he owns a property in Spain? He’s not living in Spain, he lives in SF & owns a condo in SF. That can’t be cheap. He might even own more properties.

  35. WOW Sam just cannot say ANYTHING without these psudo-liberals jumping down his throat. It is this kind of dialogue that allows the ‘business as usual’ folks to continue on. As long as posters like these are involved in anything, there will be nothing but name calling and descent. Keep up the good work fake SF libs…..you are exactly what developer want, arguing in place of solutions.
    That said, the SF Apartment Owners Association is actively looking for “good Samaritan” rentals for the displaced. Think about that next time you all feel like landlord bashing.
    As far as Sam goes………….He makes good points and perhaps pokes the tiger a bit, but WOW some folks here really take it to a much higher level that makes me ashamed to call myself liberal.
    please check yourselves, Tim aint your daddy!

  36. I haven’t seen the Vida homes marketed as being “libertarian”.

    Nor the city’s public safety workers being categorized as “socialist”.

    Can you explain those analyses?

  37. For example: “When the government gets out of the way, it’s amazing what can be achieved.” Yeah, it’s a good thing that socialist governmental fire department didn’t use its firehoses funded by money stolen from the hard-working 1% to keep the adjacent libertrarian condos from going up in flames – ohwaitaminnit…

  38. Gary, you are the one using a tragedy as a pretext to attack another poster here.

    Every post of mine has been on the topic. Every post of yours has been a personal attack.

  39. Shame on you Sam. Every post is just an opportunity for you to push an ideology. Now you are dancing on the death, injury and displacement of others to push an anti-government agenda.

  40. Yes, it’s wonderful to see how charity, churches and volunteers can step up to help those in need. I’ve long been an advocate of tapping into our collective sense of community and compassion to help the needy, rather than rely on vast bureaucratic government programs that invariably become expensive, unwieldy and ineffective.

    When the government gets out of the way, it’s amazing what can be achieved.

  41. I was just going to leave a comment about the gofundme page and I see that Gary listed it already – well over 16K already. It was started by “a guy riding by on his bike,” Well, I just looked at the facebook page for Zack Crockett, the man who started the gofundme listing and this is no ordinary guy, folks – Zack is a really fine writer with a wonderful sensibility – his stories are great! I recommend taking some time to read his writings on his facebook page. I particularly liked his interview with a GG Bridge patrolman who saved a young man from jumping off the GG Bridge.

  42. If the fire started in the basement, could it be that there were homeless people living there without permission? Not blaming the homeless btw, just wondering. Also, Sam is right in that it will take 4 years to get this place back possibly longer with all the regs. And the owners if they’re elderly might sell to developers or actually BE developers so new housing will arise from the fire.

  43. No insensitivity here. I was merely commenting on the main thrust of the article i.e. the issue of the displaced tenants moving back to their homes. As noted, it usually doesn’t happen.

    The article talks mostly about the tenants, and not the fatality or injuries. I was addressing that emphasis.

  44. Gary, the article devoted more words to the loss of Popeye’s than to the loss of a life. It also talked about how the Vida was saved by diligent SFFD action.

    Most of the article was about the surviving tenants and so I picked up on that emphasis. I can’t help but feel that you are engaged in a personal attack here and someone’s death just provided you with an opportunity.

    Care to say something on topic?

  45. Wow, someone died, more were injured and many displaced and you are thankful about Vida?

    Each passing comment reveals the true heartless pig that you are.

    Oh and thanks for your facts about who may return and who won’t. The plural of anecdote is not data.

  46. Yes, there is a right of a controlled tenant to return to their building. But in practice that rarely happens when the building needs to be demolished, as this one surely will be.

    A good example is the fire that destroyed the building at Haight and Fillmore a number of years ago. Walk by there now and you see “for rent” signs. When you factor in the time it takes for insurance to pay, architects to draw up new plans, the city’s ponderous permit process and of course the construction, and you are probably looking at four years, or more.

    The residents will have long established other homes by then, and also may feel trauma at going back to a place where they could have died. So the general experience is that most tenants don’t return.

    Thankful the inspiring new Vida was not affected, and hopefully the new design for this important corner will echo the Vida’s strong architectural persona and zeitgeist.

    Popeyes? Meh. Not so much.

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