Saturday, April 17, 2021
Uncategorized Remembering two Ellis Act victims

Remembering two Ellis Act victims

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Two San Franciscans who faced Ellis evictions died recently — a reminder, perhaps, of the health consequences of threatening vulnerable seniors with displacement

Ron Lickers, a Native American, died two years after being thrown out of his home by an Ellis eviction
Ron Lickers, a Native American, died two years after being thrown out of his home by an Ellis eviction

By Tony Robles

APRIL 22, 2015 — While Ellis Act reform was being voted on in Sacramento for the second time, you probably were unaware of the recent passing of two seniors whose lives were profoundly affected by the law.

North Beach resident Elaine Turner, 78, died March 11th, and Daly City resident Ron Lickers, 69, died February 19th, 2015. Elaine had lived in her North Beach flat for more than 30 years while Ron had lived with his family in Daly City, having been forced out of SF through an Ellis Act eviction two years ago.

Both people’s lives were disrupted and thrown into chaos by the Ellis Act —one of the many tools landlords and speculators use in their arsenal to prey upon and extricate seniors and people with disabilities from their long-term rent-controlled homes, destroying the fragile fabric of their lives.

Both Elaine and Ron were valuable members of their communities. Elaine loved her North Beach home. She loved the smell of North Beach that emanated from the bakeries, cafes, the markets—all close together—in a cluster of faces and comings and goings, accentuated with voices whose words were stained with the broken English of Italian thoughts and Chinese thoughts, which were complete thoughts that were often articulated in a mere gesture, forming an unbreakable bond of communication and recognition that can only be described as true community.

She loved the hills and the music that rose from the rooftops of the houses of the working-class immigrants of the past who built them. She loved to dress up, and she never divulged her age because she didn’t have to—she was timeless. She loved singing and acting. The fragrance of her life was kept in drawers, closets, jars, pictures, paintings, notes, and those timeless and beautiful things were renewed as the sun rose and the scent of Elaine’s life flowed through the curtains and spread over the landscape and settled into the heart of North Beach.

Ron Lickers was a Native American. He was a son of the Seneca nation. He was an organizer and educator who was involved in the Bay Area Native community. As a young man, he was one of the organizers of the occupation of Alcatraz and was involved in the fight for the establishment of ethnic studies as San Francisco State College in the 1960s.

After the eviction was served on Elaine, her health began to deteriorate. “Where will I go?” she asked, terrified of what lie ahead—including the possibility of homelessness, the possibility of moving to another location without friends and community, or the hopelessness of housing waiting lists whose waits can take years.

Insecurity is terrifying for seniors whose lives are a fragile, delicate and complicated network of appointments, doctors, providers, and transportation that offers, after years of routine, a semblance of stability that is shattered under the cruel stress of eviction.

Ron had a disability as a result of a job-related accident. He was a union worker, employed by Sign and Display local 510 for many years. He lived with his wife and daughter. After they were evicted from their San Francisco home through the Ellis act, his health spiraled downward — as did the health of his wife. He suffered from multiple health issues that culminated in a series of strokes. He had received relocation money as part of the eviction, but that money ran out, leaving Ron and his family in a constant state of duress. As bad as his health had become, he still fought for Ellis act reform, going to Sacramento as part of a contingent of tenants testifying in support of Senator Mark Leno’s Ellis Act reform bill that eventually failed in committee last year.

Leno has reintroduced legislation to reform the Ellis Act. Senate bill 364 would make it illegal to invoke an Ellis Act eviction with buildings whose ownership has changed within five years. The bill was defeated by a 6-5 vote in the state assembly. We are extremely disappointed with the lack of empathy shown by the politicians who voted against this very reasonable, very common sense bill. And we are disgusted by the tactics of the real estate lobby, who shamelessly parade people to hearings under the guise of “property owners,” misrepresenting facts and outright lying to maintain their hunger for profit regardless of who it hurts. The evictions in San Francisco have done so much damage to innocent people—especially seniors looking to live with dignity and stability.

We honor Elaine and Ron’s life, and their fight. Last year Poor Magazine, with the help of attorney Anthony Prince, opened a case of elder abuse with the SF District Attorney’s office against real estate speculators who cause harm to seniors by eviction. In memory of Elaine and Ron, we will hold a press conference at the 850 Bryant Street, May 8th at 10am. To pursue these charges, we must collect stories from people whose health and lives have been adversely affected by eviction. If you are a senior or person with a disability and want to share your story (you can remain anonymous), please contact Senior and Disability action at 415-546-1333. Or you can email tony@sdaction.org, or theresa@sdaction.org

 

 

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.

96 COMMENTS

  1. When our elected representatives passed the Ellis Act nearly 30 years ago it was to specifically acknowledge that landlords should not be in the welfare business or the elder care business, and have an absolute right to exist that burden.

    At that point the cities should have put into place funding to help seniors who have to relocate as a result. but of course our city did nothing.

  2. No proof, true. Yet, as a Medicare mendicant, I can see the likelihood of that scenario.

    Recently I’ve wondered about staying in this expensive City. And even though I’d exit with a large bundle, money only goes so far. A whole new locale, heat/cold, meeting new people & establishing networks, not to mention unexpected costs … ; it makes me think and rethink.

    Yet I think the worst part of such a move would be having to do so crossing long-held expectations to the contrary. And this is what these Ellis’d people face. For 15-20 yrs, they’ve been told “you have a place *for Life*”. A politicians promise (shame on them). Even the promise of ‘homeownership’ is not set in stone (though it is probably the closest thing we have to it in this country). If the expectation were different – if the expectation were that ‘my rent will increase to where I can’t afford it a some point here, and I’ll have to move eventually’, then people will not be blindsided and can take responsibility for themselves. Relying on a politican’s promises that they will make someone else be responsible for you … well, you can see how that plays out.

    And I’m not faulting the *intentions* of those politicians (most, anyway). But as the saying goes, “the road to Hades …”

  3. Yes, it’s interesting how the left almost effortlessly glides from the reasonable-sounding premise that shelter is a basic human right to the grandiose self-entitled claim that everyone is entitled to a 2-BR flat in Pacific Heights for $600 a month.

    In 99,99% of the world, if you are poor, you expect to live in a crappy home in a crappy part of the town or region. You don’t expect residential luxury on somebody else’s dime.

  4. Some of us plan for contingencies. Others do not.

    Punishing winners and rewarding losers does not a great nation make.

  5. There will always be some people who have less money than other people.

    You are perfectly entitled to place a lower value on having money than I. But what you cannot then credibly do is expect a bailout from those who do put a higher value on it.

  6. No, you don’t. You could be involved in an accident. You could get sick. There are all kinds of things that happen to people. Obviously you’ve been lucky so far. A phrase that people often use is TAB – temporarily able-bodied. Enjoy it while you can…

  7. It was not expensive here until the dot com years starting in 1995. Before then, rents were cheap. I have no idea what you’re talking about because I’ve here a long time, and rents were nothing like they are now. This is the second period of rent rises, after the dot com period. And nothing wrong with doing some charity, some pro bono, some kindness towards others who aren’t into gouging the public for all their money.

  8. That’s not true – there are people who are ill, disabled in some way, including injured – no one has a guarantee that they’re going to be fine as they go through life. And maybe not everyone puts money as a top value, as you appear to.

  9. Everyone has the chance to be wealthy in America. But not everyone takes that chance and builds on it.

  10. Who needs proof, when you have illogical dogma wielded by rabid bullies running around town trying to make landlords the new Jews……

  11. The judge that threw out Campos blatant theft said “LAND LORDS ARE NOT TO BLAME”… But your a hater, so hate on and clearly you think you are smarter than any judge….Rent control is the grand daddy of gaming the system,,,,,

  12. “pimps are evil people, not the hookers.”

    Except in this example the landlord is the hooker, not the pimp. The renter is the John, and its been far too long that Johns have been blameless.

    But thanx for quantifying the situation.

  13. “Not expensive to rent”? When did you move here? I’ve been here over 40 yrs and its ALWAYS been expensive.

    Look, if someone wants to rent out at less than the going rate, I’d call that charity. If someone is forced to rent at less than the going rate, and the recipient comes to depend upon that, then I’d say there’s a bit of entitlement going on. I’ll bet you aren’t subsidizing anyone; why don’t you contribute so those poor people can stay here cheaply.

  14. Godwin is proud of you. And nobody has anything that I want so don’t speak for me.

    If renting is like hiring a hooker, then landlords are pimps. Everyone knows that pimps are evil people, not the hookers.

  15. If you do not take the prudent steps to safeguard your future, then your future is not safeguarded

  16. Speculators built every building in this town.. They are NOT parasites at all, they are hard working self enabled people. But they have some thing you want (property) so you, demonize them like the Nazi’s did to the Jews. Renting is like hiring a Hooker, you don’t get all the advantages of marriage. In fact rent control is like rape, you force the victim to obey your will using government force, there is nothing consensual about it ! Just like the Japanese did to the Korean “comfort’ women.

  17. I’m not saying entitlement – that’s your word. These folks lived here when it was not expensive to rent.

  18. You’re the one who spouted ‘murderer’.

    And “wealthy”? I thought I gave an example of how someone of modest means (3x min. wage) could have set down roots. I can accept the need for charity; its a little less palatable when its couched in entitlement.

  19. So you’re perfectly OK with landlords doing an Ellis; you just object when someone else does it. Got it. First we kill all the speculators, then we start on the lawyers.

  20. They do have a right to live somewhere – in fact, each one was living somewhere when they passed away. What they don’t have is the right to live in one of the most expensive cities in the country for below market rate until the day they die. Planning your retirement by expecting to remain in a coveted apartment for hundreds (even thousands) of dollars below market rate is a fool’s paradise.

  21. Not everyone has the means to buy. You don’t know people’s circumstances. And some wouldn’t want to. And yet still they have a right to live somewhere. You don’t have to make profit number one over people’s lives. I object to what’s happening in this city.

  22. Not everyone has the chance to be wealthy. This country also protects the poor. Get a heart, would you.

  23. Landlords dealing with tenants is not the same kind of stress as losing your home, your neighborhood, possibly your support system if you have to leave the area, and at an advanced age too.

    And tenants have to live somewhere – that’s not entitlement. And they have needs. That’s not whiny. You’re being too hard on people.

  24. Let me state the obvious for you: The bill is intended to make it more difficult for speculators, the true parasites in the SF real estate market.

  25. I particularly liked all the expert medical testimony that proved beyond a doubt that moving killed them. And all the consideration of the medical effects of the stress on a landlord of having low-rent tenants hoarding his property forever and whining about their “rights”.

    Oh wait, there wasn’t any.

  26. This site is turning into The Onion. Next headline: Every Ellis Act Victim There Ever Was Is Going To Die! (Eventually)

  27. Leno cares not if it’s legal or feasible, ( just like Campo’s ) It’s all about pandering into rent control voters. Just like Republicans pandered to religious cult members with same sex marriage bans.

  28. Being vulnerable sux. Old age sux. Sickness sux.

    And yet, as a SFSU student in the ’60s: 1972 – Hayes Valley – 2U for $10,000 = <3x min. wage. We're not told about the decisions that lead away from that and into Ellis-land.

    Also, I think it should be mandatory in all reporting on Ellis Act evictions that the rent paid should be reported. After all, the eviction is not really about the person – its about the economics; and with no reporting on that, Truth is obfuscated and skewed.

  29. Hey, don’t dis Valencia Gardens. My sister lived there for 6 yrs, until the fourth kid forced them to move … to Oakland. I could say ‘SHAME on SFHA’, except it was a blessing in disguise!

  30. Poor people are saints with “soul” and self enabled people are greedy bastards who should be eaten. The loser narrative pushed in this town is just bizarre

  31. Since they were old, why did they not buy 30 years ago when it was cheap ? I did, now I’m old but FREAKING SELF ENABLED and not a dependent on the charity of others. Life is a long learning experience, but some never learn anything.

  32. You talk like real estate speculators were Homosexuals in 1955….. Let’s publish their names in the papers…..

  33. If Tony was interested in objectivity, which he clearly is not, he would try and cover both sides of the story.

    Is there an elderly landlord somewhere in SF who was driven to an early death by the stress of being stuck with a bunch of whiney entitled tenants?

    We will never know because Tony didn’t give a crap to find out.

  34. TL;DR but the clear point is that if there is a five-year waiting period to Ellis then any owner who has owned for more than five years and wants to sell will obviously Ellis first and then offer for sale.

    Or if he has owned for 4 years, he will wait a year and then Ellis, rather than sell.

    Moreover, if it looks like laws restricting Ellis might happen then, again, why wait? Ellis while you can.

    Either way = the rate of Ellis evictions accelerates.

  35. 1. Speculators CURRENTLY offer to buy what the above has labeled “pre-Ellised” buildings and the Leno bill did NOT pass. 2. Speculators’ business model is research properties containing our most vulnerable (aka unprofitable) citizens and then QUICKLY try to gain and flip the building, not wait around for easily over a year in contract for a private person or LLC front to get into a potentially protracted lawsuit with potentially bad media publicity that they may or may not win. 3. Sellers cannot guarantee their Ellis Act attempts – complete with potentially negative media and unforeseen cost jumps – will result in the “successful” throwing onto the streets our seniors, disabled residents, families with children, our teachers, etc. The news has plenty of reports of the courts throwing out illegal Ellis attempts. 4. Leno’s legislation never “required” any “business” (aka person or group of people) to sell their property. How silly. As is this speculation about what speculators and longer term landlords would or wouldn’t have done. Had there been a risk for increased acceleration of Ellis Act evictions (the expedient means to a greedy speculator’s end goal) then the speculators would not have called in so many favors and dumped so much money into defeating the measure.

  36. The article was a bunch of maudlin, misery-mongering malarcky.

    If we want to help seniors then that that help should come from the city and from the general fund. If the city relies on small private businesses to provide welfare because the city is too cheap to pay for it itself, then any suffering that results is the result of those bad city policies.

    It is totally unreasonable to expect me to spend decades subsidizing the lifestyle of some old person solely because I had the misfortune to be stuck with them because of city politics.

    These old people will stop suffering only when the city takes responsibility for their welfare rather than outsourcing it to a small minority of private citizens who do not wish to have that responsibility and expense.

    Shame on you, Tony, for using these deaths for your own ideological crusade of envy and confiscation.

  37. Yes, if the Leno thing had passed, we would see speculators offering to buy rental buildings that had been “pre-Ellis’ed”.

    In other words the seller would realize that he should Ellis first and then his building is more valuable. The speculator could even offer to pay the costs of that – a contract would enforce the purchase once the Ellis is done.

    So the result of the Leno law would have been an ACCELERATION of Ellis evictions. As always, that pesky law of unintended consequnces

  38. Were speculators involved in the sad stories of Ms Turner and Mr Lickers? Or was it their long term landlord who did the evictions?

    One problem with Leno’s legislation that I’ve never seen addressed is that it would simply require the original owner to do the Ellis/TIC conversion and THEN sell the property. For example, a speculator would approach a landlord and state an interest in buying the property. But under Leno’s law he would be barred from going TLC so he would only buy it if the original owner (assuming that he/she had owned the property for 5 years) did the dirty work first.

    It would seem like Leno’s law would need t require someone who does a TLC to hold onto it for 5 years but…is that legal or feasible? You can’t sell your personal property?

  39. “Senate bill 364 would make it illegal to invoke an Ellis Act eviction with buildings whose ownership has changed within five years. … this very reasonable, very common sense bill …”

    Hmm, so its “reasonable” to evict someone as long as you’ve owned the property for 5 yrs or longer. Ok. Got it.

    Of course, thats not the flavor of this story. So I’ve really got to wonder if the fault is – not in the eventual eviction – but in the cruel sort of ruse that allowed those folks to live in the bubble they did into their vulnerable years. The fantasy that they could stay put – paying less than the year before – in perpetuity.

    If looking at 5 yrs as a timeline, it might make more sense to let people know that the gravy train will be pulling into the roundhouse and they’ll all have to get off, sooner rather than later. That, to me, sounds more like the “stabilization” the law is titled; and is less cruel than whats in place presently.

  40. That is heartbreaking. I have witnessed the severe and on-going health impact that even FEAR of these gross Ellis Act evictions, much less the fighting or succumbing under them, has taken on several elders these last years. The health impacts are wide, obvious, and undeniable (unless you fancy yourself akin to a Tobacco Company research scientist). Shame on the greed of these speculators and anyone who bothers defending them. No amount of “relocation” (read: Anywhere But Home) monies can ultimately replace losing community, security, safety, and a sense of place when a person is in the twilight of their lives. I shiver to imagine the stress of knowing I have a limited fixed income to get me through to death and wondering whether I have done all I could to prep to at least stay with a stable roof overhead for my family, when some greedy fool pulls the rug out from under me. Like getting old is not hard enough for so many.

  41. I’d call it murder – these landlords have blood on their hands – these were two lovely individuals who didn’t deserve to be treated like this –

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