Two San Franciscans who faced Ellis evictions died recently — a reminder, perhaps, of the health consequences of threatening vulnerable seniors with displacement
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com