Monday, April 19, 2021
News + Politics A 99-year-old still faces eviction

A 99-year-old still faces eviction

What does Iris Canada owe to the white people who want to turn her home of 50 years into condos? Nothing


Carved into the skin of SF’s black community is a desecration, a lack of recognition of the sacred. This desecration is being levied upon Iris Canada, a 99-year-old elder who has lived most of her life on Page Street — an elder who is in the fight of her life.

She has lived a life on Page Street long before condos, con-men and the poison cloud legacy they leave behind. Iris sits in her living room while plans are being hatched, schemed and plotted to separate her from her home in the name of condo-conversion.

Iris Canada's supporters have held a vigil outside her house
Iris Canada’s supporters have held a vigil outside her house

She sits in quiet dignity.  Her home is a bouquet of memory.  Pictures of family and community adorn the walls–black and white photos of a vivacious and beautiful Iris who worked as a nurse, who was married and very much involved in the rich life of her community.  There is a warmth in her home that cannot be duplicated, cannot be replicated in a lab or reenacted in a short term online application.

And the missionaries have descended upon her street, her neighborhood–as if ordained–in the name of revitalization and other terms formed in beaks whose true intention is to take our homes, our land and peck away at our bones until no evidence exists that we were here.  But Iris is 99 years old.  She didn’t come all this way to give the landlord, Peter Owens, the satisfaction of evicting a lifetime.

The other tenants want to convert the building into condos. They want Iris to sign a piece of paper which will allow them to do it. Tell me, why should Iris do them any favors?

Iris was given a life estate, allowing her to stay in her home by Owens, after he tried unsuccessfully to evict her several years ago. The estate comes with stipulations — including that she be prohibited from having anyone live with her, even a caregiver. Tell me, what 99-year-old doesn’t require some form of in-home care?

Iris, with 99 years, sits in her living room–a place where “living” is the operative word.  But the stress that she has been subjected to suggests that “living” is not part of the goal on the part of the owner and neighbors.  An upstairs neighbor yelled out of her window, “She doesn’t live here!” to the supporters holding the vigil for Iris on day one–to which a friend quickly and appropriately responded: Iris has lived her longer than you’ve been white.

And yes, the white cloud has overtaken this block–just as fires have overtaken the Mission. Even the trees appear uncomfortable, unwelcome–perhaps in fear that they too will be uprooted and discarded. And Iris fights quietly. Community has gathered at her side. Her landlord has sued her for court costs in a case against her that he lost. In vindictiveness, he sued again and won and Iris must pay 164,000 or face eviction.  If this is not elder abuse, I do not know what is.

Iris Canada, 99-year-old elder, eviction fighter in SF.  Iris Canada — who endured a stroke and still fights on. Iris Canada, a black woman in a black neighborhood that is becoming whiter and uglier. What the hell does she owe anybody?


  1. Or alternatively, if you see racism everywhere whether it is present or not, then you are part of the problem.

  2. I guess I am just post-racial and can see and interpret the world without any need for stereotypes. If you believe race is a key factor then you will see it everywhere. I don’t wear colored glasses.

    I simply think it is more evolved to not see race, and the new racists are almost all half-white, which troubles me

  3. No, you are *not* talking about this specific case; you are talking about being “obsessed with race then you see race everywhere and inject race into everything.” Yes, Identity politics is reactionary and Tony Robles’ article does veer into that territory. But racism is an indispensable tool in class exploitation and oppression, and your denying or belittling the role of racism in general helps further that exploitation and oppression. Why not a more constructive criticism? What is your motive?

    And Fillmore is a great example of how racism hurts all workers. As you say, only a quarter of those displaced were black, but it was also an area where lots of blacks lived. So by tearing down a neighborhood where lots of blacks lived, lots more workers of all races were displaced. And 99-year old Iris Canada lives in such a racially targeted neighborhood, whether racism is involved in her particular case or not.

    I don’t see how we can permanently solve these problems of either housing displacement (or racism) while the profit-system is in place, but talking about the barbarity of the profit-system’s displacement of a 99-year old woman and the role of race in displacement in general seems perfectly appropriate.

  4. We’re talking about this specific case, and there is zero evidence that race is a motive here. The owner wants to convert to condos and so everyone who lives in those units has to leave.

    As for the Fillmore redevelopment, did you know that only about a quarter of those displaced were black? And that many of them moved to close by?

  5. I know a few people in their nineties and every one has had to give up their adult home and either move in with family or a senior residence/care facility. Aging is very difficult. It’s unfortunate that ms Canada’s situation had to involve so much litigation. It might be possible that her nieces didn’t want to give up their lives to take care of her on a full time basis. Granny pods are the future.

  6. I don’t know anything about this issue except what I read in this “article.” This isn’t journalism and it sure as heck shouldn’t be considered news. This is an opinion piece, not news and shouldn’t be classified as such.

    While race and gentrification are not on opposite ends of the spectrum, based on this “article” I fail to see what race has to do with the issue. I am sure there are nuances to this case, but the writer hasn’t taken the time to explore any of them.

    If one of my reporters ever submitted this as a news item it would never be published because it has no substance and lacks facts and details. I hope Robles will find an editor who will help him hone his craft and not steer him to becoming a hack. (I could be more critical, but will exercise restraint and respect.)

  7. It is absurd to say that race is not a big factor in the San Francisco housing crisis. Flat wages and lack of jobs, combined with huge rent increases makes the City impossible to live in for most categories of workers of ALL races, but this situation csme about through attacks on black neighborhoods for decades, starting with the attack on the Fillmore District, and continues now in Bayview with the Lennar project. The same forces that have driven out most of SF’s black population are now driving out SF’s working-class population in general. Racism is the wedge the bosses use to attack all workers, and these poisonous elitist responses that deny racism are just cover for the bosses.

  8. <<u.

  9. Again, its not “rent” exactly. If she owned and couldn’t pay her mortgage (foreclosure) or RE taxes (auction), what would you say then?

    And it seems pretty evident she can’t live on her own.

    And again, maybe the easiest thing for her to do is to cooperate with the owners who want her signature – and then no “hit the streets”! Why is this whole situation so hyped up?! I can understand where this lady may no longer have mental capacity to understand what is going on. Thus, the family (and their motives) come into play.

    (note the racial language – where if Canada were white, this whole process would probably be going on identically)

  10. “Not sure what “protections” would be possible. Ideas?”

    Well, I’m certainly not the sharpest tool in the shed so don’t have anything specific, but there certainly are places (e.g. most of northern Europe) that don’t say – 99 and can’t pay rent ? – hit the streets.

  11. “hoping that more protections are instituted for people in her situation,”

    Well, thats’ kinda the point – what exactly is her ‘position’. Its sounds pretty unique (life-time lease, inability to often perform as per lease; and non-cooperation). Not sure what “protections” would be possible. Ideas?

    While she has spent most of the last few years living with family, there’s a strong intimation that said (MB-driving) family wish to piggyback on her low-cost lease and grab a payout from the owners. Otherwise, per the terms of the lease, if she needs live-in home care, she’s SOL, and will have to make arrangements to live with family or assisted living.

    While I can only assume from previous ‘generosities’ that the owners might even be willing to allow live-in care for Iris; there is likely a fear that that new resident may then try to continue the “life-time lease” past Canada’s lifetime; and a whole new ballgame ensues.

    And then there’s the refusal to sign the damn piece of paper. Not sure how to legislate around that.

  12. While far from agreeing with the expected, typical “hey pinko shut up and don’t tell me anyone has the right to stop me from robbing whomever I choose, for all their worth” trollery, wishing the best for Ms. Canda, and hoping that more protections are instituted for people in her situation, the tone of this article kind of pisses me off. If we don’t at least owe each other an attempt to understand each others position, regardless of how stress inducing, we don’t even deserve the piss ass pretense of democracy that remains.

  13. Can i ask, what the hell does the property owners race have to do with his/her desire to raise rent/put his/her property on the market? Are you seriously tearing up over the fact the status quo applies to 99 year olds like it does to 50 year olds? If you’d bought an apartment building when property in the city had little to no upside, i doub’t when that slab was worth something you’d balk at the idea of making a buck or two off your investment. Funny how critical people get when they’re the ones seeing other peeps dough stack. What would you have said if i owned this pad and denied an old lady a home because she was old and i saw this shit coming? You’d bitch and moan. Now that i did, you bitch and moan regardless. Who owns the property? Grow up dude. You sound like a commie, and i’ve been a participating Democrat my entire life. What the hell do you stand for?

  14. Robles has made a living out of being a race warrior. As a self-styled (bad) poet he hasn’t done as well out of race-baiting as Burris, but what he lacks in material success he makes up for in white-hating rhetoric, card-playing enthusiasm and idiotic identity politics.

    If you are obsessed with race then you see race everywhere and inject race into everything. There are white tenants who have been evicted by non-white landlords, and poor white residents who have been displaced by non-white gentrifiers, but you’d never know it if your sole source of information was Robles’ vituperative bigotry.

  15. Let me see if I understand the basics here….she can stay in her San Francisco home for $700 a month for the rest of her life. All she has to do is agree that her family can’t then make any money off of a home that she never owned or paid taxes on.

    Then why the tirade that would be considered racist anywhere outside of 48 Hills or a Trump rally?

  16. <.

  17. <.

  18. Its not “reporting” – its journalistic agitprop.

    While wildly unrealistic, emotion Trumps reason this political season..

  19. “What does Iris Canada owe to the white people who want to turn her home of 50 years into condos?”

    Well, she owes rent (technically payments on the life estate), which she apparently stopped paying for a while. She also owes them safe maintenance of the unit, such that it doesn’t become a nuisance or a danger to the other residents, and she apparently wasn’t doing that either.

    “Tell me, why should Iris do them any favors?”

    It would be a neighborly thing to do, since there would be literally zero downside to her. And because the person asking her for the favor has been friendly with her, thrown her a party for her 87th birthday, and arranged for her monthly life estate payments to be lower than her monthly rent.

    “If this is not elder abuse, I do not know what is.”

    You don’t know what elder abuse is.

  20. How do i know that she’s not being evicted for her race?

    Because there isn’t any evidence that she is. The onus to prove racism here sits firmly with the person making that allegation – Robles. And he furnishes no indication or evidence, let alone proof.

    And some civil right lawyer like Burris would be all over this like a rash if there was even a hint of racism.

    So the only reasonable conclusion is that Robles is playing a cheap egregious race card to try and make this eviction into something it’s not. I believe that is called a “dog whistle” argument.

  21. Ms. Canada is not a tenant, she purchased a life estate. Read a declaration by the building owner [PDF image of court filing] for his side of the story. While that story is likely to be self-serving, it was submitted under penalty of perjury.

    The owner did not sue in a case he lost. The owner won: the judge granted summary judgment. However, because violations were not grossly negligent, willful or fraudulent the judge then granted relief [PDF], on condition of full compensation to the owners and honoring all obligations.

    This case is bad news for all parties. Why lard bad reporting on top of that?

  22. “Her landlord has sued her for court costs in a case against her that he lost. In vindictiveness, he sued again and won and Iris must pay 164,000 or face eviction. If this is not elder abuse, I do not know what is.”

    I’m sure there are City-funded lawyers willing to take this up a third time.

    But where’s the “greed” epithet of ‘greedy landlord’? Oh, cuz her landlord actually LOWERED her rent in the agreement she signed a decade ago. Then let he go several months when she fell behind in her payments. And has been far more patient than many in regards the problems she’s made around the property. I guess he became “vindictive” when she refused to honor her side of the agreement and sign a damn piece of paper that in no way negatively impacted her.

    For the life of me though, I’ve got to wonder why the owner, from a monetary standpoint, didn’t just Ellis in ’05-whenever, send her packing with a measly $10k, and TIC the units. She would have gone to live with her niece, most likely. Instead, he’s incurred $150k+ legal expenses, gotten a black eye in the press, and been made to retire. And still the relatives are looking with big eyes at what they think they can force him to disgorge in a ‘settlement’ that will likely see ‘auntie’ shuffled off somewhere, yet with a bounteous estate.

    One could wonder where the Elder Abuse really lies.

    I hope Iris finds peace amid all the chaos and competing interests.

  23. ” a black woman in a black neighborhood that is becoming whiter and uglier”

    Ugh. You can make a case for a 99 year old woman not being evicted without making a racist insinuation what white people are uglier than black people. Iris is not being evicted because she is black, so playing a race card here is inappropriate and hate-baiting

Comments are closed.

More by this author

1979 — In the Mission

No Monster in the Mission! Build the Marvel, not the Monster! Competing voices and visions packed the auditorium of Mission High School Feb. 7 to...

‘Take back our lives:’ The words of poverty scholars

May 2 marks the 10-year anniversary of the passing of poet Al Robles. Al Robles was conferred much respect as a poverty scholar of...

The day of the big SRO move

  It was the day of the big move. The SRO Citadel, on Sixth Street, sat perched on granite. It was among a bevy of residential...

Arthur, Arthur!

I was on Muni heading to my high school reunion. As an author, memory is crucial to my craft. Much of high school I...

Can I get a whiteness?

Whiteness has not been my witness. It has averted its eyes, its shards of denial making its way towards us, eyes shooting cursory glances,...

Most read

COVID outbreaks continue in workplaces in California

The pandemic is far from over -- particularly for workers in vulnerable occupations.

New COVID-conscious Kapwa Gardens celebrates Filipino culture

Outdoor activity site in SOMA Pilipinas district was designed with safety in mind as people begin to gather again.

Money for ‘safe sleeping’ shelters — or permanent supportive housing?

Legislation by Sup. Rafael Mandelman aims to get people off the streets -- but homeless advocates are not supporting it. That's The Agenda for April 18-25

COVID denial is a grim rerun of AIDS denialism

Two decades ago, a cult-like crowd believed that HIV was harmless and AIDS was a plot. Many of them ended up dead.

You might also likeRELATED