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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

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News + PoliticsLandlord seizes 100-year-old woman's possessions

Landlord seizes 100-year-old woman’s possessions

Moving crew starts to take away 60 years of property and memories and landlord lawyer refuses to let Iris Canada's niece go inside and look for her medicine

Iris Canada, the 100-year-old woman who was just evicted from her Page Street home, was back in the hospital Tuesday night when a team of movers hired by the landlord showed up and started taking away her possessions.

A U-Haul truck park in front of the Page St. building was filled with furniture, including the chair she liked to sit in, when I arrived around 9pm. A crowd of tenant activists was outside and several police officers had put everything on hold.

The activists had called the cops because Canada, her niece and caregiver Iris Merriouns, and her lawyer had not been notified that the things she had accumulated over 60 years in the apartment were being removed.

Merriouns wanted to get in before the place was emptied and the contents hauled away. “I need to get her wheelchair,” she said. “She has medications and medical paperwork in there.”

Merriouns said that she’d been trying all week to get the landlord’s lawyer, Andrew Zacks, to let her in. The law says the owner of the property has to give an evicted tenant “reasonable access” to reclaim possessions within 15 days.

“We got no access,” she said, over and over again, as a sergeant and two officers tried to figure out what to do.

It was surreal. “This is the worst I’ve even seen in more than 20 years of tenant work,” Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who works with the Housing Rights Committee, told me.

Canada was evicted last week, after a long legal battle. Sheriff Vicky Hennessy sent deputies to change the locks on the doors while Canada was out at the senior center where she spends most of her days.

It’s hard to imagine why, after all the publicity and the bad press that comes from evicting a frail and vulnerable 100-year-old woman, the owner, Peter Owens, wouldn’t go out of his way to make sure that she had the ability to reclaim her possessions.

But that’s not how Zacks works.

Residents of the building, who are trying to get a permit to convert the apartments to condos, peeked out from behind curtains as Merriouns sought to convince the officers that her aunt’s stuff belonged back inside. The movers sat around waiting.

Then Zacks showed up, all full of bluster. He insisted to the cops that he had offered Merriouns access; she said that had never happened. Then he stopped interacting with her and went back to his BMW.

The police met with him, and in an impromptu conference, Zacks agreed that an officer could go into the apartment and look for the wheelchair and the paperwork. But Merriouns would not be allowed in.

Again, so odd: Why not let her go find her aunt’s medication and paperwork, with the eviction lawyer and a police officer accompanying her? What possible harm could that cause? Why not give “reasonable access” right then?

But no. Zacks refused.

I was told that Sup. London Breed had contacted the sheriff, who said there was nothing she could do. I texted Breed, who hasn’t gotten back to me.

An officer returned from the building with a wheelchair and a stack of mail. That was it. “She’s screwed,” Merriouns said.

The sergeant, who like the officers with her remained calm throughout, told Merriouns that the property would be taken to a secure storage space and that she would get access.

Zacks said the same thing. “We aren’t about to sell anything,” he said.

So now the last remnants of the life Iris Canada lived on Page Street since the 1950s is somewhere in storage, in the hands of the lawyer who tossed her out and who wouldn’t let her niece in for five minutes to look for medical records.

This is San Francisco, 2017.

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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28 COMMENTS

  1. You are assuming that this unnamed senior center was just a day center. More likely, that center is a residential senior center, where Mrs. Canada spends ALL her time, which I highly suspect is the real truth. That is the reason both the judge and sheriff stated that Mrs. Canada was no longer living at the apartment — because she had moved into a residential senior center, where she could receive proper care!

    The real reason Mrs. Canada’s medications weren’t in that apartment, is because she took them with her, when she moved to the residential senior center!

    My bet is the niece was just continuing to pay the $700 a month after her aunt had moved out, in a slimey attempt to pretend her aunt was still living there, after her aunt had voluntarily moved out!

    Obviously, neither this publication or the niece want to tell us the name of this senior center, because then we’d all know the real truth!

  2. First of all, Iris was offered a “life estate” at the deeply discounted rate of $700 a month, to enable her to live in a property easily worth over half a million dollars! That $700 a month didn’t even cover the property taxes, much less the mortgage! To say nothing of insurance and maintenance expenses!

    Second, the “life estate” in the amount of $250,000 was offered to Mrs. Canada in 2003, and as of 2017, Iris had paid a little over $100,000 towards that $250,000, so she had NOT paid it off! As Mrs. Canada has a $100,000 court judgement against her to repay the rightful owners their legal fees of defending themselves in court, in reality, she has paid absolutely nothing!

    Third, Iris was only offered a “life estate”, on condition that she agree to allow the rest of apartments in the building to be converted to condos. That was the deal, and a deal’s a deal! She refused to honor the deal she struck, or more accurately, her niece refused to allow her to honor it, making it null and void.

    Fourth, the only one trying to steal in this case, was Mrs. Canada’s niece, who was literally attempting to steal a property easily worth over half a million dollars! The owners were perfectly willing to allow Mrs. Canada to live there for the rest of her life, but that wasn’t enough for her greedy niece, who imagines she is entitled to be given their apartment after her aunt died, for free!

    Fifth, lying is a sin so just stop.

  3. Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. I don’t disagree that she should have some ownership stake in that apartment, given how long she’s lived there. This housing advocacy debate usually misses this important context entirely.

    While what is moral vs. what is lawful are currently entirely different things, it should not fall to the landlord to make up for all this injustice out of his own pocket. The governments and corporations that made these policies or grew rich because of them need to be compelled to help out in these situations.

  4. It should have been stated that Iris Canada paid for her life Estate… It was not given to her. She’s paid her dues in more ways than one. The truth will prevail.

    Isaiah 10:1-3

    “Woe to those who enact evil statutes And to those who constantly record unjust decisions, So as to deprive the needy of justice And rob the poor of My people of their rights, So that widows may be their spoil And that they may plunder the orphans. Now what will you do in the day of punishment, And in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your wealth?”

    Say what you will or you may… Do what you will or you may.

    “Right is right and right don’t wrong nobody!”

    God always has the last word.

  5. I hope Ms Canada finds peace and care in her new surroundings. I hope others are there to provide support when she needs it. Maybe all participants can redeem themselves by making sure she has the comfort she deserves.

  6. It’s damaging to other tenant rights stories to have this one presented with slanted facts, obvious emotional ploys and a lack of relevant context (such as the offers to restore life estate). This 100 year old woman was offered the right to stay in that property for life at a deeply discounted rate AND have 100,000 in court fees forgiven but refused many times. That should be stated.

  7. Interesting. This article is full of typos so I’m not surprised that it would play fast and loose with the facts to craft a better story.

    If the situation is as you characterize it, it’s most unfortunate that this elderly woman has to suffer for her niece’s selfish dealings. A move from a longtime home at that age can be detrimental to one’s health. It really is disgusting to see people hawk over loved ones.

  8. It had been reported earlier last year that Merriouns drove a MB. Whether she arrived with one yesterday or Uber’d over is about as relevant as whether Zacks owns a LBB (Lexus/Benz/BMW).

    Most lawyers, and RE agents in this town, drive LBBs. In fact, observing the streets of SF – these cars (LBB) are ubiquitous. Thus, is it newsworthy that an attorney in this town drives one?

    I do agree that an opportunity for good publicity seems to have been lost by Owens & company. But do we have all the facts?

  9. To use the terminology of Maxine Waters, Iris Merriouns is a “scumbag.” Merriouns has only herself to blame for this mess. 48 Hills should focus on telling the full story.

  10. This story had a lot of coverage over the summer, and virtually all the newspapers reported that had Ms. Canada cooperated with the condo conversion papers her life estate would have been gratuitously restored by the owners at no expense to Ms. Canada and that she would be able to live there for the rest of her life. Every article made it crystal clear that Iris Merriouns was not willing to accept such an offer, and instead refused to let Ms. Canada sign the papers to get the owners for force them to sell the unit to Ms. Canada, with money she did not have. All the articles, regardless of the tone or favor, were completely consistent in that fact.

    SF Gate, The Examiner, CurbedSF, Hoodlike, etc. They all reported that Iris Merriouns refused the offer. They have themselves to blame. Believe it or not, not EVERYTHING in this city is the fault of a property owner. Some people, as difficult as it may seem, are only concerned for themselves. Case in point.

  11. “All of the press makes it crystal clear she has done nothing to advance her aunt’s own interests”

    To what press do you refer?

  12. Iris M would have been accompanied by two cops and the LL lawyer; unlikely she could do anything but find what she was looking for. I did see her get in a car but it didn’t look like a Benz to me, looked like a midrange car like a Honda. But I am not a car expert, and I could be wrong. I saw no reason for the LL lawyer to be so harsh and cruel; they won, have a little class.

  13. Indeed. Iris Merriouns is an absolute train wreck and the owners should never let her have any access. All of the press makes it crystal clear she has done nothing to advance her aunt’s own interests. What is worse is how she has used the tenant activists of this city, who have genuine good intentions, to advance her own selfish desires.

    Let’s not forget that over this past summer I recall reading in numerous papers that the owners did everything they could to restore the life estate of Ms. Canada, but Iris Merriouns refused and now it cost Ms. Canada her home.

    Nice job Iris Merriouns, sleep well.

    This story is a dead horse that has been beat to death. There are far more compelling stories for this paper to cover, and far more worthy causes for the activists to support then enabling Iris Merriouns and her continued effort to exploit Ms. Canada.

  14. I would be willing to wager (a lot) that the landlord’s side offered a fair way to access the unit. They just want to get this over with; what is the advantage of being outright cruel? Even in this article the landlord’s lawyer tells the police that he did grant her access. So to be cruel and then lie to the police about it?

    The much more likely scenario is that the niece wanted the theater of being refused to go in to get her aunt’s wheel chair.

    And good catch about the cars. I had the same thought. We make sure to mention that the lawyer drives a BMW, but we would NEVER mention the fact that the niece drives a Benz.

  15. This is where Tim’s story completely falls apart:

    Sheriff Vicky Hennessy sent deputies to change the locks on the doors while Canada was out at the senior center where she spends most of her days.

    The judge declared that she wasn’t living in the apartment. The Sheriff believes so as well.

    But Tim knows about this unnamed senior center where she spends most of her time, meaning that the judge was wrong. Too bad nobody knows a good investigative journalist who could identify that senior center and prove that a big part of the landlord’s case was false.

    And shame on that senior center. Somebody at that center must have heard about this eviction. They know that the judge was wrong, they most likely have a driver who who has been picking her up for months or years.

    And yet, silence from Tim’s unnamed senior center.

    Wow.

  16. If it were me, I’m not sure I’d let Merriouns into the unit. The lawyer, maybe. But I would suggest she tell an officer where to look for the stuff, and let them take care of it. The wheelchair – easy. The meds? – a bit more difficult. The paperwork? – again, a quick search should turn these up, if Iris was organized at all. Or clear the crowds and let them move the stuff to a storage unit; though searching when you might know where stuff is is a lot easier than after its all been schlepped away.

    This was a 2 yr contentious legal battle, with reams and reams of paperwork. Take a look for yourself.
    Case # ACGC14543437
    https://query.sftc.org/Minds_asp_pdf/Viewer/DownLoadDocument.asp?PGCNT=0
    That said, a modicum of generosity on the “winners” part would be soothing.

    ” … and [Zacks] went back to his BMW”. And [Merriouns] went back to her MB.

    ed: links don’t work. Go to SF Superior Court > online lookup > [pass robot shield] > enter Name > Canada, Iris > and that should get you the docu-dump.

  17. “She’s screwed,” Merriouns said.

    Actually, Merriouns screwed her great-aunt by not letting her stay in the unit for life at $700 a month, and conniving to get hold of the property.

  18. Who pays for the storage space? I am curious about the reason the eviction lawyer refused Ms. Merriouns access to the apartment. I speculate that he worried that she would squat in the apartment and the whole legal mess would start a new chapter.

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