Will SF allow the owner who evicted a 100-year-old to get a condo conversion permit?

Planning rules don't allow lucrative conversions after evictions -- so how can the Planning Commission allow Iris Canada's apartment to become a condo?

The SF Planning Commission is set to vote Thursday/11 on allowing the owners of the building where Iris Canada was evicted to convert to condominiums.

The centenarian died shortly after she was forced out of the unit where she had lived for more than five decades.

Iris Canada died shortly after being evicted

The eviction of Iris Canada became a huge political issue in the city – but the commission initially put the condo conversion, which was the prime reason for her eviction, on the consent calendar.

Only after tenant advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca objected was the item moved to a full hearing.

And the paperwork for the hearing, with commission staff recommending approval, shows just how utterly messed up the city’s planning process can be. The commission packet states that there were no evictions in the building for the past five years, and that all of the tenants were offered the first right of refusal to buy their units.
That’s what the condo-conversion code requires.

In this case, the owners filed to evict Canada, the case was in Superior Court, was all over the news media, and many of us were there when the landlord changed the locks and took all of the ailing woman’s possessions out of her home.

“Of course there was an eviction,” Mecca, who works with the Housing Rights Committee, told me.

The application states that the unit was “vacant” between 2012 and 2017. That’s clearly not true – Canada had what’s known as a “life estate,” the right to stay in her home until she died, and was living in the Page Street apartment when she was tossed out.

The city was well aware of this issues here: In an April, 2017 letter to the city, Mecca noted that

Iris Canada, a 100-year-old African American woman who had lived at 670 Page since the 1950s, was evicted in February of this year by the owners of her unit: Peter Owens, Carolyn Radische and Stephen Owens. She was originally served an Ellis eviction by these same owners in September 2002, as were the other tenants in the other apartments in her 6-unit building. She got an attorney at Tenderloin Housing Clinic and managed to stay, until 2014 when Owens, Radisch and Owens filed another eviction against her. 

The law on this is pretty clear. If a tenant – particularly a senior – has been evicted to make way for a condo conversion, the city is supposed to deny it.

Subdivision Code sec 1386 reads:

When the City Planning Commission determines that vacancies in the project have been increased, or elderly or permanently disabled tenants displaced or discriminated against in leasing units, or evictions have occurred for the purpose of preparing the building for conversion, or if rents in the project over the previous 18 months preceding the date of filing the application have been increased substantially greater than any increase in the residential rent component of the “Bay Area Cost of Living Index, U.S. Dept. of Labor,” (except for increases reasonably related to construction of Code-required capital improvements directly related to Code enforcement, or to recoup the costs thereof), or when the City Planning Commission determines that the subdivider has knowingly submitted incorrect information (to mislead or misdirect efforts by agencies of the City and County of San Francisco in the administration of this Code), the Tentative Map shall be disapproved and the subdivider may not reapply for 18 months from the date of denial.

The Planning Department memo states that there is no record in Rent Board files of any eviction in the past five years. But landlords often fail to file their eviction papers with the Rent Board. And in this case, even a quick Google search would have shown the planners (who would have had to be completely out of touch with local politics to be unaware of the Iris Canada issue anyway) that the Page Street unit was the subject of an eviction of a senior.

One of the issues in the eviction: Canada was unwilling to give up her right of first-refusal to buy the place. That’s also public record, easily available to anyone who did even a cursory search.

There is more than just a vote on a subdivision and condo conversion at stake. The planners have a chance here to say that evicting a 100-year-old African American woman is not okay, and that the people who did it should not be rewarded with the very lucrative windfall that a condo conversion allows.

Iris Canada lived in District Five. Her supervisor was and is Acting Mayor London Breed. I texted Breed and asked if she had any comment on the condo conversion, but she didn’t respond.

Four of the seven planning commissioners are appointed by the mayor, and they often take their cues from Room 200. If Breed called for them to reject this deal, chances are good that it would happen.

The supes, who have to approve any changes in the subdivision maps, which are required for condo conversions, will also have a chance to weigh in. These things are often pretty routine – but the case of 668-678 Page Street is far from routine.

The item is number 16 on the commission agenda.

  • Heart

    Wow. No comment from the “i’m-a-renter-just-like-you” former candidate London Breed. Yes with the election long over, Breed doesn’t need to pretend she cares about tenants, elders or fraudulent/illegal evictions. Here was an elderly African American woman from Breed’s home district D5 and Breed didn’t lift a finger to help her. And now that Iris Canada is dead and gone, Breed still can’t screw up the courage to do the right thing. Pretty speeches and stirring stories of Grandmas, powdered milk and moving trucks. Actions speak louder than words London.

    • PaxSF

      Why on earth would Breed respond to a text from Tim? He’s not a journalist.

      • Heart

        Well…….a common complaint throughout D5 is that the Suoervisor doesn’t respond to phone calls or emails from her constituents either. They say the same thing about Sheehy. It’s nothing new. Maybe now that she’s trying to be both Mayor and supe that will change. Ha! Don’t hold your breath. Breed’s got her eye on higher office, not policy or solutions for the rest of us. She should go work for Conway.

        • DerekSF

          Wiener was great, replied to every email within 24 hours. Jane Kim blocks people on facebook for just mentioning problems in her district, hate her.

          • Ragazzu

            I think maybe Kim blocked YOU. You’ve complained about it before. Gee, I can’t imagine why!

          • DerekSF

            Yes she blocked ME, and hundreds of others, just for raising concerns or disagreeing with her points of view.

            Courts have ruled this illegal.
            https://www.engadget.com/2017/07/30/virginia-court-politicians-block-social-media/

            Not to mention dozens of people who came to the defense of Gary McCoy when she made false acquisitions against him on Facebook.

            She’s as sleezy as any politician, and in bed with PG&E and Big Soda.

          • Ragazzu

            Hundreds? How would you know?

          • sfsquirrel

            Well, if that is your reason to oppose Kim, I guess you won’t be voting for Breed either, because she blocks her constituents of Facebook. I know someone who was blocked just for asking her why she did not show up to a meeting she was scheduled to attend.

        • PaxSF

          Campos was really bad at constituent service and rarely responded to constituent emails or calls. Ronen is only slightly better; she takes 2 weeks to respond and then only after complaining she deserves more staff. Wiener was and still is amazing at responding to constituent communication. Point is, there’s no reason why Breed should respond to Tim as anything other than just another constituent.

          • Heart

            Iris Canada was London Breed’s constituent. She did not help Iris in her hour of need. Breed insists that she is the savior of tenants and African American San Franciscans and based on Breed’s actual actions and record, that could not be any further from the truth Pax.

          • DerekSF

            And if the tenant is in the wrong? The San Francisco Chronicle has covered this story in-depth, and other then progressive papers trying to twist the facts, this case is pretty clear cut. There was nothing for Breed to interfere with. All Iris had to do was sign some papers so the other tenants in the building could condo convert, she’d get to stay her in apartment for life for the same $700/month she has been paying for years. How could you ask for anything more?

          • sfsquirrel

            The San Francisco Chronicle is not a newspaper.

          • @Heart – This is specious. Breed went to bat for Canada while Canada was still alive.

          • Heart

            Care to elaborate on that Jym? What specific action are you referring to? Please cite. Thanks.

        • sfsquirrel

          I think Breed already works for Conway. She does not work for us.

    • curiousKulak

      “to do the right thing”

      And that is … what? Screw over the folks that bent over backwards to accommodate the elderly woman? Allow a greedy relative to profit off the mistreatment of her elder? If the nice hadn’t insisted that Iris insist on buying the unit she didn’t want, then iris could have lived out her days peacefully.

      Doing the right thing in this instance is staying out of it.

      • James Windsor

        She was a 100 years old. YOUR GREED IS SHOWING.

        • Kraus

          Your ignorance of the actual facts of this case is showing.

          • James Windsor

            I was involed in her ongoing tenant struggle, so your IGNORANCE IS SHOWING. And you have nothing to brag about throwing a 100 year old woman into the street and basically killing her. That is sick behavior for the sake of greed.

          • Kraus

            Fortunately, we do not live in your preferred system of mob rule and the constitution, the attendant laws and courts do not agree with you.

          • James Windsor

            Evidently you would prefer to throw elderly people out into the street. Unfortunately capitalist crooks and greed have destroyed the laws in America and have made the government hostage to money and greed. Jesus would be so proud of you.

          • James Windsor

            Kraus, the Planning Commission did not agree with you. Ha ha ha.

          • Kraus

            They just “kicked the can” until February — and you fell for it.

          • James Windsor

            kraus, troll elsewhere, you have nothing to say.

          • curiousKulak
          • Zhoosh

            Relax, relax. Nobody threw a 100 year old woman into the street. She hadn’t been living in the apartment for years (unless you want to believe that she was living alone without any assistance whatsoever and was never seen by neighbors). It was being warehoused in the hopes that her niece could profit from it.

          • James Windsor

            Did you ever visit her in the last year of her life. I did and she was there. You have nohting to say.

          • @Zhoosh – A friend of mine lived in that building and did see her there.

          • curiousKulak

            Did your friend testify for her at her hearing?

          • @curiousKulak – My friend has been priced out of the Bay Area, so no.

          • curiousKulak

            @Jym –
            well, the timing of that observation is critical. She obviously lived there for 60-odd years; the contention was that she had *stopped* living there. In addition, there were times, that seemed staged by her advocates, where she’d be at the unit, but … no Meals-on-Wheels, no shuttle pickups … . Did your friend have anything to contribute about when she was continually living there? 2010, 2013. 2016?

            I am a bit disconcerted that Owens testified at Planning last week that “There was no eviction. This unit has not been lived in for six years,” I’m pretty sure there was an eviction – that the nature of that eviction did not conflict with the Subdivision Code (Breach of Leave vs Removal for Conversion). But there really did seem to be an eviction. I mean, isn’t that why the Sheriff was there?

            So this story continues to unfold in layers of … complexity.

          • curiousKulak

            I applaud your witnessing. I’m taken back by your ignorance and seeming ideological rigidity. Was there evidence we didn’t see that wasn’t in the court record?

          • Kraus

            “curiousKulak”,

            Evidence doesn’t matter — it’s so “Pre-Trump” don’t you know.
            All that matters are “feelings” of the enraged Mob.

        • curiousKulak

          How so?

      • Heart

        Like a good little Nazi.

        • Kraus

          When the actual facts of a matter are at stake, and they don’t comport with “Heart’s” position, it doesn’t take very long anymore for them to demonstrate Goodwin’s Law.

          • James Windsor

            Kraus, Outside of a bunch of greedy crooks nobody is interested in your defense of supporting, aiding and abetting the murder of an old woman.

          • Kraus

            “James Windsor”,

            You seem interested enough to reply to them.

          • James Windsor

            kraus, and you dont seem to mind embarrassing yourself, especially by using a fake name,

          • James Windsor

            kraus, not interested in your obvious hate trip or your fake name.

          • @James Windsor – @Kraus is widely-believed to be Sonja Trauss, though it’s never been proven. Very similar prose style, though.

          • James Windsor

            jym dyer, who is sonja trauss.

          • @James Windsor – Note the argumentative style:
            http://sfist.com/2016/11/16/supervisors_delay_25_affordable_maj.php

          • curiousKulak

            @Jym Wow – always felt that “Kraus” had a ‘male’ presence. And after seeing and listening to her, and having read ‘Kraus’ for a while now, I’m not convinced, though it just might be.

          • curiousKulak

            Oh – was that Heart’s “just like a good little nazi” comment?

  • DerekSF

    Umm, she was given a more then generous life estate and when it came time to condo convert, instead of signing papers that would have had no affect on her, her daughter tried to extort the property owners to sell the unit at a ridiculously below market rate so she could profit. The only greedy people here were her. She was also in violation of the terms of the life estate by not living there. Even after losing the lawsuit and owing close to 200k in lawyer fees, the property owner was still willing to let her stay and wave the fees if she would just sign the papers. So again, who is the greedy one her? The owners seem more then generous.

    • Zhoosh

      She wasn’t living in the apartment. Think about how easy it would be to convince the judge that a 99 year old woman was living in the apartment. Yet both the judge and the sheriff were convinced that she wasn’t living there.

      • Rosh HoshHosh

        Then the judge ordered the eviction which the sheriff’s office enforced.

        The Planning Commission needs to follow the law, no? The city could be open to a lawsuit if they do not.

      • sfsquirrel

        And OJ was innocent.

        • Zhoosh

          And Garcia Zarate just found the gun and didn’t realize it until it went off.

          Do you have an explanation as to why Ms Canada’s lawyer was unable to demonstrate that she actually lived in the apartment? Was there no visiting nurse, no Meals on Wheels driver, no senior center, no neighbor who could have made the landlord look foolish when he claimed that she hadn’t live there for years?

          • Rosh HoshHosh

            Speaking of the landlord looking foolish…

          • sfsquirrel

            So, are you racist, classist or both? You seem to know as much about the Zarate case as you do about the eviction of Iris Canada and yet you seem so sure of your verdicts. By the way, have you seen the follow-up article? 6-0 to deny the permit — The Planning Commission, not a bunch of leftists.

          • Kraus

            The Commission didn’t “deny the permit”.
            They merely voted to forestall making a final decision and have another hearing on the case in February.
            They put on “6-to-0-show-of-indignation” and you fell for it.

          • James Windsor

            kraus, forget you.

          • sfsquirrel

            Oh, dang — I surely did get fooled. At least I haven’t fallen for the trickle down housing snake oil you are selling.

  • Peter Wong

    If the Planning Commission gives the Owens and Radische their condo conversion, I have a simple response. Publicly and repeatedly refer to the Page Street place from now on as “the Death Condo.” The name accurately reflects the price the evictors paid to enhance their wealth.

  • curiousKulak

    This is just another attempt by Tommi and his gang of trying to grab something that isn’t theirs.

    This is shameful, and a total disrespect of the dead.

    Oh, and also, not true.

    • James Windsor

      Oh please grow up.

  • James Windsor

    These so called owners should be in prison for murder.

    • curiousKulak

      Naw, some mob would just spring them out of jail and hang them from a tree. Isn’t that what you want – blood?