Supes asked to allow condos where centenarian was evicted

Landlord who tossed out Iris Canada still wants the city to give him a lucrative permit. Plus: How does SF respond to sexual assault? That's The Agenda for April 23-29

The owners of a Page Street building who evicted a centenarian who died shortly after losing her home are asking the Board of Supes to overturn a decision denying them the right to turn the building into condos.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to reject a condo conversion permit for 670 Page St., where Iris Canada had lived. The commissioners agreed that the application was inaccurate because it had listed no evictions at the site.

Iris Canada died shortly after being evicted

The city doesn’t allow condo conversions for property where seniors have been evicted.

The case received significant news media attention, but somehow, Planning Department staff never notice that the application was faulty. It took an organizing effort by tenant groups to explain to the commission what had actually happened.

Peter Owens bought the building in 2002, and promptly filed Ellis Act eviction notices for all ten of the existing tenants. He planned to flip the units as tenancies in common, making a tidy profit in the process.

Then he could apply for a condo conversion permit, increasing the value of all of the units.

But Canada fought the Ellis eviction, and to settle that case and avoid the problems associated with tossing out a woman who at that point was 85, he agreed to allow her to live in her home for the rest of her life.

But as a resident with a “life estate” stake in the building, she would have to agree to the condo conversion, which could have meant the end of her tenancy. When she refused, Owens got the sheriff to lock her out.

He argued in court that she wasn’t actually living in the unit; she said she was, and reporters who visited her there found every indication that she was a regular inhabitant.

But that doesn’t matter: She was evicted. At this point, the Planning Commission and the Department of Building Inspection are clear: The building is not eligible for conversion.

And yet, the supervisors will hear once again from Owens’ lawyers and probably from him and his neighbors, who will say they just want the ownership rights that come from a condo conversion.

The item’s at 3pm, at the Board Chambers.

San Francisco is a progressive city with a lot of good people working in the public sector, but the way that the city responds to the survivors of sexual assault is more than a little troubling. As Bianca Rosen reported in 48hills last July,

In 2016, the vast majority of adult sexual assaults in San Francisco went uninvestigated or prosecuted. According to a list I generated through SF Open Data, there were 757 reports of adult sexual assault that year. When I asked the Police Department directly, the number they gave me was 694.

But even using SFPD’s number, out of the 694 reports of adult sexual assault, 297 — or 43 percent — were investigated, 91 — or 13 percent — were referred to the D.A.’s office, 11 adult and child sexual assault cases, or 1.6 percent, went to trial, and nine, or 1.3 percent, resulted in a guilty verdict. These numbers are staggering but sadly typical in terms of historical patterns and trends that persist across the country.

The Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee will hold a hearing on the issue Wed/25 at 10 am in Committee Room 263.

There are seven affordable housing projects approved for District 9, which has been ground zero for evictions and gentrification, and none of them have begun construction. Sup. Hillary Ronen has asked for a hearing to figure out what the delays are; that’s at the Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/23. 

The state Legislature, which is seriously in hock to the real-estate industry, has refused to allow cities to enact effective rent control – that is, rent control that remains in place when a tenant vacates an apartment. The Costa-Hawkins Act, one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation to come out of Sacramento in the past 30 years, guarantees that landlords will have an incentive to evict long-term tenants and is probably responsible for a significant number of the homeless people on the streets today.

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, with the financial support of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, has apparently gathered enough signatures to place the repeal of Costa Hawkins on the November ballot. It’s a risky move, as these ballot measures often are; if the tens of millions of dollars from the landlords swamps the initiative and it loses badly, efforts to repeal Costa Hawkins in the Legislature will be set back years.

But if it succeeds, tens of thousands of Californians will be more secure in their homes.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti supports the measure, and will appear at a rally in LA.

In Oakland, tenants will meet at noon at City Hall Monday/23to rally and turn in signatures.

If you’ve read this far, then you care about 48hills! Come support us at our Fifth Anniversary Gala May 1 at the Mission Cultural Center. All of the info is here.

80 COMMENTS

  1. You do realize that she had a legal right to pass the property on to her niece. That was also never mentioned. Owens was trying to force her to do something against her will. When she balked, he lied to have her evicted. He was a total scumbag, and SHOULD be prosecuted and imprisoned for elder abuse.

  2. That might be a little difficult. If I am not mistaken, one has to have a law degree to be a judge. And you seem to be determined to defend this scumbag who evicted this poor woman.

  3. Anytime someone screams “Nazi” or “Commie”, I tune out. But keep plugging away here, deary.

  4. The judges in the case believed otherwise. But what do they know. Du Sumpin’ Nice knows the law better than anyone. Gov. Brown should nominate him for a justice seat, too.

  5. Yes, but you seem to know with certainty that the judges were “biased” in this case. Gov. Brown needs to nominate you for the state supreme court.

  6. Do you remotely understand the concept of “standing?” I cannot petition for a retrial, as I have no standing in the case.

  7. graphic shouldn’t be like bombs…should be YIMBYs pushing old ladies in wheelchairs down front stairs

  8. And yet the court ruled in the landlords favor. So the judges “ignored evidence”, did they? You need to petition for a retrial toot-suite!

  9. Another way of saying what you wrote is that the owner attempted to change the contract terms after the fact.

  10. Speaking of data, according to the Anti Eviction Mapping Project’s ridiculously over dramatic site, there have been 4666 Ellis’ in the past 24 years. So that’s ~195 per year. Breach of Rental Agreement, OMI, etc. all dwarf Ellis Act evictions. Please explain to me how Ellis Act is “much-abused” because I could never find data on that outside of a few suspicious actors and some anecdotal evidence.

    http://www.antievictionmappingproject.net/ellis.html
    (I love how it looks like bombs going off on the map, appearing to destroy a large chunk of the city like a nuclear blast, when only about 170 people got Ellis’d in 1994. San Francisco has a HUGE spin problem, and you’re buying it hook, line, and sinker)

  11. Actually, tenants rights organizations advise against withholding rent unless it is an organized effort by tenants who have exhausted all other remedies. The easiest way to evict a tenant is because of non-payment of rent.

  12. Funny, Nazism was on the minds of a lot of people in the first half of the 1940s, but that did not mean the Nazis “had momentum.” I really love how you make ignorant, and clueless arguments.

  13. No FOOL, courts are biased when they ignore evidence, and are swayed by the desire to help someone make money. You are, of course, committing, quite deliberately, an outrageous logical fallacy, which shows you have no real argument. Hiding behind, “the court ruled…” especially in a case where there is little, if any, chance of an appeal to a higher court, is rather dishonest.

    So, please, cut the crap. It is disgusting.

  14. And he basically evicted her because she would not sign a document against her will. It was a bit of an odd twist. If she had to sign the document for him to make his money, then she clearly had the right to not sign it. If she had the right to not sign it, he certainly had no right to coerce her by threats (i.e. voiding the agreement he had made) to force her to sign. So, he lied, and evicted her,

  15. Agree about the middle ground thing. America’s new tribalism — left and right– paints everyone as caricature.

    I think Wiener’s bill will pass after some middle ground is achieved through amendments.

  16. Well, generally speaking, if someone stops paying rent, without a good cause, and even then they have to put the rent into an account and have it when they come to court for a hearing, they can certainly be evicted. If a landlord allows a property to become so decrepit as to be unfit, or refuses to make some major repair (say, the building has no heat, or the water is not working, then a tenant CAN, and arguably, SHOULD withhold rent, putting the money into a special account. Then when they go to court, they can present the evidence of the defect, and if it is proven, they can avoid eviction, force the landlord to make repairs, and possibly be exempted from paying the rent owed during the time the repairs were not made. But it has to be pretty serious, or all they will accomplish is having to catch up the rent.

    So, the answer is basically, no,

  17. You mean like the YIMBYs see their classic caricature of the imagined NIMBY that they present in order to create two extremes with no middle ground?

  18. A court of law disagrees with you. So the court is biased? Courts are biased unless they agree with the Geek Girl? Please note the Geek Girl statutes in California law for us so that we will know the truth in the future and learn to follow your viewpoints.

  19. So YIMBYs don’t believe in property rights? How about NIMBYS, are they full-on in favor of property rights?

    Please do explain.

  20. If not the Ellis Act, then by which “just cause” under the SF Rent Ordinance was she evicted?

  21. Don Sebastopol said: ” I would assume the buyers of TICs and Condos
    would, for the most part, have the same socioeconomic status as the
    renters.” I think it is a well-known fact that buyers in the Bay Area last
    couple of decades have to have been pretty wealthy.

    I’m not claiming data (I used the word “many”), nor am I seeing any provided by Don Sebastopol. I wish there were data on the incomes of those who are being Ellis Act evicted. But there are tons of articles about these evictions and about the need to reform this law. If the vast majority of people evicted under the Ellis Act were wealthy and could afford to buy homes nearby, I doubt there would be much discussion about it. Instead, there are not only articles about reforming, and/or curbing this much-abused law, but suggestions floated around such as offering priority to Ellis Act evictees for Affordable rental units. This implies they would be eligible for Affordable units, i.e., not among a class of people who can buy here.

  22. You don’t talk to those who are not in crisis. I recall a survey done by that anti eviction group that over half their clients remained in the City after being evicted and many in the same neighborhood. Their sample is also skewed toward low-income.

    In any case, with any policy there are winners and losers. It may be that several will not be able to find suitable housing in the City they can afford. Leaving SF in not a death sentence. Over 7 million Bay Area residents don’t live in SF and are happy. Most everyone came to SF voluntarily and should have known it was high cost city. It may have been a bad decision to come in first place. No one else is responsible pay for that decision. If you want to stay in SF, the only sure way is to buy. Providing more opportunities for more to become owners is a good policy.

  23. “Read a couple sentences further — it was not settled because she did not sign what he wanted her to sign.”

    Incorrect, please see the two articles:

    https://sf.curbed.com/2016/8/25/12649776/final-plea-iris-canada-eviction
    https://sf.curbed.com/2016/8/12/12457174/iris-canada-evicted-100-year-old

    The owner stated she was not living there since 2012 and set to evict her since she did not abide by the settlement. The judge ruled in favor of the owner.
    Whether or not, she lived there, or whether or not judges do have biases is besides the point. My original inquiry, generally speaking, can a tenant stop paying rent and/or the rules of a prior settlement and derail a condo conversion if the owners choose to evict on those grounds?

  24. All that means is that you may have a skewed sample. Not saying you are wrong; just saying that your data may not be representative.

  25. I believe that there were some time pressures involved that may in part explain Owen’s unfortunate actions.

    But overall, assembling the facts in this sad story is a bit like making the scientific case to creationists or climate change deniers or supply/demand deniers. They just have too much invested in their narrative to possibly consider alternatives, no matter how well documented. An impossibly callous individual caused the death of a wonderful senior woman in order to make a few bucks. That’s their story and their sticking with it.

  26. Read a couple sentences further — it was not settled because she did not sign what he wanted her to sign.

    But if you are arguing that she was not evicted, how do you explain the lock-out by Sheriff Hennessy?

  27. Where did I say I believed him? The judge bought it. I don’t buy it 100%, but I do know that while Owens was seeing dollar signs the niece likely was also. Ultimately, if I had to pick a side, I’d pick Canada’s, but straight up omitting the niece’s role in this whole mess is and has been blatantly disingenuous.

  28. They settled the Ellis Act eviction with a life lease. Do you agree? If they settled, then there was no Ellis Act eviction.

    From the article “But Canada fought the Ellis eviction, and to settle that case and avoid the problems associated with tossing out a woman who at that point was 85, he agreed to allow her to live in her home for the rest of her life.”

  29. Though I agree that Owens was in the wrong and could have just let this all play out without lying in court and all the other less than palatable things, this case is a great example of cherrypicking. The niece’s role in this whole thing is beyond questionable yet no one dares question it otherwise they risk upsetting the mob.

    The mob jumped on Canada’s case as a “See! Told ya so!” moment for activists and advocates who were already knee deep in co-opting her as a martyr for the cause. When the mucky details of the niece came out it wasn’t discussed much because her legacy had already been cemented as the poster-child of landlord greed, and so that aspect of the story continues to be left out or else the narrative loses some credibility.

    What happened to Canada was sad and shouldn’t have happened. What’s worse is how so many people jumped at the opportunity to use particular aspects of her story to further their causes.

  30. How do you know that many are low-income people? There are very few Ellis conversions and the highest percent are in higher rent areas where most there are White, educated and affluent. Yes I am assuming renters in high rent areas are for the most part not low-income. Again, there are hardly any no-fault evictions in low-income areas.

  31. There are many renters who would like to become owners. I think most TIC’s are purchased by first time buyers. In any case, it takes foresight and sacrifice to become an owner, and many are not willing to sacrifice lifestyle to save for a down payment. It may be that those that don’t, will not be able to stay in San Francisco. But there are many nice places to live with a lower cost of living outside of the City. Most people who leave get more for their money buy leaving and it was one of the reasons they left.

  32. You are making a LOT of assumptions here that are simply wrong. Obviously there are many wealthy renters — but also many, many low income people who rely on rent control and have nowhere to go if they are evicted. Even truly middle class people have to move far away if evicted. No-fault evictions happen by and large to lower income tenants, not those who are paying high rents.

    People of all classes have the potential to be either good neighbors or lousy neighbors.

  33. On second thought, it has everything to do with YIMBYism, as they are all about defending property rights over human rights.

  34. Really? Maybe some renters can come up with $150k+ for a down payment but most I know certainly can’t.

  35. I have not seen a study but renters in rent controlled units may also be young and wealthy. The fact that SF has a comparatively low percent of those paying more than 30% for rent suggests that higher income renters are benefiting from rent control.

  36. Maybe yes, maybe no. I would assume the buyers of TICs and Condos would, for the most part, have the same seriocomic status as the renters. Conversions are mainly in high rent areas. There are hardly any Ellis Evictions in the Bayview. In any case, more owners generally make for a better neighborhood. And wealthier people moving into a neighborhood generally makes for a nicer neighborhood.

  37. Let me fix that for you: There should be more conversions to make it easier for [wealthy] young people to become owners making ownership more affordable. The only way to have security is to become an owner.

    Oh, not to mention Ellis evicting renters living in rent controlled units. So favoring “young people” earning a lot of money by displacing renters is the opposite of what we need to be doing.

  38. There should be more conversions to make it easier for young people to become owners making ownership more affordable. The only way to have security is to become an owner.

  39. This article, and this dispute, have noting to do with YIMBYismo. But I’m happy that the YIMBY movement is now a part of your mental wheelhouse. The movement gains momentum by the day.

  40. Now specifically speaking about this case, IF sfsquirrel is correct and the conversion law does not apply to “fault” evictions, it is up to the Board of Supes OR a court of law to decide whether or not it was a “no fault” or “fault” eviction. In THIS case, did she break the life estate agreement by living elsewhere. The owner convinced a previous judge she did…

  41. No, I just see your comments all the time, which toe the YIMBY line. Do you prefer Libertarian, honey?

  42. Round and round the YIMBYs go, when they will stop we will never know. One has to wonder why they have taken such a peculiar interest in this case.

  43. You either seriously misunderstood the facts, or you are imagining something that is not accurate. She did not stop paying the rent. She was evicted because the landlord lied and said she was not maintaining residence. She had previously gone on an extended road trip with a dying relative. That does not constitute abandoning residence. The landlord lied, and used evidence from that period to prove she did not “live there.”

  44. Because judges have biases. They often side with landlords, which is why anyone facing eviction is advised to request a jury. Now, much is made of the senior center, as though this were something it is not. There are a number of these around the City, including Canon Kipp, Curry, Rosa Parks, Bethany Center, and list goes on. They are simply places where anyone over a certain age, usually something like 59, can go, meet other seniors, have a meal (Canon Kipp is also home to the CHEFS Program, which trains people for culinary work for free, and they provide the meals), play games, watch TV, etc.

  45. It is the landlord’s fault. He acted quite horribly, and it will his choice if he will rent them, continue as a TIC, or perhaps sell the property.

  46. Yeah let’s continue to incentivize leaving homes empty in the middle of a shortage out of spite. So smart.

    “This thing has been abused by someone, therefore we need to ban it entirely so no one can use it!” – This line of thinking is destructive.

    I’m surprised there isn’t a proposition to round up, lobotomize and enslave all landlords at this point.

  47. This comes up every time. Nobody can explain why her lawyer was unable to convince a judge (or the sheriff) that a 98 year old woman was living in the apartment. I remember Tim originally said that she spent her days at an unnamed, unspecified, senior center nearby.

    Now, unnamed, unspecified reporters visited her and saw that she was living there.

    Real shame that nobody was able to identify these sources and convince the judge that he was wrong. Real shame.

  48. Well, at least you didn’t call me a “bot” this time. There are two sides to this story. The article neglected to mentioned some inconvenient truths.

  49. Well, we know how London Breed will vote on that one. Unless she suddenly realizes that it will seriously hurt her. This scumbag landlord tried to coerce an elderly woman into giving him what he wanted, and she refused, So, he lied, and had her evicted…which resulted in her death. He should never be allowed to profit from this.

  50. Jennifer, we’ve been through this before, many times. There are two sides to this story. The article neglected to mentioned some inconvenient truths.

  51. Tim neglects to mention that the building owner offered her tenancy for $700 a month for life and promised to stand by the agreement after the conversion. However, Iris Merriouns, Canada’s great-grand-niece, rejected the offer. She apparently had her eye on the property.

    Journalists should tell both sides of the story.

  52. This is an easy fix: Stop all conversions of rental property. If landlords want to keep them vacant, fine. But do not allow TOCs or condo conversion.

  53. So when negotiating a life estate (so the owners can condo covert) a tenant can stop paying rent and derail a condo conversion if the owners try and kick out the tenant for nonpayment? Now there is a loophole that needs to be closed. This will get overturned.

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