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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

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News + PoliticsHousingLandlords seek to evict longtime housing activists

Landlords seek to evict longtime housing activists

Family with many residential properties claims need for an owner move-in; community organizes to fight back.

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A family of real-estate investors who own multiple residential units in the Bay Area has filed to evict longtime housing activist Fernando Marti and his family from their Noe Valley home.

Peter and Tanya Omran of Novato and their daughter Tatiana are seeking to evict Marti, Michelle Foy, and their 12-year-old child from a flat where Marti has lived for 23 years.

It’s both ironic and infuriating: Marti and Foy have both dedicated their lives to protecting vulnerable communities in the city, Marti most recently with the Council of Community Housing Organizations and Foy with the Chinese Progressive Association.

Fernando Marti discusses the efforts to evict his family.

More than 50 of their allies showed up Tuesday at a lively rally and press conference in front of their building.

The Omran family has filed an owner-move-in eviction, claiming that Tatiana wants to live in the apartment. But as Marti said at the event, the family owns multiple housing units in the Bay Area, and it’s unlikely that this is the only place she could live.

The owner-move-in loophole has been badly abused in San Francisco; KRON reported in 2016 that at least a quarter of the OMI petitions filed that year were fraudulent. In essence, landlords use it to get rid of longtime rent-controlled tenants, since OMI is one of the only legal ways to force a rent-paying, well-behaved tenant out of their home.

Once the tenant is gone, the unscrupulous landlord waits a few months then rents it out again, at a much higher price. And for the most part, nobody ever checks.

Sup. Dean Preston, a former tenant lawyer, said the eviction is “blatantly illegal.”

The city only rarely goes out and enforces the ordinance, which would require a housing inspector to visit each OMI unit six months after the eviction to make sure the designated family member actually occupies the place. And the former tenants may well have left the city; they certainly aren’t doing an investigation into the new occupants of their former home.

The state’s COVID eviction moratorium has expired, and while the city still has one in place, state law trumps local law. And as soon as the state moratorium expired, Marti and Foy got their eviction notice.

But local law still bars evicting a family with a school-age child during the school year, and Marti and Foy have a 12-year-old who was born in their flat and has never lived anywhere else.

An eviction would likely force them out of the neighborhood, out of their community, and away from their child’s school.

Sup. Dean Preston told the rally that “this eviction is blatantly illegal.”

The problem: Local judges are not always on board. Noting that all of us live on the ancestral territory of the Ohlone people, Marti said: “The judges and the speculators think that greed is the way things work on this stolen land.”

The Omran family runs a sustainable coffee company, but Peter and Tanya also describe themselves as “Christian missionaires.” That, Marti told the rally, is inconsistent with their current actions:

“Who would Jesus evict?” he asked.

A contested eviction is a long legal process, and the crowd of activists made clear that they are in this fight for the duration. “And sometimes when tenants fight back,” Gen Fujioka, representing the Chinatown Community Development Center said, “they win.”

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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5 COMMENTS

  1. This is from Peter Cohen:

    I wanted to reply to Sparky’s comment which seems to reflect a widespread misunderstanding about the effectiveness of our City,s affordable housing programs to mitigate the crisis of evictions and displacement of San Francisco residents. For as robust a system as we have in this city — still a leading model of dedicated funding, bureaucratic infrastructure, nonprofit housing organizations capacity and political leadership (even when politicians sometimes compete like silly kids over taking credit for affordable housing) — the fact is that our ability to produce new affordable housing units comes nowhere close to the number of evicted and displaced households each year. And that is only about the inability to mitigate the lost homes of existing residents, on top of that is the huge need for affordable housing to meet the growing population of the city, and San Francisco has only been delivering less than half of the required affordable units (from extremely low income folks to middle-income family households) per the Regional Housing Needs Allocation for the city. The math absolutely doesn’t work, and as hard as we try in the affordable housing community to produce more homes each year, it falls far far short of the total need. Thus a/the major reason for the chronic, almost inreconcilible affordable housing “crisis.” A tripling of public funding from the City would result in a tripling of affordable homes, it’s that easy. But it’s obviously not at all politically easy. So struggle on we do, with what resources are available.
    So, the idea that Sparky has of simply providing an affordable housing unit to Fernando and his family to solve this eviction impact is, frankly, a bit naive. Show us the money, Sparky.

  2. As someone whose landlord has been trying to evict me for nearly 4 years (I survived the first three attempts) and as someone who has been trying to secure affordable housing, from personal experience, it isn’t as simple as you seem to think. There is a lottery system thru the Mayor’s Office of Housing, and even with a Displaced Tenants Certificate, which gives a lot of leverage, there are thousands of people applying to every unit that becomes available. I am currently on some waiting lists, but it can still take months or even years to get to the top of the list. Then the actual application process is quite time consuming, bureaucracy at it’s worst, you might say.

  3. There is no need to attempt to confiscate someone else’s property.

    I have general confidence — as long as they are income-qualifying — that that a unit can be located for Fernando and his family in one of the numerous publicly-subsidized housing developments that he has long advocated for over the years as co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations.

    Perhaps Gen Fujioka and the Chinatown Development Community Center, the Mission Economic Development Agency or TODCO can step up and assist with a unit in one of the many properties they manage.

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