Evictions in the Castro and throughout the City have hit a twelve-year high that hasn't been seen since the first dot.com boom. The reports are staggering: 2% rental vacancy and of that less than 10% rent controlled, Castro home prices have risen 34% over last years sales-outpacing the rest of the City which reports a 17% increase per home sale, Ellis evictions on the rise and crafty lawyers working for developers and speculators finding loopholes in tenant leases to excercise violations allowing long-term tenants to be put out.
Many of the Castro's evicted are elderly or fixed income/HIV positive individuals who've been in their apartments for more than ten years and find themselves unable to financially compete in the new, hyper inflated, rental market.
Evictions in SF are coming in different forms. According to a post filed in the Examiner. Tenants breaking the terms of their leases accounted for the most evictions, at 468. Nuisance violations were second with 352. There also were 116 instances in which a unit’s landlord invoked the Ellis Act-in 2012 there were only 64 such evictions.
Tenant advocates say many eviction notices aren’t filed with the Rent Board. And some landlords use an “Ellis Act warning,” a non-legal notice coupled with a cash payment, to get a tenant to move out, said Ted Gullicksen, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union. “For every Ellis Act eviction filed, there are 10 or 15” of the warnings, Gullicksen said.
According to a recent report on evictions within the City limits of San Francisco the neighborhoods with the highest amounts of evictions are Potrero, Mission, Western Division and Castro/Duboce Triangle/Eureka Valley coming up forth in a race that no neighborhood wants to win.
What does the Ellis eviction rates look like? Brian Whitty put together a comprehensive map of 14 years of evictions starting at its infancy in 1997 and proceeding to present day. These are hundreds upon hundreds of tenants losing rent controlled apartments to tenant in common (TIC) conversions who also have the option to go condo. Once ousted they're pushed out into a rental market so high they're unable to continue live in the Castro or anywhere else in SF.
This rental squeeze is hardest on the poor, working poor and middle class that have as much right to call the Castro and San Francisco home as any other. Pro-development groups argue that this is just another version of the age-old edict of 'law of the jungle' where the strong survive and the weaker-renters and less wealthy-are left to fend for themselves.
At a recent AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) march held on April 20th celebrating the 1 year anniversary of ACT UP/SF reforming the theme was 'Housing=Heathcare, Eviction=Death'.
AIDS activists charged longtime residents of San Francisco who're living with HIV/AIDS are being forced out of their homes and effectively cut off from the social services, healthcare providers and safety networks they rely on to stay alive. The laws meant to protect people with AIDS and other San Franciscans with disabilities are being chipped away at and unapologetically broken.
Part of the ACT UP/SF protest march through the Castro included a stop at Jeremy Mykaels home. Mykeals is an HIV-positive man facing eviction from his apartment on 18th Street. He spoke from his front porch about his battle to stay in the apartment he's called home for nearly two decades and how terrified he is of what the future may bring if the eviction takes place.
Activist cite the Condo/TIC conversion law co-sponsored by Dist. 8 Sup. Scott Wiener as part of the problem but also state that the entire City government has been neglect in their response to the housing crisis facing so many San Franciscans.
The TIC law has been a hot point of contention with a variety of citizen tenant groups and has been modified and will be up for review on May 7th by the entire Board of Supervisors (BOS). The problem with the compromise is that while it does temporarily slow the conversions it doesn't alter City charter. This means that it could be repealed by other members of the BOS once the current ones have termed out.
The fear and desperation of eviction has real consequences beyond the loss of one's home. Jonathan Klein, longtime Castro resident and co-owner of the ground breaking LGBT travel agency, Now Voyager, who died on April 8th from suicide is being linked to his impending eviction from the apartment he and his ex had lived in since 1984. The fear of what lay ahead post eviction left him despondent and miserable according to some of his longtime friends.
One of Jonathan's friends, Castro resident and well-known LGBT activist of note, Cleve Jones, wrote on his Facebook page,
I just need to say FUCK YOU to the greedy yuppie scumbags, realtors and developers who kicked my friends Peter and Jonathan out of their place. I blame you for Jonathan's death. And another FUCK YOU to our elected leaders, all of you, who have done so little help. The rich get richer and the rest of us can just get out. R.I.P. Jonathan Klein.
It's imparitive to know your rights as a tenant and to be aware what you can do to stave off evictions. For 34 years the Housing Right Committee has been providing SF residents with valuable support and information on how to deal with evictions. Other assistance can also be found at the venerable SF Tenants Union that's been around since 1970. If you're living with HIV/or other disabling illness you can contact AIDS Housing Alliance for help as well.
"Tenants need to rise up and organize if they want to survive and stay in City", Cleve Jones said to me recently when we were discussing the housing crunch. "We're going to have to start demanding more from our elected officials and if they can't provide help find others to put in their place who will.