Mission eviction leaves activists without a home base

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Housing activists turned up outside the office of landlord Rick Holman earlier this year.
Photo by Eviction Free Summer

Mission residents who abruptly lost their battle against eviction Aug. 27 were given one last chance to retrieve belongings from their loft before their locks were changed by the landlord and sheriff. 

The group of artists and activists occupied a 5,300 square foot space on the second floor of what’s known as the 17 Reasons Building, located at 3265 17th Street. They had been tipped off that the eviction might take place yesterday afternoon, after a request for a stay was denied during a morning visit to the courthouse. They headed straight home from there.

When they reached their loft, tenants Chema Hernández Gil and Alisha Pelton encountered an eight-officer sheriff escort with the building’s owner and a locksmith. “Do we have a chance to take our stuff out?” Hernández Gil asked the sheriff’s deputies, as he photographed the scene.

An officer permitted the pair to enter the unit for one minute to collect essentials. For everything else, they would need to contact the landlord within 15 days to arrange a time for pick-up.

Pelton’s sixty seconds were spent retrieving a small bench, a pot, and kitchen utensils. Gil emerged with a bicycle fork and a wooden poster for Food Not Bombs, a volunteer movement that provides free vegetarian meals to the hungry. Hernández Gil feared that much of the food left behind in the space, which served as the organization’s cookhouse, would spoil in his absence.

The eviction has been pending since the building was purchased by Rick Holman, head of Asher Insights, for approximately $16 million in early April.  Not a week passed, according to Hernández Gil, before Holman made moves to evict the group, comprised of several collectives including Food Not Bombs, In the Works, and Rincon. “He’s told other tenants that the square footage is worth three times what we’re paying,” explained Hernández Gil.

Chris Cook, an organizer with tenant-activist group Eviction Free Summer, said “from the start, since [Rick Holman] bought this building, he’s made it clear that his intention was to get rid of folks that stood in the way of making this the profit center that he was hoping for.” Holman did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment.

Holman’s eviction notice cited breach of lease for “unpermitted subletting,” but Hernández Gil said the building’s previous owner had authorized the arrangement for two years. At its peak, roughly 16 tenants were using the space, half of which was available as a venue for free community events.

In the months following the filing, however, the tenants’ ranks had dwindled. Over the summer, they faced harassment from their landlord, who changed exterior locks without notice and posted security guards requiring a California ID for access to the building, effectively blocking entry to residents from out-of-state.

“What’s infuriating to many of us in the community,” argued Cook, “is that many landlords are seeing that it is okay to just uproot people and totally disrupt their lives … This is something that has a concrete human impact.”

Eviction Free Summer activists held a rally on Tuesday night in support of building tenants. A Facebook posting for the event, which floated the question “Is Thrift Town Next?” caused a bit of a stir online, prompting a response from Thrift Town’s President and CFO, Lane Steinmetz.

In an August 28th letter posted to the group’s Facebook page, Steinmetz said the store had “just signed a renewal agreement for five more years,” and that it has “been very pleased with the actions by our new building owner to improve the safety and security of [the] property.”

“We don’t have any problem with [Eviction Free Summer’s] message. We just don’t want to be looped in on it because our lease is secure. The landlord’s been fair and good to us,” co-owner and Vice President of Marketing for Thrift Town, Wendy Steinmetz replied when the Guardian asked for clarification. She said references to Holman’s improvements were not related to the eviction.

Hernández Gil asked sheriff’s deputies at the scene why he hadn’t been served with the advance notice mandated by law. Officer Miramontes said he didn’t know the specifics of the case, but commented that evictions like this have been on the rise. The Sheriff’s Department, he said, oversees 20-25 actions of this sort per week.

The only formal 5-day notice came on August 7, but that eviction was postponed when a September 18 hearing was scheduled for the tenants’ relief of forfeiture action. Gil didn’t expect another attempt before then. The group’s legal team has been particularly concerned with minimizing disruption to one tenant who has advanced AIDS and is unemployed. As of yesterday, he is also homeless.

“By evicting tenants for profit, speculator landlords like Rick Holman and his wife/associate Toby Levy are playing a truly destructive role in the community. There has to be a social and economic price for landlords who do this,” Cook said. “Holman, Levy and others cannot pretend to care about this city and this community and then uproot people like this and effectively boot them out of the city altogether given how utterly insane rents have become.”

Several other tenants met up with Hernández Gil and Pelton as they exited through the rear of the building onto Capp Street. The group, lead by Hernández Gil, wheeled two shopping carts of possessions southbound to the San Francisco Tenants Union headquarters, where they planned to evaluate their options.

Meanwhile, Pelton loaded her few salvaged items into a ZipCar and wondered how she’d gain access to the rest of her belongings. “We’ve been locked out for months and months at this point, why should we believe the landlord will let us in now?”

When asked where she was headed, she offered up what’s becoming an all-to-familiar last resort for displaced San Franciscans. To find something affordable, she said, “we had to move to the East Bay.”

Comments

After all - it's the one which has encouraged the policies which led to this situation in the first place. If Ted Gullikson had a conscience he'd make that his first priority - instead I'm betting he'll be using these poor people for fundraising as soon as he can blast out an email.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

The Tenant's Union occupies a very large (and valuable) piece of real estate. Surely they must have room.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

"friendly hands". How many homes could be created in that space if Ted wanted that?

Nice to see Mirk doing his job though, and over-riding his own personal views on evictions.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 7:27 am

Speaking of Mirk, is his TIC one of the 2000+ condo conversions that were fast tracked earlier this year?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

Mirk bought his condo at a sweetened mortgage rate under a city-financed program intended to help working-class people buy homes in SF.

Mirk comes from a wealthy family, and he bought two houses in Fairfield from homeowners with distressed mortgages during the recent crisis. He's a landlord now.

He put his family out there in the East Bay, but he continues living in his SF condo that was attended for poorer folk.

When's the next sheriff election?

Posted by Anon on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 9:15 am

You're conflating Mirk with the man-child, Chris Daly.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 9:30 am

If Mirk can't pay his mortgage, does he evict himself?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 10:06 am

I don't think they can, even if they would. It's not legal, I guess

Posted by weebly on Mar. 14, 2014 @ 5:48 am

You know who's a demented idiot and a sack of drooling shit?
anon.
Really not good at debate, either.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 4:53 pm

What on earth?! How do you boring old trolls manage to dress yourself in the morning? Someone must help you with the complexity of buttons.

Posted by Sigmarlin on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

Nothing more substantial?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

I am astonished that you can't see the white privilege here at work as the Latino activists are being evicted by the wealthy white landlord. Please apologize for your racial insensitivity.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

(Not that is matters anyway).

Check your facts next time before falling back on tired old clichés.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 1:48 am

He doesn't know any different the poor dear.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

am a fatass hog with a passion for online trolling.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 11:16 pm

Let's not forget that Glen Park Daddy. It's always a variant of "licking" and "police boots" for you isn't it poor dear?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 31, 2013 @ 1:18 am

I've asked myself over and over again why is it when blacks, latinos, etc. stick with certain run down areas, help to rebuild them and continue to pay the over charged rents that these landlords know they shouldn't be charging, then the whites started moving in and these landlords see dollar signs and start to push out the others because of it why haven't we learned anything from this yet?

Please forgive me for saying all of this but white people can live any where they choose, while for the rest of us it's very limited and seems to be getting worse as time goes on (think I'm lying check out what's going in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, which is looking more white everyday?). Why must others always be penalized even when they hang in there because their skin color is different from the so called majority?

Posted by The Greed that's killing us all. on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 6:17 am

Not everything is about race, and most poor Americans are white.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2013 @ 6:40 am

"The eviction has been pending since the building was purchased by Rick Holman, head of Asher Insights, for approximately $16 million in early April. Not a week passed, according to Hernández Gil, before Holman made moves to evict the group,"

So they got five more months in the building before they were finally evicted.

Whiners.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

they did not have access to their stuff. They've known for 5 months that this was going to happen. They couldn't find a couple of hours to move their gear?

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 8:47 am

Now please excuse me while I go lick my own ass.
I am doing this because a police officer told me to and they are always right.

Posted by anon on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 3:35 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

then why not try trolling at SFBG?
That's all I've got! Petty online disagreements with "progressives".
Excuse me but I have to go eat a dick now. A police man told me to, and police are always right.

Posted by anon on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 4:16 pm

I know what you mean, I have exactly the same problem and for sure we will solve it somehow!

Posted by Elan 494 on Feb. 13, 2014 @ 1:05 am

Howdy! I could have sworn I've been to this site before
but after browsing through some of the post I realized it's new to me.
Nonetheless, I'm definitely happy I found it and I'll be book-marking
and checking back frequently!

Posted by Partner With Anthony on Mar. 25, 2014 @ 2:30 am

They did not have 5 months since they were staying to fight an illegal eviction. Please note they had permission to be there from their previous landlord. Contracts do not change because there is a new owner. They also paid their rent on time; they did nothing wrong to deserve eviction.

It boggles my mind how you trolls consistently side with greed every time. As if you are not peons in the system yourselves. And if you are property owner you will probably be the first whine about your 'rights' when a bank or the govt takes the building you think you own to build a freeway on top of it. Mortgages equal rent, suckers. You are no better than tenants.

Posted by Sigmarlin on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

have ordered SFSD to conduct the eviction.

Try again.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

Rent is a continuous payment for the temporary use of someone else's property. Most mortgages eventually get paid off.

Not the same, sucker.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 8:44 am

That you think buying with a mortgage and renting are the same, says volumes about your financial stupidity, no wonder you are poor…

Posted by Guest on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

That you think buying with a mortgage and renting are the same, says volumes about your financial stupidity, no wonder you are poor…

Posted by Guest on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

At what point will you talk to Holman and Levy for their side of the story. Good, bad, or otherwise, you owe it to your readers to provide both sides of the story. This story is only half the issue, pony up the rest or consider yourself little more than biased hack journalism.

Posted by RySF on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

At no point in your article did you talk to Holman or Levy to get the other side of the story. Why? If you truly want to report on this issue, readers need to hear both sides of the story. Pony up the other side of the argument or go home. Landlord/tenant issues in this city are NEVER completely one sided. Your story is only half complete. Show me the other side of the story so I can judge the issue more informatively.

Posted by RySF on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

In fact, these tenants should not have been living there at all, just "working" there.

This is a non-issue, because it is a commercial use, not residential.

And so what that they were "activists"? Would it matter less if they were IT workers?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 7:23 am

Wrong. It is a mixed use situation. The previous landlord was aware and accepting of residential use. The rules don't get to change just because a new owner doesnt like it.

Posted by Sigmarlin on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 4:40 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

Wrong. Look at the judgement. It was the "unauthorized subletting" that the judge rule on. Never even mentioned residential usage. Rick is looking for any reason to evict. He served a three day notice to a dotcom in the building for the same thing. It's easy to evict penniless artists and activists.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 6:30 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

an eviction was imminent? They cannot reasonably complain about not being able to get their possessions when they have known for weeks that they had to leave.

Most tenants do not leave it to the point where sheriffs have to show up and physically remove them.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 7:26 am

a cop told me to wax out his ass so I did!

Posted by anon on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

Read more carefully and you'll see: "Holman did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment."

Posted by Mo on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 7:40 am

It is the tenants who acted illegally by failing to comply with a court order.

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 7:51 am

I lick freely at the cock of authority, whilst picking at the scabs of the less fortunate.

Posted by anon on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 11:44 pm

Sounds as if 17 Reasons had plenty of notice. To assume the eviction would not happen so fast is not a smart business practice. I won't assume, but a lot of these new businesses popping up in the Mission move in with a sense of entitlement, big fish pushing out the little "latino" fish out. And its happening a lot in the Mission, way too much for my liking. Sounds like 17 reasons was swallowed by a bigger fish.

Posted by Nativeyes on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 10:50 am

These tenants were commercial tenants and so had no security. They must have known that. So why didn't they plan ahead?

Posted by anon on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 11:10 am

which the new owner overturned in order to maximize profits. The old owner knew the status of the space, but Holman used his superior property rights and resources to force out the tenants. The fact that people may have been living in a commercial space was not one of Holman's legal arguments. People have been living in commercial spaces here and elsewhere for as long as there have been commercial spaces.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 11:31 am

have been living there. That is breaking their lease and breaking the law, and the owner could have been held liable for zoning violations if he had not acted quickly tor remedy the situation.

And if you break your lease, you get evicted in any town, even with rent control.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 11:57 am

Living there wasn't against the lease. The original landlord rented it out as such.

The building is in a mixed-use zone, where residential use is ENCOURAGED.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

The previous landlord may have turned a blind eye, but that is no excuse for the current tenants, as the judge has ruled.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

lease by subletting. That's a just cause for eviction under the rent ordinance, although commercial spaces and live/work lofts are not covered by rent control anyway, which would mean a 60-day notice would have been sufficient anyway.

Posted by anon on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 10:24 am

It smacks of thinly-veiled racism that most of the evictions in the Mission are happening to long-term ethnic tenants being pushed out by wealthy White owners and buyers.

Posted by EvictionFreeIsAFallacy on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

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