Market Street tenants still facing uncertainty

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Victor Arreola has lived at 1049 Market Street for 14 years and says he can't stay in San Francisco if he's forced out.
GUARDIAN PHOTOS BY REBECCA BOWE

Anxiety continues to run high at 1049 Market Street in San Francisco, where 60 tenants who received eviction notices last month still lack clarity on whether they will ultimately be ousted or allowed to stay.

“I really feel like I’m being forced out,” said Chandra Redack, a tenant who has lived in the building for more than nine years and in San Francisco since 1982. “And that puts a lump in my throat.” 

A meeting between city officials and John Gall, who owns the building along with a group of investors, is scheduled for Tue/14.

Gall told the Guardian it was too early to say whether he would withdraw the notices of eviction, as Sup. Jane Kim and Mayor Ed Lee have both personally urged him to do. “I need to figure out what’s going on after I have the meeting with DBI,” he said. “This is a very complex issue.”

The property owner said it was his understanding that neither Lee nor Kim would attend the meeting – they’re bound for China as part of a trip organized by the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee – but representatives from their offices as well as officials from the Department of Building Inspections would be present.

As the Guardian recently reported, DBI announced last week that it had found a pathway toward legalization of the illegal housing units, which are arranged in a dormitory-style setting with kitchenettes and shared bathrooms on each floor. They provide all-too-rare affordable housing near Sixth and Market streets, occupied by many students, artists and disabled tenants. With Twitter's relatively new headquarters just down the street, rising demand for commercial office space has transformed the area and the building had been slated for conversion to offices.

Gall and his group of investors own several properties in the area, and up to 300 people might have been affected by eviction if the city hadn’t intervened. As things stand, the tenants’ fate remains far from certain. In a memo issued last month, property managers indicated that 1049 Market would have to be vacated entirely, because of “the City of San Francisco’s overly restrictive local building code requirements.” But even though a solution to the code restrictions has been identified, Gall hasn’t committed to reversing the evictions.

Gall emphasized that in response to pressure from city officials, he’d held off on issuing any new eviction notices either to tenants living at 1067 Market Street, a nearby property also under his investment group’s ownership, or to those in 1049 who hadn’t yet received formal notices.

“Could somebody have the right to be hopeful that it could be preserved as residential? I’d love to be able to give you more answers,” he commented, but ultimately would not say more.

With things hanging in the balance, tenants who received eviction notices now face the thorny dilemma of deciding whether to stick around and hope the ouster is reversed, or pack up and begin a new housing search. For many, opting for the latter means leaving San Francisco for good, since apartments in their price range simply aren’t available. 

Tory Antoni with one of the items for sale on his Etsy site, called "the twit."

On Sun/13, Tory Antoni welcomed a number of his neighbors into his small and tidy windowless studio, where he’d amassed a pile of artwork created by tenants residing at 1049. To aid those facing possible eviction, Antoni plans to post their artwork on his Etsy site, Antoni’s Collectibles, where he peddles antique objects to supplement his income.

“The actual artists that live here don’t get support from the city,” Antoni said, taking aim at public officials’ statements of support for arts in the rapidly changing mid-Market neighborhood. (Earlier this year, Mayor Ed Lee told the Guardian he was “very sensitive” to the concerns of mid-Market artists.)

“When we met with Jane Kim, she asked us, what can we do to help you? The answer is, just leave us alone! We just want to be allowed to do our artwork here in the city,” Antoni said.

Some of Antoni’s guests were consumed with worry over the looming possibility of eviction.

“This is really stressing me out,” said Victor Arreola, who has lived in the building for 14 years. “I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life right now. I never thought this bombshell would be dropped on me.”

Arreola works at the Chanel makeup counter at Macy’s in Union Square, just a short walk from his home. He’s on temporary medical leave after sustaining a physical injury, and said that if he loses his affordable housing, he envisions being to stay in the city or take advantage of the medical assistance provided through Healthy San Francisco. He’s considered returning to Seattle, where he relocated from more than a decade ago, but that would require quitting his job, leaving him without unemployment benefits. “I can’t sleep at night,” he said. “Because I just lay awake in bed, and think, what am I going to do?”

Ben Cady, a photographer who said he mostly relies on disability benefits to get by with the occasional freelance gig, said his affordable Market Street studio was by far the most comfortable housing he’d lived in after years of dwelling in converted garages or in-law units, flying under the radar in pricey San Francisco. “This has been the cleanest place, and there are no pest problems,” he said. That’s in contrast with past living situations, where “we had mice with names,” he added with a laugh.

A relative newcomer to 1049, Bianca Valez, said she’d lived there for six months and paid a little more than $1,000 a month for her studio. “Once I got the eviction notice, I started looking around,” she said, and soon realized how difficult it was going to be to remain in San Francisco despite her desire to be a part of the city. A server at The Franciscan Crab Restaurant near Fisherman’s Wharf, Valez foresees having to work a second job in order to pay rent. But that would also mean postponing her plans to enroll in school, something she’d long wanted to do as a means of launching a new career.

Up one floor, Redack reflected on her longstanding connection with the city, which she’d first visited during the 1960s when Haight-Ashbury was a burgeoning countercultural magnet. She said her favorite part of living in mid-Market was the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity that the neighborhood has supported.

Chandra Redack says having an affordable place of her own has made it possible to focus on making music.

Now, faced with a possible eviction, Redack says she’s been inspired to try and work with the building’s other tenants to try and hold their ground. When others started stepping up to the plate to help organize, she said, “things got exciting, but also exhausting.”

An artist and musician, Redack said it was only after finding the unit at 1049, where she lives alone for roughly $830 a month, that she was able to truly focus on her creative pursuits. “I wrote 100 good songs in this room in 2006,” she said before handing this reporter a copy of her album recorded onto a CD.

Redack works in the customer service department at Rainbow Grocery – “I can walk to work in under 24 minutes,” she noted – and has recently met a number of customers who’ve faced similar housing challenges in San Francisco.

“I chose the route to fight for what I can – at least a little more time,” Redack said.

“If we win, I don’t want it to be just OK, we won – now let’s forget about the other people who are being evicted. I don’t want the city to say, okay, we did this little thing.” An activist with a strong commitment to social justice causes, she believes the moment is ripe for a new tenants’ rights movement.

The tenants have received some assistance from organizers with the Housing Rights Committee. “The landlord has no excuse now to evict the tenants,” HRC organizer Tommi Avicolli Mecca told the Guardian. “What's happened so far is a testament to the strength that tenants have in organizing and refusing to accept that they have to leave.”

Comments

Opportunistically moving the goalposts on DBI rules if and only if a landlord decides to evict is no way to run building regulations. A unit is either legal or illegal, and if it is illegal and cannot be remediated at a reasonable cost, then the unit has to be closed down. The Rent Ordinance allows for that and the city often forces owners to do that.

Seems the rule is that the city forces a property owner to evict and demolish unless there are a lot of tenants affected and then, suddenly and miraculously, it decides that the building regs designed for the health and safety of the city's residents suddenly don't matter.

These people should relocate to Oakland and let the building be used for a more appropriate and higher value use.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

to kickstart this process all over again in Oakland. SF-OAK is quickly becoming the West Coast NYC-BKLYN.

Posted by Outsider on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

That's what many have done and it makes total sense - rents are much cheaper there and there are a lot more vacant former industrial buildings suitable for artists.

I have no problem with Oakland becoming Brooklyn to our Manhattan although, right now, it is more like Newark, NJ.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 6:38 am

i define terms by using the dictionary

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 12:46 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

you'll figure it out

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

he didn't figure it

Posted by r on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:09 pm
Posted by o on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

the fundamental problem

Posted by p on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:07 pm
Posted by m on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:06 pm
Posted by ma on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

and just pushes the problem outward

Posted by u on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

The rigid libertarian dogma of the dogmatic libertarian sect.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

opposite of having rigid government control of everything - rather it enpowers people to make their own decisions rather than a bureaucratic nanny state.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 6:39 am

to the rigid (and stupid) ideology that unfettered freedom for the individual is the only way to run a society

that perspective is indeed rigid

and also bonkers

because given unfettered personal freedom

those who are selfish and sociopathic inevitably steal everything from everyone else who won't selfishly behave that way - and this results in all of the wealth on the planet being hoarded by a tiny handful of cold psychos

i repeat for the umpteenth time

alan greenspan said on this very subject

i was wrong....

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 9:45 am

That would make them anarchists like Eric Brooks.

They argue for less government i.e. a government that doesn't spend 40% more than it takes in every year.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 10:41 am

libertarianism

is that promotion of unfettered freedom of the individual, with the expectation that most individuals will behave rationally and ethically (which is a very stupid expectation, thus making libertarian *governance* a foolish idea)

anarchism

from an-archy: literally "without rulers"

anarchism means collective GOVERNANCE through methods of direct democracy such as consensus based decision making with little or no hierarchy of rulers or authority at a "top" of the system

anarchism has never meant "no government" and never will mean such

the reasons you and others believe that it does are:

1) the word has been purposely demonized and distorted by opponents of anarchism

2) people are too lazy and brainwashed to actually consult and think about the etymology of the word

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

arguments but the simple fact is that libertarianism gives genuine control to the people. Anarchism has a far worse reputation for the simple reason that it ends up concentrating power in unelected coteries of extremists.

The Tea Party has a few million more members than any anarchist group.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

i actually define terms by using

the dictionary

Posted by racer x on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

The one that defines terms the way it suits you?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

and i mean only way

Posted by bumper on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

is with registration

please institute it

Posted by m on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

Who selected you as web page administrator?

Besides, you'd have to post as Lilli if there was registration.

Posted by LOL barrier! on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

He originally said that his barriers would drive out those whom he calls trolls.

Now he has changed his story and says that his barriers will blackmail Steven into introducing registration.

IOW, he is admitting that he cannot drive out the "trolls" and needs Steven to do that.

Although I suspect Steven will not take kindly to this blatant attempt at manipulation.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

for all you trolls

but not for the rest of us

Posted by bum on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

being the biggest troll here.

Unless of course you think Steven is doing such a terrible job of managing this site, in which case you should have the courage to tell him that directly.

Personally i admire his commitment to free speech here - an alien concept to you, clearly.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

Gosh, I can't imagine why Lilli was banned from SF Gate...

Posted by LOL barrier! on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

to bounce his email and IP address so that any ban won't matter.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 3:31 pm
Posted by a on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

dictionary

a guide

for diction

Posted by mp on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:34 pm
Posted by r on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

n'est–ce pas?

Posted by p on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:19 pm
Posted by m on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

n'est–ce pas?

Posted by o- on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

got it wrong

Posted by u on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:13 pm
Posted by b on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

for the persistent

Posted by a on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:10 pm

gets one pushed

Posted by b on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

The rule is that safety related building code requirements such as fire escapes have to be met even if it requires construction by the landlord.

Building codes like lighting are to ensure a minimum quality of life and can be waived by the city if they see the result of enforcing those quality of life rules is an eviction and homeless people who would have a much worse quality of life without any home.

The city government in this case is prioritizing the rights and health of the tenants as is proper for city government. the landlord knew this was an issue and also knew the waiver of the quality of life code requirements was also a possibility if they started mass evictions. Despite that the landlord allowed the violations to persist and continued renting to residential tenants after consulting with lawyers on best ways to make money. The Landlords of San Francisco should not be allowed to game the system by ignoring building codes and laws so they can use them as an excuse to evade rent control by evicting at will.

Legally, tenants can not be evicted for no reason or illegitimate reasons because that's the intent of the laws and our society. Our state and nation believe when you rent something vital to a persons survival and lifestyle such as a home, you can not whimsically renege on that agreement when convenient.

Posted by tennant on Oct. 21, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

can? How convenient for you.

If I were the owner, I would just Ellis everyone out and then carry on.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 21, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

You cannot move for crap art in this city.

Some of these people need to get a real job and pay their way. Or move out of the way.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

creative answers welcomed

the funnier the better

Posted by m on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

we learn that the landlord was happy with things the way they were, it was the city fucking with him because some of the units don't have natural light.

It slays me that the Guradian attempts to always have things every way it can. According to the Guardian we need more laws to micromanage people's lives, but when these laws get used it really sucks.

Posted by freedom to legislate your life on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

now it is harassing him not to condemn them.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

its' own ass here. You think Mayor Lee and Supervisor Kim want the city to take most of the blame for what will be the largest eviction in SF since the 70's? I'm sure that would look great on the Wikipedia page. This is all just finger pointing & games to delay the inevitable result: these buildings being vacated and turned into high value office space.

Removing these residents allows the ownership group to make more $$$ while giving the city and Mid-Market neighborhood a higher level of economic activity. Neither side wants to see the tenants stay where they are in the long-term. They do, however, want to appear as if they've done everything in their power to come up with a "solution" to save the community in order to protect their public image.

Posted by Outsider on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

that the inspirational Twitter tax break has given us would be stymied if low-value tenants are allowed to clog up high-value structures there.

As others have noted, Oakland is more suited for law-value artists.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 6:42 am

n'est–ce pas?

Posted by a on Oct. 15, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

its' own ass here. You think Mayor Lee and Supervisor Kim want the city to take most of the blame for what will be the largest eviction in SF since the 70's? I'm sure that would look great on the Wikipedia page. This is all just finger pointing & games to delay the inevitable result: these buildings being vacated and turned into high value office space.

Removing these residents allows the ownership group to make more $$$ while giving the city and Mid-Market neighborhood a higher level of economic activity. Neither side wants to see the tenants stay where they are in the long-term. They do, however, want to appear as if they've done everything in their power to come up with a "solution" to save the community in order to protect their public image.

Posted by Outsider on Oct. 14, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

I agree with your assessment of the political realities here. They wanted to brand themselves wrapped in a tech-cloak. They must also bear responsibility for the techsploitation they created.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 18, 2013 @ 10:19 am

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by bd on Oct. 18, 2013 @ 10:29 am

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