About 50 angry residents and housing activists gathered in the courtyard of 741 Ellis yesterday to protest the evictions of the building's section 8 tenants by new landlord Ty Durekas. According to Fred Sherburn-Zimmer of the Housing Rights Committee, Durekas bought the building on December 3, 2013.
On February 11, 2014, Durekas began serving 90-day eviction notices to the tenants, all of whom are Section 8 Asian immigrants.
Section 8 was paying an average of $1,200 per month for each of the building's 9 units. Durekas is currently advertising the units for $4,350 per month on Craigslist before they've even been vacated. Durekas, it appears, bought the building specifically to empty it out and triple the rents.
"San Francisco used to be a city that welcomed everyone," said Hyunmi Kim of the Asian Pacific Islanders Legal Outreach. "This building was set up for lower-income people. Immigrants come here, they find these small places to rebuild their lives -- we need to come together to protect the tenants. We need to stick together and to stand with people in other communities."
Since 741 Ellis was built after 1979, it doesn't fall under rent control and the landlord doesn't need to invoke the Ellis Act - -a state law that allows landlords who wish to get out of the rental business to evict their tenants -- in order to proceed with evictions. Durekas can evict tenants at will without compensating them, per the Ellis Act.
Many were surprised that a building designed to house the poor in a less-than-prime location was targeted by a real estate speculator. "This is the beginning," said Tommi Avicolli Mecca of the Housing Rights Committee. "All the tenants in one building on the block are evicted, and then others in other buildings. Before you know it, the neighborhood is upscale and where do the working-class and poor folks go in a rental market that has the highest rents in the country?"
"Landlords and speculators are getting whatever they want for units," said Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, who organized the action. "Desperate people end up paying it even it's 50 percent or 80 percent of their incomes. These tenants can't pay it, but there are high-end workers who can."
Several protesters noted that the white-collar workers Zimmer referred to tend to hire nannies and housekeepers. So then where, they wondered, did the speculators expect the servants to live?
Jessica Khoe spoke for her family, who is one of many being booted from their home. "When our family was evicted, I thought it was for logical reasons," the teenager said. "To do it to make money is unethical. I'm stressed out -- it's effecting my studies."
Khoe said that her father had applied for other Section 8 units, but to date nothing has come through. She feared that her family and other families in the building are on the trajectory toward homelessness.
"Many groups wrote to the landlord and said they wanted him to speak with the tenants," said Sherburn-Zimmer. "He said his lawyer would deal with it. Hopefully, this will pressure him to come up with a real offer -- 90 days is not enough to find section 8 housing."
April Veneracion, who works in Supervisor Jane Kim's office, attended the rally and said that Kim, who represents the Tenderloin, supports the tenants.
The tenants and the protesters vowed not to give up the fight. Daniel Bornstein, Mr. Durekas' attorney, did not respond to SF Weekly's
call for a comment.