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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Iguana Man's Saga Continues: SRO Tenant Still Hopes to Keep His 'Service Lizards'

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Cosmie Silfa and Skippy - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • Cosmie Silfa and Skippy
Late last month, we reported on how San Francisco SRO resident Cosmie Silfa was in the midst of filling out a bevy of forms in order to keep his "service iguana" Skippy. Silfa, readers may recall, was profiled in a recent cover story on the city's amazing service animal laws. And while, in late August, Silfa was optimistic he'd get this matter straightened out, now he's not so sure.

Silfa has for years touted a note from his psychiatrist that entreats the management of the Knox SRO to allow Skippy to live with him as she is "an essential component of our treatment plan." Yet Marsha Jackson -- the regional manager for the John Stewart Company, which oversees Silfa's SRO and 375 other low-income housing buildings in California -- said the lizard aficionado never told his landlords about Skippy. And he certainly didn't mention the small menagerie of other lizards he once kept in his super-heated room (he says he is now down to just three creatures). In fact, Jackson says, Silfa tried to hide Skippy when she saw him in the building recently.

Here's where Silfa's story differs from management's: He says he presented the forms they insisted he fill out to his psychiatrist -- and then was told that wasn't good enough. Management insisted they send the forms to the psychiatrist. Yet Jackson told us that as long as the psychiatrist returns the forms -- for Skippy and two other lizards named Buffy and Scruffy Silfa hopes to declare "service animals" -- everything should be fine.

Meanwhile, Chuck Hauptman, HUD's regional director of fair housing and equal opportunities, reiterated to SF Weekly that he's unsure why Silfa should have to fill out forms when he already possessed a doctor's letter.

"In this case, [Silfa's] letter seemed to be straightforward," said Hauptman. "I'm curious as to why they're asking for more than that letter."

Incidentally, Hauptman said that a reasonable accommodation request for a few lizards is small potatoes in his line of work. Someone recently asked to have a full-sized horse inside a house.

Once the paperwork for Silfa's lizards gets back to building management, then they will determine if granting him the "reasonable accommodation" outweighs any health and safety concerns of other tenants.

Silfa, for his part, said he's "feeling lots of stress."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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