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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Housing Policy Director Quits Over (Ongoing) Eviction Fight With 99-Year Old

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 7:00 AM

click to enlarge Iris Canada, whose landlord has resigned from his job. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • Iris Canada, whose landlord has resigned from his job.

The eviction of a 99-year-old woman from her Western Addition home has caused heads to roll in city government — just not in San Francisco. 

Iris Canada has lived in a Western Addition two bedroom flat since the 1950s, under an unorthodox arrangement with her landlords that allowed her to live in the unit for life, providing she continued to live there full-time and kept the unit in good shape. Her landlords have been trying to evict her since Dec. 2014, alleging that she in fact lives in Oakland with a family member and her Page Street apartment is falling apart.

One of her landlords is Peter Owens, a U.C. Berkeley PhD. who until Friday served as the director of housing policies in Burlington, Vermont — the city Sen. Bernie Sanders used to run as mayor, where affordability and and NIMBYism are big issues. Once the news of the eviction hit, Vermont housing advocates put pressure on Owens abandon the eviction. Instead, he resigned from his housing policy job, as the Burlington Free Press and Seven Days VT are reporting.
click to enlarge Peter Owens, right. - BURLINGTONVT.GOV
  • Peter Owens, right.
Owens, who worked in Burlington when Sanders was mayor in the 1980s, had also worked in San Francisco as a planning director for the Presidio Trust, the entity that's overseen the redevelopment of the former military base near the Marina (the same crew that recently told George Lucas to take his Star Wars museum idea to take a hike).  

He, his wife, and his brother — only his brother lives in San Francisco, though Owens has said he planned to retire to Canada's unit — have owned Canada's building since 2002. They tried to get her out using the Ellis Act, but instead entered into the arrangement described above in 2005.

However, when faced with the choice of losing his job as director of Burlington's Community Economic Development Office or letting a 99-year-old stay in her home, he opted for the former.

“No matter what the outcome of recent events, any perception that I am not fully committed to CEDO’s mission prevents me from continuing to be the effective leader and from advance CEDO’s work to foster a more livable, vibrant, and equitable Burlington community for all,” Owens said in a statement, according to the Free Press.
Owens will exit his job on May 6, according to the newspaper.

As for Canada, her landlords are still trying to get her out. There's another court date scheduled for later today. 

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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