A King of Cats Forced Out, Says ‘Sorrow Not’ for Him

Drawing by Anthony Mata

Drawing by Anthony Mata

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Bender’s Bar, half past eight o’clock: Jimmy Broustis, king of cats, breaks the set and watches a stripe ball sink into a corner pocket. As the table settles, Dave Chisholm, an old friend, waits his turn with a bottle of Schlitz in one hand and a cue stick in the other.

Since the mid 1980s, the two have been hanging out in Mission bars just like this one. Sometimes playing punk, sometimes pouring drinks, but always having a good time.

Broustis became a fixture of the San Francisco punk scene when he formed Shotwell in 1994. The band has had a roving cast of members for 20 years but Broustis is the center that holds, playing guitar and singing lead.

“To me, and many others,” wrote Harvester, the mononymous chronicler of independent punk last year, “they are as synonymous to the Mission District as burritos, norteños y sureños, street-sold churros and the Mission Theater sign. Their rough, tuneful songs have mirrored the class struggles, police repression and the pure f@#$ing joy of living in San Francisco for the past 17 or 18 years.”

Broustis is also a casualty of the tech boom. Between turns, he talks about his recent forced move that, after 25 years, finally pushed him out of the neighborhood.

“Any kind of forced move is brutal,” Broustis says. “It haunts me.”

It’s fair to say that Broustis himself haunts a landlord or two. An episode of “This American Life” from 2001 recounted his eviction fight during the dot-com bubble and led to Broustis v. Drouet, a California Supreme Court case that ruled a landlord may use the Ellis Act to go out of the rental business even if a tenant files a lawsuit claiming the eviction is retaliatory.

“Every Supreme Court Justice is a landowner and landlord,” Broustis says, holding up his beer. “We must question past rulings.”

Chisholm sinks two balls — his own and the cue ball.

“Judges rule when they aren’t tenants,” Broustis says as he lines up a shot. “How is that?”

The “This American Life” episode is by Iggy Scam, aka Erick Lyle, who played drums in Shotwell for a time and on their album “Geneva Avenue Fallout.” A wistful raconteur, Scam tells the story of the dot-com boom and the Mission District, the lazy-eyed girl he had a crush on who left the city. But the story’s main thread is about Broustis’ tangling with his landlord and the doomed fight against his eviction but also his victory in staying put.

The owner of Broustis’ building at 378 San Carlos Street got his comeuppance: Broustis moved into the building next door — 376 San Carlos Street, his address until late last year.

We move to the patio to drink and smoke in the dim moonlight. Broustis and Chisholm light up.

Broustis, tall and thin, wears boots, carpenter’s pants and an Eisenhower jacket. He would look like a construction worker if it weren’t for the brown dreadlocks he wears like bangs. He left Libertyville, Illinois, in 1984 when he was teenager. Now in his late 40s, he’s lived in San Francisco ever since. Besides the Mission, he lived in Ingleside for a spell, near a Pentecostal church. Now, he lives in Potrero Hill.

He and his friends tormented the congregation by rolling in broken-down cars into the parking lot and going to service to sit in back and watch. By 1988, he was 20 and established on San Carlos Street, ensconced in the punk scene and living the punk dream.

“I would have stayed,” Broustis says. “We were hanging out making cool music every night. There were 20 people over every night.”

Chisholm, 50, wears purple Chuck Taylor’s, rolled-up wide-leg jeans and a hoody with a Giants cap. He, too, is from the Midwest. A union theatrical stagehand, he lives in Hayes Valley with his partner and their 12-year-old daughter. He taught stagecraft at Laney College in Oakland for three years. He, too, lived in the Mission for years.

“My first eviction was on Mission Street,” Chisholm says. “It was so bad I was able to get the Bay Area Council for Civil Rights to defend me.”

“The evictions today are catastrophic and mind-boggling,” Broustis adds. “How many times can a landlord go out of business?”

The Ellis Act is a 1985 state law that enables landlords to evict tenants to take a property off the rental market — usually preceding a sale of the property and a tenants in common or condo conversion. In San Francisco, the rate is climbing but it is still only at half the rate of its first dot-com peak in 2000.

Still Broustis says, “Eviction torments me…It gives me anguish. These people thought they would die in their homes. It haunts me.”

A few hours before our visit to Bender’s, Twitter had its Initial Public Offering on the stock market, with the impressive gains for the company only matched by the perturbation for tenants of the city where rent prices have become the highest in the nation. Protesters stood outside Twitter’s Market Street headquarters with a coffin reading, “RIP affordable housing.”

In Broustis’ case, his former landlord put the two-story Victorian he had lived in from 2000 to 2013 for $815,000. It sold for $1.25 million in December of 2013.

“Don’t shed a tear for me,” Broustis says. “I had the opportunity.”

Chisholm laughs and says, “An $800 place for 25 years.”

“Sorrow is not for me,” Broustis says.

A man nearby asks Broustis if he has any rolling papers, and Broustis replies, “So you got the passengers and no vehicle?” He hands him two papers.

Broustis says he couldn’t fight an eviction. He knew the attorney his landlord hired would make it impossible. “I had no other option than to take a material payment,” he says.

A house on the corner recently sold for more than $1 million — the median house cost in the city. Today, the houses are the same on the outside, but the tenants and owners are different now.

“The shit that made San Francisco cool is being bought and sold now,” Broustis says. “I feel lucky to get out of this part of Mission before the flood and crash. I probably won’t be back before the healing.”

Broustis goes to the bar and comes back with three more bottles of Schlitz. We head to the Dirty Harry pinball machine.

We check out a growth on Broustis’s shoulder, talk about the city, punk, Schlitz, Broustis’ study of acupuncture and the mortal consequences of writing a bad story.

Out of coins, we head to Broustis’ apartment he vacated a few months before. We take a side street and he and Chisholm remember a three-story Victorian where they used to party. It’s gone now. The space is a fallow field. We walk beneath the El Capitan Hotel. Broustis recalls the time he slept on its roof and when Erick Lyle lived there for a time.

We turn a corner en route to Mike’s, a liquor store on Mission. Chisholm pedals off on his bike to lock it up. The three stuffed black birds remain perched on the handlebars and bike rack.

There’s a man sitting in the middle of the sidewalk with a boombox up to his ear.

“Hey, are you alright?” Broustis asks.

The man affirms with a quick nod, shaking his Prince Valiant haircut.

“Freaks don’t need anything but what they got,” Broustis tells me as we continue. “How cool is that? He’s just there rocking. Nothing else matters.”

At Mike’s, the cashier knows Broustis by name.

On San Carlos Street, Broustis rolls up the garage door of the place he left in August. They duck in. I follow. He pulls the door closed. Chisholm turns on his flashlight and shines the beam across garbage bins, paint cans, a drawing of a yellow submarine and a poster of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis with a 99 percent sticker obscuring the man’s eyes.

We open some beers and go to the backyard, a small patio with plants. Chisholm turns off the light so neighbors don’t see.

We climb the staircase. Broustis checks the first-floor flat. Locked. That is the apartment Broustis lived in for 13 years — moving out in August of 2013.

Broustis’ plan to move into the house next door — the ploy he was able to pull off in 2000 when he moved from 378 to 376 — failed. He wanted to stay on the same block, if at all possible.

We look into the neighbor’s yard that had been his from 1988 to 2000. He points out an overgrown tree.

“Twenty-four years ago, I planted that tree from an avocado pit I got from Rainbow,” Broustis says, referring to the Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. “I got over 4,000 avocadoes from it. Now look at it. The neighbors should have pruned it.”

Chisholm climbs up to the second-floor.

“These places were $300 a month,” Chisholm says, shining the light across the way at his old house. “It’s not that great. It’s just a painted-over crappy apartment.”

The layout has a bathroom split between two apartments. The ceiling is high but the space is narrow. The walls are painted bright white.

“A small humble place that a single person could live in pretty comfortably with decent kitchen,” Chisholm says. “But you do have to deal with the asshole across the hall.”

We go back to the garage, to the remainder of the six-pack.

Chisholm says, “I’ve seen this city make Midwestern kids put their tails between their legs and go back home — but maybe it’s just the same.”

“I don’t need a lot,” he adds. “Effective poverty with a high standard of living.”

Broustis sits on a garbage bin on its side. He drains his beer, winds up and pitches the bottle at the foundation of the house. Instead of shattering, it bounces.

Chisholm picks up the bottle. “It’s like a federal campground; Gotta leave it as you left it.”

“And you’re a Boy Scout,” Broustis replies.

We stand around and talk more. It’s near midnight.

“We had a lifestyle that’s no longer possible in this city,” Chisholm is saying, now holding forth. “It’s more and more Blade Runner. You’re either fit or you leave. Or you’re a mutant — then you live in the Tenderloin.”

Chisholm continues.

“They can gentrify the Mission, but how’re they going to gentrify the Tenderloin? I think it’s my fault for making the Mission hip when it was cheap back in the 80s and 90s. It’s all my fault. When I gentrified this neighborhood, fixies were a thing of the past. The people on bicycles were messengers. There was no f@#$ing amateur riding. If you weren’t a messenger, you wouldn’t dare ride a bike like people do now.”

“They would open up a Kryptonite [bicycle lock], jump underneath your car and put it on your drive shaft,” Broustis says.

“We made the Mission cool,” Chisholm says.

We’re quiet.

“You want to know what being forced out of your home feels like?” Broustis volunteers. “It feels like I never really left.”

82 Comments

  1. John

    As Stalin might have said: “one eviction is a tragedy; a thousand evictions is just a statistic”.

    Interesting that Broustis was the plaintiff in the Drouet case, which is familiar to every landlord because it removed what was effectively the only affirmative defense that could be raised to an Ellis eviction – retaliation.

    The decision actually makes sense because an Ellis eviction is itself a retaliation (or I would say – rational response) to an unreasonable situation i.e. the potentially endless subsidizing of a tenant and the compulsion to remain in a business. So allowing retaliation as a defense never made sense anyway, logically.

    Broustis sounds like a survivor. He’ll be fine.

    • C. Russo

      “…endless subsidizing of a tenant” That’s the big lie, isn’t it! Tenants work a job or two to subsidize the life of a landlord, put his kids through school, etc. I work so that mine can drive his Mercedes.

      It’s just amazing the barely veiled contempt piggish landlords have for the people who write them checks year after year, then expect them willingly to uproot their lives and families on 30-days’ notice.

      • John

        Your facts are wrong, Russo. The minimum notice period for a no-fault eviction in California is 60 days, with 120 days for an Ellis eviction, and up to one year if the tenant is senior, disabled or sick.

        Why do you feel entitled to get a huge discount on anything? including your home?

        How would you feel if your boss said he was only going to pay you half what your job is worth?

        • landline

          Like most Americans, C. Russo already knows what it is like to be underpaid. That is a main reason why the economic depression, renamed the recovery, continues.

          Landlords rent out apartments at whatever rent they can get and they know the rent control rules, which have remained basically the same for 20 years. So stop your bellyaching.

          We tenants are holding up our side of the bargain; you should hold up yours without calling us names.

          You have the politicians and judges on your side. You have the financial resources on your side. And still you complain and want more, more, more. Plus you have the audacity to call tenants with whom you entered into a contract “greedy and selfish” because we pay our rent on time and fulfill our end of that regulated contract.

          Boo fucking hoo.

          • John

            Rent control has changed plenty in the last 20 years. It is constantly tinkered and meddled with.

            But insofar as a LL knew what he was getting into when he buys a building, so does a tenant when he rents a unit.

            Specifically any tenant who rents in SF knows that they might be Ellis’ed at any time and with 120 days notice. So why should tenants bellyache when that happens? They knew the risks and agreed to them.

            Ellis upholds two important constitutional principles:

            1) A LL is entitled to a reasonable rate of return.

            2) A LL cannot be compelled to stay in a business he no longer wants to be in.

            You like the constitution, right?

  2. FW

    Broustis when you agree to cash a check for in exchange for leaving your rental, that ain’t an eviction. That’s proving its all about the money, so get off your high horse.

    • Yes, the “artist” at the Mid- Market building had fliers up in their lobby for a tenants meeting that clearly said, “YOU MAY GET MORE MONEY” They wanted the picture posted of the flier, taken down , but the poster refused to…..

  3. How out of touch with reality do you have to be to not look up the definition of RENTING ” the temporary use of another’s property” If you want to stay till you die, you have to buy. Any simple fool understands this…

  4. community

    sorry, but renting is not for life. renting is temporary, so evictions of long term renters is not unjust. if you want to live until you die in a place, you should buy it (or otherwise find a place you can afford to buy) Otherwise, you are renting someone elses property until they want to do something else with it.

    when you are young, you should be thinking about how you will buy a home somewhere so that you are not paying rent when you are old and retired. if you are not doing this, you are the foolish child that plays all summer long and does not prepare for the winter, and then starves.

    choices.

    • “We made the Mission cool,” Really? Talk about entitled and arrogant.

      • John

        I’m sure Broustis is a hoot after 6 pints at Benders but I found it interesting that the article says nothing about what he does for a living. The article seems to infer it is sufficient that he likes punk rock music, drinks a lot of beer and enjoys hanging out with his friends. Just like any 18 year old. Oh, wait.

        A better headline for this article would have been:

        “Middle-aged SF man finally has to grow up and face reality”

        • Frank

          In my experience, the unprepared, middle-aged “adults” are some of the loudest anti-change voices in the neighborhood.

          • John

            I agree, Frank. The “Peter Pan” 50 year old punk rockers are part of the self-absorbed boomer generation.

            But so are the sanctimonious NIMBY activists.

            Pretentiousness, preciousness and political correctness are all “gifts” that the boomers have bestowed upon us. Aren’t we fortunate to be here now?

        • Mitchell

          In the fifteen years that I knew him, Jim Broustis had an intense work ethic, worked constantly and took care of a revolving cast of locals. He’s well known in my community for near genius-level attainments in multiple fields.

    • Certainly, renting is temporary. So is owning. Our very existence is temporary, and perpetual security and control are illusory. Not everyone is able to own property, for economic, moral or other reasons. Owners are not necessarily superior to renters. Ownership is a privilege and in its highest form, also a responsibility to care for the environment and living beings residing on the property. There are many ways to live and straight capitalism is only one. Tech is one and punk is just another. One of the reasons I was drawn to San Francisco was its acceptance and encouragement of many ways of life. Is it still that way now? Can we still choose?

    • C. Russo

      Should, should, should. Actually, rent control means you don’t have to leave just because you can’t afford a home. In SF, it’s the law, and it will stay the law. But if you own a home in SF, you’re free to move away if there’s just too much “community” here for your liking.

      • John

        Rent control is not sustainable long-term. You are already seeing the results of it in low vacancy rates, high asking rents and no-fault evictions.

        Every year several thousand RC units of housing vanish for one reason or another, and no new RC units are being created (State law).

        So the demographic trend is definitely not your friend here. Price controls are valid for short-term purposes. Long-term they are counter-productive, as Broustis has learned but you are yet to learn.

    • tiritiritran tran tran

      I understand your point, but you are generalizing on the fact that all tenants are equal, and that’s wrong…
      You are assuming that all people have some education, a job, a career, a family, a saving, health!, and I can keep going but you’ve got the picture…
      I hope you can bare the thought that not everyone has choices…

      • John

        I think that property owners could understand it if the city’s housing policy was to help those you identify as poor, sick, old, needy etc. That would make sense.

        But rent control does not target the needy at all. It targets tenants based on random factors like how long they have lived in a place, and whether they were lucky enough to rent one of the 50% of SF homes covered by rent control, rather than the 50% of SF homes that are exempt.

        City policy also places that burden of helping random tenants on a relatively small percentage of the community – landlords. That in turn causes those landlords to feel resentful, to hold off on investing in their buildings, and to take their buildings out of the rental market altogether.

        After 35 years, rent control is an unfair, complex mishmash of rules and regulations that seemingly has done nothing to reduce rents in 35 years. Indeed, in many ways it can be said to have caused every higher rents and rates of eviction.

        Section 8 does a much better job of helping those genuinely in need.

        • landline

          What part of landlords voluntarily enter into such arrangements with tenants don’t you understand?

          From where is the money for your Section 8 subsidy idea going to come? You understand that such support for social and subsidized housing has been consistently cut for the last 35 years.

          • John

            What part of tenants voluntarily enter into such arrangements with landlords, knowing that they might be evicted, don’t you understand?

            I have no opinion on how much the voters should approve in taxes to pay for Section 8. I trust the people to make that decision. My point was rather that help should target those who need it rather than be randomly allocated..

          • landline

            You are doing all the complaining. No one forced you to be a landlord in San Francisco. And then you cry, cry, cry about the rules of the game while bragging that San Francisco real estate has made you so rich that you don’t have to work anymore. Smart rich people know enough not to flaunt their advantages. No matter how rich you become, you will never enter their ranks.

          • John

            You are doing all the complaining. No one forced you to be a tenant in San Francisco. And then you cry, cry, cry about evictions while bragging you pay just a fraction of the rent that your home is worth.

            The only reason I have achieved some measure of financial security is because I took education and a career seriously. That meant that I bought my first rental building when I was 26, even before I bought a home to live in.

            I worked hard, made sacrifices, invested shrewdly, managed effectively and grew my portfolio at a prudent rate. Rather than, say, frittered away my time drinking beer, hanging out with loser buddies and listening to punk rock.

            I managed the risk of eviction by doing something about it, and not by whining and trying to get the law changed so that renting a home out is a life sentence.

            I’m not flaunting anything but I’m proud of my achievements, and not very tolerant of those who made less effort and make up for it by whining.

          • landline

            You know nothing about my rent, my interests or my friends. Your comments back up your self description as intolerant.

          • John

            As usual, you totally miss the point. Tenants often brag about their cheap rent – that’s why they hoard units for decades.

            All I’m saying is that they should not act shocked or complain when the punchbowl gets taken away.

          • landline

            I understand your point. You don’t agree with the rules of the arrangement you voluntarily entered into with your tenants because you want to make more money.

            Like any bully or person losing an argument, once confronted, you make personal attacks, label people with names such as “loser buddies” or try to change the topic of discussion.

            You do much more than provide words of caution to renters, you mischaracterize them as receiving subsidies and you call them names.

          • John

            When you became a tenant, you understood that you might have to move out at any time if the landlord no longer wished to stay in business.

            Yet you want to change the arrangement so that can no longer happens.

  5. nutrisystem

    Pushing out weird musicians is a key step in the transformation of SF into a sterile Mountain View-like community… the type of community tech workers hate so much they are willing to commute 3 hrs/day to get away from.

    In other words, greedy real estate interests are killing the goose that gives them golden eggs. But they are too stupid to even realize it.

    Tech workers are paying the big bucks not so much for the crap apartment itself, but for the whiff of anarchy (aka freedom) in the air, and that comes from outliers doing their unprofitable outlier activities.

    Computer engineers contain, at their core, a creative impulse, but enclosed in a need for control. And, externally, they are enclosed by an addiction to the corporate paychecks (and thus servitude). This makes them fundamentally frustrated and subconsciously attracted to fantasies of freedom – which anarchistic characters like punk musicians fuel.

    • John

      So your theory rests on the presumption that a tech worker comes because of a 50 year old under-employed alcoholic who cannot afford to be here?

      And not, say, to grow his career and passion in a world-class global center of the knowledge and sharing economies?

      Is that it?

      • nutrisystem

        They don’t come for that one guy specifically, but rather for that broad CLASS of people: outliers doing outlier activities.

        Of course, human motivations are matters of many variables, but for sure the anarchistic/free vibe in SF is a key factor in its attractiveness. to computer engineers

        • anarchistic/free vibe” is that code for subsidize my rent?

          • nutrisystem

            It must be hard work being a parasite – living off other people’s money, then not being happy with it and demanding even more.

          • John

            That’s unfair, nutrisystem. If a LL is getting 4% pa with a SF rental and alternative investments yield twice that, and with less risk and hassle, then why would you seek to pass laws that compel that LL to be stuck with that business indefinitely.

            Can you not understand that rational people may tire of being a LL in SF?

          • You clearly don’t understand the concept of money… Once I have it . it’s MINE….And if you had some, you would not have have be miserable and unhappy whining about people who do have it,….. ALL DAY

          • Yes ,the Ellis act is the law just like the sacred “RENT CONTROL” Yet the Ellis act is the superior law !!!!!

    • sfreality

      Landlords push out people based on economics. They don’t really care if they are punk rocker, engineers, school teacher. Its not like they decide who is cool or not. People are pushed out because you can’t cover your cost or you don’t have enough money to maintain your property or you just tired of getting 3am call because a tenant locked themselves out again. City restrictions, new retrofit regulations, tenant to tenant fighting about noise or whatever, why an it the referee, then the real estate agent says you can sell the building for $$$$. Great let me cash out and retire. Investor comes in with Cash and clears out the building and sells units as TIC or Condo. This is the way it works, The baby boomers are retiring and they want out, who wants to deal with a softstore retrofit for 6 months and you cant recoup our cost. If anything these guys got good deals for a long time. Add any new restrictions, red tape or restrictions any you are going to speed up this process for sure.

      • C. Russo

        They also push out good tenants out who have paid rent on time for years for a sound building. Stop pretending greed isn’t the motivating factor. God, you guys are so transparent!

        • John

          Why is it “greedy” for a property owner to not want to subsidize rents for decades but not “greedy” to want a landlord to subsidize your rent?

          Why isn’t it “greedy” for a tenant to want to pay 25% of the market rent?

        • sfreality

          Russo is missing the point, I’m not talking about greed here I’m talking about survival and preserving ones life savings and retirement. As you age your economic conditions change, You need more, or your family needs more, ( medical care, college tuition) is it greedy that I want to provide for my family? Not to mention there comes a point when you are done with dealing dealing with your landlord duties such as clogged toilets or lost keys. My building is my 401k that I will need to draw on it in retirement. Sorry if you think thats greedy, I did’nt know that I would have to be a landlord until I die. Oh well when I die guess what the building goes up for sale. Its not like the kids want to manage that business. Not to mention the City is changing the rules on how I can manage my business.

          • John

            Yes, good points, even when you reach the point where you can live off your rents that doesn’t mean that you just sit back. I’m in my early 40′s and I’m already starting to lose some interest in the day-to-day grind of landlording, and looking more to make deals.

            The problem, however, is that sas you offload your properties the only people who might want to buy them will need to change their use, because if the rents are backdated rents, then the building simply isn’t viable in the same way it was back when I bought it. The rents have hardly risen but the new owner has much higher loan and property tax payments.

            Ultimately tenants need a healthy profitable rental business in SF to be assured of finding a home in the future.

    • sfreality

      Why is a tech worker defined by who they work for? Can’t you be a punk rock loving, guitar playing, pot smoking, beer drinking, recycling, bike ridding citizen of the city who just happens to work at a tech company? I take offence to begin defined by who I work for and not who I am as a person. I’ve been here for 20 years, and I have worked for tech and I have not worked for tech, I’ve been a renter and I’ve been an owner.

    • Why don’t get ahead of the curve next time and move to Mountain View… to make it “cool”

  6. pete

    Never pretty when a punk rocker hits middle age.

  7. wow… this thread of comments is an example of the moronic selfish money pigs that are ruining this city. Or rather… ruined. Don’t blame the tech workers, blame these selfish landlords and out of town speculators. They don’t care about the city, they worship money.

    I have no judgement of rich folk that are living here in the city. We have some of the most generous wonderful high income people in the world. What a selfish view of renters. Thank god my landlord cares for our well being.

    Maybe a 50 year old punk rocker can land on his feet, but many can’t. Assholes would just say.. “well you should have not played all Summer. Now you will have to live in the street and die… while I laugh at your suffering.”

    • John

      Christopher, so your opinion is that it is “selfish” for a landlord to want to maximize the return he receives on his investment?

      And that a landlord should instead put up with a lifetime of inferior returns, just so other people can live in a town that they cannot afford?

      • Missionary

        Selfish – lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure

        When one directly causing homelessness by moving millions of dollars around in order to “earn” even more millions of dollars I would say that they are, at the very least, being selfish.

        My guess is that many of the commentors who are defending the current crop of wealthy people who are speculating on real estate in the Mission see themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. I assume that they are such strong defenders of the Ellis Act because they think that someday their boat will come in and they will be the ones investing millions into rundown Victorians in the barrio.

        Don’t waste your breath defending real estate speculators. They wouldn’t even waste their spit on you if you were on fire.

        • They such vile horrible people maybe they should rounded up and gassed…

          • Missionary

            and the winner of the strawman award goes to…….

            Kevin Smith!

            congratulations! Somehow I failed to see that the opinion that hyper inflation of rental properties due to real estate speculation may have a negative long term effect for both a San Francisco’s functionality and personality is tantamount to calling for a holocaust.

            I am sure that the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust appreciate Kevin Smith (and Tom Perkins) using the deaths of millions of Jews as a red herring in the defense of 500 square foot studio apartments that cost $3000 a month to rent. It is a treasure that those lives were not lost in vain.

          • eddie

            An appropriate comment, not least because Jimmy played guitar in the band Strawman.

      • C. Russo

        You’re not warehousing merchandise. As a landlord, you have quite a bit more responsibility to your fellow humans. If that’s too much for you, get out.

        • John

          A landlord’s responsibility extends to providing safe housing and quiet enjoyment.

          Those responsibilities do not extend to offering a lifetime subsidy to people who lacks the financial means to live in this city. That’s the job of government welfare and social services, churches, charities and volunteer groups.

          • landline

            You know the rent and eviction rules so stop your mischaracterizations.

            Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme some more. Since you write so many comments, maybe you can share what contribution you make to the broader community. None of that has made it into your repetitive diatribes. Providing housing at a profit doesn’t count. Start now.

          • John

            The provision of housing in a city with a shortage of housing is a crucial contribution to the community.

            I also pay a lot of tax which funds various social services and other benefits for the community.

            What so you offer the community other than posting a lot here and wanting to get a discount of your bills? What would the community lose if you moved to Oakland? Where’s the return on our investment in your rent subsidy?

          • landline

            I knew you wouldn’t have a proper reply. Paying taxes is an obligation, not a contribution.

            I volunteer lots of time to community groups. And I would do so wherever I lived and not as a way to make money.

            What a horror to be trapped in a mind that only views the world in terms of “return on investment” and judges people solely in economic terms.

          • John

            If you do not think that economics is an important aspect of life then you are definitely living in the wrong nation.

            My contribution is tangible, visible and measurable. Volunteering time for some politically skewed cause is not. I sleep at night just fine.

  8. Missionary

    There seems to be some people who have difficulty with reading comprehension, or perhaps some folks were so anxious to offer their opinions on Jimmy’s choices in life that they did not have time to actually read the article, but the headline itself should give you a hint. In summary, Jimmy says in plain language “Don’t shed a tear for me”.

    No, don’t cry for Jimmy. Save your tears for the person who just bought a home for a million and a half dollars in a fault zone with credit earned off of selling apps. Soon enough the Facebooks and Zyngas will go the way of the Webvans and Pets.coms. But the Surenos on 19th and the Nortenos on 24th aren’t going anywhere, the graffiti and the trash and the hobo pudding on your front steps aren’t going anywhere. The bubble will burst and the investments will tank and there will be another generation of Jimmys to come make it all cool again.

    Jimmy was my neighbor. He would help jump start your car if the battery died or help you carry a couch up the stairs. Over many years I personally witnessed him do many good deeds, many neighborly deeds.

    Jimmy may not be a perfect person. But he is far from whatever judgements many of you have felt the need to share. You have called this stranger an alcoholic Peter Pan.

    Those of us who live on San Carlos just called him a good neighbor.

    • And anyone else would be a horrible neighbor, only “cool” Jimmy would be a good one, And spare us your fake “greed” comments. No one is greedier than someone who wants to keep valuable property for their own selfish interests they don’t even own. Money and property are the exact same financial things…One is just more portable.

      • Missionary

        Since I live on the same block as Jimmy, it remains to be seen as to whether the new neighbors are good. I never once used the term “cool”, only “neighborly”.

  9. eddie

    Thanks Jimmy for your food donation to Food Not Bombs last year. I disregard the haters who pile on their disdain for people they have never met. These voices are some of the same ones who attacked people for holding a fundraiser to help out their friend whose house had burned killing one of its residents.

  10. Bad_Unicorn

    Unfortunately this isn’t a black and white issue. This country was built (and continues to function) on capitalism. If people see an opportunity to better their life though money, they take it. Instead of pointing fingers, we should look at our own lives. This neighborhood is being tech-trified because of everyone. Tech people aren’t the only ones that use the apps they create. Society would internally combust if our technology was taken away, we no longer know how to survive without it. We all contributed to this tech boom. What would the real protest be? Get off your iPhone, stop buying useless apps.

    Albeit, this Jimmy guy doesn’t sound like the most upstanding citizen, save to those who know him, this article did make him out to be a Peter Pan esque character. Was it right to evict him, no. However, some of the other commenters did make valid (although lacking sympathy) points that he didn’t own this house, he rented it. The landlord does have the right to evict him, it was, after all his property. Jimmy was able to live in a rent controlled apartment for 20 years, his $800 rent is what most single rooms go for in the mission. He also took a material payment of an undisclosed value. Yes it’s unfortunate that this neighborhood is becoming completely bourgeois and that people like jimmy can’t afford to live here anymore. On the flip side, you can’t tailor make a neighborhood to your standards. Rents are being raised, Jimmy can’t afford to live here anymore, so therefore the people coming in shouldn’t be allowed to either because they are able to pay more rent? The standard of living is constantly being raised. It may not be rising for everyone, but for a lot of people it is. So because these people have jobs that pay a salary that’s more than what Jimmy, and those in his boat make, they shouldn’t be allowed to live in this neighborhood?

    Jimmy does sound like a cat, and he has clearly landed on his feet. The working class and elderly people who have been (and are being) evicted is morally wrong. Landlords are selfish, bottom line. This article and comments were so dramatic. Life is harsh, the rich always win, there will always be people like Jimmy who have no problem scraping by in order to continue their non traditional lifestyles. Don’t feel bad for Jimmy. He’s gotten by for half a century on being a punk, he seems like he lives to party, and people like that will always find their kind and survive. They’ll move to another run down neighborhood make it “cool”, and then when squares come in, they’ll move on again.

  11. Schlub

    I found this article to be really well done and a refreshing take on the “gentrification” angle.

    It should be noted that Jimmy planted many trees in the Mission – both figuratively and physically. He’s done so with some real grace, smarts and wit.

    Funny too that he’s “ended up” in Potrero Hill – not exactly a cheap neighborhood. Rock on, Jimmy.

  12. 24-24

    jimmy has always been cool. Bummer he has to move but who hasn’t had to move. What was the point of this story? He does deserve a lot of credit for being man enough to say “don’t cry for me”. Everyone else on this site cries and whines over the repercussions of the housing decisions they made once upon a time..

  13. I am absolutely embarrassed for some of the people posting in this thread. The lack of a soul on the one hand, and the lack of analysis on the other, really points to how we have come to this sad place.
    The real issue in much of America, and clearly. here in San Francisco, is that we the people, have failed to sufficiently manage our government . If the governance of business is left to “the market”, the “market will always fail, we, the people (for reasons even Mr Smith might grasp).
    In our specific case, the fact that as a county/city we have not been building publicly financed housing to keep the market in check, has assured a market gone wild, due to the 7×7 nature of our borders.
    Point the fingers where you may, the real estate lobby fostering an environment for massive profits through corrupting the political process, the nimbyism of neighborhood groups, the unthinking entrepreneurs, as they make hay while the sun shines. All adds up to a perfect storm, which never needed to occur, had more of us waded into the political process.
    But then again, I may be giving more credit to the average citizen than is it’s due. Look, after all, who we have elected as our mayors for the past 2 decades.

  14. Math Whiz

    Um…can we do some basic math here?

    ” He left Libertyville, Illinois, in 1984 when he was 16. Now 49,”

    Um, no. If someone was 16 in 1984, and was 20 in 1988, that means they were born in 1968.

    That means they will be 46 in 2014. Not 49.

    Surely the kids being edumucated at UC Berkeley’s indentured servitude known as the J-School can do some basic math, yes?

    No.

  15. Thurman_27

    One time I parked on San Carlos and blocked a driveway by a few inches, the garage was padlocked shut and had obviously not been used in quite a while so I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Twenty minutes later I come back to find my car pretty much in the middle of the street. Jimmy comes up and explains that he and a couple of friends had to “bump” it because I blocked a drive way. Gee, thanks for being so concerned about a car barely blocking someone else’s unused drive way and having to regard to the fact that you moved someone else’s car into the middle of a one way street.

  16. We are two high school students working on a documentary about gentrification in the mission. Growing up in San Francisco, we have experienced the ever changing nature of our city and feel impassioned about documenting it. The process of film making thus far has been exciting, interesting, and eye opening to say the least. Because we are taking on this project as a personal endeavor rather than part of a class, we are faced with the reality that it takes funds to create a quality documentary. That is why we’ve come to you to ask for your help in supporting our project. Please check us out at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/missionfilms/mi-casa-no-es-su-casa

  17. Ben

    A four thousand dollar compensation check doesn’t create some kind of a fair deal when you’re being uprooted from your home of twenty years through no fault of your own, simply because real estate prospectors have decided your neighborhood now is only fit for (literally) millionaires. And you’re not somehow over entitled for acknowledging that that is total unjust bullshit. Keeping in mind that our homes here in the mission are not water front properties or mansions on telegraph hill, but small homes, often multi unit with no living rooms, in the barrio. To talk down on someone who has actually lived and been a part of this neighborhood for likely DECADES before you suddenly read about the mission I n a magazine and decided to move here, really takes a lot of nerve- nerve you probably wouldn’t have were it not for the safety and anonymity of sitting in front of your lap top.
    From Bartending in our dives, fixing neighbors cars, fixing guitars and amps, providing affordable (and often free) moving and hauling services, planting trees all over the neighborhood, harvesting chanterelle mushrooms that were bought and used by local restaurants, providing pick up and disposal services for caustic and toxic household chemicals, hauling and recycling of copper and other metals that would otherwise end up in a dump, Jimmy was a real asset to our neighborhood that this new horde of clueless, over paid 20 something software technicians will never really understand and certainly don’t deserve.

    • sfreality

      The problem is, if your renting its not your home. If you don’t want to have the possibility of being uprooted then buy a place. If you lived anywhere else other than SF, Oakland or Berkeley there would be no relocation payment. Its a free country and you can live where you choose and where you can afford. When the city tells you what you can raise the rent too, or tells you you have to spend 250K on a soft storey retro fit and your on a fixed income then selling becomes attractive. I can’t go to the bank and say loan me 250k with no additional income to support that. If the city allows a more equitable way to maintain and pay for the cost of ownership then you would see less evictions. Would you be willing to allow $220 a month jump in your rent for each unit so the owner can retrofit the building and make it safer for you? I would need about 10k a year more to break even on something like that. Jimmy may very well be an asset to the neighborhood but unless we become Russia or China property owners have a right with in the law to do what they need to do with the real estate they own. When the Mission becomes Noe Valley I will move to Oakland and find the next cool edgy place.

  18. landline

    “The problem is, if your renting its not your home.” The vast majority of people on the planet, about 2/3rd of San Franciscans, and around half of Americans rent their homes. Imagine the Ed Lee Vichy Regime’s reaction when they discover that there are between 500 and 600 thousand homeless people in this city under your definition.

    • John

      Nationally the home ownership rate is just over 60%, so it’s not true that “about half of Americans” rent. Two in five own, according to the stats.

      More important than that, perhaps, is that homeownership is a near universal goal for Americans and very much part of the American Dream that drives millions to want to move here.

      It’s unfortunate that the homeownership rate is lower in SF because homeownership is generally associated with many desirable values in society, which is in turn why the government at all levels encourages homeownership with tax breaks, but not renting.

      While even here, people often move to the suburbs and buy, rather than stay in the city and rent, when they marry and have kids.

      As rent controlled units gradually fade away, either through TIC formation or natural turnover, I expect the homeownership numbers for SF to trend towards the national average as well.

      • landline

        OK. 60% is a little more than about half, but 13% of homeowners are underwater and many more are stuck because even if they aren’t underwater, the closing and transaction costs make them effectively underwater. That’s more of the nightmare variety of dream.

        The relatively high rental rate in San Francisco sure isn’t contributing to its undesirability. The ongoing housing crisis proves that statement.

        Silly me, I always thought that governments give tax breaks for home ownership in order to further subsidize financial industry profits because the main purpose of government is redistribution to the FIRE sectors and guaranteed profits to the warmongers.

        • John

          Government tax breaks to help people buy their homes and stay on them isn’t a particularly American notion. Most nations overseas do that too and, in some cases, the breaks are more generous than here.

          Example – in high-tax UK there is no capital gains tax on profits from your primary home without limit.

          High home ownership rates correlate with lower crime, better maintenance of homes, greater levels of community involvement, better schools and more stability. Why wouldn’t we want that?

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