City Helps Sunrise Stay on 24th Street

In late December, Alba Guerra was on her way to Lake Tahoe with her family when she received a call from one of her neighbors. Someone had broken into her restaurant: it was her landlady, Glenda Gutierrez.

Neighbors not only took photos and videos, they called Erick Arguello, the director of Calle 24, a nonprofit trying to preserve the corridor. He arrived, asked them for the required notice and they had none. Just his presence, however, put Gutierrez on notice that someone was watching, Arguello said.

Gutierrez hasn’t replied to multiple offers for an interview.

Although she has never been given a reason for the break-in, Guerra, who has owned the Sunrise Restaurant for the last eight years, suspected that the landlord might be trying to surreptitiously create a violation that would give her grounds for ending Guerra’s lease.

This time around, the city had some new legal clout to offer Guerra: legal assistance from an initiative backed by Mayor Ed Lee and launched in 2012 to focus in 25 neighborhood commercial districts.

The pilot of Invest in Neighborhoods is currently being rolled out and tested in the Mission’s 24th Street corridor where 46 percent of the commercial district area storefronts account for eating and drinking. Pressure on local business and building owners to sell is common.

“We are doing this to slow down the process of gentrification,” Arguello said. “To make sure leases are proper. As commercial spaces, these tenants are unprotected. Now there is tension, and there is more attention drawn to this. So, we can do more.”

Guerra’s lease was renewed last September, but since then the owner had decided to sell the building, Arguello said. One couple backed out when they discovered that Guerra had a new five-year lease, he said.

“There have been attempts in the past to get them out, but [Guerra] is on a lease,” Arguello said. “But she was being harassed,” he said, referring to the incident on December 26 when her landlady showed up with a locksmith.

It appears that having Arguello there and getting the legal team involved stopped any action against Guerra and put the landlord on notice that she knew her rights, Guerra said.   At present, she is secure in her five-year lease.

A Thai restaurant, a block east that was also in a Gutierrez-owned building was not as lucky in 2009. After their lease ended, the landlady wanted a rent increase and the Thai place had to relocate to SoMa.

The Mexican restaurant that moved in next ended up having to pay a high deposit in cash — $18,000, according to SF Weekly, which reported in 2009 that Gutierrez also made the tenants sign a contract in a language they don’t speak or read, and included clauses on the lease forbidding them to talk to the press.

Although commercial tenants are only protected from rent increases during the time of their lease, Arguello is working to create incentives for property owners to keep current tenants without raising lease rates exponentially.

One idea is to give property owners a tax cut if they offer 10 to 20-year leases, according to Arguello.

For Guerra, the legal advice became key. Lawyers paid by a city grant are working with her on going over her lease to make sure she will not be forced to close if the building is sold and to resolve anything she might not be in compliance with.

Diana Ponce de León, the mayor’s point person in the Mission, said it was a matter of awareness. “They shouldn’t feel threatened because there has to be awareness….This is an educational tool to have access to information,” Ponce de León said.

Guerra’s business, known as a gathering place for artists and for its once-a-week fundraisers for the community, is going strong and she feels confident that the help she is receiving, along with the support from her neighbors, will continue to allow her to keep adding value to the 24th Street corridor.

Programs that are part of the Mayor’s Invest in Neighborhoods:

BizFitSF — A free four-month-long program to strengthen existing businesses.

ADA Small Business Assessment Program — ADA inspections free of cost for small businesses.

StorefrontSF — A tracking service of vacancies for potential small businesses in neighborhood corridors where the initiative is in place.

Jobs Squad — An outreach effort to help small businesses get information and help to navigate the process, one of the services tailors legal assistance through the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. The point person in the Mission is Diana Ponce de León.

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24 Comments

  1. 24-24

    love that place

  2. poor.ass.millionaire

    total.hipster.joint.

    trying (badly) to get their indigenista on!

  3. John

    “Gutierrez also made the tenants sign a contract in a language they don’t speak or read”

    Yes, that language was English. If a tenant wishes to enter into a lease, then they would not normally expect the landlord to translate the lease into whatever language they read and speak. Rather the tenant would hire a translator.

    If you went to Bulgaria to start a business, would you expect all the paperwork to be in English just because that happens to be the language you speak and read?

    And how can a landlord “make” a tenant sign anything?

    I realize this wasn’t ML journalism, but SFWeekly. But in repeating their lines verbatim you effectively endorse their prejudicial coverage.

    • siempre blanco

      How was the White Man March? You and your nine friends.

      Did you get some new tips on race baiting, jackass?

      • ThatGuy

        Dude, that’s a legit point. Don’t come back crying in a few years because this place, which I assume you’re a regular at (lol), will be out of business.

      • NFS

        Let’s see, a Hispanic landlord ostensibly trying to take advantage of an ostensibly Hispanic Tennant? Where is the vitriol?

        Signing a lease in English? Anytime I’ve signed a lease in any country, it has been in the language(s) of that country.

      • John

        Siempre blanco, pointing out that English is the language of law and business in the US is hardly being racist. It’s just being realistic.

        And as NFS stated, this was a Hispnaic landlord.

        Take your cheap racecard playing elsewhere. It’s not welcome here.

        • siempre blanco

          You are the biggest race baiter here. Share your false outrage with your white supremacist friends. They seem to be on the ascendency.

          • John

            Wrong, siempre blanco, you introduced race. I was talking only about language and how insanely whiney it sounds to demand that legal contracts be in a non-standard language.

            Your blatant race-card playing was asking to be slapped down and so I obliged,

            If you have a problem with this Hispanic landlord then go yell at him in Spanish.

          • Kaliman

            SB — John has resoundingly earned the title as the know-it-all, vitriol-filled, race-baiting, greed-driven landlord troll.

            I would be handsomely that most people are tired of this troll and roll their eyes as they come upon his ultra conservative commentary on almost every news post.

            Simply ignore his useless babble.

          • John

            Kaliman, you are not one to talk since you only post to make personal attacks on others. Even landline has quit having seen the futility of that approach.

            Again, I never mentioned race here. My point was purely about language. But if others play a race card I will point it out, because that is simply another form of racism.

  4. pete

    What LL woould sign a 20yr lease?

    • John

      Commercial leases are typically longer because it is the tenant who is responsible for all the internal work to the building to enable the business to function. That’s a major investment and no commercial tenant would want to spend all that money and then have to move after a year.

      That said, the commercial leases that I have seen are typically something like five or seven years, maybe ten. The only time a 20-year might make sense is for a new construction where the developer wants or needs an upfront commitment. So a new mall might extend a long-term lease to a department store as an anchor tenant.

      The only other way it would be reasonable was if the lease had an “upwards-only” rent provision that allows for annual increases.

      There is a trade-off because a longer lease might be more attractive to a tenant. Or not if their business model is risky. But in a rapidly improving business environment like 24th Street, I think 5-7 years would be the maximum that I would want to be locked into.

  5. Steve

    Is it just me or do the first couple of paragraphs not make much sense? How and why did the landlord break into the property? The whole circumstances around that seem pretty important to the overall article, and there’s zero explanation here.

    Also, What is the “notice” in the second paragraph?

    I love this restaurant (best pupusas in town), but maybe you could be a little more clear about what the heck actually happened.

  6. Mel

    total.family.joint

    We love this place. So welcoming. My kids eat really well at Sunrise. I love their chuletas. Thanks Calle 24 for looking out for these guys. Would be a big loss to the neighborhood if they were gone.

    • Blurpy

      Love it there too. We eat there probably once a week. Really friendly staff, and the food is tasty and affordable.

  7. Orddu

    I love the Sunrise…happy to hear they’re getting assistance and the dastardly landlady a legal comeuppance.
    Breaking in. Sheesh.

    • John

      The term “breaking in” doesn’t really apply when the property in question belongs to you. Most leases (and State law) allows a property owner to enter in a variety of situations, including without notice or warning in an emergency. A tenant who refuses such entry can be held to be in violation of their lease.

      So it’s a civil matter rather than a criminal matter i.e. did the lease allow for random inspections or entry for cause?

      That said, it’s a little unusual in a commercial setting but, for all that, an owner does reserve certain rights in law and as defined by the lease.

      And in this case, note that the owner is selling the property. That means that the owner, her agents, and prospective buyers and their agents will all have to enter the property from time to time during the sale.

  8. Pamela

    Something’s wrong in this picture. It’s not a break-in when it is the landlord going into their own property. The property owner was probably checking on possible code violations especially with the building for sale. Violations seem to be pretty common along 24th Street going from Mission St towards Potrero Hill; a lot of tenements that clearly need to be brought to code. As for Calle24, why are they so against improving the neighborhood? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s great to see all the continuing improvements / upgrades in District 9.

    • missionnite

      Just because they don’t look like the way you want them, mean they have code violations. So keeping a merchant who is community minded and loved by the community its serves a bad thing and not an improvement to the neighborhood?

      Your idea of improvement is throwing out all the working class folks and especially the latinos.

    • David Franchese

      What does improving mean really? Does it mean everything has to be antiseptic and contemporary or does it mean just clean and well maintained? Granted the city decides to provide improvements to the area only if they’re well represented and with an active community pushing for resources. I’ve only been to this place once for a meeting. Very nice owners… The fact that you use the phrase “code violations” tells me that you’re a bit of a troll here. This is one of the approaches developers and speculators have taken to drive these businesses out…. funny considering it doesn’t seem to happen at businesses and residences which have NOT been retrofitted for earthquake safety. Nope. Those are too expensive locations to drive out.

      • John

        The city shouldn’t be deciding what restaurants open and close. That is for the customers and residents to decide via the spending of their disposable income.

  9. Kaliman

    The restaurant is a highly reputable and widely known establishment.

    The Landlord trying to break-in without notice is highly suspicious but not unusual. Many landlords assume they have all the rights and are, more often than not, abusive of their tenants–particularly if they’re immigrants.We just don’t hear about them unless there is some press or if tenants that know their rights.

    Glad to hear there will be a Sunrise in the morning!! :)

  10. Next they’ll be storming the Bastille. Really, the commies think they can run this town. Why don’t they just go to Berkeley where they’re welcome?

Comments are closed.