Update: Saturday, 7:31 a..m. KPFA is reporting that at 3 p.m. Sanchez got word that he would be able to return to the apartment. The segment is here, fast forward to 48 minutes.
Mission resident Jesús Sanchez says he came home Wednesday afternoon and found the locks to his apartment had been changed. He could not get in. Nor could he get to his belongings inside.
He called the police, but they could do nothing more than take a report. Yesterday he called the landord, who refused to let him back into the apartment. Remodeling may have already begun.
Today, some 50 of Sanchez’s friends and supporters gathered outside at 3374 24th Street (at Orange) to demand that he be allowed to return to the apartment where he had been a subtenant for the last 18 months, that the apartment be habitable and that his belongings be returned to him.
They did not expect any immediate reaction, but will escalate their actions if the landlord does not respond soon, organizers said.
Organized by Causa Justa/Just Cause, they argued that California law requires notice and a proper legal proceeding before a tenant can be removed from his home. Last year, some 40 percent of their cases came from the Mission District.
To get around this provision, Leticia Arce, an organizer for Causa Justa, noted that landlords employ a variety of tactics including harassment, buyouts and in an increasing number of cases, summarily locking tenants out. Although illegal, these tactics can be effective when used against working class and immigrant tenants, those most unlikely to know, or have the resources to enforce, their rights.
Hillary Ronen, speaking for Supervisor David Campos, called the Sanchez case an “outrage” and “unacceptable.”
Causa Justa said that in January, Sanchez reported a gas leak. PG&E shut off the gas until a repair was made, but Sanchez said that the building owners turned the gas back on without addressing the leak.
Sanchez is a subtenant and the master tenant attempted to evict him for reporting the leak and began harassing him to leave, according to Causa. “On Monday March 10, Sanchez says both the master tenant and the owner Eric Dabanne verbally attacked him, screaming that he leave without giving him proper notice,” according to the release by Causa.
HERE is more on his case. Neither the master tenant or the landlord could be reached for comment.
Sanchez and Causa’s organizers said they hope that as a result of community and media pressure, the landlord will open the door. Although the law may favor a tenant in Sanchez’s situation, the time and expense of a lawsuit often makes the legal route impractical if not impossible. And winning the right to return does not guarantee the landlord will not revert to the same or similar tactics, or decide to institute formal, and legal, eviction proceedings.
Supervisor Campos will be introducing a law on Monday establishing relocation costs paid by landlords under the Ellis Act be based on fair market value. A rally in support of the proposed law has been called for Monday at 12:30 on the steps of City Hall.
Campos is also trying to get a moratorium on the Ellis Act, and along with Causa and others, hoping to get a speculation tax on the fall ballot.