Jack Halprin, a Google lawyer and now a landlord, stood resolute at the top of the stairs leading up to the seven-unit building at 812 Guerrero Street where he began Ellis Act evictions against six tenants earlier this year.
“I do not intend to turn this into condos,” he said on Friday at 8:20 a.m.as he let construction workers into the seven-unit Victorian. He declined, however, to talk about his intentions beyond suggesting that he would live in the building. “You can talk to my attorney,” he said before turning to go inside.
An hour later, many of his tenants who had started the morning with a protest in front of a Google bus at 18th Street and Dolores, marched up Guerrero Street and stood in front of his door. A workman walked down the stairs, but the only evidence of Halprin was an arm that reached out to close a second story door or window.
Halprin declined to respond to an email follow up request for additional comment.
“He is so fake, he had this plan all along,” said Claudia Tirado, one of Halprin’s tenants, a third grade teacher and mother of a small child who has lived in the building for eight years. “He bought it with a partner taking two flats, now he’s taking all seven.”
Evan Wolkenstein, a teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay who is also being evicted from his $1,700 a month one-bedroom apartment, added: “He feels so empowered and he can do what he wants.”
While the tenants don’t believe Halprin will meet with them, they hope that Google or other tech companies might intervene. “We would like to invite tech companies to support a conversation,” Wolkenstein said. When asked if they had tried to contact Google he said, “We don’t have that kind of access.”
Tirado said things started off badly as soon as Halprin bought and moved into the seven-unit building two years ago. First, Halprin forced one tenant out under owner move-in laws. Then another existing tenant was evicted, again through the owner move-in process. Halprin told tenants that his domestic partner would be taking over the second unit. That partner, however, never materialized, according to Erin McElroy, an organizer with Eviction Free San Francisco. The affected tenant has since filed a wrongful eviction lawsuit against Halprin.
The remaining six tenants, which includes two teachers, a small child, an artist and a disabled senior, received Ellis Act eviction notifications in February of this year.
“Why doesn’t he buy a regular house, why does he have to take seven units off the rental market,” said a seemingly tearful Tirado, to a crowd gathering on 19th and Dolores in anticipation of blockading a Google bus. “When Jack Halprin moved in two years ago, he saw me and my baby, he knew who he was kicking out.”
Organized by the group Eviction Free Summer, the demonstration moved from 19th and Dolores to the Google bust stop at 18th. The crowd chanted “Tenants Power,” “Jack Halprin out, Tenant’s rights in,” and “San Francisco not for sale.”
Google employees were lined up in front of Dolores Park Café like any other day, but when the Google bus that normally turns at 18th Street went south on Dolores, the employees looked on, surprised and amused, and then quickly got on their phones. One called a dispatcher and presumably found out that the bus would return.
As they waited, one Google employee at the bus stop, who has been living in San Francisco for several years but working at Google for less than a year, said he thought it was “a shame,” about the housing situation in San Francisco but said he didn’t know the details of the Guerrero evictions.
He applauded the recent legislation sponsored by Supervisor David Campos that will require the landlord to pay the difference between an evicted tenant’s old rent and the tenant’s new market rent for a couple of years. “Housing is the main problem here and the city has to do a better job of building middle-income housing,” he said. “The city’s plan of building market rate housing is clearly not going to work.” (Note: This was corrected. An earlier version mis-quoted the worker who had correctly described the measure.)
For the protest’s organizers, the case of 812 Guerrero demonstrates the clear link between the tech giant’s presence in San Francisco and the rise in evictions.
“Google is actually evicting people,” said McElroy to the crowd, referring to Halprin. “We’re demanding that Google put pressure on Jack Halprin to rescind these evictions.”
After police officers ushered demonstrators out of the Google bus’ path, the march moved up Guerrero Street towards the house in question. Protest organizers as well Tirado and her fellow tenants moved up the steps of the building and spoke to the crowd through a megaphone.
“I’ve lived here for eight years. This is my home. I love this building and I love the people in it,” said Evan Wolkenstein, a tenant in the building and a teacher at Jewish Community High School. “We had a community where we knew each other…what was once a community of friends has become a piece of property to be traded and sold for money.”
Tirado emerged from her apartment, accompanied by her young son, and held up a portrait of her family to show the crowd.
“I want to stay here, my baby was born here,” Tirado said. “Jack Halprin, you don’t need seven units!”
Reflecting the growing public profile of Eviction Free San Francisco’s campaign, journalists from both local and global news outlets, including an organization from the Netherlands, were on hand to capture the day’s event. Housing rights activists show no signs of slowing down their work, a large-scale protest of the evictions of the city’s teachers is planned for this afternoon, starting at 5 p.m. at 20th and Dolores. Mission Local will have coverage of this event as well.