Google to Teacher: We Can’t Help You With Eviction

Google’s Public Policy Manager Leslie Miller recently told Claudia Tirado, a teacher and one of six tenants being evicted by Google lawyer Jack Halprin, that there was nothing Google could do about the eviction.

Miller called Tirado earlier this summer after another Google employee, Rachel Whetstone, met Tirado when the teacher was protesting at Google’s I/O conference in June. At the time, Whetstone promised to intervene to see what she could do about Tirado’s situation at 812 Guerrero.

Halprin purchased the property in 2012 for $1.4 million and after moving into the building, he evicted one tenant, saying that he and his partner wanted the unit. In the end, Halprin’s partner never joined him. In 2013, he served the remaining six tenants with Ellis Act eviction notices.

Tirado had hoped the Google executives would be able to do something, but was told there was nothing they could do. It is a private matter. Regardless, Tirado said that she hoped Google would support any new legislation to reform the Ellis Act, a state law that was meant to help landlords get out of the business. Increasingly it has been used by new owners to evict tenants so that the units can be sold.

Legislation sponsored by State Senator Mark Leno would have reformed the Ellis Act by requiring landlords who want to use it, to own the property for five years. Although it was supported by Salesforce, Twitter, Zygna and other tech companies, Leno’s legislation failed this summer.

While it could be taken up again, it is unlikely to happen soon enough to help Tirado and the other tenants—one of whom has since left. Those remaining are fighting the eviction and filed for disability extensions. At the same time, they are suing Halprin for neglecting to maintain the building, abusing his right to enter their units and acting in bad faith.

Halprin has asked for a jury trial.

40 Comments

  1. Sam

    I am not aware that there is any evidence that Halprin intends to sell the units as you claim. His stated reason is that he no longer wishes to be a landlord and that is the genuine reason envisaged by the Ellis Act.

    I suspect that part of the reason he no longer wants these tenants is that they seem to be very politically motivated, taking part in protests and seemingly happy to file lawsuits. Perhaps if his tenants weren’t blocking google buses and generally agitating, they wouldn’t be losing their homes now?

    In any event, Halprin is on record saying he wants to live in the entire house, and it’s not unreasonable for a wealthy person to want to do that – Zuckerberg bought three adjacent houses and merged them.

    And it is somewhere between very difficult and impossible to condo convert a 6-unit building anyway, which again points to Halprin not wishing to sell the units separately.

    Finally I would not expect a property owner’s employer to get involved in something like this, nor in general to have any opinion about a state law that is unrelated to their business.

    • Russo

      Your defense of wealthy corporate executives is always endearing, Sam/John, but any landlord unresponsive to basic fire safety, sanitation and HVAC issues should be brought to court.

    • You have the order wrong – he filed to evict them and that politicized them. He knew there were tenants when he bought the building. For $1.2 million back then, he could have bought a home or condo without people he would have to evict.

    • BlackSharpiePen

      So, Sam, you’re saying this guy intended to live in one apartment with his partner (who did not in fact move in), but then decided he needs to live in all 8 units, so he evicted 7 families? Isn’t that quite a jump? He very clearly intended to do this from day one.

      Why do you think these tenants are “politically motivated, taking part in protests and seemingly happy to file lawsuits”? (“Happy to file law suits”? That’s a good one.) They’re motivated because they got evicted. They most likely would have been happy to stay in their homes if not for this corporate Simon Legree.

      I don’t know how these people sleep at night.

    • Bill Snyder

      That’s preposterous. Converting a multi-unit building into a single-family dwelling would be hugely expensive and hardly worth the trouble.

      • lol

        Expensive is very relative. People think differently.

        Rich people are not think like you and me. They have more money.

  2. Runforthehills

    It would be completely inapproriate, perhaps even illegal, for a company to intervene in a way these tenants want. Do we really want corporations to tell employees what they can and cannot do with their private property?

  3. Jay Martin

    Sam, did Halprin buy a building with tenants because he wanted to be a landlord? Or did he want a house for himself? If a person wants a house for himself, and buys a building with tenants, then he is cruel.
    If the tenants and their community don’t complain about the cruelty, then the cruelty will continue, for them and for others.
    And if Google doesn’t add include support of the community in their corporate code of conduct, then the executives of Google have consented to the cruelty.

    • Sam

      Jay, there are a couple of possibilities that explain the chain of events.

      It’s possible that Halprin liked the idea of a “home with income” but once he actually moved in encountered the problems with having tenants, and particularly tenants who are politically motivated, he realized that was not for him. Ellis allows precisely for those situations where a landlord comes to the conclusion that the situation isn’t working out.

      Or it may just be that, as time passed, he found that he needed more space and aspired to take over another unit. Sadly, only one OMI per building is allowed and so Ellis is the only way to achieve that. If multiple OMI*’s per building were allowed then an Ellis eviction, which necessarily evicts all tenants in a building, would not need to be invoked.

      More generally, we are seeing a migration of homes from rentals to owner-occupied in SF. this reflects both the natural ambition of Americans to own their own home, and the specific situation in SF where the city’s own housing policies deter the provision of rental housing.

  4. oldster

    Bethany Center Senior Housing on Capp Street, for lower income seniors, sounds like a wonderful place. I suppose it has a long waiting list. We need more such places, so frail seniors who lose rent control apartments have somewhere to go. It would be a good deed (and chump change) for Google to endow a senior living community.

  5. missionpaininlandlordstuchis

    Right, “politically motivated” tenants. What about the 2-year old boy who lives there? Is he some kind of agitator as well? Halprin bought the building WITH tenants, including a child. Obviously he knew at that time that rents are crackhead-high in SF. He knew the building he was buying was rent-controlled, with tenants who had been there a while and were not wealthy. No one can find a livable place in SF on a working person’s pay, especially if you have a kid. Why would Halprin think these people would willingly leave? Why does this rich man want to uproot these working people and force them to move far, far away?

    • medalist

      perhaps then, the city and you as a taxpayer should step up and pay the subsidy for these tenants so they don’t have to move “far, far away”

    • lol

      Is this a Rich vs Poor issue? Grow up already. People know life’s unfair when they turn 8. Except maybe in SF where rent controlled tenants are kept in a very protective bubble.

      Face the world, adapt, fight and grow yourself in the process. That would be my advice, but that is anathema in underachiever sanctuary SF.

      • Backtotheburbs

        Plenty of people made ground breaking achievements in world class cities, their work adorning encyclopedias. Yet during their lives they were financial underachievers by your standards. What would you take? Inventing electricity, canons of literature, or evicting a family with kids so you can have your own Mission condo?

        Viewing the world and life through a purely financial prism is sad, lonely, and very limiting. Even 2 year olds know that …

        • lol

          And when they were poor, were they living in 4 bedroom apartments at 25% of market rate?

          Nope. They struggled. I spent the first 6 years of my life in a One-room apartment with no bathroom in my birth country. Today I own property in SF and rent it at market rate. Had my parents been living large for cheap I wouldn’t have developed the survival skills I have today. I work 14 hour days, help out and house 2 family members, always think about tomorrow and never take anything for granted.

          And I have learned not to have compassion with people who will game the system and play with people’s emotions to get what they want. For one needy family you have 5 {Noe street guy who was being Ellised last year) who held on to his place then took the money to live in the Palm springs area.

        • BlackSharpiePen

          “Viewing the world and life through a purely financial prism is sad, lonely, and very limiting. Even 2 year olds know that …:

          Bravo!

      • BlackSharpiePen

        “Face the world, adapt, fight and grow yourself in the process. That would be my advice, but that is anathema in underachiever sanctuary SF.”

        I know, teachers, those damn underachievers! They probably should have majored in finance, worked for a hedge fund! It’s their own fault they want to take the easy way out (teaching is soooo easy!), the despicable slouchers.

  6. ron

    stories like this show why buildings delivered vacant sell for highly inflated prices in san francisco.

    • Missionite

      More accurately, why leasing rent-controlled units to tenants destroys so much value.

      • And here I though there was value in having a San Francisco teacher being able to live within walking distance of the school she teaches at

        • Julian

          You hit the nail in the head. Too many people see value as only monetary.

        • lol

          Walking? What’s wrong with public transportation? BART works fine for thousands of office workers. It should work for teachers too. Plus due to the messed up geographical oddity of where your kids will be, your teacher will probably not see many of his kids in his neighborhood.

  7. lol

    Tenants in San Francisco are creating their own hell.

    By supporting the anachronistic Rent Control they:

    1 – Make market rent more expensive
    2 – Due to #1, buries them alive into their lease, with no way out but stay put
    3 – Make resale price for rent controlled buildings artificially low
    4 – Due the price difference between vacant and rent control occupied buildings, create a very juicy market for speculators.

    To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum in the first Jurassic Park “Money will find a way”.

    And all of this comes from greed. Greed from tenants who insist on keeping their cheap rent, with no means testing, and at no cost to the taxpayer.

    Your landlord might not Ellis you, but at some point he will sell to someone who will.

    You make your bed, you sleep in it.

    • Backtotheburbs

      Exactly what the new anti speculative legislation is addressing.

      Not only do they make their bed, but they also provide the city with critical services that everyone depends. And as noted many times here, their wages are often laughable given the economic conditions. Oh, wages aren’t increasing along with cost of living? Sounds like a serious problem. Inevitably that means that prices of everything are on the up.

      You’re also missing the point that more people want to live here than we have space for. Rent control is also a way Of rewarding long time residents and the non affluent people who chose (and made) SF long before newcomers.

      • Barbara

        I’m a renter. In a broad sense I support rent control policies as one tool for managing housing BUT I part ways with you when you talk about “rewarding” long-time residents. I do not see why it benefits public policy as a whole to *reward* people for nothing more than staying in their apartment, at cost not only to landlords but to any other person or family who might want to move into the city.

        • Backtotheburbs

          Presumably they are not just ‘staying in their apartment’ but going on with their duties and lives. Key duties that make the city run and that you and other residents rely on.

          You realize that in the current reality an individual or family making below six figures has no chances of moving or setting up in SF? Do you realize that is practically all professions, except for a select few which just happen to be ‘hot’ right now?

          Rent control is a means to protect individuals and their contributions in light of a speculative and cyclical economy. Do you really want everyone to move out to make way for the hottest professionals every few years? Only to see those new transplants flee a few years after that? What kind of city is that? Sounds more like a complex of hotels. SF landlords have it good given the yearly appreciations and market fervor – they can always sell at a rather ridiculous profit. And they save tons of money on by neglecting basic upkeep and upgrades. E.g. most rent controlled units have no heat and leaky windows.

          It’s amazing, it seems that most people value community interactions and neighborliness. Otherwise it’s just a revolving door of apathetic minimum wage workers or worse. But so few realize that these established interactions are exactly what we’re losing and what requires support, to put it mildly.

          Yes, change happens and can be good and all that. But if you simply pull out the rug, or soul, out of place, it can take a long time to rebuild if ever.

          • Sam

            Barbara makes some good points. Rent control rewards tenants who sit tight for decades but the effect of that is to drive up rents for anyone arriving in SF.

            So none of those people making under 100K that you feel for can move here, as you note. IOW, one group of mid-income people are crowding out another group of mid-income people for no reason other than they got lucky.

            Why is that sound public policy? Who is to say that those existing folks are better for the city than those who would love to move here, but cannot? And why don’t we subsidize those with real need rather than those who have simply been immobile?

            Rent control doesn’t help the poor. It helps those who value rent control more than social mobility and therefore sit and squat and protest and prioritize staying put.

            Oh, and FYI landlords do have to provide heat. There’s a specific law that a rental unit must have heating to achieve a certain temperature at a certain location in each habitable room. I can’t recall the details now but it is a definite requirement.

            If there is no central heat then a LL can provide baseboard heaters or standalone heaters. He doesn’t have to pay the cost of providing that heat, of course.

            Not saying all LL’s do that, but the law requires it.

          • lol

            I thought I would never recover from the harsh fact that I couldn’t afford to live in Monte Carlo. But, but, Monte Carlo need teachers, firemen, cleaners. How do they do it? Things were so much better before big money decided to move to Monte Carlo.

      • lol

        1 – BART is very efficient. It’s faster to commute from Oakland than to commute from the Outer Sunset.
        2 – If someone is needed and cannot afford to live here, wages will go up. Look at tech pay today vs 5 years ago.
        3 – Rewarding long-term residents? We live in what used to be a meritocracy. Today we have either Robber Barons or people who want to keep their entitlements.

        What lessons are we teaching our kids? 1 – Work hard? 2 – Play smart? Kids see robber barons and do not see hard work as a key to success. They see rent controlled hogs and see no reason to work hard.

  8. bfgd

    I like the recent transplants protesting this in the video.
    ….

    • Backtotheburbs

      Not unless you try to evict them or contribute to 20% housing increases year to year …

      It is hard to feel sympathy for any new transplants that can obviously afford ridiculous rent or housing prices.

      • lol

        and this is why people tell you again and again that homeownership is the key to housing stability.

        In the past 40 years there were at least 4 or 6 occurrences when SF dwellers who made median pay could afford to purchase. Tenants who thought their lease would be in perpetuity should have opted for purchasing. Not at today’s prices, but for instance at 1993 or 2010 prices when it was still doable.

  9. Darryl

    There was a policy decision a couple of years ago that has had the unintended consequence of increasing the number of property owners using the Ellis Act on their building. There was a backlog of applicants for condo conversions in San Francisco. In 2012, San Francisco allowed a larger number of buildings to be converted into condominiums, but as a condition of those conversions, they placed a 10-year moratorium on condo conversions. The unintended consequence (along with the steep rise in property values which made TICs more attractive), was that it presented an opportunity for property owners to convert their buildings into TICs and has vastly increased the number of owners using the Ellis Act…

    That is why when you go to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project website…you see the huge increase in Ellis Act buildings. So the recent evictions are due to a public policy decision.

  10. In 2004 I was in college at SFSU and I was on the hunt for a room to rent. I went to an open house and met a very nice woman who had a beautiful 3 bedroom flat on Ashbury near Frederick. After she showed me the room, which was priced around $700/mo (a little above average for that time), we sat in her sunny breakfast nook and had some coffee and she told me that before offering me the room she wanted to be upfront about the rent and how the sub-tenancy would work. She had been in the flat over 5 years and was the master tenant, and because of that she was charging $700 for the room but was only paying $300 for the other two bedrooms, because, and this is a direct quote, “she earned it and it was the only way she could afford to do her art therapy practice and not have to work a full time job”. I didn’t take the room. I was in school full time on loans and grants, with no help from family, and working 25+ hours a week. I could see myself growing to resent her and knew it wasn’t a good idea. Not all rent control situations are like this one, but many are. Rent control should be based on need and not on seniority alone. I have no idea how the City would police this, but it’s the only logical way to continue the policy and benefit the most needy (seniors, families, low-income working people, etc.).

    Ask yourself this – why are the restrictions on BMR and low-income housing more strict than they are on rent control?? To qualify you must jump through a million hoops and prove that you make less than the upper threshold. It’s difficult to get into a BMR – and these units are subsidized by the City. Rent control units, on the other hand, are subsidized by private citizens. And there is no screening process as far as who is the most “needy”. How is that fair? I’m a renter now and feel lucky to be living in one of the best places on earth (no longer in SF, I live much better in the East Bay where my money goes further and the sun is out 80% of the year) but I still can’t wrap my head around the idea that just because someone has chosen not to move for 15 years they should be entitled to take advantage of what, in most cases, is a small business owner (most landlords). There certainly are “evil” companies that manage buildings and abuse their rights as landlords, and they should be prevented from reckless Ellis Act evictions and other abuses of the system – but those who are just families or individuals trying to make the most on their investment should not be punished.

    The City is to blame for 99% of these issues. Not Google, Twitter, Uber or the rest of them. I hate the techies as much as the next guy, but the City needs to step up and take care of the housing shortage (something they’re trying to do now, about 15 years too late). And as for the premise of this article, expecting Google to intervene in an employee’s home purchase is INSANE.

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