Demonstrators hold sign protesting evictions from Redlick Building by owner Rick Holman. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.

Hours after the Sheriff’s department removed them from their unit in the historic Redlick Building Tuesday, the former tenants gathered at the corner of 17th and Mission to protest their eviction from the large, second-floor space they had occupied for two years.

Chanting “End Evictions Now” and grabbing attention with a huge banner, “Rick Holman: Stop the Evictions” the former tenants from a collectively run events space called In the Works asked passersby to sign a pledge to stop patronizing businesses that occupy the properties of evicted tenants. It is unclear who will occupy their former space.

The rally marked the latest development in an ongoing struggle that has been brewing since April when developer Rick Holman purchased the building.  The demonstration consisted of a group of about a dozen tenants.   Activists from the group, No Eviction Summer, joined them.

The members of In the Works and Eviction Free Summer warned that Holman wants to remove many more tenants, but in an email message to Mission Local Holman denied such intentions.

At least four existing tenants have recently renewed expired leases.  Thrift Town, which occupies the first floor of the building, is one such tenant. Store supervisor Athena Craig said that the new ownership isn’t a problem for most of the tenants in the building, which is known as the site of an historical sign, 17 Reasons Why!, first put up by a furniture store in 1935. The iconic sign was replaced by a billboard in 2002.

“We’re happy with the new ownership,” Craig said. Though she declined to comment on any rent increases or changes to Thrift Town’s lease, she explained that “there’s been improvements in the building like new elevators… Nobody has complained to me about anything.”

Holman added, “We are working hard to improve a building that has been neglected for years,” and cited recent fixes to the fire sprinkler system, windows and lighting fixtures. “We want to make the Redlick Building a safe and comfortable place for our existing tenants to operate their non-profits, arts and businesses.”

The protesting tenants filed a stay of the eviction arguing hardship because one its members is HIV positive and at risk of losing his insurance, but on Tuesday a Superior Court Judge of the Housing Court denied their request. Later in the afternoon several deputies from the sheriff’s department, accompanied by Holman, entered the building and forced the remaining residents in the unit to leave.

“They gave us one minute to grab what we could,” said Chema Henández Gil, a former tenant and member of In the Works. “Deputies followed us all the way out the building.”

The tenants were evicted based on the grounds that they were violating the terms of their lease by subleasing the property and illegally living in a commercial space.

Henández Gil said that the group had a written agreement with the previous landlord about the live-work usage of the space and the multiple residents it housed.

“The previous landlord knew that there were multiple people using the unit, and knew there was residential use,” Hernádez Gil said.  Holman said in an e-mail there were no existing agreements with the previous landlord.  “The prior owner has told us that they never agreed to any live-work situation nor saw the buildout,” he said.

Holman also said that there were safety violations in the unit such as non-permitted construction of illegal units within the existing space.

“This is a commercial office building, and not a residential one. San Francisco building, safety and fire codes don’t permit residency in commercial buildings,” Holman wrote.

Ted Hexler, another former tenant who organized Food Not Bombs events in the space, said that while only three names were on the lease and 18 people lived in the space, no formal subleasing was occurring.

“We were acting as a functioning collective,” Hexler said. “None of us had any more say or legal rights. We were roommates with an equal say.”

According to the evicted tenants, relationships with their new landlord were combative from the very beginning.

“He bought the building on April 5, we met him on April 8, by the end of the week were given three day’s notice to leave,” Hernández Gil said of the collective’s relationship with Holman. “We were not given any opportunity to make a case for ourselves.”

“When he came, he came in badgering us, hardly allowing us to say anything,” Hexler said.

Holman disagreed.

“After we filed the eviction, we attempted to work with the occupants for weeks to create a mutually agreeable parting of ways, but our various offers, including payment, were declined,” Holman said. “When the negotiations broke down, we then moved forward aggressively to evict them.”

For Christopher Cook, an organizer with Eviction Free Summer, protesting the eviction of the members of In the Works is about reminding landlords across the city that there are “real consequences when a community is disrupted.”

Update: A previous version of this article stated that the Rent Board denied the tenant’s stay of eviction. This was incorrect and has been corrected.

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. At some point we have to realize that this was a legal action taken by the landlord. If these 18 people couldn’t come up with the means and fortitude to get legal representation(there are countless non-profits here in SF) and plead their case and win then like it or not this is not the old San Francisco and you must adapt or move on

    1. By adaptation do you mean somehow poor people are supposed to become middle class/wealthy simply by living is SF?

      I hear this a ton lately. People who have money wondering why everyone doesn’t. Then getting all super worked up when poor people have to break laws just to survive in a society full of nit wit rich kids and the laws their wealth help create to keep them on top.

      Sorry people with money but every once and awhile some poor people are gonna be around to fuck up your view of life.

      Adaptation is 18 people who have no other means surviving in a city that is slowly being eaten by the upper class.

      Can I getta “Die Yuppie Scum!”

      We’re turning into Manhattan for rich kids that couldn’t pull it in New York.

  2. They were in the building illegally. Rick evicted them for breach of lease. In the months it took to evict them, they vandalized the building, shooting glue into locks, and cutting security camera cords.

    They were subletting a commercial space for residential, which is illegal, and a breach of the lease. They also modified the space heavily, building walls, and creating a major fire hazard.

    The other tenants in the building are glad they are gone. The previous landlord was highly negligent, and Rick has come in to restore the building, which is good for tenants, both present and future, as well as the Mission as a whole.

    1. Why/how would people vandalize their own building, which has guards and dozens of security cameras? Sounds like nonsense lies.

      Another tenant was served with a three-day notice. Let’s see how you can justify that.

      1. The “three-day notice to perform conditions and/or covenants or quit” is a standard procedure in CA that adheres to the state law. It is served to tenants who have violated the terms of the lease and is given three days to correct the infraction or move out. Under California law, the tenants have three days to get their act together and the landlord cannot file an eviction until the tenants failed to live up to their end of the bargain within three days.

        If you have a problem with the three-day notice, the people that you need to complaint to are the lawmakers.

        1. It was a three-day notice to quit. This landlord doesn’t WANT to give tenants the opportunity to correct any alleged infraction. Why would he, when his goal is triple or quadruple the rent?

          1. It’s called a three days’ notice to quit because the CA law allows three days for the tenants to correct the issue. If they do, they don’t have to quit. In fact, in the very notice it contains a reference to Calif. Code of Civil
            Procedure §1161(4), the very law that the notice is based on. By law the landlord HAS to give the tenants three days to correct the problem. Do you understand? Regardless of RH’s motive the tenants have the right to correct the problem within three days and stay in the unit. Do you understand that this is a law?

          2. Jose, the 3 day notice to quit is used for tenants who have ongoing problems. Meaning there would have already been prior 3-day notices for said tenants to fix the problem before it gets to this particular notice. If the tenants were served this notice, there must have been prior warnings and notices and 3-day notice already served and the tenants had failed to correct the problem. Judges usually are quick to deny an eviction that didn’t give the tenants three days to right the wrong unless it’s a gross violation like tenants selling drugs or committing violent crimes. So even if the last notice the tenants got was a 3-day notice to quit, there would have been prior notices that allowed them to stay if they had corrected the problem.

          3. The following is from CA’s Consumer Affairs in regard to 3-day notice:

            “If the violation involves something that the tenant can correct (for example, the tenant hasn’t paid the rent, or the tenant has a pet but the lease doesn’t permit pets), the notice must give the tenant the option to correct the violation.”

            Basically if the violation is correctable, the landlord MUST give the tenants three days to correct the issue. Again, this is what the law says. And the issues outlined in this article are correctable, so by law RH must have given the tenants time to right themselves and obviously the tenants failed to comply.

          4. Without knowing the specifics, looking at the online case documents, it definitely does seem like the landlord did not give the tenants the opportunity to correct an obviously correctable violation. So yet another abuse from the landlord.

  3. You CANNOT live in a commercial space. End of story. The building code for a commercial unit is different from a residential unit and it only accounts for people working there, not living there. This is not fun and games, lives are at danger here. The building infrastructure simply does not support even one person living there, let alone 18. Everyday activities like cooking and showering, when conducted on a regular basis in a commercial unit, could end up causing a fire and whatnot. These cheap and selfish bastards are not only putting themselves in danger they are endangering everyone in that building and everyone who walks pass that building. Just to give you an idea, according to SF’s safety code, to house 18 people you need to live in an eight-bedroom house at the MINIMUM. These folks cramped 18 people into one unit space, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. If it was me I’d throw every one of these punks in jail.

    1. Look at the public documents. It was a 5,000+ SF space that the previous landlord had converted to a residential space, with bathrooms, shower and kitchen. It a dozen rooms, more than the eight-bedroom minimum you mention. The building is zoned mixed use.

      I love how people prefer to give ignorant opinions.

      1. There is no public record of the landlord converting to a residential space. The latest public record in 2007 describes it being an office.
        There were permits pulled relating to stairs repair, emergency exit repair, bathroom upgrade to adhere to ADA laws, concrete walls, and electric fixes. Public record shows NO permit for a kitchen or bedrooms addition nor anything that would suggest adding a kitchen/bedrooms such as building interior walls, adding outlets, installing cabinets, etc. Also, a public record complaint filed in 2007, the inspector describes the space as a garment shop.

        Furthermore, Ted Gullickson, of San Francisco Tenants Union also suggested that the space is illegal. This is his exact quote, “Basically, no matter how illegal the space was, if the rent was paid, tenants were allowed to live there.” Why would he say the space is illegal? Either you are wrong or he is. And I think you are full of smoke.

        1. Is that the problem of the tenants then? The new landlord bought the building as is. To buy a building and evict the residents under a supposed violation done by previous landlord is very convenient when you stand to make many millions of dollars. Sounds like pure speculation on the backs of rent-paying tenants.

          1. Yes! Now you’re getting it. It is exactly the problem of the tenants to live where they are not legally allowed to live. If they were mislead by the previous landlord into believing they can live there, they can go after the previous landlords. But they cannot live in a commercial space, period. We are talking about a potentially very dangerous situation that put everyone in close proximity to the illegally habitat unit in physical danger. This is not fun and games, people.

          2. Un-permitted does not mean dangerous. The Rent Board, which determines what is and isn’t residential, is very flexible. The building is a mixed-use unit, and the unit, at the most, was merely “upgraded” without permits by the previous landlord. Have them pay the fines and get everything in order. Eviction should be a last resort.

          3. The Rent Board certainly DOES NOT determines what is and what isn’t residential. Where did you get that stupid idea?

            Guess what, “upgrade without permits” is illegal!! We’re not talking about changing out the cabinets here, someone put in a freakin kitchen without notifying the city! That’s very illegal and very dangerous!! If things weren’t installed properly and to code it could easily start a fire; and no inspector ever had a chance to see the installation because it was put in without permit!

  4. The truth is , that this is a history of survival interrupted. It is none other than profiteering from the community efforts of making the place livable. Land lords leave places to rot subsides by tenants willing to withstand the perils of inner city life until it becomes market value whereas the tenants value is Zero. You fix you upgrade you create and pay along the way. Landlord Judges, lawyers come and kick your ass to the next rot.” Go fix it and we’ll come after to rob”. You of your survival rights. Wall Street 99% down there.

  5. Based on the comments I am reading, I wish it were made more clear that the tenants were not current squatters. They paid their rent in full, in accordance with their lease, up until their eviction.

    1. I’m not so sure.

      The rent sounds like it was paid in full. But the tenants were also hosting a bunch of people in the space that should not have been there. Those people are the ones I’m referring to as “squatters”

  6. Were the 13 people living there legally or illegally? Did their lease allow them to live there or did it not?

    If it did, then yes this is a shame. If it did not (which is what this article is saying), then tough chickens: they broke the law and got caught.

    1. Looking at the (publicly accessible) lawsuit, it was only about the subleasing, which had been authorized by the previous landlord. The lease doesn’t prohibit from living there either (!) and I know the building is officially mixed-use.

  7. What’s so special about these recent arrivals to the Mission? People have been getting evicted from that neighborhood for at least 30 years, why weren’t they out protesting in 1983?

    Here’s the reason why: they’re kind didn’t move to the Mission until it was made safe for their kind by the people who were evicted twenty and thirty years ago.

    1. Many of the evicted residents weren’t yet born in 1983. I think your scorn is misplaced as ITW made a positive contribution to the community in its too short-lived existence, especially with its free weekly Food Not Bombs sharing.

    2. come on now!
      did you read the article?
      this is a commercial buiding
      these people were living in a commercial space for the very reason that they did not want to displace anybody
      they crammed 18 people into the space because they also did not have the resources to gentrify the neighborhood

      they got evicted because the new landlord can make more money renting the building to tech companies
      and these ‘rules’ that were supposedly broken were written to make sure that the boom and gentrification continue as planned

      it’s true they probably knew it would be hard to get away with this ‘illegal’ residency
      but it silly to see your fellow humans being crushed by the machine and then finding ways to excuse it with ridicule

  8. The landlord also has emptied out 4 other spaces in the building since they bought it 5 months ago. Not renewing leases. Raising one small social services rent 400%. Evicting another business out for renting out a desk.
    These tenants paid their rent until the day they were forced out. Even though the security guards would harass them and not let some of the folks living there even into the building.
    Now there are 13 less housing units in SF. 13 more people competing for other affordable housing.

    1. Were all 13 people living there legally or illegally? Did their lease allow them to live there or not?

      If it did, then yes this is a shame and the new landlord seems sketchy. If it did not (which is what this article is saying), then tough chickens: they broke the law and got caught.

  9. I’m sorry this happened to these people. Rick Holman and his despicable wife Toby Levy are known speculators and harassers.

    I wish all of the former tenants well even though we all know they will no longer be able to afford to live in this once great city.

  10. I have ZERO sympathy for these squatters if they were violating their lease. It sounds like the previous landlord was negligent of the building and its goings-on while the new landlord is more ‘on-the-ball’. The squatters can cry all they want, but if they were breaking the contract, they don’t have a leg to stand on.

    Thrift Town and other tenants in the building who are actually following the rules of the lease are happy with the new landlord, so the problem seems to be with “In the Works” squatters, not the new management.

    1. Squatters?

      Seems like they paid rent and had written agreements with the previous landlord, which was ignored by the new landlord.

      FYI, at least four other tenants in the building either have been kicked out or filed suits against the new landlord, in addition to tenants in other building the landlord owns.

      1. Holman is lying. He moved to evict within days of buying the property. The prior owner had full knowlege of the status of the In The Works space, which was established around two years ago.

        Mission Local, please follow up with information about other tenants in the Redlick building who are in dispute with Holman.

      2. 18 people in 1 space and only 3 people on the lease? They say rent was being paid, but was everyone paying an equal amount or were the master lease holders (ones on the lease) able to stay there for free by charging everyone else enough money to cover the entire rent?

        18 people in 1 space though… come on, how long did they expect to get away with that one. 3 people in a space and then maybe 2 more would have worked, but 18? Seriously?

        1. None of tenants were current squatters. They were paying their rent in full up until their eviction. That they were squatting is based on misinformation, and false assumptions.