Rene Yañez stands in front of his 3D piece, part of Illuminations: Día de los Muertos 2011 exhibit opening Oct. 7 at SOMArts Cultural Center Bay Gallery.

Spanning three decades in the Mission District, prominent San Francisco artist and curator René Yañez, who seeded and grew the annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration into a citywide event, is in the process of being evicted from his home of 35 years. His former wife, artist Yolanda Lopez, and his son, the artist Rio Yañez, are also included in the eviction notice.

“René and Yolanda helped paint the neighborhood into what it is today,” said Sarah Guerra, the operations manager at the Brava Theater and one of the many artists in the neighborhood who are organizing support efforts.

“There’s a lot going on that I am trying to reconcile with,” Rio Yañez, 33, added. “Both of my parents have made a pretty large cultural investment with the city, but there’s not a lot of protection at this point.

“Rent control is what afforded my parents with the opportunity to live in this city and make art. Being an artist means they have no savings, no retirement, no health care. They live check to check. For their dedication to art, that’s where they are. With elderly people like them, with limited income, this essentially makes them homeless.”

The eviction comes at a particularly difficult time because both Yañez, who is 71, and his partner, Cynthia Wallis, have terminal cancer.

Yañez and his family members were given a notice in July that they have one year to move out of the duplex on San Jose. The eviction is legal under the Ellis Act, a provision in the state’s rental laws that allows an owner to take rentals off the market. Once largely dormant, Ellis Act evictions spike in boom times and are up by 81 percent in the past year. Since late 2012, a total of 116 Ellis Act evictions have been filed.

A friend and artistic collaborator Guillermo Gómez-Peña is seeking to rally support for Yañez and a conversation about the rise in evictions. In an open letter to Yañez that Gómez-Peña also sent to friends, artists and organizations, he refers to the Yañez family as “puro Chicano royalty.”

“It’s an outrage, it’s tragic, and sadly, it’s all too common in this merciless city that seems to care nothing for those who’ve helped make it what it once wanted to be,” Gómez-Peña wrote.

Yañez is the founder and curator of a number of iconic organizations in San Francisco, including the Mission Cultural Center and Galería de la Raza.

His mark on the city’s art landscape is indelible, but he can no longer afford to live here, Gómez-Peña wrote.

Yañez  and his family have until July 2014 to vacate the premises, and so far have no prospects for new housing they can afford.

Yañez and Rio’s mother, Yolanda Lopez, occupy two units of a historic four-unit building on San Jose Avenue, where they raised their son. For three decades, it has served as both a home and a place where their art began. Both units were protected with rent control, and the tenants currently pay about $450 per month in rent.

Rio Yañez

The eviction has elicited outrage from the close-knit community of artists and merchants, and efforts to raise awareness of Yañez’s plight are ramping up. A fundraiser is planned for the end of the month at Brava Theater. In collaboration with the Lower 24th Street Merchants and Neighbors Association, the fundraiser is part of a larger effort to shed light on the wave of evictions.

A march protesting the Ellis Act is also planned for Oct. 12. Those who are not able to attend will still be able to make a donation to the Yañez family through the theater’s website.

“Getting this event planned was really just kind of a no-brainer,” Guerra said. “As soon as we started calling up artists, there was immediate support…we see this as an opportunity to bring attention to them as individuals as well as show how Ellis Act evictions really hurt. They show that the realty companies have no commitment to the people who made San Francisco what it is.”

The landlord, Sergio Iantorno of Golden Properties, LLC, has offered Yañez and Lopez around $13,000 and $11,000, respectively, as a means of relocation fees, a price which Rio calls, “absurd.”

Iantorno has not returned multiple phone calls, so it is unclear what plans he has for the duplex.

“There’s nowhere they could go for that amount of money in San Francisco, and certainly not in the Mission,” Rio Yañez said. “They aren’t looking for a huge buyout so that they can start a new life. They are in their seventies.”

Yañez and his family began getting notices from Iantorno last year, encouraging them to agree to a buyout or face an Ellis Act eviction. Seeking counsel from the San Francisco Tenants Union, they were put in contact with attorney Raquel Fox of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, who advised them not sign any sort of agreement.

“Ellis Act evictions are impossible to fight,” said Ted Gullickson, who heads the tenants union. “They are horrible. All you achieve with legal help is drawing out the process and buying time.”

For a few months, nothing happened. Then the notices started coming again, with one in March spelling out that an Ellis Act eviction was imminent. During that time, the Yañez family got to know a group of people in the Tenants Union office, all facing Ellis Act evictions and all from the same landlord.

“This landlord, Iantorno, had been on our radar for decades,” Gullickson said. “But last December, we really started noticing that he was coming up again.”

Iantorno achieved a sort of infamy among residents and tenant union employees last winter when he sent out a Christmas card of sorts to his tenants. Misleadingly cheery, the red and green-colored notices asked them to check one of two boxes indicating that they would either accept a buyout or face eviction.

With that information, Gullickson and volunteer coordinator Becca Gourevitch began holding meetings with the Iantorno’s tenants and systematically visiting all known buildings he owns to gauge just how many of his tenants are being evicted.

While still in the planning stages, the group of around a dozen residents plans to file a lawsuit against Iantorno, if only for the sake of bringing awareness to the ethics of his practices.

Referencing the recent case involving the Lee family of San Francisco, who managed to stave off an Ellis Act eviction for an extra 10 days and negotiate relocation fees and services thanks to public support, Gullickson said the only tool tenants have is publicly shaming the landlord into backing down.

By banding together with fellow Iantorno evictees, retaining legal representation to negotiate the best payout and garnering public support, Yañez’s family hopes to at least avoid outright eviction.

“Legally, there is not much we can really do,” Rio Yañez said. “We are just trying to do whatever we can to compel the realty company to drop the eviction. One way to do that is by rallying around my parents; they feel very alone. All we have is the court of public opinion to pressure the company into giving us more time.”

Time is particularly critical when taken into account with Yañez ’s health. While Rio’s mother, Yolanda, is in relatively good health and has begun looking into senior housing options, his father and Cynthia have a tougher road ahead.

Cynthia has stomach cancer. Yañez, who is her primary caretaker, has bone cancer. The logistics of grappling with these facts along with the evictions has been overwhelming, Rio said.

“Cynthia could be in the process of dying or dead while they are in the process of moving,” he said. “They were kind of at peace and mentally prepared that this would be their home when they passed away, being in the community where they’ve put so much into. That’s the toughest thing for me: trying to find new spots for them to pass away in.”

Note: Rio Yañez has contributed to Mission Local and he was the artist in Mission Local’s book, My Mission. 

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Heather Mack, 30, has spent most of her life outdoors and often hangs out in the less-frequented parks of San Francisco to avoid the crowds of places like Dolores Park on a Saturday. She believes that everyone is happier when they are outdoors, even if they don’t. At Mission Local, Heather wants to explore what healthy living in the Mission looks like for all socioeconomic classes.

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  1. Mo, you seem like a very practical person. What you don’t understand is that artists have made this city special. I’ve traveled a great deal throughout this country and Europe. I’ve seen many bland, provincial cities. This is not one of them, and it’s because of artists that folks who relocate here enjoy the scenery, culture, and soul that has been created with compassion and sacrifice. Society (non-artists, lawmakers, business people included) NEED to acknowledge artists’ contributions and support those who continue to beautify our environment with their creativity and presence.

  2. wow, this is happening all over. Here in Detroit, it is the same thing. Instead of saving the existance, the folks with money are coming in to change the names, build non profit transient housing, encouraging yuppiness take overs, I think service organizatons have lost their mission. Isn’t this gentrification?

  3. Why should we care for a group of people that have not cared for previous evictions? This has been happening for years, but this family chose to remain silent because they thought they would for ever be protected. Also, pleaseeeeeee….. these guys kept on giving the grants to yuppies and turned day of the dead a joke, an insult and a disgrace to a beautiful tradition. We get what we deserve…

    1. They ARE forever protected! GOD and the community LOVE ART! You don’t have to help just keep whining and hating!

  4. The title for the comment section of this article could be “Mo Gone Wild.”

    I would prefer “No Mo Mo” or “Mo Comment Blues.”

  5. Rent control is an excellent example of our economy’s leeches sucking the life from the economy’s producers. The metaphor for our macro economy is the rundown buildings in SF: the perfect picture of our eventual economic demise if we don’t burn the leeches off once and for all. Why should the government force landlords to keep rent artificially low for 20+ years because a renter doesn’t WANT to pay market rent?

  6. A fundraiser at the BRAVA Theater. October 26, 2013 8 PM 2781 24th Street.

    Please ignore the heartless, mean folks that are always on here.

    1. Nobody has time for LEECHES and MOOCHERS who enjoy a heavily-subsidzed ride for 30 years and then shed crocodile tears when the ride comes to a grinding halt. GET REAL!!!!!!

  7. The abolition of condo conversions for 10+ years by STFU definitely helped “legitimize” TIC’s as mainstream housing, not a poor mans halfway house to condo conversion. (It’s SF’s version of the NYC coop.) This removes any incentive LL’s had to buy out tenants, as Ellis act is cheaper and more direct. Also, more banks are making fractional (i.e. Individual) loans to tic owners, removing a past limitation of tic’s (formerly there were only group loans where everyone was responsible for everyone else’s loan amount.) And with the current RE boom, there are going to be a lot more Ellis evictions.

    This city needs a different plan. Why doesn’t the city form its own local version of section 8, and pay the LL’s the difference between market rate and below market tenants. RC tenants with disabilities, hardships and/or low incomes can apply to the program.

    The mayor just tripled the funds for fighting evictions. And all that money will go to lawyers which achieves little. Put that money into a new program as described above. People can’t expect private LL’s to subsidize tenants long term. This only distorts the SF housing market- long term tenants benefit, and newer tenants pay a lot more. Plus more TIC’s come on the market via Ellis act, not to mention the 20,000+ housing units that are not being rented by choice by LL’s that are tired of RC. Somebody in city gov needs to grow a pair, and change the grossly dysfunctional RC mentality that has been going on for far too long!

    1. Yes. Target housing assistance to those who actually need it. One of the things I cannot believe about San Francisco is how it gives rent control to highly paid tech employees from Google, Apple, Etc. It undermines the fairness and moral basis of the system.

    2. You are right. I was born and raised in SF, my parents owned rental property, I owned rental property and I have seen such disparity. One family in my 24th and Mission property had been there since ’73 and paid about $425 a month. An identical unit rented for $1800 market. Without rent control all units would be about $1,250 a month.
      Oh, I had no problem with the tenant paying $425 she was in her 70s (her husband had died) but then her 45 y/o son moved in and tried to claim that he had lived there all along – setting up a scam to keep his mom’s base rent. I served the proper legal papers on him but sold the property in ’08 so I don’t know how that played out.

  8. Can someone post what activities are being planned to help the Yañezes? I didn’t see any details about the march on October 12th. What time? Where does it leave from?

    I think it’s time to start working with the progressive supervisors about instituting provisions for elderly/sick tenants, maybe increasing the time between eviction notice and the time they need to leave the unit, or adding buyout provisions based on median rent values, e.g. tenants under a certain income, or above a certain age or with serious health problems qualify for a buyout equivalent to “x” months times the median rent in the city.

  9. Sad situation only because they are ill. However, they are renters & know the risks. $450/month for 2 apartments shine a light on what is wrong with rent control. On the plus side, it would be great to see the historic building brought back to its former glory. Turning it into TICs would do that. Owning a home in District 9, it is great to see the area finally, slowly but surely upgrading. Tired of dealing with the trash, crime, violence.

    1. Please share your evidence that the Yanez family contributes to “trash, crime, violence.”

      Time for a new record. The one you are playing now keeps skipping.

      1. I absolutely do not support what’s happening to this family but I think the poster is saying they’re tired of dealing with trash, crime, etc. in the neighborhood, and renovating the structures (by getting rid of current residents by any means) would make it ‘better’. Not the Yanez’s are causing it the problem.
        Of course blaming the residents of the neighborhood and not the city for cutting essential services that clean and police a neighborhood must have no bearing. (sarcasm)

        1. The city is to blame, but it’s essentially up to neighbors and business owners to keep their streets clean day-to-day. Would it kill you to sweep your own sidewalks and have them power-washed a few times a year?

    Sergio Iantorno owns Realty West and is affiliated with Vanguard Real Estate. Tenant activists say that Iantorno is a slumlord; but he is more notorious for his real estate speculation, OMIs, Ellis evictions, and capital improvement evictions. One of his specialties is to evict people temporarily while repair work is being done on a building. To get people to move out for a short time, he tells tenants they have the right to return. Once the tenants are out of the building, he tells them that hes going to evict them if they do come back, and pays them small settlements to get them not to return. He then turns the building into tenancies-in-common.

    According to a tenant activist: Iantorno has a reputation of harassing and intimidating his tenants. One story has it that he pulled up outside of one of his buildings and sat in a limousine staring up at tenants all day long.

  11. I am a landlord in the Bay Area and I have to agree with the folks who are outraged about the Ellis evictions. Though mine is a special case as I also live in my building, the deal I have with my tenants is that their rent is fairly stable (I have yet to raise anyone’s rent). The deal is, as a landlord the bills are fairly stable (mortgage is set, taxes and insurance may go up but the amount is not so dramatic as to necessitate a massive rent increase). I grew up in the Bay, I love it, it is my home and it should be for my tenants as well. When you get into the business of renting property I agree you MUST think about it like a business-You are in the business of providing someone a home. That obliges you to provide a safe place for your tenants and to be upfront about your plans for their home.

    1. I am also a landlord in the mission. I prefer to keep my rent stable with good solid tenants. Over the years I’ve seen the rents go up and then down. Usually folks paying the very high rents are not able long term.
      High turn over. Prop 13 keeps my property taxes very very low compared to what is out there now. So in essence my mortgage is being paid for plus a profit for the long term. If I ever want to sell I would give my tenants first option to buy. Hey even if I gave my tenants 60k to move. That amount is nothing and won’t last long.

      Folks blaming the tenants for being happy for many years in one place
      raising a family in the community they love, choosing to live modest with good moral standards and doing what they love over money are heros in my book. Where do you cruel and heartless people come from?

      They take care of me I take care of them

      1. Landlords like you don’t come along every day. I have a dream to buy property in SF and rent it out with the attitude you have, but I’m not sure I could ever make enough money to buy.

        Considering I may not be able to do it, I wish you would buy more properties and rent them out. More apartments being rented by landlords like you might be able to save at least a small piece of SF’s culture.

  12. The takeaway here is that SF, the city I grew up in, is dead. There is no heart left and all good things require a heart to servive. Don’t waste your breath arguing with the rich who’s own real estate bidding wars created these problems. They’re blinded by greed and lack the basic sensibility to even recognize the value of art and culture in the very neighborhoods they call their home. If Francisco Goya were alive today they’d evict him, too. In a heartbeat.

  13. $450 isn’t too low, $4500 is TOO HIGH.

    Assuming the building, like most around here, was bought back in the 60’s – 80’s, it’s likely that the purchase price was well under 100k, and that the mortgage, if not paid off already, is under $500/month.

    Taxes are locked in by prop 13 at the old purchase price, and the amount of maintenance usually done on such buildings is minimal.

    Sad fact is, landlords of these old buildings are making PROFIT even when the tenants are rent controlled-in at $450/month!

    But why settle for “reasonable profit” when you can buy a yacht by evicting terminally ill elders?

    1. So basically, you think landlords shouldn’t profit from their buildings, rent-controlled or otherwise. The big, bad, greedy landlord should just accept subsidized rent forever because it’s for the “good of the people”, right?

  14. Those with the mindsets of some are so black and white that they are missing the point. Yes, the law is clear. There are no laws being broken. The process outlined in the story is legally legit.

    What’s terrifying is the state of affairs being drawn from this story. Those who appreciate the Mission today and profit from it owe it to people like Rene Yanez.

    Yet landlords should not be the sole culprit here. Elected representatives play a key role, but so does the community. This is a failure of many cohorts, including the victims with some lack of forethought (but never to the this point). These well know contributors of the colorful Mission are losing their home as they’ve known it with a terminal illness. The lack of humanity in our laws and social consciousness is disturbing.

      1. You are the epitome of someone that belongs in the suburbs, and not in the Mission district. You are uncivilized.

        You may think that you will be spared, but life will humble you. You watch. Sooner or later you will learn what compassion is, and that money doesn’t solve everything in life.

        1. Sorry. I have no sympathy for people who don’t plan ahead and then want to cry wolf when their own bad decisions get exposed for all to see. They enjoyed a great subsidized ride for 30 years, but it had to end at some point.

  15. You’d think they would be able to save some money paying $450/month. Shit, a minimum wage job is $15,000 a year… or $1,250 a month.

  16. As for the comments regarding the amount of money these people pay, the building owners know it, have known it, and/or that property was purchased with them knowing it. They have OTHER tenants who I’m sure they can make money on. It’s unbelievable how worried some of you are ABOUT THE POOR LANDLORD. How much do they need? How much is enough? This POOR LANDLORD is a corporation, and believe me, has PLENTY. Would take the Burial Coins RIGHT OFF YOUR EYES JUST LIKE SCROOGE. Just wait, those of you who think they are paying “too little” until you get SWIPED by the COLD HEARTLESS HAND OF GREED.

    1. Until you can explain what the Yanez family did with the rest of the money they made aside from rent, you have no clue as to what being a landlord is all about. Could YOU live on $450/month?

  17. In fact, why not just re-name San Francisco “Pottersville” ?? Just like old Mr. Henry F. Potter. Greed GREED GREED. That’s what it’s all about, right ? Money! and who can afford to live here, not who has the RIGHT to LIVE here… Well, you are WRONG there are people that came here before, that made San Francisco the city it is, and THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE. MONEY SHOULD NOT BE THE LAW OF THE LAND, THIS IS AMERICA, UNITED STATES OF, NOT CORPORATE STATES OF.

    1. The world doesn’t owe you anything. You live where you can afford to: that’s just common sense. You don’t DEMAND that life serve you a silver platter “just because”. Nobody on either side of this topic is happy that Mr. Yanez and his new lady friend are terminally-ill. But you family to realize that people make choices, and sometimes those choices aren’t good in the long-run. You sound very entitled to things that you are not.

      1. Mo,

        You are a sociopathic dick. It’s one thing to have an opinion, it’s another to go on a comment board and spend clearly what amounts to hours of your time trying to shut down an online conversation, and one that where people are trying to make an actual difference. Free markets and capital doesn’t need defending — these are just vague concepts not even people. You could have spent half that time helping someone or something in need. All I can think is that you are either majorly depressed and have no outlets in your life, or you are a true sociopath. In any case, I suggest a fundamental re-evaluation of the energy and intent you are putting out in the world.

        1. Thank you dmh for writing the most intelligent comment on this page.

          Poor landlords, who only have one property and one tenant, and are going to lose their only property because they don’t have any ‘rich’ tenants – may have some of my sympathy, but not this Sergio guy. He is not one of those poor landlords. He has not excuse for trying to kick out the Yanez family. He must not be able to feel remorse or guilt or compassion – which means he (and MO) are most definitely socio-paths. Socio-paths do not belong in our communities – they should all be locked up for life.

          There are good and bad people of every color, every race, every socio-economic level, and every religion. The Yanez people are some of the best people we have as part of the human race. The Mo’s and Sergios are the ones we need to kick out of town, lock up in prison and throw away the key. How much money someone has is not the true measure of their worth. The Yanez family is rich. MO and Sergio will always be poor. That is why MO is vomiting all over this forum – because MO is poor, miserable and hates him/herself.

          I have lived in this community my whole life. I grew up very wealthy and everyone in my family, and most of my friends owns millions of dollars of real estate, no apts, just homes. EACH AND EVERY one of my hundreds of family members and friends are horrified at how the elements we love most about San Francisco – the artists, the culture, the long-time-built cultural communities – has quickly deteriorated into an expensive, coldhearted town where poor artists, the most valuable members of our community, are now being kicked out and their priceless efforts, invaluable contributions, and life-long community sacrifices are being disregarded by a younger, senseless, emotionless, immature, killing-video-game-playing crowd who have no knowledge of how alive and wonderful San Francisco used to be. We are personally doing everything we can to help, but we cannot do it alone. Every long-term (40 years or more) San Franciscan that doesn’t want to lose the soul of San Francisco – must come together to help the Yanez family and all the families like them. Many young newcomers to SF also do not realize that many poor artists’ artwork is worth more than billions and trillions of dollars in enlightenment, human awareness, and healthy community conversations.

          Just because an artist does not get paid as much for their work, doesn’t mean they contribute any less to society than a google or twitter employee. In fact, artists contribute colossally more because artists raise consciousness without technology. Many young people have forgotten how to do this. Technology is not always healthy for every environment. Allowing non- technologists to exist in this new world is an important lesson to future generations that may forget that once, humans lived in harmony with the earth, instead of focused on destroying, polluting earth and all other animals on it.

          Some artists in particular, have made such an important cultural impact on millions of people world-wide who visit their local, cultural community. The Yanez family such artists, and it is our duty to get rid of this stupid ellis law that is killing the life out of San Francisco. Heck, the Ellis law is killing the San Francisco out of San Francisco! The Sergio Iantorno of Golden Properties, LLC has plenty of rich tenants. He is most definitely a socio-path like MO if he cannot allow this Yanez artist family to keep their home. And yes, it is their home – not his home.

          It would not hurt Sergio Iantomo one bit to not allow the Yanez family to remain living there. He has enough high paying google/twitter tenants – this is obvious now that I have done a search on his properties and history. Because of that, this issue is an matter of principle. And, on principle and integrity, WE ALL, including Sergio, need to take responsibility for doing everything we can to keep the Yanez family in their home.

          For MO & Sergio to not value priceless artist community contributions is just another sign that our city is deteriorating into an inhumane, emotionless, corporate-controlled desert.

          For MO to accuse artists who sacrifice a higher income for making conscious art of being moochers – means that MO is very ignorant. Really, it is these artists that MO accuses who are often the only ones uplifting our communities, and keeping us all in touch with what matters most: paintings about family, culture, ceremony, organic living, and nature. Also, it is VERY important for rich and poor and middle class people to live TOGETHER, not apart, not separated into unequally educated areas with different quality resources, different access to healthy food and safe, affordable living environments. When rich people live away from poor people, they become more and more sheltered, ignorant, and inhumane – like MO & Sergio.

          And,… before MO writes another typical asinine and immature response…
          I would have no problem taking in the Yanez family – if that is what they want to. But, I have a strong feeling that they really just want to stay in their home, where they started their art, where they belong. That is what this discussion is about – supporting the Yanez family’s right to stay in their home.

          I am an artist too. I mix with the wealthiest and the poorest. I have been homeless and I have graduated from Harvard and UC Berkeley. I have lived without electricity, eating only beans & rice, and collected food stamps for years. I have also lived the rich, yet cash poor life that the Yanez have lived and I have also lived a better life than MO or Sergio could ever imagine. MO & Sergio think they are rich, but they are the poorest people on this planet. The Yanez are rich, and MO and Sergio are actually very jealous of the this kind of richness – which they will never experience. The Yanez family are rich in spirit and love. These are two things MO and Sergio have never experienced.

          I have lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn when artists could rent warehouses for less than $1000, and I’ve been back to see that rich, culturally alive community deteriorate into the same cold, sterile desert that San Francisco is heading towards today.

          I personally will do everything I can to help the Yanez family and take down the Mo’s, Sergios & Ellis Laws.

          Mo and Sergio can use their money to destroy our communities and make them lifeless, colorless deserts of videogames and cement, whereas I will use my money and passion and art to support the 99%:

          Thank you DMH and everyone else here who has emotional intelligence.

          peace & love,

  18. The Mission is well on its way to becoming a sterile collection of stores, eateries and well kept homes – just like the soulless communities of the South Bay that the techies are fleeing from.

    You can’t really blame these programmers. Creating the machinery of a pervasive surveillance state has left them feeling as empty as they are wealthy.

    It’s supremely ironic that they are destroying that which drew them here in the first place: a diversity of people engaged in a diverse range of endeavors, including spiritual ones like the making of art.

    But soon the only endeavor will be the making of money, and the Mission won’t be interesting anymore. Then, the easily distracted techies will find another diverse, arty neighborhood to despoil, like a plague of locusts in gleaming white Stasi-buses.

    An alternative exists… for SOCIETY to trump greed, with a strict prohibition on the ugly practice of housing profiteering.

      1. And Guantanamo Bay. You forgot that. That’s where people are housed and torturered ; and it is the ethos of the people who are evicting people under the Ellis Act. In fact it is the police state mindset of these Silicon Valley state Surveillance drones.

    1. Most of these comments are so shortsighted. First although the landlord is not getting a lot of rent, it is likely he owns this property free and clear and doesn’t have a huge mortgage to pay.

      Second, I think verifiable terminal cancer is a hardship. Any money they had has likely been spent in treatment. Perhaps savings was used to live because it’s hard to work when you’re sick with cancer. I can’t believe anyone who has watched a loved one struggle with cancer could be so callous.

      Finally, you can do everything right and still not be able to own a home. I have my own business and I don’t make enough to buy. Should I move to Modesto and commute to my shop in SF? No I live in a rental above my store and try to save as much as I can for retirement and to build a little home on some land somewhere.

      I’m glad I live a large apartment building. Hopefully I won’t have to deal with ellis act evictions in that kind of building. I shudder to think I may be passing people in the hallway who are so callous and uncaring though. Enjoy your 2800.00 and up apartment cos you suck!

  19. ok, there are some REALLY nasty comments on here. First of all… It IS their home. For a landlord to evict tenants like this is disgusting. People ARE NOT CHATTLE. They have plenty of buildings, apartments that they own, esp. this particular individual, and he will get his chance to hike rent as it goes with life. To purposefully evict people to do it is WRONG WRONG WRONG. Some of the comments on here supporting this greedy mindset are DISGUSTING. This is what HAS ruined this city. Other cities have families living in apartments for generations, the leases are the family names. The city should revoke the Ellis Act. The city should have done a lot of things back in the 90s esp when Willie Brown was Mayor and all the shady deals went down and are still going down in regard to buildings and housing… It has only gotten worse and will continue to get worse. San Francisco is losing if NOT already lost it’s heart, it’s soul and it’s character.

    1. Are you going to take them into YOUR home since you’re so passionate about them losing their “home”?


    2. Wait till this bubble bursts and all that tech money goes away for good. It always amazes me the historical amnesia of Americans who live in a fantasy world. And yes what has happened to San Francisco is an infamy. What was once a unique, beautiful place, that made San Francisco stand apart from America has been destroyed. These people invaded San Francisco and turned it into the hell hole the rest of America is. That’s what they did. They couldn’t stand there was a place in America that wasn’t banal, and vulgar, and conformist, like the majority of Americans so they had to destroy it. This is Barbarism.

  20. I expected to read satire when I saw your username, but there were lots of good points in this response.

    It comes down to choices. These people lived a life of free expression and doing whatever they wanted with their time. That’s great, but when they made that choice (and others), they also chose not to earn enough money to retire.

    Lots of other people spend their entire lives doing something they hate because they choose a stable income over self-expression. They save for retirement. They get health insurance. Those are also choices.

    I’m not saying one set of choices is better than the other, but one of them lets you live in SF in your old age while the other does not.

  21. Yes, this is sad. But there are many facets to this story that are troublesome, such as:

    Why don’t they have any money? If you make the conscious decision to “sacrifice for your art”, as this article leads me to believe, then why am I supposed to feel bad when the gravy train runs out? If you haven’t saved ANY money by the time you’re 71 years old, there are bigger issues at hand than an eviction.

    $450 for HOW MANY YEARS? Do people not realize it’s these INSANE tenant laws that have lead to this issue? I am paying more money per month due to the fact that here is a family of four living below me who pays $500 in rent for a three-bedroom flat. That’s $125 a person. Everyone wants to point the finger at the landlords for taking advantage of the system, and yet as far as I’m concerned, anyone who pays less than Detroit rental prices to live in San Francisco is just as much a part of the issue.

    Mark my words: This will continue until the laws equalize. Until then, with the housing laws so skewed in favor of the tenant, there will always be dramatic upswings and downswings. We ARE the problem.

    NOTE: No, I’m not a landlord. Just someone who understand economics, as well as Newton’s third-law of action/reaction.

  22. Here’s the thing: This narrative is very biased. It’s all about the “evil greedy landlords” and the “poor starving artists who give so much and get so little and now need a miracle”. I am sensitive to the fact that these people are elderly and infirm. But I don’t think landlords should be forced to subsidize the living expenses of their tenants unless they are actually running their properties as a charity. $450/mo in rent for a flat in the Mission??? Seriously???? That’s charity. That wouldn’t cover the cost to the owner of the building to pay that portion of the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep. And while it’s lovely that these people got to live their entire lives as artists doing what they loved and never saving a cent, unfortunately that doesn’t mean that anyone else “owes” them anything. Most people work hard and save for their retirements, either in a bank account, or by contributing to Social Security. Sure, the latter isn’t the easiest way to retire and live out one’s declining years, but it’s better than nothing. We all get old and sick someday (if we’re lucky enough to get old at all), and so we have to plan for these things. Very few artists get to spend their Autumn years in the lap of luxury. These are the choices we make. They have repercussions. And a landlord shouldn’t have to subsidize anyone’s elderly years. That’s not greed, that’s about fairness. Rent control helped this family for years, kept them from paying market price for their unit for many, many years. But now the landlord is exercising HIS right to Ellis Act them. Giving them $13K or so each is not small potatoes. That’s an FHA down payment on a small-but-sensible condo, not in the Mission, but in certain other neighborhoods in this city or in Daly City. Let their friends and supporters each chip in some cash to help them buy that home that they can stay in. Or let them get Section 8, which, once the government is not shut down anymore, will subsidize their rent and/or the purchase of a condo. There are options. But ignoring those options because they don’t want to move on is ignoring reality, and forcing an unfair burden on the owner of the property. Landlords aren’t greedy for wanting to make a living, too. And people are not entitled to live anywhere they want just because they want to; they have to be able to afford it. These people got lucky for a long time by getting super-low rent that was rent controlled. But now that luck has run out. Time to take responsibility for that lifetime of specific choices and make new plans. Maybe it’s time to go into Laguna Honda or some other publicly-funded senior living facility. And maybe it’s time to stop yelling at landlords and start yelling at Mayor Ed Lee, who is a shill for Big Developers in this city and gives them so many loopholes to avoid actually creating real, affordable housing. Get angry at Supervisor Weiner and the Board of Sups for changing the rules to allow greedy developers to create super-small 200 sq. ft. micro-units that will then rent for $1,500-$1,800/mo, without forcing them to cap the rents of those units at something actually affordable!! Get mad at the people you elected, not landlords who are exercising their property rights.

    1. Exactly. It is beyond ridiculous that anyone who has been given the enormous gift of being able to pay a rent that was current in 1980, all the way through to 2013, should complain when this excessive and forced generosity/subsidy is finally ended. Be grateful that you got so many years at such a steal of a rent! What did you do with all the money you saved during those years, which everyone else had to pay in rent, but you didn’t??!!

      Landlords are not charity organizations. If we want to help people afford housing in any given area through a subsidy, that subsidy should be given to tenants by the government, and private property owners should not be forced to pay this subsidy.
      I think what we can see in both San Francisco and Berkeley, is that rent control causes sky high rents and rent control causes more Ellis Act evictions. If you force property owners into corners, not allowing them to profit from their property, why would they want to continue to rent if they can sell or convert to condos?

      WHen a tenant who has lived in an apartment for 30 or 40 years paying obscenely low rents finally moves or dies, the landlord has no choice but to jack up the rent as high as possible…since for all he knows, he may not be able to increase it to market rate again for another 30 years.
      Throw out rent control and you’ll see a better landscape for tenants, where more landlords want to rent property. Absent rent control, you might even see rents go down at times.
      Rent control harms landlords, and so it inevitably harms tenants.

      1. I agree 100%. Landlords should not be penalized for trying to profit from their rental. They are also not a social service agency or non-profit organization, which the Yanez family seems to think and those who believe in the “big, bad, greedy landlord” train of thought.

    2. RhinestoneGrrl, just as an FYI you are very wrong about the landlord situation in San Francisco. Keep in mind that most of these building owners bought their properties back in the 60s and 70s, and Prop 13 has frozen their property taxes at that ancient rate. IF the landlord in question is still paying mortgage on that building, it would likely be anywhere from $500/$1,000/month. Which means that the the Yanez’s rent would most likely be a sizable portion (if not all of) the landlord’s mortgage.

      I find it interesting how many people complain about rent control but have nothing to say about Prop 13. Prop 13 is the true market disruptor, and rent control exists *because* of Prop 13. By freezing property tax rates, Prop 13 created a moneyed-class of homeowners and realtors who pay little to nothing on their homes and reap insane amounts of rent at the same time. If Yanez’s apartment goes back onto the market at rental rate, that one apartment would easily pay the landlord’s mortgage for the entire building plus $1,000 to $2,000/month pure profit.

      You may say, “Great that’s a good investment!” But it’s an investment only made because of Prop 13. As a result, the landlords aren’t actually hurting. Rent control doesn’t harm the landlords, because they’re already making bank because of Prop 13.

      1. Prop 13 makes a substantial difference if you’re a longtime homeowner. I know people who have recently purchased homes and their property tax is sizable. I guess in 10-20 years they can reap the benefits a bit better, but all new property purchases are subject to current property tax levels.

        Prop 13 on homes isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that corporations can exploit it. SF Weekly had a good write-up on this:

        1. Blurpy is right – we are paying 2004 property tax but our tenants are paying 1979 rent. Not complaining, just saying. Prop 13 is not the boon to property owners that people think it is.

      2. The balance between low rents and low property taxes ends when the building sells, and many long time property owners (or their heirs) are selling. The new owners have no interest in staying in the landlord business, especially considering the market’s demand for TIC and condos.

        It’s a disaster.

      3. What makes you think that “most” building owners bought their properties in the 60’s and 70’s? That was 40 – 50 years ago. People who bought then are probably in their 70’s and older now.

        1. Yes and their children are inheriting the property and the old taxes. This city was once full of people who were aware and could make balanced decisions = that is how these laws came into being. Now these undereducated, overpaid children use the city as their toilet. That is what is sad!

          1. Wrong whoopietail. My mom just died and we have to sell her property on 21st and Valencia. (psycho sister – impossible to be co-owners) You do not inherit the parents tax basis on rental property (only the primary residence). There is a $1M exemption for the entire estate and with the price of SF real estate your property taxes still go up $1-2K a MONTH. If you buy out a siblings share that will trigger a reassessment at market rate.

  23. I sympathize with poor health but…. they have 2 units and have been paying $450 a month (or less) on each for the past 30 years.

    Think about how cheap that is, and how their landlord has been subsidizing this family for decades. Now they want everyone to rally around them to fight to keep their insanely good deal??

    1. Preach! The gravy train has run out and now they are grasping for straws to avoid facing reality. If they only worked as artists for 30 years, then that would mean they haven’t paid paid into the system and therefore have no retirement. Now whose fault is that?

      1. What exactly is it to “pay into the system”? The list of contributions this man has made is not “paying into the system”? René has created so much in this community… that now the landlords can cash in on his sweat equity. But that has not value in your eyes. You’re the type that should stay in the suburbs.

        1. The “system” is Social Security, so stop acting as if you’re naive. You know exactly what it is. Yes, he created wonderful art for this city, but that doesn’t build a retirement fund and you know it. Any job that requires your Social Security number is a job that keeps track of you paying into the “system”. They did not, so they receive not. End of story.

          1. You are the epitome of someone that belongs in the suburbs, and not in the Mission district.

            You may think that you will be spared, but life will humble you. You watch. Sooner or later you will learn what compassion is, and that money doesn’t solve everything in life.

  24. “Being an artist means they have no savings, no retirement, no health care”

    No it doesn’t. There are many wealthy artists. Why didn’t they earn any money for the last 30 years?

    1. Exactly! They could’ve worked other jobs part-time for extra income AND remained artists. What did they do with the rest of their income? They surely had to pay for PG&E, food, car/public transportation, miscellaneous, etc. It’s a boldfaced lie for anyone to think this family subsisted on $450/month for 30 years. Get real!!!!

    2. Very few artists make a living as artists, nevermind retire wealthy. But they chose to be starving artists, rather than plan for their futures. This is a classic case of the Grasshopper and the Ant. Except in this case, the Grasshopper has convinced everyone around him that the Ant somehow owes it to him to subsidize his lifestyle in the Winter of his life…

    3. I’m an artist. I’m not wealthy, but I have a retirement account, health insurance and own a house in the Mission – purchased by working hard and saving up the down payment. I get tired of the repeated myth that artists can’t make a living. It’s not easy to do, it takes a lot of hard work, but artists can do just fine – some extraordinarily well.

  25. Given the new wave of Ellis Act evictions taking place in SF this year, I think it’s best to just take the buyout and leave peacefully. Landlords and owners these days are in love with the tech money, so they could care less that their tenant is old and sick, or a HUGE part of the Mission artist community: they are looking at the BOTTOM LINE. Meeting with housing rights activists won’t stop the inevitable, as someone in this thread also mentioned. It’s shameful that landlords are so brazenly displacing people from their long-term rentals. But it’s also denial to think you “own” something and you’re not the landlord/building owner, no matter how long you’ve lived there.

  26. Back in 1984 my landlord did everything he could to illegally evict me. We settled out of court and after the tenant union lawyer received half it really wasn’t that much. Then he decided to sell and I had no choice but to look for another place. It was hard back then. I was shocked at seeing 30 people trying to get the same apt or flat. Rent was almost twice of what we had paid. We ended up finding a place. After a year a neighbor asked if we wanted to rent her flat and we moved. Then after a year she wanted to move back in her flat. We knew another nightmare began and I had a baby too now. We talked to friends and ended buying a set of flats together. Just making the 10% down plus closing that we had to borrow to make it. Now we couldn’t afford to live here if we were in the same situation. It’s way way worse. I feel sorry for them

      1. It reads they both have cancer then all the more family should be caring for them. Life is short especially when cancer strikes. Family take them in and care for them.

  27. As a San Franciscan of poor origins who was displaced by tech people buying my building and getting rid of my rent control, royalty or not, I have to say to all SF folks with rent control – save your pennies, because when you lose your rent control, you will either have to move or resort to having multiple roommates again, just like when you were in college, only you’ll be paying around 1000 bucks for that room. SF is a cruel mistress. Royalty or regular Joe doesn’t matter in $$$$$$$$$ town.

    1. Good advice. Or buy a BMR (below market rate) condo through the Mayor’s Office of Housing. or better yet, move to an area you can afford. It isn’t a RIGHT to live in San Francisco, it’s a PRIVILEGE.

      1. The Bolsheviks in Russia 1917 kicked the rich out of their homes and socialized housing for everyone! Hahahaha! Private property is theft. So who says the thieves should be able to evoke the Ellis Act? It is a social convention now in most of the western world where vulgar people with a lot of money get to dictate the lives of everyone.

      2. What makes San Francisco a PRIVILEGE to live in, is that it is a city with artists, and this country does not provide for artists. They are expected to be artists and work as a waiter on the side, and own a building as well…

        1. No matter what your job occupation is, it should be up to YOU to save for the future if you want a decent retirement. These people, for whatever reason, did not. They made the choice, so they must suffer the consequences. Hope the homeless shelter on 5th Street has a space!

          1. It is not a privilege to live here – it most definitely is a right. What country do you think you live in? SF should only be for the ‘rich and privileged”?

      3. Um, no. Living in any city is not a privilege.

        Here’s the definition of privilege in case you forgot: “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”

  28. f landlords. While our federal government (except the part with the guns, of course) shuts down over an argument about “freeloaders,” we are all paying landlords just to be owning-class. Leave us alone, rich people!

  29. Reading further, they’ve known this was coming for A YEAR. In the past I have been given a mere 60 days’ notice that I would have to move on, and have invested that time in packing, locating a storage space and figuring out at least a temporary place to stay that was within my finances. Spending 10 months meeting with community organizers who do nothing practical is apparently a way to stick one’s head in the sand. The Ellis Act is not going to go away any time soon – the personally responsible thing to do in such a situation is MAKE PRACTICAL STEPS. YES fight it, YES protest, YES try to get some political clout on your side but DO SOMETHING USEFUL FOR YOURSELF TOO. If you won’t do it for yourself, how can you expect everyone else to bail you out at the last minute? Sorry if this seems hard hearted but it is the reality of the times, and one can fight more effectively if one also takes care of one’s practical needs.

      1. Sorry to burst your bubble, but being old and sick doesn’t excuse anyone from being legally evicted. If it did, the courts would be filled with lawsuits from people claiming undue hardship for everything under the sun! While their health problems are unfortunate, being a renter means that you are, more or less, at the mercy of your landlord. That’s the way it works and always has.

        1. you are right this is how it has always been. But isn’t everyone tired of living within oppressive governing. The laws have always benefited property owners. Our laws were written with them in mind. Those who don’t own their homes are always at the whim of the owners of this world.

          1. And that’s the way it should be, more or less. Renter = temporary. You either save up enough money over time to become an owner, or you remain a renter forever. The choice is yours!

        2. There’s nothing preventing the voters of California from passing a law that makes evictions of people over 70 or terminally ill illegal. That’s a choice we make as a society. Yes that would certainly disincentive landlords from investing but there are plenty of young people that are working hard, making money, and paying high rents. We make certain social compacts regarding the very young, very old, and very sick because we recognize they can’t care for themselves and compete in the free market. Now of course we can be a complete free market society and just let people fend for themselves but I think that goes against the basic tenants of human decency. It isn’t that complicated. European countries somehow have managed to remain prosperous while separating those things that are pure commodity and those that are necessities of maintaining the health and general welfare of the people.

        3. That is exactly the problem Mo. We have the resources infinitely times over to care for everyone, especially the old, young, and sick. Not only is it the right thing to do from a moral perspective, but it makes right wing financial sense if you think about it. Having a solid safety net, especially for the most vulnerable among us, You save trillions in the long term by fixing problems right away instead of letting them careen out of control.

          1. I agree with you, but in this case, I see gross negligence. They chose to live a lifestyle that didn’t allow them to save money money for their retirement. That isn’t the landlord’s fault or anyone else’s, for that matter. You make choices in life about your future, and they enjoyed the cheap rent without socking money away for their golden years. TOUGH LUCK. Get out!

    1. You’re missing the point of this conversation. This is about greedy landlords trying to kick these poor people out so they can rent these units at market value. They are old and sick. Let them live their last days in their own HOME!

      1. It isn’t their “home”. They are renters. Yes, they made a life there, but things have changed and the owner wants them out. If they wanted security, they should’ve saved whatever money they could and bought a house or condo through the Mayor’s Office of Housing. You are missing the point: renters have rights, but NOT the right to DEMAND they live in their rental forever. It doesn’t work that way!

      2. Unfortunately it is not their own home. It belongs to their landlord. They should be grateful to have enjoyed artificially low rent all this time, not to mention a year’s notice and financial support to move to a new place.

        1. This is apparently where sick jerks and evil people come to rationalize the dehumanizing effects of capitalism. Do Bob and Mo work for Golden Properties? Are you techies who are trying to explain away the guilt of destroying lives and neighborhoods with soulless yuppie culture?

          1. Nope. I just have no sympathy for people who don’t plan ahead or at all. They don’t own their rental, so therefore, the ACTUAL owner calls the shots. Life isn’t fair and nobody owes them anything.

    2. The Ellis Act could be gone tomorrow! You are making a lot of assumptions that they have done nothing. Let’s hope you never need help. And btw, many have stepped up ‘at the last minute’ to help. You ARE very hard-hearted and misinformed.

      1. The Ellis Act isn’t going anywhere. It’s the only thing “mom & pop” landlords have left to get rid of long-term LEECHES/MOOCHERS that want to pay $450/month until the day they die. Pay up or get out!

        1. and where do you live bro? i would love to take a honest look at your life and compliance with various laws. if you’ve gotten nothing to hide why hide?

          1. Some of us earned filthy lucre and saved it up to buy our own home. Others of us decided using a rent control residence to afford us a life devoted the community.

            The former group is secure in the home they own. The latter group should utilize the community they served to maintain a low budget lifestyle.

            Landlords are the losers here, by either their support of people living under rent control (whether or not the people with rent control deserve it), or by their displacement of people who have lived under rent control.

            I lived in a rent controlled apartment when I moved the city 20+ years ago. I used my affordable apartment to save money and eventually bought a home, and moved out of the rent controlled apartment. Now my mortgage is less than my rent would have been and I can serve the community where I will live for the rest of my life, to my heart’s content.

    3. Have you ever walked through the reality of dying of cancer with someone? I watched my grandfather deteriorate in front of me; if my grandmother hadn’t been well to care for him, I don’t know what they would have done. I can’t imagine having to relocate him in the last year of his life. He could barely walk down the hall to use the restroom. He couldn’t even eat most foods, and all I wanted the last week of his life was to hold onto the few moments we had.
      I am sure this couple, who has worked hard and invested themselves into the community instead of hoarding their passions for their own profit, hasn’t sat around doing nothing this last year. But they sure deserve to hold onto every last moment together. You haven’t walked with them their whole life here in San Francisco, you don’t know that they didn’t try to save up, or what choices they have had to make along the way.

      1. So then YOU explain what they did with the other income they received for the last 30 years. We’re all listening. No one put a gun to their head and prevented them from saving any spare money for retirement, did they?

          1. None of your business. You’re not important to me and never will be. I pay my taxes, own my own home in SF, and don’t have to worry about long-term moochers on rent control. If you like moocher so much, rent out a room to them for 30+ years at $450/month!

  30. If they are that valuable to the community, is there no one IN the community who can take them in? Surely to goodness there are some Latino families who have a spare room or two?

      1. Actually, he isn’t. If people love them so much, surely SOMEONE in the community with space could/would take them in. That isn’t an illogical thing to ask.

        1. There are dozens of people who will take them in, in an instance. The problem are pariah like Sergio Iantorno of Golden Properties, LLC, who systematically destroy the spirit of San Francisco with their greedy speculations.

          The only person that needs evicting is Sergio Iantorno of Golden Properties, LLC, – on a rail covered in tar and feathers.

        2. Sad to see everyone who makes San Francisco lively and interesting being kicked out of their places.
          The person “MO” shows no signs of compassion for people . Money, money, money!

    1. Actually there are almost no Latino families left in the Mission thanks to Ellis Act evictions. But please, explain away the problem so you don’t have to care.

      1. Ellis Act evictions aren’t the only thing to blame, though. It’s also landlords realizing they can get more money by renting to young, flush White techies/yuppies. There is no incentive to upgrade buildings and maintain them when you have long-term renters that are STILL paying 1983 rent. Can you blame them?

        1. Yes. I blame them It’s pure greed. They should maintain their buildings because that’s their responsibility, and if you own that many buildings, you do not need to be kicking people out into the street. Our society justifies anything if capital is behind it, and that is why we are loosing our humanity. And watch out. Don’t think you are not going to be next.

          1. I won’t be next because I actually own my own home. While landlords SHOULD maintain and upgrade their rental buildings, they are only going to do so much for a tenant who is still paying the same rent from 30 years ago. The truth of the matter is that you’re more willing to do things for a market-rate tenant than a heavily subsidized one.

          2. I think in most cases, it’s not in fact pure greed. The problem with a building whose units are renting for 1980s prices is that the property owner isn’t able to make much, if any, profit. So, the property owner doesn’t have any money with which to reinvest in their building. Contract labor and building permits in SF are incredibly expensive. The best option for owners in this situation is to take a new loan out against the increased value of their proerty in order to have cash to fix it, but then they take on large sums of new debt that the rent control rates can’t hope to cover. So, there’s no solution really for a rotting building and a cash strapped owner other than to sell it to a much more fluid buyer, who then Ellis acts, etc It’s a bad cycle, but there’s a reason for it.

    2. I really dislike this statement that first, doubts the value of Rene’s efforts within the entire San Francisco/International community, criticizes his culture, and turns what is a legal argument about an ethical law regarding the price of private property into a racial putdown of art itself.

  31. My heart just aches for them. I lived and worked in San Francisco for 30 yrs. Actually as a nurse at St. Lukes hospital. Lived on South VanNess 25th. for 16 yrs. Yes, we had rent control, but this was great and afforded us to live our lives and be productive and good citizens.
    Moved to south city but, would always come back to my neighbor. Yes, I knew all the art you produced and appreciated.
    Times are getting very hard core and now people will use the “ellis act” for their benefits. We never knew this.
    Now, really thank god you are in San Fran. I know how intelligent and compassionate they are in the “Mission”
    Since relocated to a totally different area in the “midwest”
    Less insightful where I am. Will pray for the best for you and your family. You added so much to my history and real life experience. Thank You

    1. You say something very important: “Yes, we had rent control, but this was great and afforded us to live our lives and be productive and good citizens.”

      People think that people on rent control are lazy, not getting their act together, or just “hanging out.” But it’s not like that. People on rent control can get an education, can work as artists, can start new businesses, and contribute to the City neighborhoods in so many ways, that the neighborhoods end up getting gentrified.