Demonstrators march on 24th Street to protest the eviction of Benito Santiago.

Nearly 200 people marched to Vanguard Properties on 21st and Mission this morning to protest the potential Ellis Act eviction of Benito Santiago from his longtime home in the Duboce Triangle. As numerous signs and chants made clear, the landlord evicting Santiago listed as “Pineapple Boy LLC” is Michael Harrison, co-founder of Vanguard Properties.

“We’re going to make it known that Pineapple Boy LLC is evicting a senior who is also disabled” said Santiago, a music teacher to special needs students in the San Francisco Unified School District. “These people hiding behind company names will be put out in the open about what they’re doing to our community.”

Santiago and the two housemates with whom he shares his Duboce Street home were first offered a buyout of $20,000, but when they didn’t accept the offer they were given an eviction notice in November of 2013. As a senior citizen (he is turning 64 this year), Santiago was able to extend the date of his eviction until the upcoming December.

The event, organized by the group Eviction Free San Francisco, began at the 24th Street Bart Plaza with protesters chanting, “Speculators out, tenants rights in” and “United we stand, divided we fall.” One man led a sing-a-long of the classic protest song, “We Shall Not Be Moved.”

“We don’t want to be a place where our teachers and seniors are being evicted,” said event organizer Erin McElroy into the megaphone. McElroy also explained that they plan to deliver a letter to Vanguard Properties at the culmination of the march demanding the company and Harrison rescind Santiago’s eviction notice.

The Anti-Eviction Project recently released a study showing that the 1985 Ellis Act, which allows landlords to exit the rental business, was being used primarily by new buyers who wanted old tenants out. The intention of the legislation, the report said, was to give longterm landlords a way out, not new owners who might be speculating.

Signifying a growing public awareness of the anti-eviction movement, which boasted much smaller crowds a year ago, many members of the media were present. At one point, McElroy was pulled aside for an on-camera interview with Fox News.

Speaking to the crowd, Tony Robles, the president of the board of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, described Santiago as a “treasure to this city.” Erick Arguello of Calle 24 was also on hand to detail the role Vanguard has played in profiting from real estate endeavors on 24th Street, saying, “Twenty-fourth Street is not for sale.” 

“At heart of eviction epidemic is an extreme rapacity for wealth at any cost,” Robles said. “Evictions are no less than elder abuse.”

The crowd moved off the sidewalks and into the street, heading up 24th to Valencia where it turned north, shouting “San Francisco, not for sale.” Flanked by dozens of officers from the police department, the crowd occupied one lane of traffic on its march to 21st Street, where it then turned east to Mission Street and Vanguard Property’s offices on the corner.

The real estate company clearly knew they were coming. Taped on the door of Vanguard’s Mission Street entrance was a note: “Entrance Closed due to Protest. Please use Entrance on 21st.”

“You guys want to try 21st Street?” McElroy asked into the megaphone, to which the crowd responded with ample cheers.

The march moved to the side entrance of Vanguard’s office, which was also locked. No representative of Vanguard came out to meet the protesters nor take their letter. However, people inside the building could be seen in the second floor window watching the protest unfold from above.

Harrison could not be reached for comment and a representative of Vanguard Properties said that any comments on the protest would be provided by Jay Cheng, the deputy director of the realtor advocacy group San Francisco Association of Realtors (SFAR).

“As realtors our clients are tenanats and homeowners who are just trying to call San Francisco home and what we do is just try to find them housing in San Francisco,” said Cheng. “There’s a severe housing shortage in San Francisco and we’re trying to make sure we find a solution as a community.”

Cheng couldn’t comment specifically on the eviction of Santiago, but said, “Ellis Act evictions are just a symptom that there’s just not enough housing for everyone that wants to be here…We’re trying to work with all sides of the table to address the housing shortage.”

McElroy recommended those in the crowd call Harrison directly and shared his phone number over the megaphone. She also noted that Eviction Free San Francisco has another action coming up on April 11 to protest the eviction of Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a 98-year-old who is being evicted from her home on Dolores Street.

“We’ll be back,” McElroy said as the march came to a close.

According to McElroy, protests like today’s march are vital in fighting Ellis Act evictions.

“When we take direct action, we have a chance of the Ellis Act eviction being rescinded, and that’s what we’re hoping happens with Benito Santiago,” McElroy said.

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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. Why no mention of the rent Santiago has been paying for decades? Because that would evaporate any sympathy for him?

    He was offered 20K to move. He should have taken it.

    1. If they accepted the 20K they (maybe) could get another apartment for 6 months. But after that, they have to live on the street. Then, John and his ilk can whine about them being unsightly homeless persons and messing with the recycle bins.

      1. But that 20K offer will now have been withdrawn, and the relo payment for an Ellis is about 4-5K.

        Plus the tenant presumably has to pay for a lawyer to fight an Ellis, which is futile because there are no non-technical defenses that work.

        So my advice stands, albeit too late.

    2. Why would they mention the rent Santiago has been paying? Not everyone is as horrible a person as you, John. The idea that someone in this city isn’t being gouged on rent does not offend everyone.

      1. Let’s try that exercise, what was the median SF wage in 1979? And the cost of living?

        Let’s also consider this: perhaps his rent may have gone up 5-fold since then. Now what about the median wage?

        And are you saying that people need to make contingencies for sudden bubble markets, speculators, insatiable greed?

        1. 10 times, no way. Either you are high or clueless.

          In January, 1979, the US average hourly wage was $6.14/hour. In February, 2014, that figure was $ 20.50/hour, or 3.3 times higher than in 1979. These are actual wages unadjusted for inflation.

          From the same table, the real (inflation adjusted) average wage in January, 1980 (the earliest date available) was $16.49/hour. In February, 2014, $17.05/hour, a whopping $.56/hour raise.

        2. Yeah, everybody already knew that income inequality has skyrocketed over the last thirty years, even if people like you continue to argue that it hasn’t.

          Back to reality and to backtotheburbs’ point are the data that I provided. At best, wages have increased by a factor of 3 or 4 in current dollars since the late 1970’s and are actually flat in real dollars.

          You talk so much that you consistently contradict yourself. Perhaps you are the “odd case.”

      2. Not typically, the median length of a rental tenancy has historically been around five years.

      3. Sorry, John. I appreciate your attempt to make counterpoint, but you’re just plain wrong on this one.

    3. Why would they mention the rent Santiago has been paying? Why not mention how much the landlord has benefited all these years from renters paying his mortgage? The landlords costs remain the same, yet he feels entitled to rob the sick and elderly because the market is presently favorable to blood sucking parasites.

      1. Santiago’s long-time landlord of his four unit building is long gone. He sold the building to this speculator who owns many properties but uses the Ellis Act not to exit the landlording business, but as a tool to remove human beings who he sees as mere impediments to his profit seeking.

    4. This is speculation, pure and simple. Eviction to make a fast buck. This type of investment is not good for San Francisco and these people do not care about investing in our communities and building lives here. This is precisely why we need protections. It’s an unfortunate side effect that many ethical, law-abiding people interested in moving here are negatively affected by these laws and that’s something we should work to remedy but I have no sympathy for Vanguard at all! Why not buy a run down house, fix it up, sell, and make a profit that way? Because it’s much easier to buy a building with a protected tenant, evict, then sell for profit without having to do a thing. Horrible

    5. Why should I stop having symphony for someone who is elderly and disabled because he is– rightfully–probably on rent control?

  2. Vangard is just one of many real estate companies cashing in on the RE frenzy – at the expense of long-term renters. They’ve also branched to build new developments and all catering to the very wealthy. It’s all about greed.

    1. @John — why r u such a troll?? Just because ordinary people have utilized Vanguard’s services doesn’t mean they aren’t a lead Ellis Act abuser…

  3. I’m just curious as to why Missionlocal has not done a piece from the perspective of Real Estate Agents/Real Estate Attorney’s/Landlords, etc. I’m not advocating that the site should take a side, though they seemingly have chosen to become an editorial, I’m just not sure why this site hasn’t made an effort of any sort to portray a different perspective. Yet it continually portrays one perspective. To do so, questions the definition of ‘journalism’, and those that claim to be ‘journalists’.

    1. NFS: We have done several pieces and would welcome doing more. It is difficult to get landlords to go on the record, but if you are a landlord and would like to talk about the experience, we would be happy to speak with you. Best, Lydia

    2. I agree, and I don’t really buy Lydia Chavez’s response. Lydia, are you saying it’s easier to chase the street protests than be proactive into some research about why the rent situation has arrived where it is? Of course landlords are going to be cautious about publicly discussing these issues – the city has set up a nearly untenable situation for them, both ethically and legally.

      This issue is an extremely complex one and this site seems to be severely slanted towards one side of the equation – which isn’t helping anything.

    3. I agree with NFS. People sell their units for one reason or the other, family needs, death of the owner, lack of return on investment, retirement etc. Since the return on investment often times are locked in due to rent control or I should say there is a lack of return then the owner decided to sell. Then you have someone like pineapple llc buy the place because they have the cash to ellis act and then renovate and sell and make make there money back. If there was some way to pass on more expense, maintain a better return on investment for the landlord few building would be sold. Furthermore, any new ellis restrictions or cost increases for getting out of the landlord business that is floating around now in city hall is just going to spike the sales of more properties that will go the way of pineapple llc.

      1. The situation will only get worse. Tenant advocates block all attempts to conduct official research on rent control. They clearly fear the truth.

      2. From your link

        “Regardless, the Bay Area doesn’t look like the hottest place to become a landlord right now”

        Process it, accept it, move on … Maybe to Michigan or the South?

        BTW NY and LA also have rent control, seems like rent control is an integral part of making an America city ‘world class’ and leading In Ideas and culture.

  4. So a private property owner has to indefinitely subsidize the rent for his tenant? Only in San Francisco! Forcing the cost of socialism onto private property owners. Why can’t he qualify for city funded housing?

    This is the toughest US city to be landlord. Politicians, regulations and the media all slanted heavily towards the tenant.

  5. Ms. McElroy a trust fund kid from Rhode Island who has lived in SF for 5 years. Pls. go back to Rhode Island Ms. McElroy. You do not own the Mission, you have no authority to tell private property owners what to do here.

    The sense of entitlement of these protesters is nothing short of amazing. This is my neighborhood get out!! Landlords, pay my rent as well!!

  6. Is Michael Harrison a serial evictor? How many times has he used the Ellis Act to get people out?

    1. it matters to me. I think that there should be limits on how many times somebody can Ellis a building. Once or twice is one thing, but I think serial evictors are doing real damage to the city. I hope that viewpoint doesn’t offend you in any way, oh mighty John Of The Message Board. And please feel free not to respond any further, I think everyone is well aware of your feelings on everything

      1. you’re confusing me with someone who wants to engage with you and gives a fuck what you think.

  7. Delusional selfish activists. Its all about ME ME ME, get out of my neighborhood you educated hard working individual. Stop taking a ride share to work. Subsidize my rent for the rest of my life. You must be a greedy landlord if you if you are not willing to subsidize my rent. Home ownership is evil and any one who works hard and earns a good amount money is evil. Its all about ME ME ME. I am a selfish activist!!

    1. This has been a fascinating stream to read. All of the hand wringing over “serial evicters”… with absolutely no understanding of why these properties are not workable as rentals to the new buyer. This idea of hoping for the very deep pocketed and extremely kind hearted investor with an unlimited timeline for ROI is simply unrealistic.

      The only thing that gives me hope is that at the very least our BOS (w/ the exception of Campos and Avalos) were able to resist the SEIU and environmentalist CEQA extortion attempt. What a joke,makes me embarrassed for my city that these folks even get listened to.

    2. Victoria, you’ve got it backwards.

      Activists go out on their own time, at their own expense, to speak up for what they believe in. Activists recieve no compensation for activism. On the contrary – they may even face arrest and fines. Activists are the opposite of selfish: they are selfless and motivated by principle.

      Landlords who charge $3000 for a little apartment in a hundred year old building are interested only in themselves. They are SELFISH.

      1. Many landlords are not selfish – they are practical people who have spent yrs of weekend fixing up places so you can have a rental. If you can’t buy – then rent. But if you don’t want to pay market rent – no one is forcing you to live in SF.

        It’s expensive to buy – so it’s make sense that it’s expensive to rent. Any more of this nonsense and a lot of renters are going to see an eviction notice. It’s better for owners to sell that to deal with such onerous rental laws.

        And for all that say ‘well you knew what you were getting into’ – that would be fine if the BOS didn’t keep chaining the rules to be more restrictive.

        Repeal rent control. It clearly doesn’t work.

  8. Lydia- if you truly are seeking landlord perspectives, why don’t you reach out to SPOSFI- small property owners of San Francisco institute. They will be able to provide you with A LOT of info that gets little coverage in the mainstream media.

    Their web site is:

    1. Landlords should get together and evict her out of SF.
      She needs a lesson in economics.

      Those who never try to buy a place just complain about those who have worked hard to buy, and then have the nerve to complain that someone who has bought offers to provide hosing to renters.

      Enough of the entitled folks in SF. Its time to rent where you can afford, and time for landlords to sell their units to middle class who will release this city from communism.

  9. I appreciate the new comments policy. Thank you. For too long the comments section has been dominated by a small minority of chronic posters.

  10. the people at vanguard properties are some of the most down to earth, community based business people I have ever seen in the mission. if you’ve spent a lot of time on 21st and mission and have interacted with the real estate agents there it really mostly seems like they are caring people whom are diverse culturally… I see agents at the local biker bar and have talked to quite a few of them who live in castro, mission and bernal…. none of these people seem like the types who want to hurt anyone… whomever the purported culprit is for these evictiions its hard to believe that a bunch of liberal sf real estate agents whom are all members of my community are “evil doers”. this is like some george bush war on terror stuff…. if people want to blame people in the community for policy issues like cost of buyouts, blame the current district supervisor who has no relocation strategy and only thinks “more buyout money” is the solution as opposed to real site location offers, free moving services and free rent incentives. buy out increase does nothing for people who dont have the wherewithall to move anyways….

  11. I love the City of San Francisco, been there many times. It is very true from what I see that the City is being usurped by the tech companies — Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn So my question to Ms. McElroy and your ilk, Ms. McElroy is, why in the heck don’t you get contributions and post what these tech companies are doing to people up there — maybe take out a webpage and everytime there’s a click on one of these sites, it gets a popup or something? — have people STOP using them. Pure and simple. It’s called a tech protest!! We existed before Google, Twitter, Facebook (which by the way is probably government sponsored to invade your privacy and offer no tangible educational or information effects except to make Zuckerberg) a billionaire. Yes, it IS true that tech people deserve the fruits of their labor. They are smarter than a lot of us. But that DOESN’T exclude those who also work hard even if they don’t succeed in business. It doesn’t make others lazy. If you can’t stand the sight of blood, so you’re not a doctor, but you are a hard-working bus driver, or teacher, or child care giver, are you evil — are you lazy? No, you are not. You just don’t have a business side to you.

    So the best answer for those of us “lazy, un-business-minded individuals, is to NOT sponsor these companies at all. Stay away from them and spread the word to everyone else. Buy sustainable produce, stay away from the internet to use Google, Facebook Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo.

    Microsoft is headquartered in Redmond, Washington. Surely, there are brilliant-minded college students in the Bay Area who can develop an alternative search engine to these parasitic oligarchs!!

    You are also to blame, too, Ms. McElroy. These technology parasites take and give back very little. Of course, Zuckerberg is giving millions to “charity.” It’s a tax deduction, and he parasitically earned his money. He is not Tesla, nor are the other tech parasites. It’s a website. They did not invent the Internet. They confiscated it.

    Turn it around, why don’t you? Spread the word. I’m doing it. I use AT&T, why not have EVERYBODY use AT&T or another browser and boycott these sites.

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