Sara Shortt (left), executive director of the Housing Rights Committee, stands by Mission District tenants while explaining evictions have climbed to 10-year highs without the peak in sight.

A handful of activists and tenants stood on the blustery corner of Mission and Cesar Chavez streets Monday afternoon, calling for residents to fight the city’s escalating eviction environment with the Mission District at its epicenter.

Although Ellis Act evictions have declined by 48 percent over the previous year, illegal use evictions were 117 percent higher than the previous year, according to the San Francisco Rent Board. The San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition released a report (PDF) Monday based on notices filed with the board.  Over the last five years, city-wide eviction notices have increased 54.7 percent, according to the report.

Other eviction notices including breach of lease, nuisance, owner move in, and unapproved subtenant each increased more than 15 percent over the past year, according to the rent board.

City-wide, there were 113 Ellis Act eviction notices over the past year, compared 216 in the earlier period, but data included in the coalition report show Ellis Act evictions began rising again at the beginning of this year. Between 2013 and 2014, the Mission’s 94110 zip code had the most Ellis Act filings and wrongful eviction reports, according to the rent board’s most recent annual statistical report.

“This is a crisis,” said Sara Shortt, the Housing Rights Committee’s executive director, stating that evictions are the highest they’ve been in a decade. “We’re seeing a lot more tenants fleeing their homes because they are scared out.”  Shortt said landlords are using “trumped up” charges to get rid of tenants and offered the example of 72-year-old Sylvia Smith.

Smith is fighting her eviction from a two-bedroom apartment on Guerrero Street. “I have my doctors two blocks from my house,” said Smith. “I was a mail carrier, so I walked miles for this city.”

She said her new landlord accused her of being a drug dealer, among other accusations, to justify her eviction. But Smith feels the real reasons are “because my English is not very good, I’m an old lady, and I pay the lowest rent in the building.”

Smith, who also has a bad back, said she pays $1,007 for rent. After tripping and injuring herself on uneven floor boards, she said she asked her landlord to fix the floors in last June. “She told me to pack up,” said Smith.

Other examples of dubious reasons for eviction included carrying bicycles or storing strollers in hallways, old noise complaints and a tenant’s placing a sticker of a cross outside their unit.

Shortt wants stronger legal protections for renters, including reforming the Ellis Act, and but more immediately wants tenants to fight against their evictions with the rights they currently have.

Less than a block from the coalition’s gathering, at 3301 Cesar Chavez, tenants in the 12-unit building near South Van Ness received Ellis Act eviction notices in February. “I’ve lived through six different owners of this building,” said Doña Margarita, a senior who has rented in the building for 52 years. “Because of my age, I can’t just live anywhere.”

Maria Zamudio of Causa Justa translates Doña Margarita's eviction story from Cesar Chavez Street.
Maria Zamudio of Causa Justa translates Doña Margarita’s eviction story from Cesar Chavez Street.

“They’re not just going to move me,” she said.

Over the past year, the number of eviction notices in San Francisco rose by 7 percent with a total of 2,120 notices filed compared to 1,977 in the prior period, according to the rent board’s annual reports. Most of the notices cited breach of rental agreement as the cause, up 22 percent from 2013-14. Committing a nuisance and owner move-ins came in second and third place.

Tenants filed 561 reports of alleged wrongful eviction with the rent board over the period. Landlords do not have to report evictions for failing to pay rent.

The anti-displacement coalition, which includes Causa Justa and the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee, predicts the number of eviction notices will continue to rise to exceed 2,600 notices by next February.

Its report was released on the heels of Forbes ranking San Francisco the nation’s worst city for renters.

The 12-unit building, 3311 on
The 12-unit building, 3301 Cesar Chavez, where Doña Margarita and other tenants received Ellis Act eviction notices in February.

The San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition is hosting a “Know Your Rights” workshop on Saturday, April 25 at the Tenderloin Community School at 627 Turk St. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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J.J. Barrow began reporting for Mission Local in 2010. She once rode the 49 Van Ness-Mission for six hours straight while the rest of the city tuned in to the World Series — until revelry ended the route. She misses hiding in Guerrero's quiet Cafe Petra (now defunct) to write.

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  1. I think it is time for a statewide proposition to repeal or revise the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act!!!

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  2. Sure would be great if the Mission’s many community “organizers” would also stage pressers with plenty of advance notice, at the offices or homes of the developers. Yes, there is value in protesting in front of the affected apartment buildings, but that is not enough to put pressure on those with power to stop the evictions.

    I also wish these “organizers” would form an umbrella network of all the nonprofits and ad hoc committee currently doing something about the Mission’s housing crises, and also develop a calendar of events.

    How the hell are activists supposed to know about all the meetings in the community, at City Hall, pressers around the Mission, etc, if we’re not signed up for a gazillion alerts from various groups?

    I hope 2015 is the year in which Mission “organizers” finally get serious about effective organizing.

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