A San Francisco Superior Court judge has halted the evictions of the remaining two tenants fighting to stay in a building at 812 Guerrero St. that is owned by the Google lawyer and new Mission landlord Jack Halprin.
The decision hinged on Halprin’s failure to pay the first half of the tenants’ relocation fees, the same reasoning behind last week’s decision to stop tenant Claudia Tirado’s eviction from the same building. This marks a victory for all three cases taken on by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. A fourth tenant in the building chose to work with the Eviction Defense Collaborative, and the status of her case is unclear.
“Obviously I’m overjoyed,” said Evan Wolkenstein, one of the tenants in the building and a teacher at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay. “Sometimes people don’t understand that … an eviction is a displacement from the city, because the cost of rent has gotten so high that we can’t afford to move. I see it as an extension of the time I can spend living in and contributing to the community.”
The Google lawyer purchased the building three years ago, and succeeded in an owner-move-in eviction of one tenant, and later settled out of court with her when his partner failed to move in. The remaining tenants were issued notices of Ellis Act evictions in 2013. After some extensions were granted, their eviction date was set for February 23 of this year, but the tenants have been fighting both in court and with public protests to remain in their units.
Halprin’s lawyers objected to the motion to quash, saying payment had been sent, but that the tenants had simply failed to receive it, according to court documents. The checks, sent via certified mail and therefore held for pickup at the post office, were returned to their sender before tenants could get them, explained the tenants’ attorney Stephen Collier.
Halprin’s attorneys refused to forward the checks to the tenants’ attorneys as requested and argued that they would present the returned check at the court proceedings. “Nonsense,” according to Collier, since court proceedings would only occur if the tenants refused to move out, which they wouldn’t do without receiving the checks.
The tenants lawyers also argued that Halprin had not adequately notified the tenants of their rights under the Ellis Act, that he stated the incorrect rent amount for one of the units, and that he failed to notify the rent board of his decision to extend the date of withdrawal of the units. The judge dismissed these reasons.
Halprin now has the option of appealing the decision, starting over and trying to evict his tenants again, or simply giving up and trying to make do as a landlord.
“I think Mr. Halprin should really consider working with the tenants to allow them to continue living there,” Collier said. “Does he really want to be going through this protracted legal battle? For what reason?”
Wolkenstein too hopes the decision brings the eviction story at 812 Guerrero to an end. He also hopes that it sets an example and encourages other tenants facing eviction. Nonetheless, he’s prepared to keep going if need be.
“If he tries to evict us again, we’ll fight it again,” Wolkenstein said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
Meanwhile, the tenants’ separate case against Halprin, seeking damages for failing to comply with his obligations as a landlord, goes to a jury trial on August 3rd.