Some 45 people gathered to hear speeches and eat burgers at an Anti-Eviction Block Party Saturday afternoon, thrown to protest the eviction of five tenants who claim they’ve been harassed by a property manager who glued their doors shut and has stopped accepting rent checks.
“My rent’s no good after 15 years?” said Bill Condon, one of the tenants facing eviction and the organizer of the block party. “Now I’m the villain?”
Their eviction is being carried out by Vlad Chernoguz, a property manager tenants say entered the picture when their building at 2693 22nd Street was sold to Martha Miranda and Rosa Marcano last year for $1.5 million. Two of the three units in the building took a buy-out earlier this year, and renovations in those units have convinced the remaining tenants that their new landlords plan to evict them and flip the property.
The owners could not be reached for comment.
“They want to try to sell each unit for $1.3, $1.4 [million],” said Condon. He said Chernoguz emptied out the other units by threatening owner move-in evictions and offering tens of thousands of dollars.
“He’s threatened me several times with an owner move-in,” Condon said. “[When that happened,] I go ‘Vlad, you’ve already tried that twice.’”
“Bill has had more than one conversation with him,” said Sara Coe, Condon’s girlfriend who also lives in the building. “He wanted us to sit down, and Bill [said] ‘Well, what’s going to happen here, Vlad? What’s the worst-case scenario? I really want to stay.’ And he says ‘Well, that’s not going to happen. We’re going to remodel and build a luxury TIC [tenants-in-common].’”
“After that we kind of realized what he was up to,” she added.
Condon received a 3-day eviction notice Friday night, alleging that two of the tenants — who Condon says are on the rental agreement — are guests and therefore in violation of the 30-day guest limit.
It’s the latest in a series of back-and-forths that have seen Condon’s door glued shut twice (once fixable with tools, the other time requiring a change of locks) and his floor almost destroyed.
“Soon after [the glue incident], [Chernoguz] made an appearance in the building and he went up to Bill and said ‘We’re going to have to cut a hole in the floor up here because we need to ventilate,’” Coe said. “Then [he] started asking him how much he paid in rent and said ‘Well, you could move into an SRO, you’d be happy in an SRO.’”
Shortly after, Condon decided to communicate only in writing, and he hasn’t spoken to or seen Chernoguz since.
While little is known about Miranda and Marcano, Chernoguz is no stranger to evictions. In 2014, he attempted to evict a family from a building he owns just around the corner from Condon’s, claiming their lack of cleanliness was a nuisance. Tenants there said Chernoguz illegally entered their apartment and photographed the alleged disorder just after the head of the household had been struck by a drunk driver and hospitalized.
“At the time they were going in there and taking pictures, Estela Martinez was in the hospital having had both her legs amputated and was on the brink of death and had already been given last rites,” said Tom Drohan, her lawyer for the case. “It’s true that the family wasn’t spending a lot of time tidying up the kitchen, because they were all staying with [her] in the hospital.”
Martinez, then 60, spent five months in the hospital before returning to her 23rd and York home. She beat her eviction case against Chernoguz in a trial by jury late in 2014, and came to the block party with her family to support Condon and his co-tenants.
Chernoguz was also behind the attempted eviction of 86-year-old Guillermo Manzanares earlier this year, a case that drew attention city-wide after the Chronicle publicized it as a “gotcha” eviction in a July story. Manzanares, also represented by Drohan, won as well.
“[Chernoguz’s] model seems to be to buy older buildings in the Mission that are filled with tenants who are mainly monolingual Spanish speakers, and he figures out ways to get them out,” Drohan said.
“If he does this six times and is only successful once, it’s worth it,” said Donald Simon, a friend and neighbor of Condon. As a lawyer, he’s been looking at the papers Condon receives from Chernoguz and says they’ll wait for something substantive before taking action.
“We’ll wait for him to bring an unlawful detainer action, and if it comes to that, then we fight, we fight ‘em,” he said.
With a 3-day eviction notice just posted, the conflict may come to a head as early as next week. If Chernoguz posts an unlawful detainer notice and Condon contests it, the case could take months.
Fighting evictions, however, was a rallying call at Saturday’s barbecue.
“You owe it to yourself, you owe it to your dignity, you owe it to your community — to step up, speak out, and take action,” Simon said to the attendees.
The block party, organized by Condon and Coe as well as the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), heard rounds of testimony from neighbors on their own conflicts with landlords and saw organizers and neighbors informing speakers of the resources available to them.
ACCE, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), the San Francisco Tenants Union, and other housing organizations had tables with “Yes on Prop I” flyers and other informational literature they passed out to those present.
“That’s the whole purpose of this afternoon, to let people know about the organizations and service out there,” Condon said.
This story will be updated if the owners or the property manager return requests for comment.