A Mission District home on Folsom Street that is being targeted for an Ellis Act eviction backed by wealthy investors could become permanently affordable — on the off-chance that the new landlord of the property wants to sell.
Mission Local reported earlier this week on a three-unit building at 2820 Folsom St. that was recently bought by Danny Sun, who raised some $1.64 million for the purchase of the house from several wealthy families. Sun served all 14 rent-controlled tenants at the building eviction notices earlier this year, and the tenants have hired a lawyer to fight their ouster.
One of those families, the Levines, is also the named donor to the Howard and Irene Levine Program for Housing and Social Responsibility at the University of California, Los Angeles. They also run a tax-exempt charity organization with millions of dollars in assets and ties to a variety of Jewish and pro-Israel groups, like Birthright.
At the same time, however, they gave $200,000 to Sun for the purchase of the house on Folsom Street and are expecting a full return on their investment with unspecified interest.
Though the tenants have delayed their eviction for a year, they’re hoping to quash it completely with legal help in ferreting out improprieties in the paperwork.
With City Funds, House Could Become Permanently Affordable
There is a chance, however fleeting, that the building at 2820 Folsom may be acquired by a non-profit and turned into permanent affordable housing.
The Mission Economic Development Agency tried to do just that last year when it was being sold to Sun.
Karoleen Feng, the director of community real estate with the neighborhood organization, said they tried to buy the building for $1.8 million last year — just above the eventual sale price of $1.72 million.
Unfortunately, the landlord had already entered into a contract with Sun to sell the building and did not want to violate his deal, Feng said.
“We put an offer in to the owner, and he was unable to get out of contract,” she said. “It was very unfortunate that we were unable to get in touch sooner.”
“He was a great landlord,” added Tommy Seiler, a tenant. “He was just really old and he just cashed out.”
MEDA has bought three small buildings in the Mission District under a two-year old city program that gives non-profits funds to acquire and rehab buildings, turning them into permanently affordable housing.
The city rolled out another $20 million in funding for the so-called Small Sites Program from last November’s $350 million housing bond, and the Folsom Street building could one of the next acquired by MEDA — if the new landlord is willing to sell.
“It makes it much more difficult because the new owner presumably wants to make some amount of money for the property,” Feng said. She hasn’t been in touch with the tenants since last year, but said she would look into the building and see whether purchasing the site is feasible.
In the meantime, the tenants wait and watch. The landlord, Sun, can fight the one-year delay if he files paperwork by the end of the month, which would put tenants back on the defensive and mean their eviction could come as early as the end of July.
Jason King, one of the tenants in the building, said the looming eviction has already strained house dynamics. Routine interactions with the landlord become difficult, he said, and the possibility that everyone will be forced out “makes it hard to establish and maintain the place as a home.”
“Having a landlord that wants to evict you is a terrible position to be in,” he said. “You want to have a good relationship with your landlord.”
And Seiler dreads the eviction. Having lived in the Mission District through the 1990s, the dot-com boom and bust, and now the latest wave of gentrification, he has trouble envisioning where he would go next and what he would do there.
“It’s been my only home. I grew up in Ohio and I still have a lot of friends there, but it’s been 25 years in San Francisco and this is my home,” Seiler said. “Where do I go? Do I go to Portland? I don’t like Portland. There’s reasons that I moved to the Mission.”
This is the third in a three-part series about the purchase of the building at 2820 Folsom St. and the eviction of its tenants.
Part One: UCLA Philanthropists Fund Purchase Evicting Mission District Tenants, June 16
Part Two: Mission District Tenants Fight Deep-Pocketed Ellis Act Eviction, June 17