A 77-year-old chronically ill woman living at 3309 Cesar Chavez Street is being evicted from the apartment she has lived in since 1969. While the tenant oscillates between the hospital and her apartment, lawyers argue over technicalities in a case that could leave her living on her daughter’s couch.
The tenant, Ana Hernandez, suffers from a multiple respiratory conditions and osteoporosis and is a breast cancer survivor, and her daughter says she is developing dementia. Nonetheless, Hernandez’ lawyer says her unit is in such poor condition that her health indicates she needs to find a new place to live anyway.
The eviction is set for the morning of Wednesday, May 24.
Hernandez is being evicted for having multiple subtenants, which is not allowed in her lease. Hernandez is also illiterate and a monolingual Spanish speaker who immigrated with her then-fiance from Puerto Rico to San Francisco 52 years ago.
Rudy Balderama, her lawyer, has been working with various city departments to find her a place to stay, but with Hernandez preparing to pack her bags, nothing is set in stone. Balderama said the city may have found an providing an SRO room, but otherwise, her family with limited means must take her in.
“She’s got a couch she can surf on but that’s not a home and it’s not a replacement for what she’s suffered,” said Balderama.
Though Balderama acknowledges Hernandez has subtenants, he and another tenant lawyer familiar with the case argue that the eviction doesn’t add up because the entire building was subject to an Ellis Act eviction in 2015 and it is unclear why she was allowed to stay.
“You can’t have it both ways, either you terminated her tenancy or you didn’t, and if you didn’t you have to reinstate her tenancy formally and say you’re re-entering the market,” said tenant lawyer Raquel Fox, who has represented other tenants in the building, all of whom have now moved.
An attorney for the landlord did not respond to a request for comment. Balderama also said that Hernandez’s subtenants have made a deal with the landlord that allows them to stay a few more months. A lawyer representing a subtenant did not return a call for comment by press time.
All around Hernandez’s unit, the building is being renovated. Her unit, Balderama and Hernandez’ daughter Wendy Maisonet say, suffers from mold and vermin. City inspectors have in the past inspected the building but indicated that they found no mold.
Hernandez has been in and out of the hospital. A letter from her doctor provided by Balderama indicates her health is being impacted directly by the eviction proceedings, and she was recently hospitalized for pneumonia.
Regardless, the eviction is set to be enforced by the sheriff’s department Wednesday morning. Hernandez’ daughter, who lives in San Leandro, said she could take her mother in for a short period of time.
But Maisonet lives in the Bay Area only part of the year and spends the rest of her time in Puerto Rico. Hernandez, her daughter said, does not like spending time in her native Puerto Rico and can be stubborn about what she will not tolerate. Maisonet has offered to help her with rent or with getting settled, but says her mother has strong preferences.
“She has been in that home over 52 years, and it’s hard for her to get out of there. She has a lot of things, a lot of memories,” she said. “She came from Puerto Rico and it’s the only place she has been all her life…she doesn’t even want to come over, she wants to live in San Francisco.”
This story has been updated to reflect Balderama’s indication that the unit is in poor enough condition to threaten Hernandez’ health.