Photo: Joe Rivano Barros / Mission Local.

The 500 Capp Street Foundation is distancing itself from the actions of its founder, Carlie Wilmans, who is in the process of evicting an immigrant family living in a duplex she owns adjacent to the David Ireland House — a Mission District museum run by the foundation.

“The staff and the board were unaware of the details in regards to the legal proceeding,” claimed an email from the “staff and board” of the foundation sent out last week. “We have recently been briefed on the matter and have voiced our deep concerns.”

The letter adds that there has been an “unfortunate miscommunication” about the foundation’s involvement in the eviction of the immigrant family living at 3463-3465 20th St., which abuts the historic house and art museum.

“The 500 Capp Street Foundation does not own, or has ever owned, 3463-3465 20th St.,” the letter states.

In 2008, Wilmans bought 500 Capp Street, the longtime home of celebrated conceptual artist David Ireland, for $1.6 million. Wilmans, the granddaughter of the prominent arts patron Phyllis Wattis, spent seven years turning it into a museum, while also setting up the 500 Capp Street Foundation.

Around the time the museum opened to the public, Wilmans purchased the duplex in question, with ostensible plans to clear it out and turn into a lodging place for artists — and, potentially, office space for the foundation.

While evincing “deep concerns” over Wilmans’ actions, the foundation’s board has stopped short of defining exactly what actions it would take if their founder continued with the eviction. Cait Molloy, to whom the foundation’s letter directed questions, did not respond to Mission Local’s inquiries.

That’s not good enough, says Jennifer Fieber of the San Francisco Tenants Union.

“I understand if they want to save face, but they’re going to benefit from this,” said Fieber, who last week sent the foundation a strongly worded letter condemning the eviction.  

Wilmans also did not respond to an inquiry about whether she will continue pursuing the eviction.

The foundation’s clarification was released following several damning news stories. The San Francisco Examiner first reported last Friday that Wilmans is currently fighting to evict tenants of the two-story building on 20th Street via the Ellis Act.

But the foundation’s letter was likely in direct response to the San Francisco Tenants Union letter that asked Wilmans and foundation to withdraw the eviction.

“It’s not a good look for an organization to be destroying the lives of hardworking and vulnerable families and seniors in order to expand a business and keep it mostly empty for business purposes,” read the letter signed by Fieber of the tenants group.

“Please don’t excuse this action by saying it’s to help artists,” the letter adds.

Wilmans informed KQED, however, that the foundation was not involved. “I personally took efforts to recover possession of my property, and my plan has been to donate use of the space to enhance opportunities for art in the Mission,” she wrote to KQED.

Fieber, who acknowledged that the foundation’s staff “must feel awful” about the tough situation, still called their letter “vague” and charged that it deals more with the miscommunication regarding ownership and not the eviction of the vulnerable family.

“I think they’re a valid target,” Fieber said, “even if [Wilmans] is the only one who has control over this decision.”  

Julian Mark

Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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22 Comments

  1. Legal property owner exercising their legal rights to take a rental unit off market. City should build lots of new housing if it wants to keep rents down. It hasn’t, and this is the price it pays. Nothing to see here.

  2. Exactly! A person has every right to do what they want with their own property! I don’t have sympathy …a tenant is always going to be at the mercy of whomever owns the place whether an apartment complex, SFR or duplex. Sucks to be evicted but I imagine the owner already tried to legally give them notice and tenants didn’t abide and now the owner is forced to seek legal action by eviction.

    1. Must be so nice to to be well off enough to afford to own a place here and be smug about evicting long term families.

  3. What an incredibly boneheaded maneuver by Ms. Williams !
    (And, I agree, a rather mealy-mouthed response by the Foundation — They’re obviously beholden to Ms. Williams and don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them, I suppose.)

    It is totally unnecessary to evict tenants in the adjacent building.

    Why doesn’t Ms. Williams simply construct space for visiting artists (+ office space) on top of the 1-story garage at the rear of the Museum House?

    Lame and absolutely tone deaf to the housing crisis.

    1. Nonsense. Property owner has no obligation to keep tenants. Property is owners and not tenants and not “city rental stock”. Owner can choose how they want to use property. No one is here to tell owner how to make use of their property.

      1. Hardly “nonsense”.

        In addition to her ill-conceived “eviction” approach, Ms. Williams is basically proposing a Change of Use fro the property (i,e.,” transient housing” — albeit for artists and “office use” for the adjacent museum house.)

        These are not “by-right” uses for the property (located in the RTO-Mission Zoning District) and would require, at a minimum, Conditional Use permission from the Planning Commission.

        So, No, you are mistaken — the Owner cannot choose how they want to use their property — there are laws and the Owner is obligated to follow them.

      1. It sounds like you are the one that knows “absolutely nothing about construction in sf” both in terms of Planning approval, as well as Building Dept. approval.

        Additionally, you appear to have little understanding of the specific site upon which the Capp Street property stands.

        PLANNING DEPT. APPROVAL
        Given the unique (public) program of the house (i,e, a “house museum” dedicated to the work of the artist David Ireland and to provide artist-in-residence accommodation and other support space for the museum), and it’s corner location (which would not impact mid-block open space — nor light/air/views to the adjacent property), Ms. Willams would have a very good case for a rear yard Variance (from the Zoning Administrator and Planning Commission) allowing her to build the modest addition that I am proposing.

        BUILDING DEPT. APPROVAL
        Additionally, adding an another 2 to 3 stories atop the existing garage that was recently thoroughly remodeled for the museum’s use would have been relatively straight forward, construction-wise (i.e., Type VA, 1-hour fire-rated, wood-framed with sprinklers)

  4. I see that it’s OK to just own property and pay for the sky high taxes for “hardworking” people for nothing or maybe be in the hole. Ms. Wilmans can do whatever the F she wants with HER property. SF is becoming a NIGHTMARE for landowners. Let’s just give EVERYTHING we’ve worked hard for for these people.

  5. Tenants are just that, tenants… Property owners, yes owners, should not have to fight the city or some “tenant union” to do what they want to do with their property.

    Personally would never buy rental property (house that has tenants=rental) especially in SF due to just that.

  6. I’d like to know more about the tenant. The media often identifies illegal immigrants as “immigrants” … as if they are the same thing. Legitimate immigrants deserve renter’s protections while illegal immigrants make it harder citizens and legitimate immigrants to find affordable housing in Sanctuary City.

  7. The right to property is a fundamental aspect of the Enlightenment – a progressive paving stone on our very long and circuitous road to Rule by Reason.

    However purchasing a building with an immediate “intent to vacate” crosses the line of human decency.

    There is a slight mitigating factor in that it seems Carlie Wilmans is not implementing the Ellis Act to TIC and flip – but still.

    It’s hard to understand why the Ellis Act does not have some minimum holding period before it can begin to be exercised. Something reasonable like 3 years. Or 5 at most. Surely a state ballot referendum on something like this would pass.

    Currently, despicable vultures purchase buildings occupied by multiple tenants solely for the purpose of throwing the residents out on the street and flipping the units as TICs. What kind of individual chooses a career in kicking people out of their homes? How do they sleep at night? Who would be a spouse to such a person?

    Personally, as much respect as I have for the property rights of others, I have more sympathy for bank robbers.

  8. love the geniuses in these comments who think that “a property owner can do whatever they want with their property.” that is not, and has never been, the case. couldn’t be further from the reality of property ownership in this and most other cities. and rightly so; we’re trying to have a civilization here.

    1. The comments are saying the property owner has the right to Ellis a building, and you’re misreading that as “do whatever they want.”

      1. Perhaps you neglected to read the no-less-than four commenters; Sarah, “A person has every right to do what they want with their own property! , commonfolk, “Owner can choose how they want to use property, Julie Wok, “Ms. Wilmans can do whatever the F she wants with HER property, and Charles, “Property owners, yes owners, should not have to fight the city or some “tenant union” to do what they want to do with their property.,”

  9. Article states zip about cause for eviction. remember, very hard to evict in a 2 unit bldg. In SF, even when you’re tenants are dealing hard drugs or not really living there, hard to prove. … bar is so high to evict yet this “reporter” gives no dtls. (then of course sf tenants union supports tenants paying rights of tenants paying $6K, with jobs w/ $300K income so their self-righteous diatribe is so misguided).

  10. Owners are also “hardworking people”. The book, The Little Red Hen, should be mandatory reading

  11. Who pays the mortgage? The tenants! Don’t want to follow the law? Don’t buy a rent controlled house!

  12. As mentioned by others, the lack of details in this article makes many of the comments here speculative at best. In normal situations some people deserve to be evicted and some not. If the owner has a strong case, she should be able to proceed. If not, she can always Ellis Act the property.

    As for attacking Carlie Wilmans, please remember what she did to help create the wonderful David Ireland Museum and try not to jump to conclusions.

    While we have a shortage of housing in San Francisco, there are creative ways around it. What David Ireland did with that house is a good example and by the way, he was the owner, as well as a wonderful artist.

    Finally, for the Tenants Union to go after the 500 Capp Street Foundation is despicable.

    1. However, they are now ending exhibits and throwing out their entire mission statement. So, maybe she’s selling 500 Capp next? Sad.

  13. I would hate getting evicted, but I chose to rent. The owner has every right to reclaim thier property.

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