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.”