Carmelo Foy-Martí , Michelle Foy, and Fernando Martí advocate against their eviction in front of their home. Photo by Annika Hom, taken Oct. 12, 2021.

Carmelo Foy-Martí slipped on his sneakers then stood in front of his home, prepared to guard it. The 12-year-old knew the owner wanted to move in and relegate Foy-Martí’s family elsewhere, so he practiced his press conference talking points with his mom beforehand: he was born in that house, and having to leave it was unfair.

“This eviction is awful, but we will push through it,” Foy-Martí told the 50-odd activists and politicians crowding his driveway. “To be kicked out from this house that I’ve lived in all my life is very hard. So thanks everyone for coming and … yeah.”                                                                                

The Foy-Martí family may be evicted from the 23rd Street home after the owners, Peter and Tanya Omran, invoked an owner move-in eviction notice in April, 2021. On Tuesday, the Foy-Martí family held a press conference on their front steps to condemn a San Francisco Superior Court judge for not upholding local eviction protections, which could have prevented their present situation. 

“We’re seeing our hands tied by the fact that the judges aren’t respecting San Francisco’s laws, and we want to raise attention to that,” Fernando Martí, an artist and community advocate who has lived in this home for 23 years, told Mission Local.

The Foy-Martí family — a couple and their child, Carmelo — pointed to a recently extended local emergency ordinance that prohibits evictions until Nov. 30 for any reason other than nonpayment of rent, an Ellis Act eviction, or health and safety issues. The San Francisco Superior Court, however, ruled in their case last week that this city ordinance can’t be enforced, since the statewide eviction law preempts it — and the state ended certain eviction protections on Sept. 30.

“There’s a dispute between tenant advocates and landlord attorneys about whether it is correct,” said Steve Collier, an attorney at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic who represents the Foy-Martís. “I think that the law is not preempted, and it’s unfortunate that the lower San Francisco court has ruled that way.” 

Collier and Foy told Mission Local they haven’t filed for an appeal. 

Mission Local reached out to the Omrans multiple times and received no response. This article will be updated if and when they respond.

Meanwhile, Martí, the co-director for the Council of Community Housing Organizations and an Ecuadorian immigrant, dreads a move; he’s lived in the rent-controlled, two-bedroom apartment since 1998. 

In 2018, the building’s longtime owner sold it to the Omrans. The next year, the Omrans expressed interest in buying Martí out so their daughter, Tatiana, could live there. 

In San Francisco, a property owner can “recover” a unit and move in themselves or their immediate family members if they plan to live there for at least three years

Martí and his spouse, Michelle Foy, refused a buyout. The Omrans then served them an owner move-in eviction notice, which was ultimately thrown out over a mistake in paperwork. Then  “covid came, and gave us a reprieve for a little time” before a new owner move-in notice arrived in April, 2021, Martí said.  

The Omrans served the eviction notice in April, 2021, timing it 60 days before the then-eviction moratorium was set to expire in June, Martí said, which he argued was acting in “bad faith.” The Omrans also own at least three other properties in San Francisco, some which have supposedly been used as short-term rentals. Martí argued that their daughter could move into one of those, instead. “If the daughter needs a place to live, she’s got a place.”

Martí said it’s possible his spouse and son may be uprooted to someplace outside of San Francisco, given their jobs at community nonprofits and on their salaries, “it will be difficult to stay.” Owner move-in evictions require landlords to give displaced tenants a relocation payment of at least $4,500, and to offer a vacant unit in San Francisco.

Foy, who’s a community advocate for the Chinese Progressive Association, said while her family is worried, they understand others who face evictions may not have their same ability to challenge it. The Foy-Martís know dozens of housing advocates and local politicians, several of whom showed up at Tuesday’s press conference and have helped delay their removal. They also have enough money to land on their feet elsewhere, or look into the city’s first-time homebuyer program, she said. 

“Our situation is not ideal, it’s stressful, we don’t know what will happen,” Foy told Mission Local. “It’s also, I want to uplift our situation and connect it to other people who are experiencing insecurity around housing. The idea that the real estate speculators and landlords shouldn’t have this kind of power over some people’s lives.” 

The Omrans run a Christian ministry in the Middle East that aids refugees, called Heart of Mercy International. They also own Abana Coffee, a coffee plantation in Ethiopia; and Red Sea Trading, a coffee import company.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Foy-Martís’ district, said in a press statement that District 8  receives the second-highest number of no-fault evictions in the city. “We are seeing a lot of displacement, speculation, and monster homes. Many residents are losing their homes through no fault of their own, and we are losing the soul of our neighborhoods.”

Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Myrna Melgar, and Dean Preston also spoke at the conference. 

Preston, a tenants’ attorney, said violating the emergency ordinance is wrong. “It’s not only unconscionable and immoral, it is blatantly illegal,” Preston said. “There’s no way in hell we’ll tolerate this eviction.”

Citywide, owner move-in evictions have steadily declined since 2015, according to Mission Local data analysis. The Foy-Martís’ is one of 17 reported this year. 

While no court date has been set yet, the case will likely go to trial in November, Martí said. 

Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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41 Comments

  1. I thought California State law was suspended when Dean Preston declared an “eviction-free zone”?

  2. If only there had been a thriving housing activist movement in San Francisco over recent decades that could have organized SF residents to raise the kind of political power needed to contest real estate.

    Instead, activists were domesticated into advocates who made a separate peace with real estate and developers to advance their agencies’ interests, standing down on the grassroots organizing.

    When a CCHO project evicted residents on Julian for the Friendship House projects almost 20 yr ago, residents who met every note on the neoliberal identity politics Wurlitzer, we all negotiated buy-outs and took them.

    Perhaps there is a certain elegant justice at play here, a signal that being a chief housing nonprofiteer positing themselves as leading a movement and getting evicted themselves is a disqualification for that kind of consequential political work.

  3. I have lived in San Francisco for 42 years now and have no doubt that “activists” are the worst thing to happen to this now dysfunctional city.

  4. The amount of land-lord shaming in this case makes me sick. It would appear that the owners acted in good faith, first offering a buy-out that was turned down. The argument that their daughter could live elsewhere is absurd. It’s their property, and it’s non of your business to tell them otherwise.

    1. Agree, 100%. seems like the owners tried to do it in a respectful way, but the tenants don’t want to move, and I understand that, but they will eventually get moved out sooner or later, and the owner probably won’t be as cool if they have to incur legal fees because they don’t want to move. I got Ellis Act evicted a few years ago, and yes, it sucked, but that is the difference between renting and owning.

  5. Time SF stands up to thee Trump wannabe real estate developers . Housing is a human right . Free housing for all . Enough is enough with gentrification . 90% of the unhouses individuals in tents were wrongfully evicted . Si Se Puedesssssss

    1. Gentrification happens because cities pass laws that force owners to upgrade property. Those upgrades cost money and cause rents to go up. Socialist misinformation is the problem

  6. I am a homeowner. I live in Germantown, MD.
    I was wrongfully evicted from my home on September 3, 2021. A white man mislead the sheriffs department that he purchased my house in Foreclosure Auction. He did not. They took his word over my recorded land records which indicated I am the owner of the property. I am not a tenant. He was not the landlord. After the eviction took place on September 3, alleged owner recorded the deed on September 7th. My home was placed in forbearance February 2,2021. I was protected by the foreclosure federal and state laws. A white claimed he purchased my house and it was a done deal for the sheriffs.
    My mortgage has never been paid off. The foreclosure was put on hold by the lender. I had submitted documents to the lender for a loan modification, which currently being reviewed by underwriting. I’ve been evicted and I am homeless due to the fact a person claimed he purchased my house.

  7. A homeowner and his wife want to move into their own home (with 6+ months’ notice), which is allowed by law.

    Time to call Mission Local, who will dutifully attack every homeowner for being an inhumane developer/gentrifier/colonizer!

  8. I’m all for protecting both tenant and landlord rights, but when you have a tenant who refuses to even comply with the mandates in order to help landlords to be remotely compassionate about their misfortinate circumstances? I’m all for a landlord to give it all they’ve got and fight for what is theirs. The city is responsible for this economic “crisis support” and therefore should be the one reimbursing the property owners/landlords for their loses. Enough is enough!

  9. I have lived in California for over 30 years. Where’s my plot of land in Beverly Hills?! It’s my human right to live where I want (apparently).

  10. It’s unfair that a family like my own worked so hard to own a home. We moved temporarily out of the City and gave our tenants six month notice to vacate. Unfortunately they would not leave and we could not afford to pay them to leave so we had no option but to rent an apartment. Homeowners who own one property are being penalized because of slum lords!!!

    1. Well in the eyes of some activists, you are a greedly landlord who is trying to evict a family out of their home. You will probably end up having to buy them out for a large amount as your tenants would have free lawyers and just drag landlords through the court system costing landlords tens of thousands.

  11. On the one hand, I agree that the Omrans should be allowed to give one of their apartments to their daughter. A guy on my street also refused settlement (word on the street is it was a lot of $$). He tried to fight eviction but lost and got nothing. I believe the landowners wanted to move in one unit and move their parents in the other unit. On the other hand, many people (non-tech people) can’t afford going rents in SF. People are wondering why they can’t find anyone to work their lower wage jobs. Well, you can’t have both: crazy high housing costs AND lower wage workers. Not sustainable. I’m not sure what the solution is, but maybe we could start by restricting foreign real estate speculation.

  12. Lazy reporting: Mission Local could easily confirm if the Omran’s other properties were ‘supposedly’ used as short-term rentals by contacting – guess who?! – the SF Office of Short Term Rentals. Seriously: visit the SF Planning site and search. By not doing so and including the outrageous tenant suggestion that the daughter ‘has a place’ clearly positions ML has shills for the wacky Left’s agenda.

  13. Drunk driver driving. ‘Activist” is the most misused word and job title in the past 15 years that I knew.

    1. The job of the city funded nonprofit employees is to dispatch “community organizers” to extinguish activism whenever it arises.

      They’re paid to be antagonistic to activism–doing the FBI’s work to coopt and neutralize the SFPO, VisionSF, SF Progressive Alliance, Occupy San Francisco, anything that is not controlled by city funding–by no means activists in their day jobs.

  14. So the tenants have been living in low rent housing without paying their share of property taxes that pay for the fire, schools, and roads that they use. They’ve been living there for over 12 years and could have purchased in the community which they allegedly want to be a part of.
    The house gets bought, and now the new owners who run a non profit and are actually contributing to the community want to move in, but they are evil for wanting to live in their own house.

    There, Summarized it for you.

    What world do we live in where

  15. You know what else will make it hard for them to find another place in the city (or anywhere) is an eviction in their record, and news articles that promote how hard they fought the landlord on a legal owner move in. If they had taken the offer of a buyout they might have a chance of staying in the city.

    What landlord in their right mind would rent to this family after this. I think their only option at this point is trying to figure out how to buy a place, but we all know how challenging that is.

  16. Since they have known about this eviction for 2+ years, and have enough money to buy a home, what steps have they taken to find a new home? These are privileged people with means and obvious connections. There was SO MUCH inventory in San Francisco over the past two years that it was a renters market. So many empty apartments for rent. Knowing you are going to get kicked out, and not taking advantage of the low market rents, is financially reckless. They are also greedy as they wanted to pay low rent for as long as possible before having to pay market rent that they can afford. There should be means testing for below market rate rent.

  17. My family and I currently live in a rent-controlled home and it has allowed us to save to BUY a house elsewhere. Would we prefer to live in SF for FOREVER? OF COURSE. It is reasonable to expect this? NOOOO. We are not delusional and think that because we THINK we DESERVE to live in a particular house that we are OWNERS. We are not owners. When something breaks, we call the landlord. When property taxes are due, I don’t pay a DIME….because I am not THE OWNER. Renters have rights but those rights do not supersede those of the owner. Stop trying to shame the landlord for wanting to use his own home for his daughter.

  18. Does anyone want to put a friendly wager on whether a CCHO member housing nonprofit will find the family of the co-chair of CCHO a unit in one of their affordable housing buildings?

  19. It is so sad and absurd that someone who wants to buy a house to make their home in SF can’t do it with out article being written and land lord shaming. This article is speculative and using a narrative that is obviously trying to spark a reaction. Where are the standards and ethics in this journalism? Also unfortunate that these tenants are so well connected and using all their connections and their child to push their agenda to gain some political wind.

  20. What part of privately owned property doesn’t this family understand.
    They were good tenants for yrs but owners what their property back and have followed the law.
    Once that eviction shows up on credit report what landlord will rent to them.
    Your a renter not the owner.
    Paying way below market rate for 2br flat you should have quite a nest egg for a down payment..

  21. To quote “They know dozens of housing activists and local politicians. . .They also have enough money to land on their feet elsewhere, or look into the city’s first time home owner program.” I am not too worried about these two “non-profit” activists. They seemed to have done quite well while “doing good.”

  22. San Francisco is the heart of the world all walks of life are hear this is what makes San Francisco one of the best city’s to live in you have every part of the world rite hear in San Francisco and we should keep it this way but bring those rents down n give the worker a hike in there pay fair healthcare for all the people shouldn’t have to protest to get what they want and need we should not be at war we should have a peaceful neiborhood where we can enjoy walking our dogs ñ taking kids for bike ride without getting hit by a car slow down like your kids live here respect San Francisco it’s to be enjoyed by everyone

  23. Not sure why people can’t see this from both sides. Always a victim and a bad guy situation. GTFO! It’s not your property. “I don’t know where your going but you can’t be here!” Now kick rocks.

  24. What exactly is their point? That because they ***really really want*** to live in their rent-controlled apartment for the rest of their lives that the OWNER is just supposed to suck it up? Why on earth would they go on this media campaign to try and get sympathy? And to use their child to advocate for something that isn’t theirs? This just feels entitled and opportunistic.

    1. It’s illegal because Dean wrote a law saying it was. The problem, of course, is that the judge thinks Dean’s law is illegal, as it likely is.

  25. There is no need to attempt to confiscate someone else’s property.

    I have general confidence — as long as they are income-qualifying — that that a unit can be located for Fernando and his family in one of the numerous publicly-subsidized housing developments that he has long advocated for over the years as co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations.

    Perhaps the Mission Economic Development Agency or TODCO can step up and assist with a unit in one of the many properties they manage.

  26. Can someone let Aaron Peskin know about this? My understanding is that he has a vacant unit that could be put to use for a great cause.

  27. This article gives me an overwhelming sense of schadenfreude due to my strong distaste for the there-is-no-shortage-of-market-rate-PHIMBY housing politics of Fernando Marti and his colleague Peter Cohen. Marti once said of the middle class: “To be clear, it’s not that they cannot afford any housing at all, but that they cannot afford the housing they want.” Ironically, I think that applies here.

  28. Using your kid man … wow. These owners seem like decent folks who have tried to go through the normal channels while the Marti’s are trying to use their decency against them. Its is comical how this family who is semi -connected to folks with seemingly extremist ideology can slander normal hard working folks who are trying to get…. an apartment… not a city block. You can count on Mission Local for their lack of journalistic integrity.

  29. So when did “renting’ become “owning”? If this family has “the means” to purchase a home through a first time home buyers program why have they not done that at some point over the last 20 years? If the “owner” of a property follows the laws when it comes to taking possession of a “rental” property, what gives the “renter” the right to “squat” on someone else’s property? It seems we have this movement of extreme radicals who want “free” lifetime housing at someone else’s expense. It sounds like their jobs can be done basically from anywhere so why not take the relocation money and find a lower cost place to live, perhaps a better place. I can certainly understand fighting an eviction that is outright illegal, i.e. no notice, paperwork not correct etc, but the judge must have found everything to be in order on this second eviction in order to rule with the owners. What actions like this by these “activists” is doing is forcing Mom and Pop landlords to say “screw it” and sell their rental portfolios to the big real estate investment firms and hedge funds. The big guns have the money and lawyers to deal with the renters and the Mom and Pops get over asking full cash buyouts. California has been a screwed up mess for decades ESPECIALLY SF, the homeless problem was out of control in 1989 when we were there for the world series. The main library grounds looked like a concentration camp. No matter who sits in the Governors seat they continue to do nothing but dig themselves a deeper hole.

  30. It’s horrible and tragic. I’m going through almost the exact situation myself. Have been fighting an owner move in eviction for the past 2 years. Our stories are almost identical expect that I don’t have enough money to land on my feet. Even BMR rent in this city is too much most times. All I can say is that I’ve been looking for other housing for the last 12 years while I’ve been living here and havn’t been able to find a place I can afford on an SSI income.

    I’m thinking about throwing a sweet tent warming party once I find out where I’ll be forced to pitch. Of course, you’re all invited!

    1. Surely you could have taken a $50k-100k buyout at the start of the “fight” and been ahead financially, then. It would’ve given you plenty of opportunity to land on your feet, especially since a place with roommates can be had for $1200/mo, even in the Castro.

  31. it’s time for the evictees to source affordable housing through city programs. The family is young enough to make adjustments, if not now when? the the evictees journey will be wonderous. SF is generous to those who abandon self serving agendas.

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