It’s rough to be evicted from the only home you’ve ever really known, which was the case for the younger members of the Carcamo family (and, considering the 32 years they’d lived at 1268 Hampshire St., even some who are not so young).
But, sadly, in San Francisco and the Mission, it’s hardly possible to write a full news story about every Latinx family ousted from its longstanding home so it can be sold, for an astronomical price, to someone drawn in by its “Fab location, just steps from dining, entertainment, MUNI/BART and area freeways.”
But, four years ago, we did write about the Carcamos. The Ellis Act eviction of the Carcamos “was not particularly vicious,” their attorney David Tchack told us in 2018. “This is what a lot of contemporary San Francisco landlords do. These speculators come in and buy properties. They have no intention of being a landlord, and Ellis Act the tenants to turn around and sell the property. … It happens all over the city.”
But even then, the details of their unfortunate odyssey beggared belief. Now, they almost feel like a parody of the San Francisco condition.
The Carcamos didn’t just have four generations of a Salvadoran family living in any old crumbling Mission home beset by decades of neglect and unwarranted construction, and owned by a dodgy landlord (who, in fact, was a federal criminal). Their former home, at 1266-68 Hampshire, has a claim as the oldest house in San Francisco, dating back to at least 1855 and possibly earlier.
It was built by John Treat, brother of George Treat, the namesake of Treat Avenue. The Treat brothers, at one point, owned a race track and vast swaths of San Francisco. So vast that, after the Carcamos were finally evicted in 2017, they ended up in an apartment on land also once in the Treat brothers’ holdings.
So, that was the story in 2018. Four generations of a Latino family, including a nonagenarian abuela, her retirement-age son and his wife, their 30ish daughter, Sarah Carcamo, and Sarah’s two kids were all evicted from the “oldest house” in San Francisco so it could be subdivided into four luxury condos.
But, four years later, it turns out there was room for this story to grow even more jaw-dropping — even more on-the-nose.
The Carcamo family was evicted from the city’s “oldest house,” which was subdivided into four luxury condos, which were then used as potentially illegal Airbnbs.
“Host indicates living in Oakland CA in AirBnB listing, thereby violating the Administrative Code Chp 41A requirement for permanent residency,” reads the notice from the Office of Short-Term Rentals.
That case was listed as open on March 30, and it remains open. But unless the host was inexplicably telling tales on their profile page about residing in Oakland, it’s hard to see how this wasn’t a violation of city rules, which don’t allow people to flog units as Airbnbs in which they don’t live 275 nights out of the year.
So, yes, that would be even more on-the-nose, even more of a parody of present-day San Francisco. Four generations of a Salvadoran family were evicted from their home of 32 years so it could be subdivided into four luxury condos, sold, and then turned into a questionably legal tourist flop.
“The people going in and out now are younger and clearly not working-class folks like Sarah and her family,” says former longtime neighbor Arnie Warshaw. “To throw people out so other people could come here on vacation? Gee whiz. That’s the story of San Francisco.”
It is, and that’s the story Sarah Carcamo and her family unwillingly have found themselves a part of. But, over the past four years, their own stories have taken a number of turns. Some of them are good and some are not. But, notably, these are still San Francisco stories. The Carcamos are holding on.
The pandemic prompted Luis Carcamo, Sarah’s father, to do something that eviction and advanced age — he is 80 — could not do. He retired. And his retirement gift from the government? It ceased paying him unemployment.
Luis’ wife, Norma, 77, is a paid caregiver for Maria Fuentes, her 98-year-old mother. They live near La Raza park in a home owned by the mother of a cousin’s daughter. It’s complicated; she’s separated from the cousin.
The street abuts the high wall next to the freeway, and is secluded like a cul-de-sac. This leads to a high level of isolation. And, in the big city, weirdness. Strange people have tried to talk to her visiting adolescent daughters into opening the gate. Sarah Carcamo fears for her aging relatives living there.
Luis’ mother used to be able to sit among the trees and plants in the front yard on Hampshire Street. They were cultivated by Luis, who was known as El senor de las plantas. Now, Fuentes is essentially housebound and deeply unhappy.
Luis is still walking back into the old neighborhood to buy groceries and see all the people he knows. These walks sometimes take three hours now, and the family grows nervous. More than once, Luis has fallen. Not so long ago, he was struck by a van as it backed out of a parking spot.
In a concession, Luis will take the bus now instead of walking. But service is down. Now that he needs it, the bus isn’t coming.
As for Sarah Carcamo, she won the housing lottery. It has been a mixed blessing, but, still, a blessing.
She, her boyfriend, and her two daughters were some of the lucky few to gain entry to an affordable housing project in the Tenderloin. They have a three-bedroom apartment and the rent is positively 1994. “We love it.”
The neighborhood, however: It’s less lovable.
Sarah Carcamo is not a naive person. The Mission she grew up in was a violent and dangerous place. “But I’ve seen things here [in the Tenderloin] that I never saw in my life growing up in the Mission,” she says.
But the things she sees now in the TL are not so much dangerous as chaotic and lawless: Abject misery and drug use on the streets, and wanton theft in the stores. “It saddens me to see all these young people and older people emptying out the shelves,” she says. “They go in there like it’s their house and take what they want.”
This is a hard place to raise daughters. It’s not as bad as things were in her youth, but it’s still bad — bad in its own way.
Meanwhile, despite her luck in finding a place to live, Carcamo has had enough setbacks that her mother wonders if someone gave her the Evil Eye.
Her daughters still go to school in the old neighborhood. A couple years ago, while taking them to school in an Uber, the car was rear-ended. Carcamo suffered knee and back injuries; there are days when she can barely walk. Everyone has had Covid-19, and her children have had a number of other maladies, some requiring emergency hospitalization.
Because of her children’s school, Carcamo frequently finds herself in the Mission. She is between jobs, and, like her father, has time to talk to the people who populated her past. And the house is still there, too, playing a changing role in a changing neighborhood in a changing city.
Carcamo, now 38, often thinks of a night at the old house, back when she was around 10 years old. The place was in such poor shape that the wall and roof literally collapsed on her and her sister while they were in their beds doing homework.
But the Carcamos were hard-working folks who didn’t think about litigation. The landlord had someone the Carcamos’ cousin knew come in and do sheetrock and painting and that was it.
“I ask my mom why we didn’t do anything about that,” Sarah Carcamo says now with a wry laugh. “We could’ve sued that landlord. We could’ve owned that building.”