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    My Fight Against the Ellis Act to Save My Home

    myfightBy Jeremy Mykaels

    My story basically is that I’ve been living in a Castro rent-controlled apartment for almost 19 years. In 2001, I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS and became home bound. In 2011, my old landlord, soon after I had just flown my sister out for a month to help paint the place and put in a new sink and carpeting, decided he was going to sell the building. It took him a while to sell it. He finally, in March of the next year, sold it to 3 real estate speculators. I was in the hospital just getting out after a month and found out it was sold, and a month later started getting notices from the new owners’ lawyer saying that they wanted me to move and accept a low buyout offer. They gave me an ultimatum and said that if you don’t accept, we’re going to do an Ellis Act eviction.

    I said, “Go ahead,” because I realized what they were offering would only give me a bit more than a year and I knew I’d have at least a year under the Ellis Act since I am a disabled senior. So, I started the website Ellis Hurts Seniors.org to get my story out there and to try to get other people’s stories out. I had been talking with Tommi Avicolli Mecca at Housing Rights of SF and he suggested I get a lawyer at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, so I did. Steve Collier is my lawyer.

    I also went to the Tenants Union, which advised that I check into whether the landlords did everything right in terms of rent increases. So, I went back through all my records and found out every one of their increases over 16 years were illegal. The landlord ended up owing me about $12,000.

    Starting in Christmas of 2012, I participated in my first rally at Market and Castro for people going through evictions. That was the first time I publically came out and said anything. Act Up SF had a rally where they stopped by my house and I spoke to the group on their Anniversary March in April 2013.

    Then, in about June of 2013, Eviction Free Summer started up; it’s now Eviction Free SF. Tommi suggested I go and talk with them and they would confront the owners directly by going to their houses or businesses to plead my case and to change their minds about the eviction. So I started with them, and in July they went to (an address in) Atherton and in August to one, and then to 460 Noe Group LLC and they protested there. All along, we kept getting more publicity, and then we had a big rally at my house in October where we got Supervisors Campos, Avalos and Wiener to attend and speak.

    I was expected to vacate my home by September 10 of that year, but my lawyer said we were going to put up a fight. I received an unlawful detainer notice with 5 days to respond and my lawyer did respond and said the owners didn’t do the Ellis eviction correctly. The judge agreed and basically threw out the eviction. The owners had the option to appeal, which they decided not to do. Or they can re-file for another Ellis eviction, so the case is now in limbo.

    There’s a level of anxiety. Part of me is saying, “Are they going to try some other way to get me out?” If they re-Ellis me. I’ll have a whole other year here, or are they trying to find some other maneuver to get me out? It’s a pretty high level of anxiety not knowing what’s going on with your future and at the same time dealing with my own health.

    My cat, Dickens, has been diagnosed with cancer. With that and everything else, I’m going through the worst time of my life right now. I don’t like being in limbo. I like having some sense of certainty. Still, I have to fight this, to preserve what has been my home for so long and to serve as a rallying call for others going through similar struggles.

    If you are facing similar housing challenges, the best thing is to get some people on your side, and that means getting involved with groups like the Tenants Union and Housing Rights SF and direct action groups like Eviction Free SF. Make the story public. The citizens of San Francisco need to realize what’s going on.