Mission District Poet, Theater Director Face Sham OMI Eviction

by Stephen P. Booth on June 23, 2016

Mahcic, Serafin, Leticia and Tomas

CounterPulse’s Tomas Riley and Poet Leticia Hernández-Linares Face Eviction From Their Home Of 18 Years

Long-Term Artistic Contributors

Leticia Hernández-Linares and Tomas Riley are a creative powerhouse, raising two boys, 6 year-old Serafin and 11 year-old Mahcic in the Mission District. Now after 18 years they are threatened with an owner move-in eviction that does not ring true.

Leticia is a poet, interdisciplinary artist and educator, who came to San Francisco 21 years ago. Leticia settled in the Mission and has lived for over 18 years in the 3600 block of  25th Street with her partner Tomas Riley, also a poet, who she met at a Latino Poetry festival. Leticia is the author of Mucha Muchacha  (Too Much Girl ) (Tia Chucha Press, 2015). Her work has been widely-published in newspapers, literary journals and anthologies, some of which include: U.S. Latino Literature Today, Street Art San Francisco, Pilgrimage and Crab Orchard Review.  A sample of her spoken word work is  on YouTube.

Leticia is a three-time, San Francisco Art Commission Grantee and received the KQED Latino Heritage Month Local Hero Award in 2009. Over the years, Leticia has poured her soul into her community, working in Mission District schools and not-for-profits, working as a teacher in Latino/Latina Studies at San Francisco State University, and serving as a board member with WritersCorp, Mission Community Council and Galeria de la Raza.

The other half of this artistic powerhouse is Tomas Riley, now the Executive Director of CounterPulse, located at 80 Turk Street in the Tenderloin, a site for indie theatre and experimental, queer and interdisciplinary dance. CounterPulse, recently took up location in state-of-the-art Mid-Market performance complex, which includes an apartment for visiting artists.  CounterPulse has a long tradition of presenting risk-taking art that shatters assumptions and builds community.  It also serves as an incubator for creating socially-relevant, community-based art and culture.

Prior to taking up Directorship at CounterPulse, Tomas Riley worked as a bilingual classroom teacher and developed literary programs for YouthSpeaks, a groundbreaking spoken word organization. Tomas also served as the Director of Experience and Community Engagement at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco, and even before coming to San Francisco Tomas assisted in founding the seminal spoken-word collective the “Taco Shop Poets.” He has also authored two poetry collections.

Leticia and Tomas’ children are already demonstrating artistic talents. Mahcic Riley-Hernández, attends various arts programs throughout the neighborhood, plays music and performs. Serafín Riley-Hernández who also attends an elementary school walking distance from their home, is already an avid visual artist and practices Capoeira. Serafin was first in the family to be in Carnaval, which occurred in May this year.

The Trauma Of Eviction Takes A Huge Toll On The Family

Leticia explains that their boys are well-known and affectionately regarded in the Mission. The majority of “family time” over the years has been spent supporting art and community events in San Francisco. To leave their Mission District home, schools and community will be hugely traumatic for the boys.

The landlords are Christian Alexanderson, a 25% owner and his parents Eric and Linnea Alexanderson, 75% owners of the subject property. The Alexanderson family owns numerous rental units in San Francisco, and Christian Alexanderson resides in another two bedroom unit in the subject premises.

Since the landlords first urged that they move-out, 8 months ago, Leticia, Tomas and children have all been “on- edge.” This summer, for example, it has been extremely stressful, yet necessary, to register for and plan two separate summer camp calendars for each boy, because it is hard to predict where the family might be living. For the same reason, valuable educational opportunities have been foregone, including the loss of a free civic leadership camp for Mahcic. Since service of the eviction notice there has been constant monitoring of their activities by the landlords. At one point the landlord’s father confronted Tomas demanding to know “what is your plan.” Leticia states that “we have lived in constant fear of harassment and loss of our home.”

Leticia says that the fear of having to leave the block where she has lived for over 20 years is relentless and has risen to a state of grieving. “It feels so violent to be a family under threat of expulsion from our home by a very wealthy family who has always treated market-rate tenants better than us. Ironically, those who have more options are treated better. We have no other options.”

Leticia and Tomas Are Emblematic Of Cultural Contributors Who Become Targets

The OMI does not appear genuine. While the owners have stated that they wish to take their 2 bedroom unit for use of their family member with special needs, there are other units in the building or properties owned by the landlords which are not inhabited by a family with small children. Leticia and Tomas’ unit is also the only multi-bedroom unit in the building that rents below-market.

Leticia and Tomas further explain that “we have felt under siege. It has now been eight months of housing uncertainty, eight months of dreading the uprooting of our entire lives, of dreading removal of our sons from their schools and loss of community, all causing an extreme sense of disorientation and an extreme fear of not being able to afford a tripling of our rent.”

Leticia and Tomas’ case is emblematic of San Francisco households with modest income, whose inhabitants devote their lives to the arts and truly worthy nonprofit causes, who then become targets for expulsion by those interested only in profit.

This Is Part of An Increasing Trend Of Legally-Deficient OMI Evictions

According to the San Francisco Rent Board’s Annual Eviction Notice Reports, in the period of March 1, 2011 through February 29, 2012 the number of owner move-in eviction notices filed with the Rent Board was 127. This includes “qualified relative” displacements like the one at issue here. For the annual period ending February 29, 2016 the number of OMI eviction notices skyrocketed to 417.

It is the writer’s experience that many of the OMI eviction efforts recently seen are legally non-compliant and lack the requisite good faith. It seems landlords who are already residing in one unit in a building, for example, increasingly have the gall to claim they also need to move into another unit in the building.  The eviction effort in this case should be thrown-out of court as the landlord’s papers do not contain critical disclosures of rights mandated by the San Francisco Rent Ordinance and State law.  Indeed, the landlord even failed to pay part of the relocation payment required by law.

Leticia and Tomas intend to fight displacement from their home with all legal means.

Stephen P. Booth, Esq. is a lawyer at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic who represents Leticia Hernández-Linares and Tomas Riley.

Filed under: San Francisco News

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