Ellis Eviction of Latino Seniors Stopped in SF’s Mission’s District

by Randy Shaw on March 11, 2014

After a legal battle that began in November 2012, the Ellis eviction of two units of longterm, elderly Latino tenants living on Lucky Street in San Francisco’s Mission District have been stopped.

Further demonstrating the importance of vigorously litigating Ellis eviction cases, 87-year old Roberto Edmundo Alfaro 87, wife Ana Maria, and son Roberto Eligio Alfaro will be remaining in their Lucky Street home where they have lived since 1987. Also kept in place by a legal ruling in their case is the family of Ana Gutierrez, who is now in her 70’s and has lived at Lucky Street since 1978. Gutierrez lives with her sons, Apolinar Gonzalez and Rubin Aguirre.

Owner Xiuguha Lian bought the property in 2011 and currently lives in China. She gave her brother Baochong Liang power of attorney to prosecute Ellis Act evictions against the tenants after they complained about efforts to illegally charge them higher rents. The tenants also complained about habitability violations.

The tenants have long been represented by attorney Raquel Fox of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (which publishes Beyond Chron). Fox filed a blizzard of procedural motions against the evictions. They included a Delta motion arguing that the owner’s notice missed the legal mandatory time for extension by two days, that the owner failed to pay timely relocation payments, and that the owner signed a declaration under penalty of perjury that she had issued a written notice of termination of tenancy when she in fact had not done so.

After the tenants prevailed, the owner faced the choice of issuing another one-year notice or settling the case.

These motions challenging procedural defects are the type of actions that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee still takes pride in filing when he represented tenants as an attorney for the Asian Law Caucus in the 1980’s. It helps explain why Lee tripled funding for Ellis Act legal representation late last year in response to the growing crisis (this funding runs out June 30 unless included in Mayor’s budget or restored by the Supervisors)

Fox was thrilled over the settlement, which prevents the owner or successors from issuing a new Ellis notice until March 2016. She noted, “This case again shows the importance of tenants fighting against their evictions, and of vigorously litigating these cases. Many people think that tenants have no defenses to Ellis evictions, and the story of Lucky Street will hopefully convince people otherwise.

Under legislation sponsored by State Senator Mark Leno and backed by Mayor Lee and Assemblymembers Ammiano and Ting, the Lucky Street evictions would not have occurred because the owner had not held the property for five years before invoking Ellis.

THC attorneys have won a number of cases stopping Ellis Act evictions. Steve Collier won the dismissal of gay activist Jeremy Mykaels’ eviction last October. He also recently stopped evictions at 566 Lombard in North Beach, a 14-unit building whose eleven occupied units included seniors, disabled and longterm tenants.

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