Noe Valley Seniors Thwart Ellis Act Speculators

by Stephen P. Booth on November 13, 2018

Community Rallies behind San Francisco Elders with a Lifetime of Counseling Underprivileged

Over the last three years, nearly 70 percent of the households facing Ellis Act evictions that I have counseled contained occupants 65 years or older. Many of these households contained tenants more than 75 years of age who have lived in San Francisco for decades. More striking is that the “landlord” seeking “to go out of the residential rental business” is often an LLC or a trust that has owned the property for little more than a year. It is my belief that speculator use of the Ellis Act has a disproportionate impact on San Francisco elders. It is often not established “landlords” who are “going out of business.” Rather, it is real estate speculators, never intending to be landlords, who regularly exploit the Ellis Act to evict, expand and flip real estate.

Two such targets were Michael and Constance Juarez, lifetime educators and consultants for the underprivileged, who have lived in Noe Valley for 29 years. Their case is emblematic of the speculator abuse that runs rampant and destroys the very fabric of San Francisco.

However, they and their neighbors are fighting back. On November 2, 2018 Michael and Connie Juarez won their challenge to a real estate investor’s Ellis eviction. Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay found that the real estate investor’s eviction was not done in conformity with the San Francisco Rent Ordinance.

Tenants with Lifetimes Devoted to Community Service

Michael and Connie, who met in college and married in 1962, received their degrees in Education from Saint Mary’s College of the Plains in Dodge City, Kansas. They were united in their passion to be educators and consultants to the less privileged. Michael and Connie each taught English as a second language in Chile, through a program sponsored by the Peace Corps and the Catholic Church. Michael Juarez then worked for the Development Association as a small business and anti-poverty consultant, often counseling members of Native American Indian tribes and Connie continued in Education.

In 1978 Michael and Connie established their own consulting agency with the same objectives of counseling and educating the underprivileged as to anti-poverty and effective community action, which they continue to do. As educators, consultants and community activists for 29 years, Michael and Constance have been part of the very fabric of Noe Valley.

Developer’s Plans to Expand Faced Strong Neighborhood Opposition

On April 13, 2016 an investment entity know as “79 28th Street, LLC” purchased the property for $1,175,000. Its principal is Gene Kristul (“Kristul”), a real estate investor who is president of Saxe Mortgage Company. From the outset, 79 28th Street’s apparent purpose was expansive remodeling, including the making of an additional floor underground.

Kristul’s initial plans called for substantially tearing down of the two existing affordable housing units under the guise of “remodel” and erecting a 3-story building that would greatly expand front and rear density. The extension of the ground floor unit (some 40 more feet) would cause the cutting down of several desirable trees. There was even planned an underground four-car garage.

The neighbors rallied together and protested that Kristul’s plans would ruin the character of the neighborhood.  For example, neighbor Ken Hoegger submitted a request for Discretionary Review. It was argued that Kristul’s proposal should be rejected because: (1) two affordable rent-controlled housing units would be demolished; (2) the project was contrary to the general plan which mandates retention of the existing buildings; (3) the proposed extension of the 2nd and 3rd floors would block sunlight and views for the homes on either side; (4) the project trades two luxury condominiums in place of two rent-controlled housing units which would be forever lost; (4) the four-car garage was incompatible with the City’s Transit First policies; and (5) a speculative developer should not be allowed to evict using the Ellis Act and then “remodel” in a manner that is equivalent to a demolition.

Faced with a high degree of community opposition, on or about February 28, 2018 Kristul withdrew his application from the Planning Commission.

Developer’s Eviction Thwarted in Court

On April 24, 2017, barely a year after purchase, Kristul initiated an Ellis Act eviction as against Michael and Connie. The neighborhood rallied together and obtained a petition with 200 signatures in opposition to the eviction and proposed “remodel.” The case was referred to the Tenderloin Housing Clinic for legal representation from the office of Supervisor Jeff Sheehy.

Given their long tenancy, the owner had no choice but to grant Michael and Connie Juarez a one-year notice period, which period expired on April 25, 2018.  On September 4, 2018 developer filed its eviction action in the San Francisco Superior Court. Michael and Connie Juarez challenged developer’s action by demurrer, pointing-out that the developer had not complied with the specific novice provisions for Ellis evictions.

On November 2, 2018 Michael and Connie Juarez prevailed in their challenge. Real Property Court Judge Ronald Quidachay determined that developer’s eviction was not drawn in conformity with the requirements of the San Francisco Rent Ordinance.

Michael and Connie Juarez are grateful for the support gotten from neighbors and the Noe Valley community. While they expect the developer landlord will engage in additional eviction efforts, they are braced with the outpouring of community support and the belief that housing is a right deserved by all persons.

Stephen P. Booth, Esq. is a Staff Attorney with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic

Filed under: Mid-Market / Tenderloin