A Short Breath

root - Posted on 25 September 2000

SF District Attorney takes on The Evil landlords

by Leticia Velasquez and Lisa gray-Garcia

Leticia is a former resident of San Francisco where she was evicted after living in the Mission for 32 years by an owner move-in. She is a member of POOR Magazine's writer facilition project which seeks to translate the voices of low and no income adults and youth. Lisa Gray-Garcia is Leticia's writier facilitator and co-editor of www.poornewsnetwork.com and POOR Magazine

It is seldom that we as low income, gentrified, evicted and displaced folk have a reason to celebrate, when we win some small fight for justice because a city official in power does the right thing, so when it happens we must take a breath, stand up and notice that our rights have been upheld, our voices have been heard and pleas have been recognized. Just such a day has occurred in the Bay Area and that city official is District Attorney Terrence Hallinan

Consider the case of the Evanchek family - Mr and Mrs. Evanchek were tenants of one of two units on Arleta Ave in San Francisco for over twenty years. Mrs. Evanchek is disabled and receives Kidney Dialysis three times a week. In 1996 the smaller unit in the back became vacant and The Evancheks 23 year old daughter signed a lease and she and her baby moved into the smaller unit

Under the San Francisco Rent ordinance the landlord of a multiple unit dwelling such as the arleta Ave property can recover one of the units for the landlords own use. Moreover the landlord of a multiple unit dwelling cannot evict a disabled tenant who has resided in the unit for more than ten years

So when the new owners bought the property in 1999 the rent ordinance would have permitted them to do an owner move in eviction of one of the two units, not both, and since Mrs. Evanchek was disabled she was protected, in the larger unit, from an owner move-in eviction

But the new owners wanted both units. After first filing two separate notices to vacate they then claimed the property was a single family home with a guest cottage. This is because the rent control ordinance permits an owner move-in eviction of a single family home even if there is a disabled tenant.

The landlord's attorney began referring to the 2nd smaller unit as a "shed" and served a new single eviction notice seeking not only to evict the entire family but requiring them to pay attorney's fees as well. The Evancheks could not afford an attorney. Faced with the fear of being evicted and having to pay attorneys fees they accepted, in the hallway, outside the courtroom, an offer of three months free rent and moved out.

Although the Evancheks accepted the 90 days and a mule offer, they did not release their liability under the Rent ordinance. Since then they received legal representation from Andrew Westley who served a wrongful eviction lawsuit on the new owner's

As well, District Attorney, Terrence Hallinan has filed criminal charges for this illegal eviction; His statement to this reporter was "In Charging this as a misdemeanor illegal eviction the District Attorney is seeking to enforce the rent ordinance passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to protect the rights of tenants

For every tenant who has felt the terror of an eviction with no recourse, who has taken the quick deals in the hallway with a pit in their stomach and a lump in their throat, who has lost their belongings, neighborhoods and familiarity due to an illegal eviction…. I thank Mr. Weatley, Mr. Hallinan and the SF board of Supervisors, and for the Evancheks -take a short breath, I know I will.


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