Confronting the speculators

Tenant activists spotlight serial evictors in online rogues gallery

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rebecca@sfbg.com

A group of tenant advocates has upped the ante in the ongoing protest movement against San Francisco evictions, publicizing the names, photographs, property ownership, and corporate affiliations of a dozen landlords and speculators they've deemed "serial evictors."

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project, a volunteer-led effort that snagged headlines last fall when it released data visualizations charting long-term displacement in San Francisco, released its Dirty Dozen list Jan. 10.

The project spotlights property owners who've moved to evict tenants under the Ellis Act, a controversial state law that allows landlords to oust tenants even if they aren't in violation of lease terms. In practice, the Ellis Act tends to be waged against longtime residents with low monthly rental payments, frequently impacting elderly or low-income tenants who benefit from rent control.

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project's list gets up close and personal, publishing details such as landlord's cell phone numbers, home addresses, and histories of legal entanglement.

It's an edgy use of public records that seems to raise a slew of questions about free speech, privacy, and the use of information sharing and public shaming as a protest tactic in the digital age.

Erin McElroy, a volunteer and lead organizer of the project, said the goal was to spotlight landlords "who are disproportionately impacting senior and disabled tenants," and to raise public awareness about "people who are making millions at the expense of tenants."

She added that there is a budding effort to push for Ellis Act reform in Sacramento, and noted that a goal of this project was to fuel that statewide effort by providing easily accessible information.

Among those individuals named on the Dirty Dozen list was David McCloskey of Urban Green Investments, a company that owns more than 15 San Francisco properties. Urban Green has been a frequent target of San Francisco housing activists, in part due to the company's ongoing attempt to evict Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a Dolores Street tenant who will turn 98 in April.

Another landlord who made the list, Elba Borgen, has also attracted past attention from tenant activists due to her history of pursuing Ellis Act evictions at six different San Francisco properties. A tenant currently residing in a 10th Avenue property, where Borgen's LLC has filed for eviction, is 90 years old and suffering from Alzheimer's, according to an interview with her daughter Vivian Montesdeoca posted to the mapping project website.

The Bay Guardian's efforts to reach landlords who were spotlighted on the Dirty Dozen list were largely unsuccessful. We did manage to contact Tom Iveli, president of Norcal Ventures, who spoke briefly before excusing himself, saying he had to take another call. Iveli clearly wasn't aware that he and his business partner Bob Sigmund had been singled out.

McElroy said the Dirty Dozen list was the product of an in-depth research project which entailed filtering through property records, San Francisco Rent Board data, and information gleaned from the website Corporation Wiki.

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project initiative has attracted around 15 volunteers and will be partnering with Stanford University students to produce an oral history project showcasing the narratives of San Francisco tenants facing eviction, McElroy said.

Some of the same activists involved in recent high-profile blockades of tech buses were also part of the Anti Eviction Mapping Project effort.

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