Lee family quietly leaves home as activists pledge to push reforms

Gum Gee and Poor Heung Lee outside the Jackson Street home they left last night because of an Ellis Act eviction.
Mike Koozmin/SF Print Media Co.

Members of Lee family quietly moved out of their longtime home in Chinatown last night, a day before their latest scheduled Ellis Act eviction, which had been postponed twice before thanks to headline-grabbing progressive activism that turned away deputies and persuaded the Mayor’s Office to intervene with the landlord.

But this time, the Mayor’s Office has been mum about the case (officials haven’t responded to our requests for comment) after failing to find a solution to the Lees – an elderly couple using Social Security to care their disabled 48-year-old daughter – still unresolved situation. With help from the Asian Law Caucus and Chinatown Community Development Center, the Lees moved their belongings into storage while they are staying in a hotel.

“The family is staying at a hotel in the city for the next few days as they try to finalize on a couple of potential rental units here. They'll be paying over twice the amount that they had been paying for their rent-controlled unit. Their SSI won't be enough to make ends meet, and so they will be spending down their relocation compensation, which may be depleted in the next several months,” Asian Law Caucus attorney Omar Calimbas told us. “Hopefully, the family will be able to find subsidized housing by then, or they will be in a precarious state of affairs again.”

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told us yesterday that he’s been waiting for word from the Mayor’s Office and hoping to avoid this evicting the family. “We’re duty bound. It’s a court order,” Mirkarimi said of his eviction obligation. "The eviction is on the books, but we've been expecting an alternative plan by the Mayor's Office after he intervened in this case.”

The San Francisco Examiner, which had earlier given splashy credit to Mayor Ed Lee for stalling the Lee family’s eviction – to the irritation of some activists that probably deserve more credit than anyone in the Mayor's Office – had the only journalist on the scene with the Lees last night, but the paper didn’t have any comments or updates from the Mayor’s Office.

Weeks before Mayor’s Lee's headline-grabbing Sept. 25 intervention in the Lee case, Mirkarimi had his Eviction Assistance Unit contact the Lees and try to help them avoid being turned out with no place to go. But in a city where his office performs around 1,000 evictions per year – it executed 998 court-ordered evictions last year -- the single full-time staffer in that office is overwhelmed.

"We need more staff to assist when it gets to this point," Mirkarimi told us. But his budget request last year to add another position to the unit was denied by the Mayor's Office and Board of Supervisors, a request that Mirkarimi renewed in a Sept. 30 letter to Mayor Lee.

“When there is a determination, our EAU attempts to support individuals and families facing eviction, not just Ellis Act evictions, but all evictions. This unit is comprised of one full time deputy sheriff and the partial time of another deputy.  Based on [the current eviction] trend, our EAU staffing is insufficient and ill-equipped to assist qualified individuals and families who may be at risk of becoming homeless,” Mirkarimi wrote. “With renewed focus on the consequences of evictions in San Francisco, I return to our FY 2013-2014 budget request to enhance our EAU with one full time clinical outreach worker.”

Meanwhile, the activists say they won’t wait for the next budget cycle or rely on the Sheriff’s Department for help with imminent evictions. They say that they plan to propose a package of reforms for dealing with the eviction crisis as soon as this week.

"Overall, the several weeks of reprieve from the eviction that were won after an incredible display of community solidarity with the Lees were very important in giving them time to find a temporary fix,” Calimbas told us. “Stay tuned in the next day or so for the next move by a growing coalition of community organizations, housing advocates and labor in pushing for a comprehensive package of legislative reform to curb the outbreak of displacement-based speculation.”

Guardian Staff Writer Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez contributed to this report.



and gives property owners an affirmative and unfettered right to exist the landlord business. So unless these "reforms" involve changing the law in Sacramento, which seems highly unlikely, there is really nothing that can be done.

Note however that Ellis evictions rarely happen outside of San Francisco, so it appears this is a only an issue for our city. Perhaps a better solution would be to allow landlords a better incentive to not Ellis buildings. Some relaxation of the ability to raise rents, which is currently just 60% of CPI, would probably be sufficient to dissuade some owners from an Ellis, which remains undesirable in principle, expect when the alternatives are even worse.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

over and over again for years on end?

i would think it would become quite tedious

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

which aren't even on topic.

I understand it must be frustrating for you to be powerless to do anything about Ellis Act evictions, and you therefore lash out at those who point that out. Nonetheless, it would be helpful for you to understand the futility of that, and actually try working with landlords rather than constantly try and fight them.

You might be pleasantly surprised at the result.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 3:50 pm
Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

Rent control is theft

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

buying a piece of land, and making people pay you to live on it

is stealing

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

Renting a bike?

Renting equipment?

Renting a RV?

Renting anything?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

and all of the other rentals you mentioned are rentals consumers choose so that they don't have to own those things

no one would choose to rent a home if they could own it themselves

and everyone must have a place to live

hence when you buy property and make pay you a profit to live on it because i have no choice

you are stealing from me

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

from me is optional, because you could have chosen a different home.

So it was a free consensual agreement that we made and, if you are not happy with it, then you should not have agreed to the terms.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 6:49 pm

i didn't "choose" where i live

i settled for what i could get because there are more people who need homes than there are homes being made available

nearly all tenants are therefore captives to thieving land owners who are holding the land hostage from them and demanding profit

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

that there is more demand than supply. And then you complain that it is more expensive than you would like?


Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 7:24 pm

because no matter what city a person moves to the situation is the same

rent may be lower, but pay is also lower, and there are more people seeking housing than there is housing being offered

systemic problems like property rent theft exist everywhere in the U.S.

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 10:05 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 7:00 am

the housing problem is everywhere

because capitalism is a joke and mandates exploitation and poverty to exist

Posted by racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:15 am

new world order.

You go first and I'll join in when I see you are winning.

Posted by The real racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:22 am

the way toward a new economic system is to build it from the grassroots

from the ground up

co-ops and worker management are growing as we type

Posted by racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:39 am

They are pretty little white houses with picket fences and a gnome in every garden.

The revolution is near, I tell you.

Now, where did I put my mittens?

Posted by racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:43 am

We will have to wait for the Revolution to finally get our free mittens, Comrades!

Posted by racer X on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:57 am

You search high and low, but they rarely show up.

Almost nobody has a home - that's how bad it is.

Posted by racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:23 am

from the as kicking that you get from not knowing what you are talking about

Posted by racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:40 am

Just to show you who's boss around here.

Posted by racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:51 am

I am all powerful!

You will lose, because I can troll more than a thousand normal men!

Posted by racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:00 am

Crown me Lilli, King of the Trolls.

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:08 am

just to gain the petty (and imaginary) feeling that you have won

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:10 am

I like yoghurt!

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:18 am
Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:30 am
Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:26 am

Nobody goes to as much effort to troll as you do, Lilli!

You're the King Of The Trolls!

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:38 am

for a good reason

not just to use a petty underhanded ploy to get an imaginary feeling of "winning"

i honestly feel sorry for you

Posted by nkdfhgi on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:42 am
Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 12:22 pm
Posted by kjf on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

You could choose to live in Modesto.....

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

Not because he can afford it, because he cannot. Not because he has the job skills that SF needs because he does not.

No, racer needs to be in SF because SF is cool, and racer wants to be cool, but he cannot be cool in Modesto. Or even Oakland, evidently.

Posted by anon on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

and it pays me well enough to live here

Posted by xkjhfdl on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

plenty of homeless in sf. you could choose to be one of them. but instead you want to be a part of the system. you want to live in comfort. so you have to pay the price. want to be a hunter gatherer move to alaska. hope you can eat what you kill. don't think you will survive on plants alone.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

I agree with Racer that asking someone to pay me rent is unjust. That's why I use Ellis act when I bought my building so I can live with a clear conscience.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

I thought landlords invoked the Ellis Act out of desperation. Your tale is one of a business decision to maximize profits, not a desperate necessity to stem losses.

It must be nice to find outside political support to subvert local governance. Especially when almost all statewide elected officials and judges belong to the property owner class and often own or invest in rental property.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by xkjhfdl on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 10:29 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

Boat sales are theft, but that's another story

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

Free, I say. And wherever I want it? No matter what size! no matter what it costed someone else to buy. It's all about me, me, me.

Posted by anon on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

when did i say all housing should be free?

and you profoundly misunderstand the basic premise

that housing should not be able to be bought by private parties to sell or rent to others

it should all be in public ownership and distributed according to need

Posted by racer x on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

So it is reasonable to assume that you are arguing not to be stolen from, i.e. not to pay rent.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

it is the profit making that is stealing

i am happy to pay people a decent wage to maintain my building so i can continue to live in it

when i am charged a profit above that (as nearly all tenants are)

my money is being stolen by a crook

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:19 am

current system where the market sets them, and then increased are limited?

Under your system many rents would go up, because some rents are less than the costs e.g. where a landlord buys a new building with low-rent tenants.

Perhaps if they were allowed to raise their rents in the way you suggest, then there would be less Ellis?

After all, market-rent paying tenants NEVER get Ellis'ed. Would you trade security for rent?

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:29 am

the system i am proposing would not allow private ownership of the buildings people live in

citywide municipal owned housing would allow rent stabilization by income

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:49 am

But I agree that rent control should be means tested.

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

i am saying that in just the same way that medicare is provided fairly and equally to all, regardless of income

so would housing be provided if it were socialized regardless of income

it would not be means tested

it would be means *neutral*

Posted by kjfdh on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

Food should be at cost.




A world without profit makes me eyes go all teary.

Posted by racer x on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

but there are plenty of small economies that operate as gift economies and it could be done on a broader scale

Posted by kjfd on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

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