San Francisco landlords targeted for elder abuse

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Activists gathered outside the Hall of Justice.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

Lisa Gray-Garcia, aka “Tiny,” led a press conference outside the San Francisco Hall of Justice Feb. 5 to announce that she and fellow activists were filing elder abuse charges against San Francisco landlords.

Clad in a gray pantsuit and flanked by activists and senior citizens who were facing eviction or had lost housing in San Francisco, the Poor News Network founder condemned landlords who’ve invoked the Ellis Act as “dangerous criminals.”

Gray-Garcia said criminal charges were being filed against the landlords in accordance with California Penal Code 368, which creates a special category for crimes – such as infliction of pain, injury or endangerment – committed against elders and dependent adults.

The theory is that carrying out an Ellis Act eviction against a senior citizen qualifies as a criminal act under that law, since an elder can suffer physical harm as a result of being turned out of his or her home.

The targeted landlords were taken from a list compiled by the San Francisco Anti Eviction Mapping Project, a volunteer-led group that published names, property ownership, and identifying information of 12 landlords who had repeatedly invoked the Ellis Act in San Francisco. Garcia read out their names as part of the press event.

Beyond that, however, the announcement was short on specifics. Gray-Garcia told the Bay Guardian she did not want to share the names of the affected seniors because she did not feel comfortable exposing the elderly tenants to potential backlash.

Joining the group of activists was an 82-year-old woman who used a walker and declined to share her name. She told the Bay Guardian she had lived in her Richmond District flat for more than 30 years, and had recently received a verbal warning from her landlord that if she did not move out, he would invoke the Ellis Act.

When Gray-Garcia and others filed into the San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon’s office inside the Hall of Justice, however, Chief Assistant District Attorney Sharon Woo first told them that they should complain to the police department, then scheduled a meeting with them at a later date.

Here’s how it went:

Guardian video by Rebecca Bowe

In order of appearance, speakers include Erin McElroy, a tenants’ rights advocate; Gray-Garcia; a District Attorney staff person whose name we didn't catch; Woo, and Anthony Prince (there because he is campaign manager to Green Party gubernatorial candidate Luis Rodriguez, who spoke at the press conference).