The San Francisco housing crisis spilled over into Marin County Saturday with a demonstration outside the Strawberry Point home of a landlord protesters accused of being "a serial evictor."
Patricia Kerman, a 65-year-old retired food service worker, made an emotional plea to stay in the rent-controlled apartment she has lived in for 27 years during a demonstration by the renters' organization Eviction Free San Francisco.
She said she and her flat mate, Tom Rapp, are being ousted by landlord Kaushik "Ken" Dattani, whom tenants rights groups have branded one of the "Dirty Dozen" real estate speculators, blaming them for San Francisco's alarming rise in evictions.
"You know this is wrong and your neighbors know this is wrong," Kerman said, trying to speak to Dattani over an intercom at the gated entrance of his Great Circle Drive home, which is hidden behind a solid, seven-foot tall fence and a locked gate with a "beware of the dog" sign on it.
"You don't throw people out of their homes and out into the street," she said, noting that she and Rapp have been ordered to move out by August. "If he throws me out, I have nowhere to go."
Reached on his cellphone by the Independent Journal, Dattani declined to comment on the demonstrators' charges.
Kerman said she and Rapp are being evicted for no reason from a building Dattani owns at 3305 20th St. in San Francisco's rapidly gentrifying Mission District.
"For people coming into the city with money, it's just a financial deal with them," she said. "It you've got money, great. But a lot of us don't."
With San Francisco housing now the most costly in the nation, low-income tenants are being pushed out, but not without protests by groups such as the one that came to Marin on Saturday. A recent report by San Francisco's budget and legislative analyst found that evictions that result in units being taken off the rental market have been steadily rising in the city, as have simmering class tensions.
On Saturday, protest leaders accused Dattani and other property speculators of ejecting tenants under the Ellis Act, a provision in California law that gives landlords a legal way "to go out of business" and sell rental units as condos, sidestepping rent control restrictions. In San Francisco, Ellis Act evictions have skyrocketed 170 percent between February 2010 and February 2013, according to the city report.
"There are three different ways that tenants can be displaced through no fault of their own and the Ellis Act is the most insidious and the one being abused most by speculators such as Dattani," said demonstrator Erin McElroy, who was holding a large banner emblazoned "Eviction Free San Francisco."
McElroy, also one of the organizers of the anti-Google bus protests, is the founder of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a group of 25 volunteers who collect data on evictions in San Francisco and display it dramatically on digital maps.
"The Mapping Project and Tenants Together, which is a statewide organization, just came up with a statistic: 70 percent of evictions in San Francisco are thought to be real estate speculators," said demonstrator Carmen Simon. "So this isn't your mom and pop landlord wanting to get out of the business to retire. These are professional people with a vast amount of capital."
McElroy said the Mapping Project and Tenants Together have drafted state legislation to reform the Ellis Act, and are also proposing a San Francisco ballot measure that would tax real estate speculators.
"It would make it more difficult for them to abuse the Ellis Act," she said.
After the protest in front of Dattani's house, the dozen or so demonstrators went door-to-door with leaflets about his eviction practices. Most of the upscale homes in the quiet bayside neighborhood are behind gates, so the activists stuck the leaflets on fences and under the windshields of parked cars under the watchful eyes of two sheriff's deputies.
Contact Paul Liberatore via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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