San Francisco tenants beat Ellis Act evictions

Tenants in five rent-controlled San Francisco buildings faced with Ellis Act evictions by the same owner celebrated a victory Thursday after their homes were purchased by the San Francisco Community Land Trust and Mission Economic Development Agency.

The nonprofits bought the properties, which have a total of 19 units, 13 of them occupied, for a total cost of around $8.1 million with the help of funding from the city's Small Sites Program, which finances the acquisition and rehabilitation of privately owned properties, according to Tracy Parent, organizational director for the Community Land Trust.

The purchase will allow the tenants, some of whom have lived in the buildings for decades and were paying rents well below market rate, to stay in their homes at affordable rents, officials said.

Speaking Thursday outside one of the properties at 1353-1357 Folsom St., Mayor Ed Lee said the purchase was arranged after attorneys from the Tenderloin Housing Clinic representing the tenants contacted city officials for help.

Lee said he hoped the sale would send a signal to property owners that there is a way to get out of the rental business without evicting long-term tenants.

"This victory can be repeated in many other places," Lee said.  "You can change your business model without hurting a lot of folks," he added.

Teresa Dulalas, a resident in the Folsom Street property, said she had lived in the building for 37 years and in that time had fought off four eviction attempts under three different owners. She expressed relief that "we're not going to be talking about evictions anymore."

"I'd like to think this shows a change for the better, for the city and the landlords," Dulalas said.

Paul Iantorno, one of the property owners, said that as long-time owners of residential property in the Mission District the family was "pleased to be able to share in the city's vision of preserving and
increasing its stock of affordable housing." He called the outcome "mutually satisfactory."

The buildings purchased are located at 642 Guerrero St., 380 San Jose Ave., 70-72 Belcher, 1684-1688 Grove St. and 1353-1357 Folsom St. The Mission Economic Development Agency will own and manage the two Mission District properties, while the land trust will own the other three.

Parent said the trust is still working to buy an additional 6-unit building at 630 Guerrero St. from the Iantorno family. Paul Iantorno said the family had moved to withdraw its notice of intent to take that building off the rental market, which is a necessary step for landlord seeking to evict tenants under the Ellis Act.

Parent said the Small Sites program provided a total loan of around $8.8 million including around $5 million toward the purchase price and additional funds to renovate each of the properties. The remainder of the purchase price came from a loan from First Republic Bank.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who has been working with the residents,said the Small Sites program was a good example of ways the city could help long-time residents stay in their homes.

"Far too many families in San Francisco face the threat of being displaced from our city -- whether its because they are being priced out or through outright evictions," Kim said. "Even as we work to create more
housing -- and more affordable housing -- we still need protections in place for those residents."