However, with no legal basis for 1049 Market St.’s owners to file the unlawful detainer notices in the first place, advocates for the tenants say the notices amount to harassment.
With over 80 units of rent-controlled live-work space occupied by artists, photographers and other low-income residents — many of whom are renting for well under $1,000 a month — 1049 Market St. is a rare oasis of below-market-rate housing in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. The area’s transformation ramped up after a tax break was extended to tech companies like Twitter, whose headquarters at 1355 Market St. is only a few blocks away.
Many of the loft units at 1049 Market St. lack windows and ventilation required under The City’s fire code. That led to a notice of violation last year from building inspectors.
To correct the violation, the owners were granted a demolition permit last summer to convert the live-work units into offices. That would also displace the tenants in the biggest mass eviction of San Francisco renters since the 1970s.
Under pressure from Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the area, the building permit was suspended in October. The owners were given an opportunity to legalize the housing units, but filed an appeal of the suspension. The suspension was upheld in February.
However, in court filings, 1049 Market St. owner John Gall claimed that the permit was reinstated Feb. 14.
On that basis, a process server began issuing unlawful detainer notices — a precursor to eviction orders from a judge — on some of the tenants March 21-22, residents told The San Francisco Examiner.
On Tuesday, Gall said the building permit had been “revoked again” and that the unlawful detainer notices — which require a “just cause” for eviction under The City’s 1979 Rent Ordinance in order to be valid — would be withdrawn Wednesday.
“We’re just trying to correct the violation,” said Gall, who declined to comment further.
However, officials with the Department of Building Inspection confirmed that the permit was never reinstated.
“They had no grounds whatsoever to go to the tenants” with unlawful detainers, DBI spokesman William Strawn said.
Steve Collier, an attorney with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic who is representing some former tenants in a separate lawsuit, called the unlawful detainers “improper.” The separate lawsuit was filed over allegations that the owners failed to turn on the heat and allowed vagrants to loiter in the building’s shared bathrooms.
An attorney for Gall did not return a call seeking comment. No tenants appear to have left their homes as a result of the March notices, said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, an organizer with the Housing Rights Committee, who blasted the eviction notices as “harassment.”
Meanwhile, the landlords are refusing to accept tenants’ rents, which are being held in an escrow account. That is also a precursor to an eviction. However, residents are vowing to remain.
“The tenants are not moving,” Avicolli Mecca said. “This is proof that if you stick together and fight, you can win.”