Rally planned for San Francisco family facing Ellis Act eviction 

click to enlarge eviction
  • Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photo
  • After 34 years at their Jackson Street apartment, Gum Gee Lee, left, and Poon Heung Lee are set to be evicted today.
At an undisclosed time today, the Sheriff’s Department plans to carry out the eviction of an elderly Chinese couple and their disabled daughter after living for 34 years at 1508-A Jackson St., where the landlord used the state’s Ellis Act to get out of the rental business.

Tenant advocate groups are staging an all-day demonstration starting at 8 a.m. outside the three-bedroom apartment — the eight-unit complex’s only remaining occupied space — even though the Lee family’s attorney said Tuesday the plan is not to resist eviction.

“I think it’s understood that it’s inevitable,” said the Asian Law Caucus’ Omar Calimbas, who represented the Lees and previous tenants. “Our plan is to basically show that there are plenty of people who don’t believe this is a good policy. The Ellis Act may be difficult to amend in Sacramento, but we can make sure there’s alternative housing out there when it happens.”

In fact, it is “very infrequent” that tenants on eviction day physically resist their removal, according to Mark Nicco, the Sheriff’s Department assistant legal counsel. Most leave voluntary when asked to move or have already vacated.

Deputies give tenants a few minutes to gather personal belongings. Large items have usually been moved by the eviction date, said Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Susan Fahey, but California law requires the landlord to safely store personal property for 15 days so tenants can arrange for pickup.

Tenants refusing to leave are arrested for trespassing and violation of the court order — both misdemeanors that do not include fines, but involve jail bookings and citations with a court date.

“That would be the very last resort,” said Fahey, adding: “We would go to great lengths” to avoid leaving the evictees with nowhere to go.

“We would attempt to give them a ride somewhere, offer to take them to a city-contracted shelter, so that would not happen,” she said.

Groups fighting for the Lees, including the Chinatown Community Development Center, created a Twitter account, @stopsfevictions, to provide real-time updates on the eviction, along with a Facebook page was created for Gum Gee Lee, 73, her husband, 79-year-old Poon Heung Lee, and their daughter Shiu Man Lee, 48.

The Lees were given a weeklong stay of the eviction order, but a longer delay so the Asian Law Caucus could appeal the decision was denied.

“The laws should be improved so that no one is forced from their homes or from The City. This is our home too,” Gum Gee Lee said in Cantonese.

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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