At 9:07 in
the morning on February 28 of this year, two deputies from the San
Francisco Sheriff’s Department arrived at my front door to evict
me from the apartment that I had lived in for 20 years and 11
months, the apartment in which I largely raised my now-29-year-old
son, the apartment which was my residence for more than twice as
long as any other place that I have lived in my 53 years.
As a result of my eviction, which concluded a
16-month legal fight to prevent it, I am now residing in southern
California, ending my nearly 23-year residency in the city.
Despite my losing the apartment, my battle is not
entirely over as I have an appeal before the Appellate Division of
the Superior Court. My attorney has noted that while my cause is
just, the odds of winning are not in my favor. I have explained to
him, if they can do this to me, a white, educated, English-speaking,
literate, healthy, native-born male who is not particularly
intimidated by the law or authorities, they can do it do anyone and
therefore if I don’t fight this, who will?
But let me back up for a moment. The building that
I was evicted from was a three-flat Victorian. It was purchased by
my landlord in 1969 for $26,000. His annual tax bill is currently
$600. I resided in one of the units for just over 20 of the 30 years
of his ownership. My cumulative rent over those 20+ years was
approximately $150,000. He received additional money from all who
occupied my flat for the ten years prior to my arrival and from all
who occupied the other two flats for that 30-year period.
For at least the last seventeen years, as a result
of rent control and the length of my tenancy, my rent was the lowest
of any of the three flats, and therefore the other two units brought
in even more rental income than mine did. From the above figures it
can be seen that my rent alone paid for the building 6 times over,
and I would estimate — although we could figure it out — that
all tenants collectively paid the full price of the building perhaps
25 times. On top of that, it only took one month’s rent from one
of the units to pay the annual taxes. So much for the absurd line of
landlords subsidizing tenants. In my case, and I suppose most cases,
in San Francisco, it is exactly the opposite.
Until 2 and 1/2 years ago, when the landlord began
to consider selling the building in the face of a hot real estate
market, the work he had done on maintenance and repair was at best
In 1998 the landlord repaired and painted the
ceiling of one of the rooms in my flat. Meanwhile, all other
painting done in my apartment — the walls and ceilings in every
room and the 70+ foot hallway and 55-stair stairway — during my
entire 21-year tenancy was done by me at my expense. I should
mention that the repair job done by my landlord involved putting
sheetrock over the one-half of the ceiling that had fallen — so
that it was down to the lath — over the past dozen or so years as
a result of three years of roof leaks that finally ended in 1985!!!
That’s right, it took him thirteen years to repair the ceiling and
he never did the other ceilings that had major cracks from the same
leaks more than a decade-and-a-half ago. Two of the ceilings were
repaired by me. I go into these details so that there is no mistaken
thought that my landlord used the rent money, beyond the minimal
amount used to pay for the building and the small sum paid annually
for taxes, for maintenance and upkeep of the building.
My landlord sought to and succeeded in evicting me
and my neighbors, who had bought his building for him many times
over, to turn it into a “tenancy-in-common” and become an
instant millionaire, planning to offer each unit for $400,000 in a
market that was seeing homes sell for 20 percent above the asking
This is the kind of practice that is destroying
all the things that made San Francisco a truly interesting and
exciting place to live. When I moved to the city it was
characterized by its diversity — ethnic, sociological, and
economic diversity. It was a beautiful spot in California where
working-class people who were trying to raise their families could
actually afford to live. It was the home of the beat generation, the
place the hippies came to, where countless numbers of struggling
musicians could afford to live while they worked to develop their
talents and creativity. Culturally it flourished, in part because of
the large influx of working-class immigrants.
There were wealthy families and neighborhoods, but
they were just a part of the city, not in the majority.
This is the city that Mayor Brown and his ilk are
in the midst of destroying, for at least one of the reasons that my
landlord wanted me out, MONEY! (My landlord actually had additional
reasons that I believe were even paramount to this — i.e., his
disagreement with my political views and activities — but money
was definitely a part of his consideration.)
Now I find it most bizarre that Mayor Brown should
suggest that Supervisor Chris Daly has any resemblance (not
physical) to Dan White. If anything, it is Mayor Brown who should be
cast in the role of Dan White. With some obvious differences mostly
related to hue — i.e., the mayor’s collaboration with the
enemies of the poor and working class has created a situation where
Brown has more Green than White.
It is Mayor Brown who is in league with the
developers — recall Dan White having been pulled into association
with the developers of Pier 39 by then-supervisor Dianne Feinstein.
All White got was a little potato-skin business while Brown has
added to his personal fortune through his participation in 8 IPOs
(Initial Public Offerings).
It is Mayor Brown who is wreaking havoc on the
residents of the city, just as Dan White did. While Mayor Brown’s
bullets do not necessarily come out of the barrel of a gun that he
is holding the trigger of, his collaboration with those who are
destroying the lives of working people is no less deadly to the
hopes and dreams of so many who did so much to make San Francisco
what it was.
And if it wasn’t bad enough that the mayor
should hurl the Dan White remark at Supervisor Daly with no material
justification whatsoever, for the Police Chief Lau to then conduct
an investigation against the supervisor clearly shows that not only
are the poor (including the vast majority who are working but simply
unable to afford the criminally high prices of everything from
housing to utilities to gasoline to parking) no longer welcome in
San Francisco, but neither are those, including lawfully elected
officials, who will take a stand on their behalf.
In 1934 San Francisco was the site of the nation’s
only successful general strike: the event stands as the apex of
labor unity in the history of the United States. Today, less than
seven decades later, it has become a place where all but the
wealthy, or those who will do their bidding, are unwelcome.
To quote the chorus on a variation of the Woody
Guthrie song “This Land Is Your Land,” “This land ain’t
your land, this land ain’t my land, until we take a stand
and take back our land. This land is longing to be free.”
Mark H. Levine, Ph.D.