Rent to Evict

For years, many low-income renters called the building their home. That's until a developer, who told the government it would be affordable, raised the rents.

The committee seems to have a quite friendly relationship with KDF. The body is chaired by Treasurer Angelides and staffed by State Controller Steve Westly, and California Department of Finance director Michael C. Genest. A review of campaign finance data shows both Angelides (the Democratic candidate for governor) and Westly (who made a failed bid for the Democratic nomination for gubernatorial candidate) have received large sums of money from KDF in the form of campaign contributions. Between 2002 and late 2005, state records show KDF gave $38,700 to Angelides and $33,100 to Westly.

The committee says the donations had nothing to do with the tax breaks it gave KDF.

At KDF, Harper won't discuss the issue of contributions.

However, KDF has tapped a local nonprofit organization called Asian, Inc. to help with the property's renovation, and the president of that group, Michael Chan, was more willing to speak with us.

Asked about the discrepancies on the application, Chan replies, "I don't think [KDF's] intentions were malicious," but, "I really can't say they had the best information."

In KDF's defense, Chan notes the company really hasn't run into controversy with its other projects, and insists people will one day be happy KDF bought the building. He tells SF Weekly, "I'm really going to put in an effort to see that this project can be viewed as a positive contribution."

At this point, however, 1030 Post is mired in acrimony. Though the building was nearly full when KDF bought it, today there are at least 40 vacancies, and more people may be leaving soon, since, according to Preston, at least 15 other tenants have recently gotten eviction notices. "We believe these are unlawful attempts to evict people and raise the rents," says the lawyer, adding that KDF staffers have been "extremely disrespectful" to the residents.

This summer Preston's clients brought their grievances to the San Francisco Rent Board, a quasi-judicial body that settles disputes between renters and landlords. KDF's position was straightforward: The tax credit program that had funded their acquisition of the property was the product of state and federal laws, and as such, it trumped San Francisco's rental control ordinance. KDF could do what it saw fit as long as it hewed to the rules of the tax credit program.

In a brief filed with the rent board, KDF's attorney portrayed the firm as altruists spending tens of thousands per unit to rehab the property. KDF, wrote lawyer Clifford Fried, are dedicated to "providing long-term affordable housing."

At press time, the rent board had yet to rule on the matter. Nobody, however, expects the board's ruling to mark the end of the conflict.

Initially, Barbara Pohley was happy to learn that KDF had bought her building. The property, she was told, would get a top-to-bottom overhaul, including new refrigerators and stoves, new lighting, new carpets, a seismic upgrade, and even a rooftop garden. And it would be officially designated as affordable housing, which, she assumed, meant she and Jim would continue to pay reasonable rents.

"Everyone thought, 'This is good,'" she recalls. Then she watched as her friends and neighbors fled the building.

If the rent goes up, Barbara says, "we won't be able to eat." Things are already tight. Jim, who toiled for 27 years as a messenger for a blueprint company, is afflicted by severe circulatory problems, while Barbara, who spent her youth harvesting cotton in Texas before moving to California and taking a string of low-paid, labor-intensive jobs, is wracked with arthritis. Unable to work, they get by on food stamps, disability checks, and help from their grown son, a security guard at the Ferry Building.

Jim's wild gray eyebrows spring out from behind thick-lensed eyeglasses; he's clad in a red 49ers sweatshirt, and, as if to reinforce the point, a 49ers baseball cap. The look on Barbara's lined round face is by turns furious and fearful. "These people don't have no right to come and kick us out of there, to treat us like criminals," she rails, before adding, tearily, "We're so tired. I want this to stop. I've been living there for almost 20 years."

If they're pushed out, Barbara figures they'll end up on Skid Row, residing "in one of those nasty hotels where everybody robs you."

Jonas Kessler, 29, doesn't have a lot in common with the Pohleys, besides an address of 1030 Post. He's lived in the city for only a few years, after moving here from Virginia. He's healthy, young, and relatively well paid, pulling down "50 to $60,000" annually as a financial adviser.

Given his resources, he had a different problem than the Pohleys: KDF wanted him out because his income was too high. After battling with the firm for the better part of a year, Kessler recently bailed on 1030 Post, relocating to a new, more costly abode.

Evidently, KDF is pretty anxious to get rid of the wealthier tenants, seeing as how they handed Kessler $10,000 to leave. If wealthier tenants like Kessler were to remain ensconced in 1030 Post, the firm would likely face financial penalties from the tax credit committee.

"I never wanted to move out," he says, but "I was sick and tired of not knowing what was going to happen," he explains. "The people who are left are seniors, or disabled, or just want to fight till the bitter end."

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