Apartments in the massive, 434-unit building at 855 Brannan St. in SoMa don’t come cheap. Studios start $3,245, and a three-bedroom unit can set you back more than $6,570 a month. But as part of its deal with the city, developers Equity Apartments made 55 of those units below market rate, allowing select people to rent a studio as low as $1,036 a month. This includes amenities, such as a a rooftop deck, dog spa, game room, gym and — unfortunately for one tenant — security guards.
Shaun Huddleston, 52, was on his way into his below market-rate-unit on Nov. 24, 2018, when he was confronted by a security guard who apparently didn’t believe he lived in the luxury building. According to the Public Defender’s office, Huddleston tried to use his key fob to enter the building but it didn’t work; in an attempt to enter, he banged on the glass near the door to get someone’s attention. The security guard who responded refused to let him in.
When Huddleston attempted to pull the door open, the guard slammed it on his hand. A squabble ensued, and the battle over the door resulted in the guard being pushed, an incident caught on surveillance video.
“She was new, she was argumentative, she was not the right person to be a security guard,” Huddleston told SF Weekly Wednesday.
While Huddleston did make it into his apartment that day, he was arrested a few hours later when police knocked on his door and charged with resisting arrest, battery, and making criminal threats.
“He was never even told he was being arrested,” said Deputy Public Defender Brandon Banks, who represented Huddleston. “He opened the door, with no shirt on, and was immediately placed in handcuffs. They never gave him the opportunity to get dressed and they yanked him down the hallway, in front of all of his neighbors, further humiliating him.”
But the humiliation didn’t end there; Judge John Garibaldi, who was assigned to the case, issued a 25-day stay-away order for Huddleston from 855 Brannan, rendering him homeless.
Huddleston, who if convicted was going to face up to two-and-a-half years in jail, was finally acquitted of all charges last Friday.
“The judge simply read the police report and took those statements as true,” Banks said. “It took multiple motions being filed to get this stay-away order modified so that Mr. Huddleston could go home. It’s cases like this one that led me to be a public defender. Mr. Huddleston needed justice on his side.
“As we see far too many times in this country, my client was a Black man who just wanted to get home but was unfairly profiled by people who didn’t think he looked like he belonged there,” Banks added.
“Far too often people of color are wrongly accused of being somewhere they aren’t supposed to be,” said Public Defender Jeff Adachi about Huddleston’s charges. “In this case, it cost a man a roof over his head for four weeks and it could have cost him years in jail. Thankfully, the jury cut through the veil of prejudice and went straight for the facts. We wish Mr. Huddleston only the best going forward, as he tries to move past this demeaning episode.”
Huddleston says he is indeed moving forward, with building management’s help. He says he used to socialize and work out with the building’s security guards before turnover sent some of them packing.
“They got rid of my best friend, my only friend in the building was a security guard, the only guy I could kick back with,” he said. “Now, they put them back in the building. I got my friends back. They’re hella cool, they know how to do that job.”
As for 855 Brannan St. — Huddleston says he plans on sticking around.
“It’s a great spot, it’s one of the best places I’ve lived my whole life,” he said.