Condo Plans Rejected for Former Home of Evicted 100-Year-Old - March 8, 2018 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Condo Plans Rejected for Former Home of Evicted 100-Year-Old

(Credit Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco)

The home at the center of a controversial eviction battle has been denied condo conversion plans by the San Francisco Planning Commission. 

The eviction and subsequent death of 100-year-old Iris Canada last year became the poster for displacement in San Francisco at the hand of real estate whims. Though the building owners of Canada’s decades-long home at 670 Page St. pressed on with condo conversion plans, the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously voted Thursday to deny the application after public testimony.

As a longtime tenant in a neighborhood once filled with African-American residents, Canada’s battle became emblematic of gentrification, senior housing and property owners looking to profit at the expense of others.

While other tenants in the six-unit building underwent Ellis Act evictions, Canada was granted a “Life Estate” in 2005 that allowed her to remain there for $700 a month until she died. Eleven years later, owners Peter Ownes, Carolyn Radisch and Stephen Owens alleged that she hadn’t lived there in years and must leave the unit, according to Planning Department documents.

Canada would have been able to stay after paying steep attorney fees, which she was unable to do and wouldn’t sign permission to advance the condo plans. Ultimately, a judge ruled in the owners’ favor and Canada was removed on Feb. 10, 2017.

In late March 2017, she suffered a stroke and died.

Plans for conversion continued and reached Planning Commission in January, with department staff initially recommending to approve the application. But commissioners delayed the vote after testimony from tenant advocates on Jan. 11 and staff recommended its denial for Thursday’s hearing.

“I think this is where we have to draw the line,” said Commissioner Dennis Richards. “How can you say ‘I’m creating opportunity for people’ when they’re taking them away from people?”

The staff report recommending the denial notes that the application offered incorrect and inconsistent information. Documents filed in 2014 states that Canada occupied the unit but another form lists the unit as vacant from November 2012 to January 2017 — an absence that her neighbor, Michel Bechirian, testified in support of.

Representatives of the owners argued on Thursday that they attempted to make deals with Canada but that her caretakers were taking advantage of her to assume control of the unit themselves. 

But multiple public commenters also testified that they visited her home during that those five years and that it was lived in. They also spoke of witnessing Canada’s eviction.

“This is only about greed and we cannot reward those who would do this to our city and to a 100-year-old woman,” Theresa Flandrich told the commission. “We can’t bring Iris back [and] we can’t take back what happened but you can make this right.”

It took public testimony earlier this year to bring forward information that the Planning Department initially missed but commissioners ultimately agreed: the owners misled them and shouldn’t see their plans go forward.