Housing rights activists are nothing if not creative, and a rally on Thursday showcased that to a T. Outside 642 Natoma St. — a three-unit building formerly owned by landlord Danny Sun, and where longtime residents from had all been evicted while he owned it — protesters used chalk spray paint to write “Danny Sun evicts seniors, queers, disabled tenants, artists” on the sidewalk outside. An old brown armchair, a mini-fridge, and a side table were unloaded from a car, all spraypainted in orange to read “Danny Sun evicts SF.”
Sun evicted tenants from the building in 2016; it’s now been flipped and sold, evidenced by a furious homeowner wearing a Facebook t-shirt who burst from her home to yell at protesters before heading inside to “call her lawyer.”
It’s a story that’s all too familiar in San Francisco, someone buys a building, evicts the often longtime tenants, and then renovates it and sells it to make a profit. Sun successfully did that with 642 Natoma St., and is currently in a battle with the tenants 2820 Folsom St., another one of his buildings. The 13 people who live there are also facing eviction, but Jeffrey Hayes and Rachael Dichter, neighbors and tenants, say they’re prepared to fight. Before Sun bought it, they were even able to present an offer to their old landlord, with the help of the Mission Economic Development Agency. The housing nonprofit tried to buy the building for $1.8 million — well above Sun’s $1.72 purchase price — but was not fast enough to make the deal.
As they feared, Sun began eviction proceedings almost immediately. The building’s 13 tenants have secured a lawyer from the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, who has managed to delay the eviction thus far. But they will be served with papers again in mid-January, and their options are running out. In the meantime have waged a grassroots campaign against Sun themselves — including making phone calls and boycotting his business, EKE Motorsports Inc. in El Cerrito.
Niki Khanna, a former resident of 642 Natoma St., showed up to the rally to express her support for the neighbors of 2280-2824 Folsom St.
“I lived here for at least 15 years,” Khanna said, gesturing toward her former home. “The people who lived on the second floor were here 21 years, and the people on the bottom for at least 12 years. Several of us were queer, at least three people were older and disabled. We fought as hard as we could, but it didn’t work. He was really quite awful to us. He laughed at us, and on a few occasions, his lawyer came very short of calling me names over the phone. They were pretty disgusting rude and didn’t take it seriously at all.”
“The place I used to live sold for like a million dollars,” she laughed. “It’s not worth a million dollars.”
Khanna says she fought Sun’s eviction hard, and still ended up losing. But if nothing else, Thursday’s rally did have a bright side; the tenants of 2820-2824 Folsom St. got to meet another of Sun’s victims, one of the few people who knows exactly what they’re going through.
“Do you want a hug?” Khanna asked an emotional Hayes. “Come here and give me a hug.” And everybody cheered.