A senior at the center of a controversial eviction battle has died, according to accounts on social media. Iris Canada, age 100, suffered a stroke over the weekend and “could not recover,” states the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco on a Facebook page memorializing her life. They confirmed with SF Weekly over the phone that the news had been passed on to their organization by Canada’s family.
Canada lived at 670 Page St. since the either the 1940s or 1960s (accounts vary), securing a $700-per-month lifetime lease after the building was sold in 2005 to co-owners Peter Owens, Stephen Owens and Carolyn Radisch.
In 2015, the battle between the owners and Canada turned ugly. The six-unit building’s owners wanted to convert it from a tenants-in-common structure to condominium status, but they need Canada’s signature to do so. Canada and her attorney refused to sign, saying it would remove her legal claim to her apartment.
But according to the building’s owners, Canada had not lived in the apartment in years, and had allowed it to fall into disrepair.
At news conferences Canada appeared petite and frail in her wheelchair, often letting family members or tenants rights advocates speak for her to the media. The attention drew dividing lines between politicians, advocacy groups, and neighbors, as Canada became the figurehead for a formerly-African American dominated neighborhood, the subsequent gentrification, and the issue of wealthy landlords buying up property while living elsewhere.
Despite the work of lawyers and housing rights organizations, on Feb. 10 the sheriff changed the locks on Canada’s apartment, solidifying her eviction.
While Canada has hopefully passed on peacefully to greener pastures, the battle continues to rage in her wake. “Imagine making it all the way to 100, and having to spend your last years fighting greedy new neighbors who move into your building and conspire to evict you so they can condo convert and inflate their property values,” states a Facebook page announcing a vigil for Canada “Their investment meant more to them than Iris Canada’s life.”
A public vigil will be held at Canada’s former home at 670 Page St. on Wednesday evening, from 5 to 7 p.m.