99-Year-Old in Eviction Fight Can Stay; Might Have To Pay $100k

A bit of good news emerged Tuesday in one of the sadder eviction stories to hit San Francisco in recent years — and, as everyone knows, these stories rarely end well — even if it reinforced the notion that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and, really, the world is full of jackasses.

Iris Canada, the 99-year-old woman who was facing eviction from her home of more than 50 years in the Lower Haight, can remain in her apartment under the terms of the unique lifetime lease she was given in 2005, according to a tentative ruling issued by Superior Court Judge James Patterson. However, it will come at a price (on top of the $700 a month she pays under the lifetime lease). The judge ordered Canada to cover the legal costs of her landlord, according to Bay City News, which could top $100,000.

[jump] After the ruling, attorneys on both sides tried to work out a settlement, although it doesn’t sound much better for Canada. The owners of 670 Page St. would waive the legal fees if Canada signs paperwork allowing them to convert the building into condos (read: big money) AND issue an apology for the allegedly aggressive legal tactics she’s used over the years. Remember, this is a 99-year-old woman who uses a wheelchair or walker to get around. Sounds like your typical neighborhood bully, right?

One of the building owners allegedly harmed by Canada is Peter Owens, who until recently was the director of housing policies in Burlington, Vermont. After Canada’s eviction story received widespread attention, Owens was pressured by housing advocates in Vermont to abandon the eviction. Instead, he opted to resign from his job. Owens, who claims he plans to move in to Canada’s unit, and his brother and wife have owned the building since 2002 — and they’re the ones who gave Canada the lifetime lease in 2005 after unsuccessfully using the state Ellis Act to evict her.

Attorneys for the owners further allege that Canada’s family interfered with the legal proceedings so much that it amounts to exploitation. They also claim Canada hasn’t lived full time in the unit since 2012 and that it’s uninhabitable. Canada says there have been times when she was absent from the apartment for long periods due to family visits or hospitalizations (for instance, she recently suffered a stroke).

Still, at least one San Francisco housing advocate saw the ruling and any potential settlement as positives for Canada.

“I think people have to understand if we hadn’t put this kind of pressure on them in the press, we wouldn’t be standing here, she would have been evicted,” Mecca said. “Evicting a 99-year-old woman is immoral and unjust no matter how they try to spin it.”

The case could return to court April 27, although Canada’s attorney Steven Adair MacDonald said an agreement could be reached by Friday.

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