Massive Ellis Act Eviction, Possibly City's Biggest-Ever, at Mid-Market Lofts

The saga of 1049 Market Street — affordable live-work lofts populated by artists, photographers, and musicians near Civic Center — just took another turn, after the landlord there filed what activists say is the biggest Ellis Act eviction in the city's history to get the remaining tenants out.

Since the fall of 2013, an ownership group led by San Mateo County resident John Gall, a Stanford grad and former pro baseball player, has been trying to remove residential tenants from some of the 84 units at 1049 Market Street, a former commercial building that at some point, possibly in the wild bygone days of the 1990s, was converted — illegally — to residential use. 

Gall has said that returning the building to its legal purpose of commercial use and converting the lofts to offices is the only way his investors' financials work out.

Now it appears he's taking the nuclear option, using the Ellis Act — a state law that allows a landlord to empty a building in order to “go out of business” and then sell it, albeit with restrictions — to get the tenants out, according to housing activists, who are planning a rally at the building for later today. 

[jump] Gall has sought various remedies to return the building to commercial use: demolition permits, building permits, and buyouts, but has seen some of his efforts foiled by a City Hall sensitive to the spectacle of a mass eviction on Mid-Market, which has become the city's de-facto tech corridor. (The headquarters of Twitter and Uber are just a few blocks away.)

At one point, the city's Department of Building Inspection gave 1049 Market a notice of violation for illegally converting to residential use, apparently giving Gall a path forward. But efforts by Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the area, stalled any action on getting the tenants out.

The tenants at 1049 Market pay well under $1,000 for decent-sized rooms with kitchenettes. There are shared bathrooms on most floors.

Some of the building is already empty, as some tenants have taken buyouts. It's not clear how many tenants are left, but activists with the Housing Rights Committee are clearly making a stand at 1049 Market (which, if emptied of tenants, could be the biggest mass eviction in San Francisco history since the International Hotel imbroglio of the late 1970s).

“They want to steal 84 rent controlled affordable units from the market, forcing this diverse community of artists and seniors to leave our city. We refuse to allow it,” said Tony Breaux, a 1049 resident, in a press statement emailed to media. “San Francisco has thousands of good honest landlords who want to help solve the housing crisis. Every landlord and renter should unite against bad apple landlords who choose to make the housing crisis so much worse.”

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