Monday, December 22, 2008

Endings and organic cat litter

My next-door neighbors are being evicted. They have lived in their apartments for a long time -- must be over 20 years. We've been here 16 years and they were already long timers on the block when we got here.

This isn't about the current recession/depression. (We need a word for what we are experiencing; I've seen "Econolypse", but my partner says that won't do because it is hard to figure out how to pronounce it.) This isn't about people losing their jobs or getting sick or failing to pay the rent.

It's about the reality that the six unit building in which they have lived isn't making as much money for its owners as perhaps it could. Or at least as it could have about 18 months ago when this process was started. Now, who knows what a run-down pre-1900 building is worth in the current real estate environment?

My friends are being thrown out under the Ellis Act, a California State law designed to exempt owners from the city's rent control rules. Here's how the San Francisco Tenants Union explains it:

The "Ellis Act" ... is a state law which says that landlords have the unconditional right to evict tenants to "go out of business." For an Ellis eviction, the landlord must remove all of the units in the building from the rental market, i.e., the landlord must evict all the tenants and can not single out one tenant (with low rent) and/or remove just one unit from the rental market. When a landlord invokes the Ellis Act, the apartments can not be re-rented, except at the same rent the evicted tenant was paying, for five years following the evictions. While there are restrictions on ever re-renting the units, there are no such restrictions on converting them to ownership units (e.g., tenancies in common or condos).

So, presumably, some day, we're going to have condos next door. Or the owners could tear it down and build something else, but even that couldn't include market rate rental units for five years.

The current economic situation may come back to wallop this owner. It's hard to imagine an investor getting into speculative development of this building at the present time.

Since I like my neighbors, I'm not much worried about the problems that the landlord may have bought himself. I'm just sad to see good folks pushed out of their homes. Fortunately, they do seem to have contrived places to go, more out of the city than not. They've been dismantling their homes for months, very gradually. They've had several huge garage sales. Now they are down to the bitter end.

So we get calls: "Do you want a ladder?" Not really, we have several. "Do you want some shutters?" No, no need for shutters. "How about a chest of drawers?" No, no room.

"How about an old, small hibachi?" Finally, it seemed only polite to take something as friends break up a life's patterns. Okay, on the hibachi.

The true bitter end is the garden. They had put over 20 years of work into making the backyard bloom with flowers and organic vegetables. "Do you want these flowers?" "Do you want some fruit trees?" Well no, we don't have place or enough light for fruit trees. We finally took some potted irises that may bloom in the spring.

Today the true end: "do you want some sacks of gravel?" Oh, okay. We've just put in a garden path over here, we might be able to use it. Finally, "do you want some organic cat litter?" Doubt if our finicky feline will accept it, but how could I say no?

We've reached a point at which the only way we can express our sorrow over our friends' departure is to take their leavings.

1 comment:

Nell said...

The true bitter end is the garden. They had put over 20 years of work into making the backyard bloom with flowers and organic vegetables.

This stabs at my heart. What a sad, sad situation -- and at Christmas.

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