Finally, an exit strategy evolves. My attorney has negotiated a settlement with the landlord. It involves money and I get to stay in the apartment until the end of the year.
Like so many other things in this process I’m not free to discuss all the details. Which has diluted my original vision for this blog. I thought there would be all kinds of Perry Mason histrionics to report on. Then it would culminate with me in the witness stand, pointing my finger and yelling “you lying bitch!” I even died my hair platinum in solidarity with Lana Turner.
In reality, the things I could have written about were pretty boring. Ellis Act evictions are procedural matters, the courts never came close to trying the facts of my desperate but heartrending story. Instead attorneys argued over whether the 15 days started tolling on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Or whether I should have been served a copy of a notice that had been served to my neighbor. Who wants to read those dry arguments when there are tales of assassination drag to tell.
If I had prevailed in any of those procedural matters my Ellis Eviction would have been invalidated and the landlord would need to start over at square one. Which means I would have been given another year’s notice. At that point he could have dropped the whole thing or might have been motivated to pursue a more generous buy-out option. The former seems highly unlikely although it was the result I hoped for. I wanted to stay in San Francisco. Realistic goals are not my forte.
Since I can no longer afford to live in the City I’ve set my sights on Southern California. I’ve spent a lot of time there and I do enjoy it. My biggest fear is the adjustment it will take from the urban anonymity I love to the suburban nosy neighbor-ness I loathe. I hope I’m wrong about that.
Most of my childhood was spent in Indiana but for five years my family lived in the San Fernando Valley. I started kindergarten in Reseda and it was there I would later learn to read the local newspaper. In my case, the LA Times. I focused mainly on the comics. And pictures of Debbie Reynolds getting off the plane still wearing Eddie’s ring. Maybe that evil Liz didn’t break up their marriage after all.
But nothing topped the imagery of the Cheryl Crane murder trial. The depth of my understanding was limited to the photos but I was convinced Cheryl was just a poor girl trying to protect her mother. And the picture of a distraught Lana showing up at court made an indelible impression on my 8-year-old mind.
To honor the solemnity of the occasion Miss Turner dressed down in a simple black sheath and pearls. She topped it off, however, with the shortest, whitest platinum hair I’d ever seen. And sunglasses so black they looked opaque. Being a star, I’m sure she would have been happy to have worn opaque ones if it produced the right effect.
What that woman wouldn’t do in the pursuit of justice…
My appeal has been denied. And it only took a week.
The Court of Appeal had been taking four months to issue decisions which resulted in a huge backlog of cases. So they’ve started summarily rejecting anything filed by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic without review. That’s one way to handle a backlog.
But judges are people too, they have the same real estate investments as their other wealthy friends. It’s in their interest to keep this real estate bubble growing. It seems neither City Government, State Government or the Courts are willing to take on the housing affordability crisis. They know which side their bread is buttered on.
My attorney says I might have to be out of my apartment in 30 to 60 days. He’s mulling our options. I have faith in him, he’s creative and passionate about what he does. And the THC attorneys are about the only ones in town willing to fight for renters. I meet with him tomorrow.
I woke up this morning to find this peaceful slumberer outside my window. As they remodel the old apartments next door and turn them into million dollar condos or $4200 a month one bedroom rentals, life in the streets goes on.
I hope he woke up naturally and not by a two by four being thrown over the side.
My Motion has been denied. We did not achieve Quash.
I spoke to my attorney on Friday and Judge Ronald Quidachy ruled against us on all of our issues. Some of them have been raised in other cases that are still being appealed. So things could change if the Appellate Division reverses one of them. And we will be filing our own appeal as well. The battle is lost, the war goes on.
In the 1950’s there was a television show called Line-Up that was the San Francisco answer to LA’s Dragnet. The reruns were recycled in the 60’s as San Francisco Beat. I don’t remember too much about the shows other than the semicircular windows. They served as the back drop for the office full of gum shoes hammering away on Royal typewriters in a Pall Mall haze.
Those arched windows made an indelible impression on me. They were huge and looked like they went to the floor. How cool to work in such a dramatic setting. I was hoping for such an office when I went to work for the San Francisco District Attorney in the 1970’s. Alas, all the new Hall of Justice could offer was an interior closet with no natural light.
My job as clerk was to accompany the Assistant DA to Municipal Court every morning. In the afternoons I would wait for delivery of the next morning’s docket, tractor-fed printouts two feet wide and weighing about five pounds. I would pull the files for the few cases that had them. Most only had the original police report which wasn’t of much use .
There could be 200 or more cases called every morning and we went through them at a blistering pace. 90% were answered with “continuance” “so stipulated” or “no objection.” A handful required an appearance by the defendant that could last a couple of minutes. When I saw them coming on the list I would slide the file over to the DA for her to quickly review–probably for the first time.
My moment to shine came when someone failed to appear. If they were on probation I would point to the far right column. The DA would rise to say “Bench Warrant.” I felt so empowered. I wasn’t exactly an Officer of the Court because I’m not an attorney but I was probably functioning on the Meter Maid level. Despite this power surge, I really hated putting people in jail.
I thought the proceedings were intentionally abstruse to keep the Court bureaucracy humming. Sometimes I just wanted to tell the defendant to fill out Form 5A-j and they’d be in the clear. The judge could have easily said the same thing. Instead he would hound the defendant about not having proper representation and not to come back without it. I guess if a dine and dash goes horribly wrong you need someone well versed in 5A-j law to keep you out of the electric chair.
This employment mill feeling existed amongst the attorneys as well. They all attended the same law schools and were intimately familiar with each others’ firms. And the firm the judge came from. They depended on each other for their livelihood. To have an adversarial system you need two sides so, although the money side almost always wins, occasionally the plebeians prevail to keep the game going.
I also think it’s why so much legislation is vaguely or poorly written. It gives the attorneys something to argue about.
In the pursuit of justice and keeping the legal profession afloat I hope the courts throw a little of that nuance juju my way.
I’ve learned why the Judge is taking so long to rule on my Motion to Quash. I read the transcript for my neighbor’s hearing which was held two weeks after mine and during the proceedings the Judge mentioned my case. Three of the six issues raised in my Motion had already been denied by him in other cases. But they are all being appealed so he is waiting for the Appellate Court to rule before he makes a decision in mine. It could be a few more weeks. So life goes on.
Yesterday life took me down to the Civic Center where I marveled at two double-decker tour buses making their way up Larkin. They had a combined total of three tourists riding on them. It’s a common sight these days in this very green city. Then there was the bride bounding up the steps of City Hall in the bright mid-day sun, doing her bit to preserve the sanctity of the photo-op.
Nothing against photo-ops but it is mainly the tourists I’ve been thinking about this week. It started Sunday evening on my way home from dinner in Berkeley. When I exited the Powell Bart Station the street was swarming with people at 9:00. Locals are never downtown this time of night, the crowd was all from the neighborhood hotels.
They come to Union Square to shop in the same chain stores that are in every other major city. Somehow it’s more special to buy that tube top here in San Francisco. You can always exchange it at the mall when you get home to Tampa.
On Tuesday I went with Kathy to see the Ai Weiwei Installation on Alcatraz. I still haven’t made up my mind about it. Although elements of it were beautiful I didn’t quite get the feeling the artist was going for. The images of political prisoners juxtaposed against the antiquated prison facility were supposed to leave me with something. But they didn’t. I blame the tourists.
Alcatraz was inundated with them, the ferries that left every half hour were packed with hundreds per crossing. I couldn’t believe so many people would want to be out and about on such a dreary, rainy April day. But the tour probably came with their package and they weren’t about to be cheated.
This crowd was a little more interesting than the Union Square one because there was a lot of German, French, and Italian being spoken. Still, a herd is a herd and the constant jostling mixed with the barrage of stupid questions gets on your nerves.
When you live in San Francisco you quickly learn to block out the touristy parts of town. Millions visit here every year but there’s an art to knowing which places or areas to avoid. If done properly you can go weeks without making contact.
I probably go to Union Square the most, once or twice a month, and Chinatown a few times per year. But I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz over the last four decades. There really is no reason to go there other than a travel agent suckering you into it.
The comments I’ve gotten from readers over the last several months have usually been along the lines of “take that picture of me down or I’ll sue.” But there have been others.
One was from a journalism student in Denver who wanted to interview me about the current rental crisis in the City. Unfortunately, I was out-of-town the week he was here. And recently there was the reader who said he and his family were interested in buying this building until he happened upon my blog.
Daniel Brett, who works in the social investing field, wrote, “I communicated to the broker that we don’t support people using the Ellis Act to flip properties. Hopefully the message was shared with the owner so they think twice before doing this again. Had I not come across your blog and learned about the owner, we might have bought the place. So kudos to you for speaking truth to power.”
In writing about my situation I tend to treat the real estate industry as a monolith of greed because it’s so much easier to deal in stereotypes than to think things through. Mr. Brett’s email made me realize that they’re not all the same and that there are still players in the game who have a sense of responsibility. Their practices should put the Andrew Zachs, Denise Leadbetters, and Vince Youngs of the world on notice that you can make money in real estate without ruining people’s lives.
Still no decision from the court after two weeks and my neighbor’s hearing has been postponed a couple of times. All because of the huge backlog in Ellis Act cases.
So while I wait I’ve turned my attention to the Hoosier State where I grew up and where a lot of my family still lives. I visit them often. And when I do the number one topic of conversation is always that they don’t have enough freedom to practice their religion and how the government has failed to step in to tackle this oppression.
I notice it especially when we’re at one of our favorite Amish restaurants for lunch. The piped-in Muzak is this heavy on the tremolo organ playing hymns like “The Old Rugged Cross.” There is no better aid to the digestion than the feeling of being at a Dust Bowl funeral.
But seriously, I thought my work was done back there when we liberated the state in the early 70’s. Apparently it’s time for a second offensive.
With this, the 100th post to my blog, I thought it was time to introduce our mascots, Adam and Anna Mongel. They were my Great-Great Grandparents who emigrated from Germany around 1850. Family lore has it that Mary’s shoulders were slumped from years of schlepping water buckets. They were both said to be very hard workers, a trait that has since been bred from the line.
My hearing to quash the Ellis Act proceedings was on Tuesday. We are still awaiting the judge’s decision. Of the six issues that were raised, the judge was skeptical about three but seemed interested in a couple of them. And it only takes one. So we wait……