A Woo By Any Other Name

The home of my defender, the THC, at 126 Hyde
The home of my defender, the THC, at 126 Hyde

The Motion to Quash was filed yesterday and we await the Judge’s decision at next Tuesday’s hearing. The wheels of justice finally begin to turn.

When I was making the rounds a year ago seeking counsel, agencies would always ask who my landlord’s attorney was. When I said “Denise Leadbetter” there was almost a uniform “ugh.”  I heard things like “not one of my favorite people” or “not easy to deal with.”

But I also heard that she would only do the preliminaries. When it came to the heavy lifting, litigating the matter, she would turn it over to her husband, Andrew M. Zachs. Which is what’s happened in my case,  freeing Ms. Leadbetter up to work on the quadrupling rent case featured in today’s Chron.

Back in those early stages I did notice a certain lack of attention to detail on Ms. Leadbetter’s part. In the original Owner Move In eviction and then again in the Ellis Notice two months later she failed to acknowledge that I was a senior. She and the landlord knew this from the Realtor Disclosure Form. But this may have been more of a legal tactic than an oversight. The burden was on me to state my protected status rather than on her to acknowledge she already knew.

In early 2014 when I was thinking of dealing with her directly we played phone tag for a couple of weeks. She finally sent me a letter asking that I call her as soon as possible. She ended it with “Tanks very much.”

Then there was also the original OMI Eviction Notice in December 2013 where she stated the building was owned by Vince Young and the “Young Family Trust D/D/T February 5, 200.” By my calculation that would place it in the Han Dynasty.

The only time we ever spoke was when we met at the Rent Board Hearing. She was nice enough that day although the sharp elbows did come out a couple of times.

At one point she said that I needed to return the money Vince Young gave me for the OMI eviction that he later withdrew. I told her that an attorney at the Tenants Union told me it was moot and that I was not required to return it.

She shot back, “you couldn’t have spoken to an attorney at the Tenants Union. Only paralegals work as counselors there.”

I said I knew the firm he used to work for and that I would get her his bar number if she liked.

She was insistent, “you could not have spoken to an attorney there.”

At the end of the hearing she said she’d like to work with me in finding a resolution. I said that I’d been using the Tenderloin Housing Clinic and that any negotiations should be done through them. She asked who I was working with. I said Jeffrey Woo.

She pounced, “you couldn’t have spoken to Jeffrey Woo. He’s in private practice at Cooper White.”

“The attorney who did my intake was Jeffrey Woo.”

“You couldn’t have…” Well, you get the picture. I just let it drop. Sometimes it’s better not to engage.

In retrospect I’m willing to cut her some slack. In her days at Santa Clara Law School she probably skipped the course on The Law of Common Surnames.

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The Eviction Story

Contact: ellistoellis@gmail.com

Visions of Carlotta

My hero, Hazel Wassername. "I know your kids' names and what they wore to school today."
My hero, Hazel Wassername. “I know your kids’ names and what they wore to school today.”

The false hope of January ended in nothing getting accomplished. Three weeks of thinking I had representation only to find out I didn’t had me bingeing on 30 Rock episodes and eating brown rice. The eviction clock was ticking and I had no idea what to do.

I finally accepted that I was going to have to negotiate with Vince Young’s attorney myself. And I thought of a last-ditch trip to the Tenants Union even though no agency or attorney seemed willing to help me.

I first visited the Tenants Union earlier in October when we had inklings that the building was to be sold. The woman who was the counselor that day assured me that I was protected by my senior status. I thanked her and told her I felt better about the situation. She said she understood. She lived in a 16 unit building herself and even though she knew she was protected she still worried about eviction. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of legal certitude. 

The day I decided to return I thought I should at least talk to the landlord’s attorney .i felt I should get a better feel for his intentions before I met with the counselor. But I didn’t want to do it. I hated the idea of confrontation and had no skills at negotiating. I procrastinated on making the call as I made my way to the Tenants Union. 

I stopped on Fern Alley off Polk Street and pulled out my phone. There were too many hustlers and meth heads hanging out. I walked on to City Hall thinking that would be the appropriate spot. The Bacon Bacon truck was parked in the plaza, I would be too distracted. I kept going until it dawned on me “The Mission.” It’s the oldest building in the City, it’s where it all began.

The first place I lived was around the corner on 17th Street, a railroad flat I shared with 6 other people. We overlooked the cemetery from the back landing. For historical purposes alone this is where I should place the call.

I’m not a spiritual or religious person so prayer wasn’t the reason I was there. But there is no harm in making a wish or going through the motions of seeking divine intervention. It’s a lifetime practice for Catholics. I entered through the gift shop and let the elderly woman at the register explain the highlights to me. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d been there many times.

I walked into the adobe church and looked at the red and gold chevrons painted on the cross beams. I always liked them because they were the same colors as the 49ers. I just hoped that the Niners got the idea from the friars and not vice versa. The other colors that interested me were the fauvist amber stained glass windows in the basilica. Their moodiness seemed to imply doubt and uncertainty, issues you usually didn’t raise with the congregation.

I exited the basilica and walked into the graveyard where Hitchcock had filmed Vertigo. I wasn’t going to find a quieter place than this. I braced myself, dialed and waited. It went to voicemail. Deflated, I left a message to call me back but gave no other details.  The odyssey continued on to the Tenants Union.

Rocky horror mission visit. Who knew they'd be closed at 3 am? At least we were first in line for 6 o'clock mass.
Rocky horror mission visit. Who knew they’d be closed at 3 am? At least we were first in line for 6 o’clock mass.

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The Eviction Story

Contact: ellistoellis@gmail.com