A building that for almost fifteen years has provided affordable housing to artists, students, and others on a Mid-Market block is getting emptied of tenants in what's likely to be a high-profile mass eviction. This would be 1049 Market Street, a former office building which, along with two others on the block, were converted to "live-work" spaces with bed lofts and small kitchens by developer Rocky Lane in the late 90s. At least 60 tenants on 3 floors of the building have now received 60-day eviction notices, with more to come.
The units, which are under the header SF Office Lofts, range from about 300 to 600 square feet and have provided a cheap option for anyone willing to live on Market Street between 6th and 7th over the last decade, but tenants also had to contend with SRO-style shared bathrooms in the center halls.
1049 Market is a six-story building with various unit types, many of which were renting for less than $1,000 the holy grail in S.F. rentals, especially if you want to live alone. At the front and the back of the building are standard, legal, SRO-type units with windows, however the center of the building contains multiple windowless units, also equipped with loft beds and kitchens, which were never legal dwellings under current building codes but for over a decade the building flew under the radar passing itself off as commercial space. Tenants ranged in age from early-20s Art Institute students to artists and non-profit workers in their 60s, and unlike actual SROs around the corner on Sixth Street or in the Tenderloin, the building has remained by all accounts a relatively safe and sane place to live.
Lane did a similar renovation a few doors down at 1067 Market Street, and also rented live-work units at the corner of Sixth at 1005 Market, though that building remained as-is with large, old-fashioned hallways and office suites. He sold all three buildings to an ownership group in 2010 who bought them knowing that they contained illegal units, as the Examiner now reports, but who claimed they wanted to renovate in some way to make all the units legal. Now, though, they say they've exhausted all such options, and have determined that there is no economically feasible way to provide light to the center units.
We have anecdotal evidence from current tenants to suggest that tenants in windowed units were told different things when they were offered $5,000 relocation packages in the past couple of months, given that their units were not technically illegal one could argue that those tenants did not need to be evicted on the same grounds as those in illegal units. Also, the number of evictions once both 1049 and 1067 are emptied, could top 150 units, and affect upwards of 200 people.
Even Supervisor Jane Kim tells the Ex she's not sure if the tenants have much recourse, saying, "“The best-case scenario is to legalize the units and as many tenants as possible can stay."
Owner John Gall and partners, however, look determined to empty 1049 in the near term and turn it into office space, likely following with 1067 something that would have been unthinkable on Mid-Market when the previous owner bought these buildings, but which now, in the Twitter era, is going to be way more profitable than renting affordable units to creative types. And this may have been the plan all along, though he says that they've exhausted all their options to legalize the units as residences and only served the tenants notices when the Building Inspection Department reopened a six-year-old case regarding the illegal units.
Management has yet to respond to SFist.
Some tenants are now organizing, with the help of the Housing Rights Committee, and the cases of 1049 and 1067 Market may end up serving as more emblems of the city's ever-growing un-affordability. Oakland's looking better and better.
Update: SFist was able to connect with Supervisor Jane Kim later today, who offered this comment after we posted our initial story:
“I am pursuing legislative solutions with tenant advocates and community leaders to address residential and commercial non-profit displacement. We are developing additional incentives and opportunities for affordable housing production and affordable non-profit/arts commercial space. We are also exploring legislative protections for residents evicted from illegal residential units in commercial buildings.
While I am proud of our recent tenant victory to place a moratorium on condo conversions, we clearly have more work to do to cool outrageous real estate speculator interests in evicting hard working tenants throughout our City. We encourage residents at 1049 and 1067 Market to reach out to our office so that we can work together on near term solutions for their current situation. No one wants to see mass evictions in our City I certainly don’t.”
There is a hearing at City Hall Wednesday, October 9 about the displacement of non-profits at the Budget & Finance Committee, at which the public will be able to comment around 11 a.m. Also, Supervisor Kim is holding a meeting specifically for tenants of 1049 and 1067 in the lobby of 1005 Market at 8 p.m.