Back in March, the story of Bernal Heights resident Deborah Follingstad getting pushed out of her home of ten years went viral around the Bay Area after she posted the notice from her landlord on Facebook upping her rent from $2145 to $8900. Now, as of today's deadline, Follingstad has left the apartment on Bocana Street after having a garage sale over the weekend, as ABC 7 reports, though her lawsuit against the landlord goes on.
She says, "It's so painful and I've had to uproot my life in a month," and says that she'll be couch-surfing now and doesn't know what she'll do next. She has a acupuncture practice here but says she doesn't know if she can afford to stay in the city.
The story behind Follingstad's ersatz eviction is a complicated one involving a loophole in tenant law when it comes to single-family homes which is what Follingstad's two-unit building turned out to be classified as in city records and a squabble within the family of the landlord which led to her desire to move into the Bocana Street house herself. The landlord, Nadia Lama, was left the property after the death of her father in 2012, who owned a number of buildings in the neighborhood. As KQED reported after digging through records relating to the trust, Lama was being forced out of her home a few doors away, by her own siblings, as of the end of April and therefore needed a place to live herself. But in order to save herself the $8,000 or $10,000 that it might have cost her in relocation fees to Follingstad under proper owner move-in eviction proceedings and perhaps to save time because she needed to move in soon she and her lawyer went about this alternate means of pushing Follingstad out. Follingstad's neighbor, Wayne Moore, who had occupied the downstairs unit for over two decades, was also forced out in recent months.
Lama's attorney tried to paint a picture of Follingstad as a shady tenant who was profiting off Airbnb rentals, and also used the case as a reason to express her own criticisms of rent control law to the Chronicle, suggesting totally disingenuously, "If owners were allowed modest increases over time, we would not see this kind of dramatic rent increase required."
But the rent increase had nothing to do with rent control and everything to do with the fact that Lama needed a place to live, and this building was a main part of her inheritance. And it's pretty clear, anecdotally, that the Lamas had not made a habit of being great landlords over the years, and were not following rent-control law in hiking rents anyway.
In a Facebook statement from Nadia Lama after Follingstad's story went viral, Lama said, "I know my friends know the truth and I pray greedy is a word that never has and NEVER will apply to me."