The two-and-a-half-year-old saga of 1049 Market Street continues this week as the landlord, at this point desperate to convert his half-empty residential property into office space, is invoking the Ellis Act after all else has failed to get rid of the remaining tenants. The tenants were served Ellis notices either this week or last, and today they rallied outside building, which sits between Sixth and Seventh Streets, to draw new attention to their plight.

The problem for the landlord is partly political, as he learned when Supervisor Jane Kim stepped in back in 2013 to advocate on behalf of the tenants, partly financial, and partly bureaucratic. The city is short on affordable housing as it is, and this building, regardless of the gray area it occupied with some illegal units in its core, represents a large source of rent-controlled housing in the neighborhood. The current owner clearly wants to capitalize on the high office rents that are being commanded in the neighborhood, while Kim's office and the tenants want to stress that this eviction is unprecedented in its size, and that the landlord shouldn't be able to get off so easily.

Last we heard, one year ago, a couple dozen tenants remained in the building out of some 100+ tenants who occupied the building as of 2012, when landlord John Gall purchased it along with two others on the block — collectively known as SF Office Lofts, but operating as full-time residential complexes since the mid-1990s. Units rented typically for less than $1000/month, most with shared, SRO-style bathrooms spread on five stories. 60 or so tenants voluntarily vacated over the course of 2013 after payouts of around $2,000 to $5,000 apiece were offered to them, and then the eviction drama kicked off.

Gall appears to have purchased the buildings with the hopes of potentially converting all of them office, starting with this one based on a 2007 inspection by the city's Department of Building Inspection that determined the living units in the building's core, which lacked windows, were illegal. Gall has argued that it's economically infeasible to build the light wells that would render these units legal, but the city has argued that he would face fines for taking residential units off the market and evicting everyone.

Per the release from the Housing Rights Committee and Tenderloin Housing Clinic, this would represent the largest single eviction in San Francisco since the I-Hotel in 1968.

The Ellis Act, of course, allows a landlord to "go out of business" and convert units either to for-sale residential or some non-residential use, either of which might be possible here, but the question remains if the landlord has to go out of business on this building, what happens to the tenants a few doors up at 1067 Market, which also houses dozens of students and artists in similar "live-work" units that were all renovated at the same time in the 1990s.

And this is the third or fourth time Gall has issued eviction notices — other notices over the last two and a half years have gone unenforced and have had to be rescinded by order of the city. In February of 2015, Gall also issued a subpoena for Kim in a lawsuit claiming that she was "target[ing] a particular property owner to prevent the abatement of hazardous conditions because that property owner needs to evict tenants in order to restore safety."

Says longtime tenant Naomi Cooper, a retired teacher, "Where will I go if I’m pushed out of my rent-controlled home that I've lived in since 2000?"

Another longtime tenant, Tony Breaux, an artist and also a retiree, says, "They want to steal 84 rent controlled affordable units from the market, forcing this diverse community of artists and seniors to leave our city. We refuse to allow it."

It remains to be seen whether the city, or Supervisor Kim, will have any recourse against this latest effort.

Previously: The Latest Chapter In The 1049 Market Saga: New Eviction Notices, Subpeona For Jane Kim