Diego Deleo was first threatened with an Ellis Act eviction in 2013, a year after the death of his wife. He's been fighting ever since, and this week a rally in North Beach with poets and activists is planned to help his cause and call further attention to the crisis of evictions in San Francisco.
“My name is Diego Deleo," the now 81-year-old told KALW at the time. "I live in North Beach, and I have been Ellis Acted about two months ago so I have another 10 months to stay, and then I move out. I have to."
“I live in North Beach 40 years, 40 years," Deleo went on. "I moved in there with the wife. Now, she passed away. I’m by myself. The doctor said find something to do, because I was too lonely. It’s terrible to be alone. I started to write." And write he did. Fellow poet and housing activist Tony Robles says of Deleo that "he is the best kept secret in San Francisco poetry,” praising his book "Encore."
Deleo was able to fight back eviction in 2014 with the help of lawyer Steve Collier, Beyond Chron recalled this month. “It is like a death sentence," Deleo now says of his eviction, which he's still fighting to this day. "For one to be faced with eviction, at 81 years-old, in a city where the rent could be in excess of $4,000.00. It is such a travesty that elders are expelled from San Francisco, just so wealthy landlords can make a few dollars more.”
Hoodline has it that Deleo's apartment is a Chestnut Street backyard cottage that's now owned by Martin Coyne, a man who according to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is the owner of North Beach bar La Rocca's Corner on Columbus. The Ellis Act is used in situations where a landlord is leaving the renting business, and Coyne has reportedly evicted other tenants in the Chestnut Street building, with Deleo a holdout. Deleo began renting the apartment under a different owner and his rent is fixed by an agreement between that owner and Coyne at no more than $800 per month.
While Deleo has a hearing next month, an event on Thursday will asks others to join in the fight. "The rally includes tenants who have experienced eviction, poets Jack Hirschman, Aggie Falk-Hirschman and members of the Revolutionary Poets brigade" A press release explains. "The rally is sponsored by Senior and Disability Action, Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Manilatown Heritage Foundation, Tenderloin Housing Clinic and the SF Anti-displacement Coalition. It will be held in Washington Square park at noon.