Finally evicted from her 670 Page Street apartment after a years-long fight, Iris Canada died shortly after the locks on her old door were changed last month at 100 years old. Her story, which housing rights activists interpreted as symbolic, or at least symptomatic, of a citywide eviction crisis, has an unfortunate afterward in David Talbot's Chronicle column today. Canada's body, he writes, is stuck in limbo at the UCSF Medical Center morgue because her prepaid funeral contract, packed away with documents and belongings during the eviction process, is stuck in a Bayview-Hunters Point storage facility.
Pedro’s Moving & Storage charges $67 a day, and since Canada's family never went to claim her belongings, they now face a $4,000 bill to get them back. “I can’t pay $4,000 or more just to see what’s inside those cartons,” Iris Merriouns, Canada's grand-niece, tells Talbot. “The family shouldn’t be forced to pay for this.”
Merriouns, who lives in Oakland, appeared to be the driving force behind Canada's battle. Canada's landlords had granted her lifetime rights to the apartment so long as she was indeed permanently living there, but a judge determined that Canada hadn't done so. That's a finding that Canada and Merriouns didn't deny, as she was seeking medical care, they maintained.
After Canada was evicted, Talbot writes that "Emails between the two sides and their attorneys show that the landlords took the step [of hiring Pedro's to move and store her belongings] after trying, repeatedly, to work out an arrangement for the family to enter the apartment to retrieve belongings and bring in movers to take everything."
There was, eventually, an intense-sounding scene at 670 Page Street with the landlords' attorney, police officers, and Merriouns on site. Merriouns was allowed into the apartment to get Canada's wheelchair and other items — but the funeral insurance contract was overlooked in the rush.
And so, instead of the cemetery plot in Colma that Canada chose for herself, her body remains at UCSF. Merriouns, it seems, wants the landlords to pay the $4,000 storage facility fees, but they say they're not financially obligated to do so, after already footing the bill for $15,000 of moving fees.
Pedro Hersmosillo owns Pedro's Moving & Storage, and he's willing to cut the price to $2,000 if Canada's relatives reclaim all her possessions. He told Talbot he feels for Canada's family, but he's been on the receiving end of evictions himself — his parents were recently evicted from their own SF apartment after their own court battle. "I understand what Iris was going through," he says.