Iris Canada died at age 100 a month after her eviction in 2017, and the case that galvanized tenant activists just ended with a whimper of ‘Sure, build the condos.’
Very few San Francisco eviction tales generated the level of raw emotion (and international press coverage) of the Iris Canada eviction saga, which exploded in the local media in 2016 when the owners of the Page Street building where she rented an apartment tried to evict the 99-year-old to and convert the unit to condos. Legal twists continued and loud public protests dragged on for about a year as Canada became the sort of classic embodiment of the displacement of the elderly and people of color during a then-housing boom, but Canada was indeed evicted in February 2017 at the age of 100, and the public relations nightmare got worse for the owners and eviction notice server Sheriff Vicki Hennessy when Canada died a month later and the “Eviction killed her!” storyline was crystallized in the public mind.
But the story didn’t end there. Curbed SF reported in early 2018 that the Planning Commission still denied the condo conversion request because of their sheer uncomfortableness with the eviction of a 100-year-old woman. That ruling was upheld in a trial court appeal. But we do now have closure, and perhaps not in the good way, as the San Francisco Business Times reports that on Friday, a California Court of Appeals overruled the Planning Commission and the Lower Haight apartment can be converted to condos.
That ruling was consistent with what the building’s owners claimed, which is that Canada was didn’t live there much, as she was so elderly and infirmed that she was always in the care of relatives and could not live independently. “The evidence here shows unambiguously that beginning in 2012 that Canada was no longer able to live alone safely, that her relatives cared for her in their homes, that she was physically present at her apartment only sporadically and for short times,” a three-judge appeals panel said in their ruling.
The “new” owners of the house at 670 Page Street actually bought it in 2002, and promptly Ellis Act-ed five of the six units for condo and tenancy-in-common conversions. In Canada’s case, though, they gave her a deal to live out her years there on a $700-a-month rent contingent on various terms being honored. The owners claimed she didn’t honor the terms by essentially living elsewhere with relatives, and do now finally have their green light for a condo conversion.
This case was not typical, in the sense that so few people actually live to be 100 so it’s not like you see many 100-year-olds get evicted. Moreover, this may not be a done deal yet, as a spokesperson for city attorney Dennis Herrera tells the SF Business Times that the office is “weighing our options.”
Image: @taramoriarty1 via Twitter