Hotel assistance is being rescinded next month for the nearly 500 displaced residents of the flooded 33 Tehama building, just as they learn they can’t move back in "until late 2022 or even early 2023.”
When the 35-story, 383-unit apartment building 33 Tehama was flooded and evacuated some seven weeks ago, the displaced tenants were initially put up in hotels. But many quickly alerted SFist that their hotel reservations were revoked because a conference was in town, and they’d be forced to fend for themselves until they could move back in. Their return date was originally supposed to be in mid-June, but was then “pushed back to July 1 at the earliest,” according to KRON4.
July 1 obviously came and went a few weeks back, and residents remained in a Kafka-esque limbo. Yet Monday was an eventful day for those tenants, though not in a good way. The Chronicle reported Monday that the tenants would not be able to move back in "until late 2022 or even early 2023," according to a letter sent to them by the managing real estate investment firm Hines.
While tenants at 33 Tehama have been receiving $300 a day to cover “housing alternatives” those subsidies will expire in 30 days, on Aug. 17. Most residents stayed in hotels after the flood. https://t.co/FllQdyEidE— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) July 19, 2022
SFist obtained that letter too, and folks, that’s not even the worst of the bad news.
“We were able to provide our residents with some form of temporary housing assistance by way of per diem payments, hotel accommodations or rent credit,” the letter from Hines says. “However, due to the extended repair and re-occupancy timeline, we are unable to continue providing such assistance. As such, effective at the end of the day on August 17, 2022, this assistance will terminate.”
“Because there was no eviction sought by management, and because the displacement on June 3 was forced by a disaster that happened without warning, we have satisfied any and all legal obligations with respect to such payments,” the letter states.
And does this sound like a white-glove eviction? “We hope that all of you elect to return once the job is done,” the letter continues. “However, you still have the option to terminate your lease without penalty at any time between now and the expiration of the re-offer notification period, which notification will be issued in a separate written invitation to re-occupy the property.”
Tenants smell a rat. "After evacuating our homes without notice, followed by a month-and-a-half of pure chaos and confusion from Hines, I'm shocked that they're now encouraging residents to break their leases and move out," tenant Brian Tillman told the SF Business Times. "As of now, they're expecting us to secure new housing, move and pack our units in two-hour daily increments."
The district’s supervisor Matt Dorsey put out his own letter Monday asking “to accelerate placements for tenants of some 60 below-market-rate units at 33 Tehama by next month in order to spare low- and moderate-income renters burdensome of out-of-pocket costs, and to provide guidance to market-rate renters about all available resources to help mitigate their displacement.” From the looks of the tweet below, the first half of that equation (accelerated placement for BMR tenants) is at least in the “investigating options” phase.
Our office remains in close communication with 33 Tehama, as well as Supervisor Dorsey’s office to ensure that all available resources are provided to support the relocation of all tenants, and we are investigating options to further expedite the relocation process. (5/6)— Mayor’s Office of Housing & Community Development (@sfmohcd) July 19, 2022
“I’m separately asking City Attorney David Chiu’s office to assess the adequacy of the 33 Tehama landlord’s handling of its displaced residents and to work with the Department of Building Inspection to determine if a civil cause of action exists under California’s Unfair Competition Law for the underlying water main failure,” Dorsey’s letter added. “My request isn’t intended to accuse anyone of specific wrongdoing, but rather to provide the fullest assurance possible to 33 Tehama residents.”
It’s been really hard to watch from the sidelines as residents of #33Tehama have been forced out of their homes… most of these folks have been put in hotels and soon they may be forced out yet again. This is a huge tragedy and failure: https://t.co/elYBiBeNjO— Honey Mahogany (@honeymahogany) July 19, 2022
Dorsey’s November opponent for the District 6 seat Honey Mahogany is easily jumping on the low-lying fruit, and drawing lines of comparison. “A permanent relocation package needs to be reached for all the residents,” she writes in a subsequent tweet. “But I too am most concerned for those in BMR’s who were already at risk for displacement and thought they had won the BMR lottery only to experience this tragedy.”
That District 6 race is expected to be competitive. Consider that in 2019, now-District 5 supervisor Dean Preston bested Vallie Brown (also appointed by Breed) by fewer than 200 hundred votes. And then consider that this November, the people displaced from this building may represent far more than 200 votes.
Image: Courtesy 33 Tehama tenants