When a real estate speculator tries to evict is a 98-year-old woman dependent on a caregiver, there’s bound to be some blowback.
San Francisco’s gradual gentrification — which shows no signs of stopping — has become the most important issue for residents who came to the Bay Area before the most recent tech boom.
Many recent evictions have been facilitated by the Ellis Act, a California law that enables landlords to evict tenants by temporarily shuttering their property before reselling it at a higher price.
Resistance to Ellis Act evictions is well-organised. Residents railed against the practice outside Google I/O last month.
The organisation accused Urban Green of attempting to evict Mary Elizabeth Phillips, 98, who has lived on Dolores Street in the city’s Mission district for over 40 years. Urban Green is also accused of evicting Sarah Brandt, 40, who serves as Phillips’ caregiver.
“I have always paid my rent on time and I’ve been a good tenant,” said Phillips in a flier passed out by protesters.
Impassioned residents gathered about a block away from Urban Green before marching down the street, signs and megaphones in-hand.
But the protest was short-lived. Police arrived shortly after McElroy and others began chanting on Urban Green’s porch, prompting residents to continue their rally on the sidewalk.
In her speech to passersby, McElroy touted a ballot measure that would impose a graduated tax on real-estate investors who sell their property within five years of buying it.
Those who sell their property within a year of buying it would face a 24% tax on the sale, whereas someone selling their property within five years would be taxed 14%.
“We’ve actually found that 79% of Ellis Act evictions happen within five years of ownership, which means it’s primarily speculators and investors [doing this], and that’s who we want to target with this tax,” said McElroy.
Ellis Act protests are frequently directed at San Francisco’s tech community, which is blamed for raising rents and forcing residents out of the city.
McElroy sought to draw a connection between the Urban Green protest and the larger issue the city faces.
“[Urban Green] is taking advantage of a political economy that the tech community has fuelled,” she said.
Urban Green did not respond to a request for comment.
Here’s a video of policing arriving at the scene of the protest: