|Longtime San Franciscan
Grace Wells is the 83 year-old Lower Haight/Western Addition resident
at the center of San Francisco's latest controversy around senior and owner
move-in evictions. June Croucher, who owns the building where Grace lives
at 908 Page Street, would like to remodel the house, combining three units
into what housing activists say would create a mansion for the landlord
at the expense of an affordable home for Grace. The retiree has lived in
the building since 1989, and in the neighborhood since 1942. In 2000, in
a case that was widely reported, 89 year-old Mission District resident Videll
Murphy was forced into homelessness after being evicted from her home of
seven years for an owner move-in. Following the eviction, Murphy slept in
a senior center for three months before finding someplace else to stay.
In San Francisco, seniors account for more than 25% of tenants evicted under
the controversial Ellis Act, a state
law that allows an owner to evict tenants, move into the property or sell
it to real estate speculators, and temporarily remove the property from
the rental market.
Owner move-in evictions are just a cover for making more money. This San Franciscan asks himself, "If it were my property, and I wanted a mansion, would I have room in it for Grace?" I would certainly feel some responsibility. I guess it all comes down to whether we all have basic responsibilities toward fellow members of Team Earth. Apparently, a lot of people decided in 1986, when they passed the Ellis Act, that the answer is no.
Epilogue: In April of 2004, Grace Wells reached a settlement with her landlord, June Croucher. The agreement required Grace to vacate her apartment by March, 2004 in exchange for undisclosed financial compensation. Wells' attorney Dean Preston called the settlement a "great success" for Wells.
Copyright 2001 Hank Donat