One of San Francisco’s strangest eviction fights continues.
Iris Canada, 100 years of age, may soon have to vacate her Page Street home of many decades. (Precisely how many decades it's been varies a bit depending on who you ask, but at least 50 years.) Although she was previously awarded effective ownership of her apartment by way of a $700/month mortgage, back in April Canada lost a case over control of the unit in state court.
The judge granted her permission to stay in the building anyway, but now she’s looking at ouster again, since she’s still on the hook for her landlords’ $160,000-plus legal fees.
Now, a new wrinkle: On Wednesday, landlord Peter Owens forwarded a letter to Curbed SF addressed to Canada’s niece, Iris Merriouns (chief of staff for Oakland’s Vice Mayor Larry Reid). Owens alleges that Merriouns is the real root of the conflict, saying that she’s quashed past compromises and is angling to own or sell the unit for her own benefit.
"Why Iris Canada, a 100-year-old woman, who just declared bankruptcy, would possibly want to purchase a San Francisco two-bedroom condominium even if she could force a purchase is beyond rationale," writes Owens.
Previously, Owens’ attorney Mark Chernev told Curbed SF that his clients will wave the fees and halt the eviction if Canada simply agrees to sign off on the long-desired condo conversion plan for the building.
The landlords claim that Canada actually moved out of the building in 2012, invalidating her legal claim to the apartment, and that Merriouns’ meddling is the only reason Canada has not agree to the condo bargain.
Firing back, Merriouns called the allegations "a complete lie." She tells Curbed SF that Canada’s absences from her home were hospital stays and vacations. "We canceled her Meals on Wheels and they interpreted that as a change of residency," Merriouns says. "They just want her out of the way. She hasn’t done anything wrong except live."
Merriouns and Canada’s stepdaughter Blanche insist that the landlords let Canada stay this long (the building sold in 2002) only because the law forbids Ellis Act eviction of a senior, rather than out of a sense of charity.
Merriouns also accuses Owens and building co-owners Stephen Owens and Carolyn Radisch of a campaign of harassment and abuse, saying that the elderly Canada never really understood what they were asking of her.
"My mother and dad lived in that apartment since 1962," says Canada’s daughter. "When Dad died, my mom was still living in that apartment. It’s the only place she’s ever known, and the people there knew my mother and my father too."
As for Chernev’s offer to allow Canada to stay, the family members say they know nothing about it.
We haven’t been able to reach Canada’s present attorney, Dennis Zaragoza, as the listed phone number for his office appears to have been disconnected. Asked again, Chernev tells us that the offer to let Canada stay is legit, and that "everything in that letter is true."
In the midst of all the accusations and counter-accusations, there’s a woman who’s been part of the fabric of a San Francisco community for generations and who almost everyone in the city would like to see stay put. She hasn’t been removed yet, but Owens characterizes this week’s letter as a "final plea."