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City rejects condo plans where 100-year-old woman evicted

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“I think this is where we have to draw the line.”

The facade of the house at 670 Page Street. Google

The San Francisco Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday to deny condo conversation plans at 670 Page, the same building that made headlines for a high-profile eviction fight involving 100-year-old former tenant Iris Canada.

Canada died in 2017, just a month after landlord Peter Owens finally changed the locks on the apartment she had occupied for decades. She remained central to the commission’s final decision to reject the conversion bid.

“I think this is where we have to draw the line,” Commissioner Dennis Richards said on Thursday, echoing his complaint from a January hearing that the fight over 670 Page represented a culture of casual eviction that “made him sick.”

“You bought the building knowing people there were Ellis Acted there before,” Richards chided the petitioners. “There were people there that were living. I don’t understand it. I’m very proud to vote [for] disapproval.”

Commissioner Rich Hillis noted, “We can’t hold this up because of an Ellis Act in 2002,” but repeated commissioners’ earlier criticisms that the petition to convert misrepresented the case by not acknowledging Canada’s eviction.

“She was evicted, that was the key,” said Hillis. “It was an at-fault eviction. But that information had to be put forward. You should have noted that.”

Landlord Owens, who was not present Thursday, has insisted for years that Canada secretly moved out of the unit before her death, a claim that some of 670 Page’s other residents repeated at the hearing.

Canada in 2014.
Courtesy SF Planning
Owens in January.

“The story I’d like to share with you is one the media doesn’t want to share, because it doesn’t sell,” a building resident (who did not provide his name) testified. “For almost three years we asked for [Canada’s] signature on our condo conversion, which wouldn’t have had any affect on her. Why wouldn’t Canada just sign the paperwork?”

Canada’s former neighbors allege her family members moved her out of the building and convinced her not to sign off on the condo plans in hope of someday getting ownership of the unit for themselves.

But Canada’s friends, family members, activist boosters, and lawyer denied the charge, and told the commission that they had frequently visited Canada at 670 Page and that her possessions were still in the unit when Owens had the locks changed.

After listening to all of the arguments one last time, Commissioner Kathrin Moore remarked, “I don’t think anything I’ve heard today moves me” to approve conversion, and the vote went down 7-0 against the building.