Confronting the speculators

Tenant activists spotlight serial evictors in online rogues gallery


A group of tenant advocates has upped the ante in the ongoing protest movement against San Francisco evictions, publicizing the names, photographs, property ownership, and corporate affiliations of a dozen landlords and speculators they've deemed "serial evictors."

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project, a volunteer-led effort that snagged headlines last fall when it released data visualizations charting long-term displacement in San Francisco, released its Dirty Dozen list Jan. 10.

The project spotlights property owners who've moved to evict tenants under the Ellis Act, a controversial state law that allows landlords to oust tenants even if they aren't in violation of lease terms. In practice, the Ellis Act tends to be waged against longtime residents with low monthly rental payments, frequently impacting elderly or low-income tenants who benefit from rent control.

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project's list gets up close and personal, publishing details such as landlord's cell phone numbers, home addresses, and histories of legal entanglement.

It's an edgy use of public records that seems to raise a slew of questions about free speech, privacy, and the use of information sharing and public shaming as a protest tactic in the digital age.

Erin McElroy, a volunteer and lead organizer of the project, said the goal was to spotlight landlords "who are disproportionately impacting senior and disabled tenants," and to raise public awareness about "people who are making millions at the expense of tenants."

She added that there is a budding effort to push for Ellis Act reform in Sacramento, and noted that a goal of this project was to fuel that statewide effort by providing easily accessible information.

Among those individuals named on the Dirty Dozen list was David McCloskey of Urban Green Investments, a company that owns more than 15 San Francisco properties. Urban Green has been a frequent target of San Francisco housing activists, in part due to the company's ongoing attempt to evict Mary Elizabeth Phillips, a Dolores Street tenant who will turn 98 in April.

Another landlord who made the list, Elba Borgen, has also attracted past attention from tenant activists due to her history of pursuing Ellis Act evictions at six different San Francisco properties. A tenant currently residing in a 10th Avenue property, where Borgen's LLC has filed for eviction, is 90 years old and suffering from Alzheimer's, according to an interview with her daughter Vivian Montesdeoca posted to the mapping project website.

The Bay Guardian's efforts to reach landlords who were spotlighted on the Dirty Dozen list were largely unsuccessful. We did manage to contact Tom Iveli, president of Norcal Ventures, who spoke briefly before excusing himself, saying he had to take another call. Iveli clearly wasn't aware that he and his business partner Bob Sigmund had been singled out.

McElroy said the Dirty Dozen list was the product of an in-depth research project which entailed filtering through property records, San Francisco Rent Board data, and information gleaned from the website Corporation Wiki.

The Anti Eviction Mapping Project initiative has attracted around 15 volunteers and will be partnering with Stanford University students to produce an oral history project showcasing the narratives of San Francisco tenants facing eviction, McElroy said.

Some of the same activists involved in recent high-profile blockades of tech buses were also part of the Anti Eviction Mapping Project effort.


It's the reasons why that building isn't viable as a rental that should concern you.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

And run it as a rental?

If the city isn't willing to do that, why should I?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

What is the percentage of foreign investors buying pre-Ellis properties? I doubt they care about this quixotic list. It might even give them an advantage over local TIC developers.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

A building is either viable as a rental or it is not. If it is not, then it will be Ellis'ed sooner or later, if only because of the lack of sound alternatives to that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

Long-term, rent control is doomed, and for three reasons:

1) Price controls only ever works in the short-term, such as during wartime. Long-term they deter investors and supply dries up, as we are already seeing in SF.

2) The main beneficiaries of rent control in SF are boomers. It’s the guys who came to SF 20 or 30 years ago and have hoarded the same unit ever since that are getting the deals. But the oldest boomers are now approaching 70 while even the youngest are hitting 50. They will start going into care, moving to retirement communities or dying off. Their LL’s will not repeat that mistake.

3) No new RC units are created but every year a few thousand more vanish for a variety of reasons. At some point we will hit the tipping point. And as the city also becomes more affluent and successful, the voters will no longer see rent control, with it’s artificial shortages and class war rhetoric, as not consistent with a global knowledge economy powerhouse.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 11:20 am

It will be a very long time before the voters repeal rent control. Most of us can't wait that long. Thank goodness for the Ellis Act.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 11:43 am

Especially since that may become a little more difficult to do before it becomes unnecessary.

But if we assume that one third of SF homes are owner-occupied and another third are rented but not under rent control (SFH, condo, post-1979, public-owned, short-term) then that leaves about one third of SF units under rent control.

If we assume further that 5,000 of those units are lost every year (demolition, mergers, OMI's, Ellis, condo conversions, kept vacant, converted to AirBnB or corporate lets etc) then in 10-20 years perhaps only 20% of San Franciscans will get any direct benefit from rent control.

It would only take half of the other 80% to feel strongly that it's bad policy for rent control to start to get rolled back. My best guess is somewhere between 2020 and 2035.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

" tenant currently residing in a 10th Avenue property, where Borgen's LLC has filed for eviction, is 90 years old and suffering from Alzheimer's, according to an interview with her daughter Vivian Montesdeoca posted to the mapping project website."

Should such a person be renting an apartment on their own anyway? If they can't handle their finances or living they should probably go to a retirement home or move in with their relatives.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

would rather die than give it up?

I know of one elderly tenant (not mine) where there is a lot of crime on his black and he is afraid to go out. There was even a break-in and he was tied to a chair while they robbed his things.

Does he leave? Of course not. He pays $600 a month.

Rent control causes irrationality.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

His new landlord would steal more from him in the first month than street criminals stole from him probably in his whole life.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

obsessional desire to never give up a deal?

Still rational?

Oh, and rent isn't theft because a tenant freely agrees to the lease, and gets consideration for the money paid.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

It's not rational to want to go homeless, nor is it rational for the elderly to move frequently since they are often physically compromised. A forced move could initiate PTSD if there is a long-time connection to the neighborhood. The fact that it's legal to charge high rates doesn't mean it's rational to pay them. I know of no one who "freely agrees" to overpay...generally it's the result of no other choice.

Posted by Lease on Feb. 11, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

And what happens to the people, like this man, who see no other option for themselves but to stay in their rent-controlled apartment no matter how unsafe it is?
Your use of the word OBSESSION shows a lack of understanding and concern, the dark under side of Capitalism, as it is now in our country, lacking the heart that is needed to address this many-faceted problem.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 15, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

They say it's better for old people who have lived in the same place for a long long time to keep living in that place.

My mom is 89 and she's been living in her house for almost 6 decades.

Within her house she's fine, but when she gets out in the world she gets confused and disoriented.

Why begrudge a Gerry a few last years in familiar surroundings?

For what? So some LL can reap a few $s more?

Is that what this city is coming to?

Posted by Napoleon Evans on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 4:22 pm

crime and fear around her, wouldn't you want her to move? Wouldn't you spend some money to help her?

The point wasn't so much about aging but rather how people sell themselves short just to save a few bucks

I know a guy in the Haight who rented a 4-bed flat about 20 years ago. I'm sure they all had a ball for a while but the other three guys all "got a life" and moved in with a girl, had kids, bought a house whatever. But not this guy. He is still there and still with three roommates who of course are now young enough to be his kids.

It's really sad to see him there. He wants his own place or to move on, but he feels trapped by rent control. Oh, and of course his LL never lifts a finger so the place is way worse than what a twenty-something sharer would tolerate.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 4:47 pm

My moms neighborhood has gentrified. Crime is not an issue.

I think the point IS about aging.

If a Gerry has lived a place a long time and wants to finish their life in that place their wishes ought to be respected.

If your buddy in the Haight really wanted to move, he would.

I'm sure there's more to it then cheapish rent keeping him where he's at.

Posted by Napoleon Evans on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:09 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

It makes them think they are exempt from reality and can stay forever in property they don't own. That is weird

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 11:32 am

Did it occur to you that she lives with her daughter who is her caregiver?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 9:47 pm

Did it ever occur to you that the. 90 y.o. woman with Alzheizmer's lives with her daughter who is her caregiver?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 10, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

That 90 year old woman with Alzheimer's lives with her able-bodied daughter.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 10:38 pm

How about publishing the names and addresses of the rent control addicts like Tommi Avacoli Mecca who whines about apartments going for $ 4,200, as if it is anymore of his business than what the bourgeoisie are doing in their bedrooms, the reactionary old queen.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

himself and everything else way too seriously.

He just seems to love misery more than life itself.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

15 years ago he was whining about whole flats in the Castro going for an "outrageous" $1,800. So his last 15 years of whining has been pretty useless....

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

You are right . I'm pretty sure seeing him whine give LL's all the justification they need, to jack up those rents even more....

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 2:46 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

Lets set up a kickstarter program to reward his LL for evicting him !!!!!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

So this 80 yaer old tenant pays$800 a month, obviously the LL isn't making a fortune and probably wants to sell. Why can't our city leaders give the LL $300 or so a month in incentives like reduced property taxes? In exchange, have the LL make a commitment to not sell or evict for like 5 years or 7 years? The media talks about little old ladys as tenants but never mention the little old lady landlords who have tenants on their 6th roommate in 18 years.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

You've maeangd a first class post

Posted by Susie on May. 14, 2014 @ 12:58 am

R.C. advocates dredge up a few elderly here and there, but the reality is that most people living in rent-controlled apartments are fairly wealthy. I know two offhand--both pay $800 or less a month for 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, respectively. The first one owns a vacation house outside the city that she rents on AirBNB to make money, and sometimes rents out a bedroom in her house for $1K a month, meaning she makes $200 on the property someone else owns. The second person owns a house in another city and he also rents out on AirBNB for $500 a night, only a couple hundred less than he pays for an entire month's rent here in S.F. If something happens to either of their buildings they'll just move while the landlord eats the cost.

How is it fair that a property owner has to subsidize someone else's rent so that person can make a lot of money? I have a two unit building and live in one of the units myself but would NEVER under any circumstances rent it out on a monthly basis. I use it for family and friends, and occasionally AirBNB it. If I were to rent the property out, why would it be my responsibility to subsidize someone else's good living?

If we eliminated rent control some people might have to give up their triple lattes and Macbook Airs. The horror!

Posted by Scott on Jun. 18, 2014 @ 12:18 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 18, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

I really needed to find this info, thank God!

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