92-Year-Old Among Filipinos Facing Eviction in SoMa

Four Families on Natoma Street Served with Ellis Act Evictions
Dyan Ruiz, Joseph Smooke | 07/05/2018


Dyan Ruiz, Reporter, [people. power. media]

Four Filipino-American families, including a 4-year-old girl and a 92-year-old grandmother, are being evicted from their homes in the South of Market neighborhood in  San Francisco. The De Vera, Bustos, Bonifacio and Mac Coll families have lived in this Natoma Street building for 25 years.

Diane Yumang, Tenant, 657-659 Natoma Street

I’ve never look at them as neighbors. I’ve always categorized them as family.

Dyan Ruiz, Reporter, [people. power. media]

They spend holidays and birthdays together. Diane’s Lola is 92-years old and often spends time with their next door neighbor, who is 83-years old. They like to talk about their home town in the Philippines. Coincidentally, everyone who lives here comes from the same town in the Pampanga region.

In 2012, Michael Cheung purchased this 4 unit apartment building. Cheung is the founder of a wealth management company and manager of an LLC with financial services, including mortgages. Cheung purchased this building at the bottom of the market for about half a million dollars. Now that the housing market in SoMa is at its height, he’ll be able to sell the building with a huge profit, at the expense of these  long term residents.

Diane Yumang, Tenant, 657-659 Natoma Street

I’m scared. We don’t-- I don’t know where we’re going to end up if the eviction goes through. We’re still hoping that the landlord stops the eviction.

Dyan Ruiz, Reporter, [people. power. media]

Raymond Castillo is a Tenants Rights Organizer who has worked with the families since Cheung served Ellis Act eviction notices last year. Because all of the households include either seniors or people with disabilities, the landlord is required to provide a year notice. Castillo connected them to legal help and assisted with affordable housing applications.

Raymond Castillo, Tenants Rights Organizer, SOMCAN

If the families are evicted from their home, what would SoMa Pilipinas [Cultural District] be without Filipinos? We are in a housing crisis. In the South of Market alone, we are losing more and more Filipinos that live here.

Dyan Ruiz, Reporter, [people. power. media]

The Ellis Act is a State law that allows landlords to evict tenants of an entire building as the landlord shuts down the rental business at that location. This is a law that speculators often use to turn a quick or calculated profit. 

As the eviction looms, community organization SOMCAN staged four actions against the landlord including this one outside of Cheung’s residence, also in the South of Market or SoMa.

Angelica Cabande, Director, South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN)

This evictor, Michael Cheung, is evicting a 4-year to a 92-year old senior. And we say shame to you. We say shame to evicting seniors who has no place to go.

Raymond Castillo, Tenants Rights Organizer, SOMCAN

We’re here today to really express and show community support to the families of 657-659 Natoma because Michael Cheung is the only one who can stop this eviction.

Dyan Ruiz, Reporter, [people. power. media]

SoMa is experiencing accelerated gentrification as it turns from an industrial working class community to a second Financial District full of Big Tech corporate offices and luxury condos. Lower income tenants are being forced out, falling victim to what are called “no fault evictions”, displacing them from their homes and communities.

Cristina, also a tenant of the building for 25 years, has this message for Cheung.

Cristina Bustos, Tenant, 657-659 Natoma Street

Basically if I’m going to get the chance to talk to him, of course, it’s going to be like just stop this eviction because this is home for us.

Dyan Ruiz, Reporter, [people. power. media]

SOMCAN and the families’ lawyers from Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, community members and organizations throughout San Francisco are doing what they can to demand that Cheung stop the evictions. This has included rallies at Cheung’s work and asking people to leave poor Google reviews of his company Caerus Investment Advisors. We contacted Cheung for comment and he did not respond at the time of publication. 

The Summary Judgment for the families’ eviction case is this Friday. The judge will decide whether the families will be able to stay or whether in about three weeks, the Sheriff will be forcing them to leave.

This is Dyan Ruiz for People Power Media.

UPDATE from the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN), July 11, 2018

Hi everyone, thank you for your ongoing support to the Bonifacio, Ma Coll, De Vera and Bustos families. Due to our collective efforts, the landlord had requested to delay the hearing. We will continue updating you on their housing progress. If you would like to get updates and/or get involved, please go to: http://www.somcan.org/sign-up-for-e-news OR go to South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN)

Community Engagement

We don’t just report on people power efforts, we believe in people power.

Our work includes participating in the community-based, grassroots efforts that we report on. Joseph Smooke is currently the President of the Advisory Board for the South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN) since 2012.

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