Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Gay couple with AIDS faces eviction


David Ellenberg, left, and Cuauhtemac Andrade stand on the rear deck of their apartment with their dog Cooper. The couple is facing eviction today. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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A San Francisco couple who are both living with AIDS and disabled are facing eviction from their apartment of 19 years.

The landlord for David Ellenberg, 54, and Cuauhtemoc "Temo" Andrade, 52, wants to raise the rent on their unit in the 300 block of Shotwell Street. The couple relies heavily on Section 8 housing assistance and can't afford the increase.

"We've been taking care of each other for 23 years," Ellenberg said. "We both have AIDS. Part of our survival is we've had stable housing, and in the last 19 years, we've never had to worry about housing."

Andrade said, "I've been in a lot of stress since this thing happened. I haven't really slept at all."

Ellenberg said their building was constructed after 1979, so the city's rent control laws don't protect them. Current rent control law in San Francisco limits rent increases on units built in June 1979 or earlier based on cost-of-living increases.

They've lived in the two-bedroom, two-bath unit since 1992, the same year the building was constructed. The rent's only been raised once, and that was 10 years ago. Edward Breyburg has been their landlord the whole time, according to Ellenberg.

Documentation provided by the couple show that they pay $792 on the unit, and the San Francisco Housing Authority, which oversees their Section 8 participation, provides $1,008, for a total of $1,800 a month.

Ellenberg said that with their housing assistance, the maximum amount charged for any two-bedroom unit they rent could be about $1,830 per month. He said that in May, Breyburg tried to raise the rent by $200, but the couple told the Housing Authority about Breyburg's attempt. The agency, which Ellenberg said requires any rent increase proposals to go through them, returned the paperwork to Breyburg because it wasn't dated, Ellenberg said.

He said the landlord doesn't want to deal with the agency anymore so that he can raise the rent.

Ellenberg said they've been looking for a solution ever since they received an eviction notice dated July 6, which gave them 90 days to leave. That period ends today (Thursday, October 6).

Daniel Bornstein, who represents landlords Edward and Ludmila Breyburg, signed the document, a copy of which the couple provided to the Bay Area Reporter.

The notice cites a Section 8 rule that allows eviction for "a business or economic reason" such as "the owner's desire to rent the unit for a higher rent." Ellenberg said their lease includes a similar clause allowing the landlord to break his contract with the Housing Authority.

The couple received a Section 8 certificate four years ago and Breyburg agreed to take it because "he wanted to keep us here," Ellenberg said.

Breyburg confirmed that he's evicting the couple because they won't agree to a rent increase, and that they're supposed to be out of the apartment by October 6. He declined to talk about other details and referred questions to Bornstein, his attorney. Ludmila Breyburg declined to comment, also directing questions to Bornstein.

Bornstein said, "I was not given permission to speak on the record by Mr. Breyburg, so I have no comment."

Rose Marie Dennis, a spokeswoman for the Housing Authority, said, "It's not an issue the Housing Authority has any say in. It's strictly between the landlord and the tenant."

She added, "The situation there is subject to the same rental ordinances and laws that would bind and obligate any lessee or lessor relationship in San Francisco."


For two people who depend on Social Security Disability Insurance, Ellenberg said the apartment has been a "godsend." They don't have any other income, he said.

For a two-bedroom apartment, Ellenberg said their options are "almost non-existent." He said they considered moving to a one-bedroom unit, but they would have to change their voucher, which is a time-consuming process, and the limit for that type of allowance is about $1,500 a month.

Among other problems, Ellenberg said, prospective landlords hesitate to accept housing vouchers like theirs. Their poodle, Cooper, also complicates things, since many landlords won't allow the dog.

Ellenberg said their "last option" would be to leave the city, but the thought is "so depressing." Andrade has serious cardiovascular problems, on top of having AIDS, and he wants to stay close to Saint Mary's Medical Center, where he's received care.

On Wednesday, October 5, according to Ellenberg, the couple tried to pay their portion of the rent, but Breyburg rejected it. He said that Breyburg also told them that he'd sent back money he'd received from the Housing Authority for the agency's part of their rent.

The couple expected to be served with an unlawful detainer notice Thursday, to which they would have five days to respond.

He's asking anyone with a two-bedroom apartment who might be able to help the couple to call them at (415) 864-1342.

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