Activists travel to Atherton
to protest Castro eviction
by David-Elijah Nahmod
A group of housing activists paid a visit to the leafy streets of tony Atherton on the Peninsula last weekend, staging a protest in front of the home of a man who is proceeding with an Ellis Act eviction against a gay Castro man who's living with HIV.
Real estate developer William Young, who lives in Atherton, was the target of the protest, organized by Eviction Free Summer. Last year, Young purchased the Noe Street apartment building that Jeremy Mykaels, 62, has lived in for many years, and served all the tenants with eviction notices.
The Ellis Act is a 1986 state law that allows landlords to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business. The landlord must remove all units from the rental market. Such tenants are paid to move. The amount they receive can vary depending on how many individuals occupy a unit, the tenants' ages, or disability/HIV status. The amounts can range from $5,000-$15,000 per tenant, with an additional $3,403 paid to tenants who are senior/disabled, according to information posted at the Tenant's Union website.
For Mykaels, the payments are not enough for him to find another unit in the Castro, the neighborhood he's called home since the 1970s. Mykaels told the Bay Area Reporter that he could not reveal the amount of his current rent without consulting his lawyer.
"If I lose this fight, I will not only be forced to move from my home, but from the city I love and have lived in for the past four decades," Mykaels said in a statement. "I will no longer be able to afford to live here. As a result I will also lose access to some of the most experienced HIV physicians around who have kept me alive since I was diagnosed 12 years ago with a practically non-existent immune system."
Mykaels was not feeling well enough to make the trip to Atherton. He hugged several of the protesters as they departed San Francisco last Saturday morning, August 10.
It was a lively group that stood before Young's home. The quiet, tree-lined road contained many large, elegantly appointed houses that were hidden behind huge gates.
A sign reading, "Please stop trying to kick Jeremy Mykaels out of his home of 17 years. He is a seriously ill, disabled senior. Do the right thing and stop this unjust Ellis Act eviction" was affixed to the front gate of Young's home by the protesters. The wooden gate to the home features a prominent American flag painted on the front.
Carmen Simon of Eviction Free Summer stood in front of the sign. "Hey, William Young," she said, speaking into a bullhorn. "We want to say 'hi' on behalf of Jeremy Mykaels. He wants to stay in his home. You have a nice house. You understand fine living. Jeremy just wants to live. Back off on the eviction!"
The group applauded amid chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho. Evicting seniors has got to go." Several protesters observed that people could be seen inside the property, but there was no response from them. Young himself was apparently out of town.
"We're looking for William Young," said Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, as she took the megaphone. "We're here today because you're evicting a disabled senior with AIDS out of his home."
As the chanting and speeches continued, neighborhood residents driving by slowed down to read the signage. Protester Lee Hepner took out his cell phone and dialed Young's phone number.
"Mr. Young said that Jeremy was free to purchase the property or rent wherever he wants," Hepner told the B.A.R. "This is what we've come to expect from serial evictors. This is a lack of compassion and an indifference to true San Francisco residents."
"Evicting a senior with AIDS in our community should not be tolerated," said longtime housing activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who helped organize the protest. "There is simply no justification for it, especially when the motive is purely profit. Enough is enough is enough. Time to let the speculators and investors know that here in San Francisco we don't tolerate tossing out the most vulnerable among us so that they can make scads of dough."
Others also spoke out against the eviction.
"Seniors and people with disabilities are walking around with giant bullseyes on their backs," said James Chionsini of Senior and Disability Action. "Every day we see people at risk of eviction. Where are they going to go?"
After about 30 minutes, the protesters drove to Union City to conduct a similar action at Young's office. On Monday, August 12, Mykaels told the B.A.R. that the group found a dentist's office at the Union City address where he sends his rent checks – no real estate office was at the location.
When the B.A.R. reached Young by phone, he said that he was unable to comment on this issue without permission from his lawyer.