San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy briefly faced off with protesters this afternoon inside City Hall, as the group denounced the eviction of a 100-year-old woman from her Western Addition apartment earlier Friday.
About 50 protesters arrived at City Hall at 3:30 p.m. to hold a rally outside of the Sheriff’s Department, in response to Iris Canada being evicted by sheriff’s deputies from her apartment at 670 Page Street, which she’s lived in for more than 50 years.
Sheriff’s deputies arrived around 11:30 a.m. and changed the locks, after a San Francisco Superior Court judge recently ruled that an eviction could take place since Canada had failed to pay court-ordered attorneys fees.
According to Tommi Avicolli Mecca, an organizer with the Housing Rights Committee, Iris was not home at the time of the eviction and her medications and wheelchair remain inside.
Hennessy said that the department considered many options and ultimately decided that changing the locks would be the safest one, as protesters responded with a number of slogans, including “let Iris in” and “recall Hennessy.”
The sheriff’s department is required by state and city law to execute evictions approved by the court.
According to the sheriff’s department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst, sheriff’s officials have visited the property more than 20 times in the last two years in order to provide Canada with information about social services and programs available to the centenarian.
“Her age was of great concern to us as we moved forward. In this case, as in all, we proceeded to perform in a respectful and compassionate manner.”
Canada has been in a dispute for years with her landlords, who claimed that she hasn’t lived in the unit since 2012.
In 2005, Canada was granted a lifetime estate to her apartment while the rest of the units in the building underwent an Ellis Act eviction.
However, Canada’s landlords then moved to terminate that lifetime estate in 2014, alleging that Canada had been living with family members in Oakland since 2012 and allowed the unit to fall into disrepair.
In April, the court found in the landlord’s favor, ruling that Canada could stay in her apartment only if she accepted strict limits on her occupancy and paid the property owners’ attorney’s fees, which total more than $150,000.
In August, Mark Chernev — an attorney for property owners Peter Owens, Stephen Owens and Carolyne Radishe — said that they would drop the demand for legal fees and let Canada stay if she agreed to sign paperwork allowing the building to convert to condos, but she refused to sign the papers and, with help from her niece Iris Merriouns, asked the owners to sell her the unit at a discounted price.
Andrew Zacks, an attorney for the landlords, said:
“Her tenancy has been terminated, and her locks have been changed as of this morning,”
Zacks added that the eviction was “done safely” and that Canada is now:
“… safe and sound, living with her niece in Oakland, where she has been since 2012.”
Merriouns had argued that the building’s landlords should have offered Canada the option to buy the unit at a below market rate.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed had shown a great deal of support for Canada’s case last year, saying back in April:
“… as a city we have to do better. Allowing our seniors to get kicked out of their home shouldn’t even have to be an option. Where’s the love, where’s the compassion?”
Today, Breed addressed the eviction on Twitter, saying that she had tried to help Canada for years, including offering housing options but Canada and Merriouns were not interested in the services Breed had offered.
Tried to help Ms. Iris for years, including housing options but her niece has the final say. Not interested in services.
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) February 10, 2017
An attorney for Canada was not immediately available for comment.