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SF Housing Crisis Horror Story Part 3

Updated: Sep 07, 2016 09:46
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This is part two in a story about how ugly the housing crisis has made some living situations in San Francisco. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Part 3: The Future

August 2016-?


Cold-hearted landlord gets greedy. photo:

After months of intimidation, it looks like our evil landlady is stepping up her game. She recently doubled, yes DOUBLED, the rent of our downstairs neighbors. Considering the circumstances, this goes to show that she truly is a cold hearted snake.

Check this story out:

In 2005, three gay males drove out to San Francisco from Atlanta to start a new life on the west coast. The landlady showed all three of them a three-bedroom apartment in our building in the Western Addition (let’s call it apartment Z), and all three of them moved in on the same day. However, since she was lazy with her book keeping, only two of the three tenants signed the original lease. Over the years, one of the original tenants moved out, and from then on new tenants came and went to replace the third room. She accepted rent from all tenants individually as they were all considered co-tenants.

Earlier this year, the only remaining original tenant (let’s call him Joe) that had actually signed the lease passed away after a long battle with cancer. Grieving the loss of his best friend and life partner, the last standing original tenant (let’s call him Bob) found himself in a major predicament. In the midst of sorting through the belongings of his deceased friend and clearing out the apartment, Bob had to manage to cover the entire rent of the apartment himself. They had not had another permanent tenant since Joe fell ill. Now Bob was suddenly responsible for the amount of $2425 until he could find someone else to move in.

Finding someone to move into a dead man’s room is no easy task, even in a housing crisis. It became even more difficult with the landlady’s new credit score rules. She demanded that all tenants must have a 720 credit score to be considered. And as I explained in the last post, she didn’t exactly bust her ass to approve new applicants in a timely manner. When she finally got around to checking their applications, she denied all of Bob’s prospects.

The one thing that the landlady is diligent about is posting our notices about our annual one percent rent increase. She had posted a note on Bob’s door in May increasing the rent about $70. Come June, she must have just realized that Joe was no longer alive. She slammed Bob with another rent increase, this time by 100 percent, to the amount of $4995. Her argument was simple: since none of the original leaseholders occupied the building, she has the right to increase the rent to market rate.


Let’s do the math. If she is renting a three-bedroom apartment for $4995, that means that she is charging $1665 per room. Now that is just ludacris. Our building was formerly classified as Section 8 housing. There is little to no insulation in the walls, the building has not been well-maintained and the neighborhood is not exactly what you’d call luxurious. To be clear, I would NEVER pay $1665 for a room in this building. You may as well classify it as robbery to charge that amount to live here.

I do understand that landlords get fucked by rent control. I get that when the opportunity comes along to double the rent of a unit that had been locked at the same price for nearly a decade, a landlord would do more or less anything to take it. But to stoop so low as to double the rent of a grieving tenant that you knew on a personal level? That’s just cold hearted.

Bob took his case to court last month. He is still waiting for the verdict.

In the meantime, the landlady posted a notice stating that anything left out in the hallway or on the fire escape is cause for eviction. That was explicitly aimed at Bob. I texted him to make sure he got the plants off of his fire escape immediately. And just last week the landlady changed the lock to his apartment to a DO NOT DUPLICATE key, ensuring that he can’t have anyone subletting. She watches his every move displayed on the flat-screened monitor in her office downstairs just waiting for him to fuck up.

In the meantime, I don’t feel any more secure about my own living situation. The dark cloud of doubt is settling back over our building. Or it could just be Karl the Fog making himself at home this summer. Either way, I don’t have a good feeling in my gut. 

Since I wrote the first part of this saga last year, pretty much all of my friends have moved out of San Francisco. Some went to Oakland before it got too pricey. Others went north to Portland or Washington where rents are still affordable. Some followed the sun and went south to L.A.. Others went east to Colorado to buy a big ol’ house on a nice plot of land. The struggle to fight tooth and nail just to stay in San Francisco seems to have lost its charm.


The future is inevitable. Once I move out of my rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco, I have no other choice but to say goodbye to this city I’ve called home for so long. For now, time is the only thing on my side. Only time can tell when that eviction notice will land on my own front door. I don’t like to think of myself as a quitter, but San Francisco has gotten the better of me. The only hope for the tenants of apartment X is to outsmart our landlady and move out before she finds a way to fuck us over too.

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Heidi Smith - The Ultimate Scavenger

Heidi Smith - The Ultimate Scavenger

Heidi works for a non-profit cultural exchange organization helping others experience life from a different perspective. She likes magnetizing the obscure and scavenging the city for fun, free things to do. She is a world traveler, a freelance writer and a spontaneous chef. She is also said to be part-mermaid.