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RE-POST: Residents and Activists protest “serial evictor” Paulo Iantornio at Hayes Valley

by Rubble
REPOST OF THURSDAY ARTICLE: (note: The previous post had the “serial evictor” as Ian Torno. I’m told the correct name is Paulo Iantornio’ – readers need toe e clear on who’s doing this)

A lively direct action protest was held this afternoon at an upscale Hayes Valley shoe store named “Paulo”. The owner of that business, Paulo Iantornio, is also one of the worst landlords in the city. He is currently in the process of Ellis Act evictions at five different rent-controlled buildings around the City and has been reportedly evicting renters for profit for years.
Residents of one of these buildings a few blocks away in Hayes Valley who are fighting their evictions, led the protest along with activists from the direct action group Eviction Free SF. Scores of people surrounded the store with anti-eviction banners and chants. Many entered and filled up the floor of the small store, chanting and making demands that Iantornio stop the eviction process and halting any possibility of selling then $200+ shoes. I believe a letter was delivered to the store clerk requesting to stop the evictions. Business as usual was stopped.

Within minutes, a man said to be co-owner and a son of Iantornio stormed up to the building, pushing a camera in people’s faces, pushing one man on the sidewalk, then entered the store trying to provoke verbal and physical confrontations with protestors. He also called police, who mediated the protest. From what I’m told, the Iantornio family are hotheads and bullies known for confrontational and assaultive behaviors with tenants and at public meetings.

Several residents facing eviction spoke articulately about the process they are experiencing. The protesters circled the sidewalk with banners and chants for the balance of an hour. Shoppers, residents, workers from neighboring businesses and Proposition G gathered around, most if not all in support of the protest. The protest ended with activists vowing to be back for more until the evictions are stopped.

While it is common knowledge that housing evictions are at an epidemic proportion and escalating rental costs out of control, people in this big money city need to know that the problem is actually much worse than advertised. The Ellis Act is state-level loophole that allows landlords to unilaterally evict all the tenants in smaller apartment buildings just by stating that they are “getting out of the rental business”. Often, the building is converted into tenancy-in-common condos. Even worse, many landlords flaunt the law and just re-rent at premium prices, subverting rent control.

Threats of Ellis Acts are used to coerce negotiated buyouts and residents fleeing buildings when told an Ellis Act is inevitable or facing harassment and threats. Renters are often harassed, forced out, and live in fear of their building being sold. In many of these situations, the landlord/speculators never get out of the rental business. The landlord just re-rents at unaffordable prices.

Speculators – (i.e. big real estate companies) – are the prime offenders. With big money lawyers at hand fighting residents without money for legal representation, most evictions challenged legally are upheld. People are forced out of the city with lives ruined, the stock of affordable rentals dwindling, and prices driven up so only wealthy people can move into open units. The city government is complicit in its inaction despite continued public organizing and outcries.

Per rent control realities, the most vulnerable are the ones most often evicted. Older people, low income people, people with disabilities get it most because many have lived in their buildings for decades at cheaper rents and have learned to live on lower incomes.

The positive side is that over the past year or so, many residents have declined buyouts and fought Ellis Act and other evictions successfully with both legal and direct action strategies. Citizens are organizing hard for Proposition G - a hefty tax on speculators who buy buildings, resell them for large profits and evict residents in the process. Buildings sell for much higher prices without rent controlled residents, making evictions a big profit process.

Eviction Free San Francisco helps residents fight evictions by non-legal means and is visible in protests and other direct actions organizing for housing rights, with a number of recent success stories that are inspiring. People can get involved by visiting the website at evictionfreesf.org. Meetings are held the first and third Wednesdays of each month at the Housing Rights Committee office on 417 S. Van Ness Ave. (corner of 15th). Newcomers are welcome.
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