Community member aids evicted Lee family in finding new home

Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner file photoAfter 34 years at their Jackson Street apartment

After months of a fruitless housing hunt, it wasn’t the Mayor’s Office of Housing or the Chinatown Community Development Center that found a new home in The City for the Ellis Act-evicted Lee family.

The savior in the end was a community member who heard about their story and informed the development center of a one-bedroom apartment that became available in Chinatown. On Monday night, Gum Gee Lee, 73; her husband, Poon Heung Lee, 79; and their disabled daughter, Shiu Man Lee, 48, began moving out of a hotel where they had been staying since leaving their apartment of 34 years Oct. 22.

“It says something about the power of community, otherwise we would not have heard about it,” said Gen Fujioka, the development center’s policy director. “We feel very fortunate that there was that level of public awareness and support.”

The Lee’s new apartment is at market rate, smaller and more expensive than their $778-per-month former two-bedroom at 1508-A Jackson St.

Even so, Gee Gum Lee said in a statement: “We feel very relieved and grateful for the many people who have made it possible to find a new home.”

The family held ground at their old home for nearly a month after hundreds of tenant advocates prevented their original eviction, scheduled Sept. 25. After Mayor Ed Lee intervened to ask the landlord for a stay, and a second reprieve, supporters were prepared to stage another protest and refrained when the family was close to signing a lease for a two-bedroom apartment in the Sunset district.

That fell through, and the family ended up living at a downtown hotel at the expense of an anonymous donor for longer than anticipated. They have been told they can rent their new apartment in Chinatown for as long as they desire, Fujioka said, but their fight continues.

“Mrs. Lee is very committed to the issue of stopping evictions and she’s planning to come to future events to support other tenants,” he said.

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