Sunday marked the expiration of not the first, but second reprieve granted to the Ellis Act-evicted Lee family as they search for another — at least temporary — home.
Since Mayor Ed Lee intervened late last month to request the first stay from the landlord, the Mayor’s Office has assisted with the family’s housing hunt and the Chinatown Community Development Center even had volunteers ready to help with the anticipated move.
But Sunday afternoon, no activity surrounded the apartment at 1508-A Jackson St. Shoes still lined the hallway outside the three-member family’s apartment door, along with some iron boards, bags of paper towels and toilet paper, and demonstration signs including one that read “NO Eviction” in English and Chinese.
“They are planning to stay a few more days,” said Gen Fujioka, policy director for the development center, which has been providing housing counseling to the Lees. “The sheriff has indicated they scheduled an eviction date on Wednesday and so that’s the operative, the next deadline that I guess we’re looking at.”
However, the two sides are not on the same page.
“I have every expectation that the Lees are vacating today and have not heard anything to the contrary,” said landlord Matthew Miller’s attorney, Jeffery Woo, in an email Sunday.
Gum Gee Lee, 73, and her husband, Poon Heung Lee, 79, who have a 48-year-old daughter who is disabled, have looked at several below-market-rate housing options, including two adjoining studios that the Mayor’s Office helped them find. All are about double the $778 per month they currently pay for their two-bedroom apartment, Fujioka said, and now a new challenge has arisen.
Miller hasn’t been willing to pay the second half of the relocation fees — approximately $12,893 — owed to the 34-year residents for being classified as elderly and disabled, according to their lawyer, Omar Calimbas of the Asian Law Caucus.
“This isn’t acceptable,” Calimbas said, “because the Lees desperately need more than their Supplemental Security Income provides to make ends meet with the higher rent they’ll be paying until they can get sustainable housing.”
Regarding the relocation funds, Woo said he has been in discussions with Calimbas and has “full confidence an agreeable arrangement will be finalized shortly.”
The difference — several thousand dollars, according to Fujioka — has a great bearing on whether the Lees will be able to afford rent for an apartment in the interim while they move up on waitlists for affordable housing, he said. He added that the difficulty they’ve had “is a reflection of how hard the housing crisis is now.”
“The family is definitely up in the air at this point,” Fujioka said. “We had hoped that we would have had the solution by now, but that is not the case and we’re coming down to the wire once again.”