Bayview landlord Judy Wu has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a city lawsuit alleging she illegally converted eight single-family homes into multi-unit buildings. (Courtesy SF Planning Department)

Formerly homeless veterans raise questions about potential relocation from illegal units in SF

More than a dozen formerly homeless veterans are raising questions about the plan that San Francisco has to house them if their illegal units are removed from single-family homes in the Bayview.

The tenants have been in housing limbo since San Francisco sued landlord Judy Wu last August for converting the houses into multi-unit buildings for veterans and very low-income individuals. The lawsuit prompted Wu to file permit applications with the Planning Department to remove the 15 illegal units.

The Mayor’s Office has committed to finding housing for the formerly homeless tenants if the Planning Commission decides to remove the units. The commission is expected to vote on Nov. 16, a month earlier than previously scheduled as The City prepares to head to trial with Wu in February.

The early vote has tenants worried the Planning Commission will decide to remove the units before The City has found homes for the tenants to move into in a comparable neighborhood.

“You’re trying to rush this without having a real plan in place for how to fix this,” tenant Kirby Lewis told the commission last Thursday. “Eviction is not the solution.”

“Going from a stable home in a neighborhood setting to an SRO on Sixth Street or in the Tenderloin is not acceptable,” he added. “Many of us have [come] from Sixth Street and the Tenderloin — we don’t want to go back.”

Jeff Buckley, senior housing advisor to Mayor Ed Lee, told the commission that “nobody is going to be displaced until we have a unit for them to move into.”

“We have heard time and time again that the residents don’t want to go to Sixth Street, they don’t want to go to an SRO in the Tenderloin, and we understand that and we hear them,” Buckley said. “We will devote the resources necessary to find comparable housing for them.”

But the Mayor’s Office has yet to find those units for the 15 tenants who live in unauthorized units, and Buckley expressed some hesitation as to the timeline because of the housing crisis. Buckley said the search would begin if the Planning Commission voted in favor of the permits.

“We are optimistic about finding comparable units out there, but the reality is that in San Francisco and the Bay Area that that is not something that is going to happen overnight,” Buckley said.

Planning Commission President Rich Hillis suggested that the problem is ultimately out of the commission’s hands and in the hands of the mayor to find housing or Supervisor Malia Cohen to introduce legislation to legalize the units.

“We’re in kind of a problem because to the folks who live in these units, we can’t really take action to fix this,” Hillis said.

The commission is expected to vote Nov. 16 on the units at 1824 Jennings St., 1083 Hollister Ave., 1395 Shafter Ave., 1290 Shafter Ave., 1351 Revere Ave., 38 Carr St., 1050 Gilman Ave., 1656 Newcomb Ave. and 1187 Palou Ave.

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