Iris Canada, a 99-year-old woman who’s lived in her Western Addition apartment since the 1950s, has been engaged in a year-long legal battle with the property owners to stay in her home. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Long-time Western Addition resident engaged in eviction battle

A 99-year-old woman is fighting eviction from her Western Addition home as the building’s owners claim she broke the conditions of her legal agreement, housing advocates say.

About 30 supporters gathered at the San Francisco Supreme Court on Tuesday to show support for Iris Canada, a long-time San Francisco resident who has lived in her Western Addition apartment since the 1950s.

Two weeks ago, Canada was served an eviction notice after a year-long legal battle with the property owners, according to housing advocates. Canada, her family and housing advocates have since sought to squash the eviction and reinstate her status as a life estate resident.

“The bottom line is that we have a 99-year-old woman that is being evicted,” said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, an organizer with the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee. “ I don’t care about the legal stuff. I care about what is going to happen to this woman.”

Building owners claim Canada broke conditions listed in a life estate deed that she signed in 2005, according to court documents. The deed, which ensures Canada’s right to the residence until her death, was the product of a remediation agreement after the building’s owners attempted to evict her using the Ellis Act in 2002, according to Iris Merriouns, Canada’s great niece.

The agreement ensured Canada would temporarily own the unit until her death, as long as she agreed to permanently live in the unit by herself and paid a fixed amount of money every month.

The building owners claim Canada broke the conditions of the agreement, alleging she moved to live with family members in Oakland for more than two years and failed to keep the unit in “good condition and repair,” according to court documents.

Family members say Canada left her home only to visit her niece, who was diagnosed with advanced cancer.

“This litigation right now, this eviction, is a product of the landlord trying to renege on that deal and to take away that life estate,” said Laura Chiera, an attorney with the Homeless Advocacy Project, which provides legal services for the homeless and people at risk of becoming homeless.

Mark Chernev, who is representing the building owners, did not return calls or emails from the San Francisco Examiner.

Canada’s eviction points to a larger issue in The City, where elderly people are being pushed out of homes and onto the streets, according to Board of Supervisors President London Breed, who attended the event.

”The trend is clear when you see all these senior citizens on the streets,” Breed said. “They have dementia, they have mental illness issues. I’ve gone out there in the middle of the night to see what the hell is going on. And if you look, you see seniors out on the streets.”

Cheira announced Tuesday that a judge has allowed Canada to stay in her apartment for another week. A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday to decide if Canada will be relieved of the property forfeiture, Cheira said.

“We’re hoping that she can have some justice, that her life estate gets reinstated,” Merriouns said. “What she had, we want it back.

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