San Francisco family remains in home on Ellis Act eviction day

An all-day demonstration Wednesday appears to have delayed the “inevitable” – as their attorney calls it – Ellis Act eviction of the elderly Lee family from their three-bedroom apartment.

Shortly after a final 5 p.m. rally outside the eight-unit building at 1508-A Jackson St., Omar Calimbas, the family's attorney, said they could safely assume the Sherriff's Department would not carry out the court-ordered eviction scheduled for Wednesday.

“At first they were coming here for sure, then we understood that they were coming here to assess and most likely leave, and then it just turns out that they never came,” said Calimbas, who works for the Asian Law Caucus. “We're calling it a victory for today.”

However, deputies did reach out to the Chinatown Community Development Center to schedule a meeting, which will include Calimbas, at 10 a.m. Thursday to discuss the situation.

It was an exception to what Mark Nicco, the Sheriff’s Department assistant legal counsel, said of evictions: “There’s very few problems. Most are voluntary or have already vacated.”

Advocacy groups plan to have an ongoing vigil outside the building and hope to figure out when deputies will return for the eviction under the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to get rid of tenants so they can leave the rental market.

“We'll hopefully have the same turnout that we had [Wednesday],” Calimbas said.

Among the more than 100 supporters were supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, David Chiu and John Avalos, and former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin.

Many supporters also wore neon-green stickers.

“It means I'm willing to get arrested,” Campos said. “We in this country have a long history of peaceful civil disobedience. If it is a crime for the Lees to stay in their home, then we are going to stand with them as they are arrested for it.”

Inside their apartment, Gee Gum Lee, 73, her husband, Poon Heung Lee, 79, and their disabled daughter Shiu Man Lee, 48, still had all their belongings, aside from old photos and keepsakes that their supporters stored offsite.

Gee Gum Lee said she heard supporters outside were planning on forming a human chain to block deputies, and that gave her hope.

“I have never experienced people caring so much and being so good to us,” she said in Cantonese. “It makes me very happy.”

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