Two San Francisco-based tech workers who served a public school educator with an eviction notice for using household appliances settled a legal battle with their tenant Thursday.
Touching on concerns over the housing crisis and the teacher shortage in San Francisco, Mathieu Verbeeck and Catherine Crevels purchased a house in the Mission District in March and weeks later tried to evict the longtime tenant, Michelle Malliett.
Malliett, a special education aide and after school teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District, lived in the in-law unit at Hampshire and 20th streets with her daughter for almost a decade.
The educator fought the eviction in civil court.
Her attorney, Joseph Tobener, confirmed that he reached a settlement with lawyers for the tech workers this week. But as part of the agreement, Tobener could not comment on details like whether Malliett was allowed to continue living in the unit.
Tobener did say that both sides were pleased with the settlement, however.
Previously, Malliett was concerned she would not be able to stay in San Francisco if she lost her place because of the high cost of rent, a common fear among other teachers.
The housing crisis has contributed to a shortage of educators in the SFUSD — in particular special aide paraprofessionals like Malliett. The district went as far as offering pay incentives for people reassigned to or hired for those positions this coming school year.
Malliett’s case sparked an uproar on social media. At one point, tenant rights activists and educators rallied outside the South of Market office of one of the landlords — a tech executive with movie website MUBI.
Activists plastered a photograph purportedly showing the couple and their child on lampposts in the area, superimposing the words “eviction happy” over a birthday cake in the photo and condemning their decision to remove the single mother and her daughter.
But Jonathan Bornstein, an attorney for the landlords, painted a different picture of the couple during a phone interview with the San Francisco Examiner on Friday.
“My clients are just like everybody else in San Francisco,” Bornstein said. “They’d like to own a house. They work hard. It’s not easy.”
In fact, the situation was uncomfortable for everyone involved, Bornstein said, but the dangers associated with cooking and heating up water in the apartment outweighed allowing Malliett to continue living in the illegal in-law unit.
“It was essentially a shack that was shoved in the back of a house,” Bornstein said. “That nobody got hurt yet — thank God. It was dangerous.”