Iris Canada, 99, sits in front of San Francisco Superior Court on April 12, 2016. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Tentative deal reached to save 99-year-old San Francisco woman from eviction

A 99-year-old woman faced with eviction from her Lower Haight apartment in San Francisco could remain in her home under a tentative deal reached in court today, but demands for attorney’s fees and an apology remain sticking points.

Iris Canada has lived in the apartment at 670 Page St. since the 1950s and was granted a lifetime lease in 2005, allowing her to pay rent of $700 per month for as long as she lives.

However, attorneys for the property owners allege that she has been living with family members since 2012 and has neglected the apartment for so long that utilities were shut off and it became uninhabitable.

In court filings, Canada has said that she has no place to go if she moves out, will be unable to afford a new home in San Francisco, and needs a wheelchair or walker to move since suffering a stroke.

“If I’ve been away from the unit for extended periods of time, it’s because I was at the hospital or visiting with family, but 670 Page St. is my home,” Canada said.

Superior Court Judge James Patterson today issued a tentative ruling in the legal battle over Canada’s eviction that would allow her to continue living in the apartment, but it included a provision requiring her to pay the landlord’s attorneys fees, an amount that could exceed $100,000.

Attorneys then negotiated a possible settlement in which the property owners would agree to waive the legal fees in return for Canada’s signature on paperwork allowing the building to convert to condominiums — and an apology for what the landlord’s attorneys say has been several years of aggressive legal tactics on her behalf.

It was unclear today, however, whether Canada would agree to the deal. Family members present in court appeared to be opposed and attorneys asked for a week’s continuance to negotiate.

Attorney Steven Adair MacDonald, who stepped in to represent Canada today, said he was confident an agreement could be reached by Friday.

“There’s a lot of animosity in this case, a lot of water under the bridge,” he said.

Canada’s case gained widespread media attention last week after local tenants advocates and Board of Supervisors president London Breed rallied to her cause.

Attorney Andrew Zacks, representing property owners Stephen Owens, Peter Owens and Carolyne Radishe, noted that Peter Owens, a former director of housing policies in Burlington, Vermont, recently resigned from his job there because of publicity over the case, which Zacks said has cost Owens money and harmed his reputation.

Zacks said outside of court that the case has dragged on for several years and has involved multiple changes of lawyers representing Canada and frequent interference by her family members.

“This entire matter was brought here by the exploitation of the legal system by Ms. Canada’s family,” he said.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, director of counseling programs at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, said after the hearing that he viewed the tentative ruling and proposed deal as victories because they would allow Canada to stay.

“I think people have to understand if we hadn’t put this kind of pressure on them in the press, we wouldn’t be standing here, she would have been evicted,” Mecca said.

“Evicting a 99-year-old woman is immoral and unjust no matter how they try to spin it,” Mecca said.

The case is scheduled to return to court on April 27.

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