For the last 23 years, the Foy-Martí family have called the San Francisco Victorian nestled at Blanche and 23rd streets home. Yet, despite the current temporary eviction ban in San Francisco, they are now at threat of being displaced.
“This eviction is awful,” said Carmelo, the 12-year-old child of Michelle Foy and Fernando Martí. “But we will push through it. It’s very unjust and not right. And I’ve lived in this house all of my life. I was even born in this house and to be kicked out from this house…is very hard.”
On Oct. 12, dozens of community organizers, housing advocates and local politicians rallied in front of the Foy-Martí’s Noe Valley home in support of the family, who have received a 60-day “Owner Move-In Eviction Notice.” Among those present were Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Dean Preston, Myrna Melgar and Rafael Mandelman’s legislative aide, Tom Temprano.
According to the Foy-Martí family, the eviction is being carried out by real estate speculators, Peter and Tanya Omran, who allegedly say that they need the unit for their daughter, Tatiana.
Martí, an artist, poet and hardened housing rights activist, for years has fought on the front lines against displacement and evictions of fellow San Francisco residents.
“It’s tough,” Martí said. “I think because we’re activists, we don’t always think about the toll. Like, ‘I’m fighting. I’m down for the fight!’ The last month, it’s been hard to sleep. It sort of invades your dreams and you wake up at 3 in the morning, just thinking about it…So knowing that that affects me this way, and I’m connected, I think about how it affects other people who don’t don’t have that.”
Peter Omran—a Christian Missionary who is the president of the Novato-based nonprofit Heart of Mercy International—and his family purchased the house where the Foy-Martís live and attempted to evict the family in 2019, and even offered the family a buyout. The Omran’s also own a “socially responsible” coffee plantation in Ethiopia, called Abana Coffee.
“It seems to me a contradiction between these Christian values and this socially responsible business and the idea that just because you have more money, you can evict somebody,” Martí said. “You wonder, how can these people call themselves Christian, and they’re acting in this greedy way.”
The Foy-Martís—despite a local judge ruling against their case earlier this month—argue that the eviction is illegal based on San Francisco’s current eviction ban.
The state’s eviction moratorium expired on June 30, 2021, and according to Martí, the Omran’s timed the eviction notice just as the statewide ban on evictions was set to expire. Despite that state expiration, San Francisco passed eviction moratorium extensions.
Last October, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors banned “Other Than Non-Payment of Rent” evictions, and that ban has now been extended to Nov. 30, 2021.
“But the judges are not paying attention to that. They’re acting against San Francisco’s own law and saying that the state law that ended June 30th, that’s the only one that applies,” Martí said. “The other part is, we don’t believe that they’re acting in good faith. Supposedly, the reason for an ‘owner move-in eviction’ is that an owner or their relative doesn’t have any place else to live, so they need to move to this place. They’re targeting us, not our neighbor who’s a senior, because it’s easier to evict a family than a senior. But they have to show that they really do need this place. And we know that when they bought this place, in their family they had other apartment buildings that they were doing short-term rentals, they were doing corporate rentals, about six months after they bought our house they inherited another property…if [Tatiana] really did have other places that she could move in, then this is not an owner move-in eviction and they’re just using her as an excuse to try to get us out.”
District 5 Supervisor Preston outright called the eviction “bogus,” “immoral,” and “illegal.”
“The entire effort to drive this family from their home violates the laws we have passed in San Francisco,” Preston said. “I can’t believe we have to be here, in the midst of a global pandemic where people are hanging on by a thread where, people have lost loved ones and friends and neighbors and the owners of this property, or at least those who were recognized by these laws as the owners of this property, think that they have the right to throw a family out of their homes in the middle of a global pandemic that’s why we passed [legislation], unanimously, at the Board of Supervisors on exactly these kind of evictions that [are] in effect right now.”
Despite the public support, the Foy-Martís now prepare for trial, which will likely begin in November.
“I don’t think they’re evil,” Martí said of the Omrans. “Part of the thing about this, is that our society allows and encourages people to act in these greedy ways. So we say, ‘It’s okay because they own this property, they should do whatever they want in this property, because it’s their property.’ And I’m always reminded that all of this city is on stolen land. It’s all indigenous land and as a non-native person, it’s always difficult to figure out what’s the right way to do the right thing. Knowing that you’re living in settler-colonial times. But using greed and using land to kick people out to make a profit, that is definitely not the right way to have a right approach to living on this land.”