Coalition Demands That Burned Building be Reconstructed, Kept Affordable

A coalition of organizations based in San Francisco’s Mission district held a news conference this morning to demand that the city promptly restore homes and business at a building that caught fire over one year ago, resulting in the death of one person and the displacement of 60 residents.

Supervisor David Campos, along with representatives from Causa Justa, the Mission Economic Development Agency and Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, met outside of the building, located on the corner of 22nd and Mission streets, which was destroyed in a four-alarm fire on Jan. 28, 2015.

Since the fire, the building has been deteriorating due to recent El Nino storms and the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection has ordered that it be demolished, according to the coalition.

If the building were demolished, however, tenants would lose their rights to their units, as well as rent control, after reconstruction.

The group is asking that the city ensure that the owner does not have the building demolished and that the 60 displaced residents and 18 displaced businesses be allowed back to their units with the same rent controlled prices, once the building is restored.

“You do not lose rent control rights on a building when there is a fire until the building is reconstructed and the landlord applies to the rent board for an exemption. And there’s a very complicated process that happens at the rent board to determine whether a building has lost rent control or not,” Tommi Avicolli Mecca, with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco said.

The group also is asking that the city use eminent domain on the property in the interest of the public and that the district attorney file criminal charges against the building’s owner for failing to have the building up to code after allegedly being issued over 100 violations from the Department of Building inspections, the group said.

According to the coalition, the owner was seeking to sell the building for $20 million.

“This landlord has failed this community. This landlord for many years has made a lot of money and forced these people to live in some pretty horrible conditions, to the point that one person actually died. And this landlord refuses, since the fire happened, to actually rebuild this building as he has a moral obligation to do,” Campos said during the conference.

Back in April, fire officials concluded that the fire, which killed 40 year-old Mauricio Orellana of El Salvador, was most likely caused by an electrical fault.

Following the fire, residents were able to get temporary affordable housing, provided by the city, with many staying in Treasure Island.

Milagros Rodriguez, 38, had lived in the building for 12 years prior to the fire, and said she’s not too happy with her temporary Treasure Island home and wants to return to the Mission.

“I don’t like it, it’s very far and since I work here, it’s too much of a journey,” Rodriguez said. “I’m used to living here, so for that reason I’m hoping that it all works out and that we can return to the building.”

Daniel Montes, Bay City News

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