Attempted evictions of three families draw furious responseMission district landlord Jim Khorge is trying to evict three Latino families from their homes, declaring them to be nuisances. The eviction attempt has enraged neighbors, friends of the two families and hundreds of Mission District residents who have taken to the streets in an ongoing series of spirited actions. .
On March 8th more than a hundred people began the first of a series of protests over the eviction of the Marenco, Recinos and Barbarosa families from 868 Shotwell. Carrying a symbolic potted tree and accompanied by guitar players, a group proceeded from the home of Roger Marenco and his brothers and sisters to the corner of 24th and Folsom where a petition was presented to Dan Khorge at P&S Liquors. The liquor store is owned by Dan's brother, Jim Khorge, who is the landlord of 868 Shotwell. Diana Marenco, age 8, and Jocelyn Recinos, age 10, presented the petition, which asked that Khorge not proceed with the eviction of the families that have lived at the location for eleven years. Speeches were made in Spanish and English and the tree was presented to Dan Khorge as a symbolic statement that the families did not wish to be uprooted.
Demonstrators returned in even greater numbers on March 17. Led by the percussion group Loco Bloco, the demonstrators, about 150 strong, proceeded down to 24th Street where they held boisterous rallies in front of Khorge's liquor store and check cashing business at 24th and Shotwell, as well the 24th Street law offices of Khorge attorney Donald Bloom. Supervisor Tom Ammiano joined the protest and spoke in support of the tenants. " My late partner taught at Cesar Chavez School [located on the 800 block of Shotwell] and he would be appalled if he knew what was happening," Ammiano said. (Ammiano subsequently received a bullying letter from Bloom which did not deter the supervisor from staying involved. "Things like that just make things worse," Ammiano said.)
Weekly protests continue every Wednesday in the interest of "hitting Jim Khorge in the pocket book;" his liquor store and check cashing businesses at 24th and Shotwell have been picketed and boycotted.
The tenants have raised the issue of racial discrimination as their landlord has a history of evicting Latin American renters from his properties and they have taken the matter to the city's Human Rights Commission. Donald Bloom argues this accusation has no grounds, that anyone Jim Khorge has evicted has been evicted for good reason and that his client's grounds for eviction are completely legitimate.
The bad neighbor policy
The street actions directed at Khorge follow months of disputes between the Latino families who live at 868 Shotwell and their neighbor Robin Wolfe who moved in next door at 862 Shotwell a little under a year ago after buying the property in 1999 for $535,000, a very good deal for a four-unit building.
According to Roger Marenco, Wolfe was standoffish from the time she first moved in. "I was holding a barbecue to celebrate graduation from high school and having friends over. It was during the afternoon. I invited her over to have a burger and it seemed cool, but then she called the cops on us a half hour later." Marenco said that Wolfe has called the cops on her neighbors at least 17 times since November and that the cause of the complaint has always been "noise and nuisance."
Marenco also stated that Wolfe "acted like she was living in a fortress." A fence was built separating the two properties, security cameras were installed in the windows of 862 and a bright halogen light was trained on the space between the two houses. Concerning the last item, Marenco filed a complaint with the Department of Building Inspection in February. As it turned out the light, which burned all night, had been installed without a permit. Ms. Wolfe was fined $675.30.
Ten year old Jocelyn Recinos, who sometimes played with her friends on Wolfe's stoop, told New Mission News they were threatened by Wolfe. "She told us to get off her property or she'd get a dog to come and bite us," Recinos said.
All this might seem like a petty dispute between two neighbors who just can't seem to get along if it weren't for the bigger patterns involved.
It all opens some not-so-old wounds. For two years New Ramize Flowers, a Latino-owned and operated business also located on the 800 block of Shotwell Street, was the target of dozens of complaints by a single neighbor to the police and numerous city agencies. It took a yearlong grass roots organizing drive by neighbors and community groups to save the business. Correctly or not, many see the New Ramose Flowers and 868 Shotwell controversies as examples of the same thing: one person manipulating the legal system to the detriment of a Latino family, while the voices of everyone else in the community go unheard.
According to Donald Bloom, Jim Khorge's attorney, the families at 868 are a nuisance to the neighborhood and have been the subject of numerous complaints to police by many of their neighbors. None of the people who spoke with the New Mission News - the Shotwell neighbors and faculty of Cesar Chavez - said that they had problems with the Marencos, Barbarosas or Recinos. According to Roger Marenco, Robin Wolfe has been the only neighbor to make complaints to the police.
Last month the families in two of the five units of 868 Shotwell received an eviction notice. The grounds for the eviction were that the families were creating a nuisance, damaging property and creating waste on the premises.
This was not the first time that the landlord had threatened the current residents with eviction. Jim Khorge has initiated six evictions since 1999, two of them involving residents at 868 Shotwell. One complaint was made against Rosamaria Barbarosa when a dog was found in her back yard. She received a three-day notice because her rental agreement specified "no dogs." The matter was settled and dismissed. Another case was brought against Oscar Oveido who was delinquent in his rent for two months. Oveido argued that Khorge "breached warranty to provide habitable premises" in answer to the complaint, citing cockroach infestation and dangerous stairs. The matter was settled in the landlord's favor. There have been eleven eviction cases filed by Khorge since 1997. The majority of the defendants have Spanish surnames. Since Khorge lives in and does business in the Mission that doesn't indicate much more than that he's inclined to litigation, but some people don't see it that way.
The race issue
Roger Marenco believes that it was Robin Wolfe who persuaded Jim Khorge to evict his family. Supporters of the families have argued that both Wolfe and Khorge are practicing racial discrimination against Latinos. Opinions of those who spoke to the New Mission News were weighed against those of Wolfe and Khorge. Charles Williams, who was playing football with some of the neighborhood kids, said, "She's the only person who doesn't get along around here. When I moved here I had to adapt to the neighborhood; we all did, but she acts like the neighborhood is supposed to adapt to her. She wants to be a hermit." Another woman living on the 800 block of Shotwell said, "She never tried to bring any problems she had to any of the adults or the parents, she would just yell at the children." Calls to Robin Wolfe's attorney were not returned.
Donald Bloom said accusations that Jim Khorge is practicing racial discrimination against Latinos were ridiculous. "The Khorge family has owned their store for 50 years. Jim's father is a full-blooded Arab and his wife is an East Indian. How could he be racist? He has no agenda against Hispanics. These families are propagating stereotypes and using public intimidation tactics to make people support them against a lawful eviction," Bloom said. He said he was holding off filing an unlawful detainer action in court to give the families adequate time to "make arrangements" other than pursuing litigation and to review the validity of such an action.
Supporters of the families are organizing a block party on the 800 block of Shotwell beginning at noon on April 21st to draw attention to the current situation. The party will include the Aztec Dancers and other performers as well as political speakers.
My name is Roger Kenny Marenco. My family and I have been living in the Mission District for the past ten years. My younger siblings and I have grown up in the building which we live in right now, along with our next-door neighbor Anaya Oralia and her grandchildren. The entire neighborhood knows who we are. We have never had a problem with anyone about anything. We have been good neighbors to everyone just like they have been good neighbors to us.
Just on our block alone there have been five other evictions. On top of all of these evictions, discrimination against minorities, and other problems, we can't forget the great deal of crying, pain, anger, and stress that Carmen Ramirez has suffered throughout all of these years because one man tried to close down her small business of selling flowers to the community.
Eviction, discrimination, and gentrification are happening all over the Mission District. No one wants to stand up and have his or her voice heard because of what the consequences might turn out to be. But if we don't have our voices heard, we will be told how to live and what not to do with our lives.
With the help of organizations such as Saint Peter's Housing Committee, La Raza Centro Legal, and the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition. we can make a difference. We will make a difference and our voices will be heard, not tomorrow but today!