San Francisco Chinese Couple Wins Eviction Reprieve

Can an elderly Chinese couple and a galvanized community take on San Francisco's tech-driven gentrification?

By Julianne Hing Sep 26, 2013

Late Wednesday Gum Gee Lee and Poon Heung Lee, an elderly Chinese couple in San Francisco who are being forced from their home by a real estate developer, outlasted the sheriff’s deputies sent to enforce the tenants’ scheduled eviction. They were able to stay the night in their home. And together with housing and Asian-American community advocates, are ramping up the keep them there.

"It was our victory for the day," Omar Calimbas, an attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and the Lees’ attorney said in an e-mail. But Calimbas cautioned, the Lees can’t rest just yet. "The situation is very uncertain, because the sheriff’s policy is not to re-notify the tenants of the new eviction date."

The Lees have lived in their San Francisco apartment for 34 years, and still care for an adult daughter with disabilities there. It wasn’t so easy for them to pack up and leave when a real estate devloper named Matthew Miller with a track record of buying San Francisco apartment buildings to flip into luxury condos bought their building, then offered the family a buyout to leave. After the Lees decided to try to stay in their home, Miller moved to evict them. 

The Lees eviction galvanized tenants’ rights advocates and the Asian-American community, and many fed up with the accelerated gentrification of the city that’s been spurred by nearby Silicon Valley’s tech boom. As new transplants flush with tech money move in, it’s families like the Lees who’ve been forced out of their homes.

The California Supreme Court affirmed that Miller was acting within his legal rights to evict the Lees, but the Lees have appealed that ruling, Calimbas said. In the meantime, Calimbas told Colorlines, "Organizers are prepared to mobilize again when a new eviction date is set.  We plan to have the same turnout as yesterday when that happens."