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Our Lady of Mount Carmel pastor leads rally against evictions

October 15, 2015
Valerie Schmalz

Our Lady of Mount Carmel pastor Father Ulysses D’Aquila and St. Pius pastoral associate Franciscan Sister Norberta Villasenor led a procession of about 300 people protesting the evictions of families from an apartment complex in Redwood City.

“I’m very much in support of our people. They are really suffering,” said Father D’Aquila, who preached on the issue at the Spanish language Masses. The demand for housing by the tech companies and their employees is pushing out poor renters most of whom are Latino, the pastor said. “I feel it is going to affect our community in a very serious way,” he said.

The Oct. 1 procession from El Camino Real to the complex at 1491 Hess Road concluded with a rally and prayers outside the complex. The sale of the complex was recorded Aug. 31 for $25.5 million, according to realtytrac.com.

“About a dozen families have received 30 and 60 day notices of eviction,” said Aracely Mondragon, a community organizer with San Francisco Organizing Project/Peninsula Interfaith Action, who noted the other families in the complex are worried they will be next. “We are standing with the families.”

San Mateo County has no tenant protections beyond those provided by state law, Mondragon noted. State law requires that renters for less than a year receive a 30-day eviction notice and those renting for more than a year receive a 60-day eviction notice, Mondragon said.

The San Mateo City Council held a public hearing on the housing crisis Sept. 21 and formed a task force to examine the issue. No legislation is currently proposed and there is not a housing or tenant rights measure on the Nov. 3 ballot in San Mateo.

SFOP/PIA wants legislation that would limit the amount of any rent increase by a landlord, probably to the annual Consumer Price Index increase. SFOP/PIA backs a “just cause evictions” law that would limit a landlord to evicting tenants for failure to pay rent, to damaging property or violating the lease and would otherwise only allow evictions if the landlord had a family member who was going to move in, Mondragon said. Now tenants can be evicted for any reason or no reason and there is no limit on the rent increases, Mondragon said.

The only city with a tenant rights law in San Mateo County is the city of East Palo Alto. Nearby San Jose and San Francisco have “just cause evictions” tenant law, said Mondragon.

SFOP/PIA backs construction of affordable public housing but “we also think there should be some preservation tactics to keep families who are already living here being able to continue to afford living here,” Mondragon said.

“It is such a sad situation and we heard a lot of people’s testimonials on their rents being doubled. Women with children, obviously there is no place people can find down here that is the least bit affordable,” Father D’Aquila said.

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