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Housing & Development

Time Is Running Out for a Great-Great-Grandmother Facing Eviction

Written by Olivia Cruz MayedaUpdated at Dec. 07, 2022 • 9:43amPublished Dec. 05, 2022 • 6:30pm
Evelyn Shauf has lived at 42 Sycamore St. in the Mission for 38 years and is facing eviction. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

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Evelyn Shauf’s landlord gave her 72 hours to vacate the Mission apartment she’s called home for the past 40 years. If she had lived alone, she would probably have just gone.

But the 82-year-old San Franciscan has a family to worry about.

“I got love right here,” she said, “and I want to die seeing my family in this house.”

Shauf’s resolve turned that eviction notice into a yearslong fight that continues today. And she’s hardly alone: Unless the city steps in to help low-income families, they can easily lose their foothold in San Francisco, practically overnight.

A state mandate to build 82,000 new homes by 2031 has put enormous pressure on San Francisco to balance growth while preventing displacement. One tool the city uses is a program designed to keep low-income, senior and long-term tenants in their homes by buying relatively small apartment complexes—thus the name, Small Sites.

But when Shauf asked Small Sites to buy the building she lives in, the city rejected the petition.

Now, if no other buyer steps in, Shauf will likely be evicted in the new year—along with her granddaughter, great-granddaughters and great-great-grandson.

Iriss Duarte (left), Ellenita Garay (middle left), Evelyn Shauf (middle right) and Esmeralda DeLaCruz (right) pose outside Evelyn’s house, where she has been living for 38 years. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

But there might be some hope.

Changes to the way Small Sites scores eligibility could mean Shauf’s application gets reconsidered. In the meantime, everything Shauf built in the last four decades hangs in the balance.

Down to the Wire

Born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and a Cherokee and German American father in the U.S. military, Shauf said her parents taught her profound generosity. It’s an ethos she brought to the Mission, where Shauf is known for housing, clothing and feeding whole families.

In 2019, her new landlord wanted to sell the building for a quick profit and cited the Ellis Act—which allows landlords to remove tenants if the units are taken off the rental market—as justification for her eviction, Shauf said. The landlord declined interview requests. In 2020, Shauf petitioned the city to buy and maintain her apartment building as affordable housing through the Small Sites program. But the city refused, suggesting relocation instead.

Shauf wants her family to stay put. 

Two of her sons died within two months of each other in 2020, one of a suspected drug overdose and the other of a stroke. Shauf raised both of them at her apartment on Sycamore Street. The high school her great-granddaughter goes to is within walking distance.

“This is our home,” Shauf said. “Not somewhere else.”

Inside one of Evelyn Shauf’s rooms in the house that she has been living in for 38 years | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

Small Sites got a $74 million cash infusion from the city late last year and adopted a new method for scoring applicants over the summer that prioritizes senior, disabled, low-income and long-term residents. The Mayor’s Office told The Standard that Shauf’s application is now being reevaluated in light of the new guidelines. 

Shauf is counting on the decision being different this time.

Shauf’s landlord, Michael Kambic, told The Standard that he wants to sell the building to the Mission Economic Development Agency through Small Sites—but that they haven’t been able to strike a deal.

Last Resort

If the city buys the property, Shauf said that would keep her family together, and she would remain a pillar of her community. 

One of the ironies of Small Sites is that some of the buildings that could use the most help are also the hardest to pencil out. Low-income tenants like Shauf often live in properties neglected for so long that rehabilitation costs become an enormous burden for any buyer.

The Shauf home on Sycamore is a case in point.

This is the kitchen in Evelyn Shauf’s home where she often cooks for her hungry neighbors. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

“We’ve had some expensive projects before,” the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development Director Eric Shaw told The Standard, “but from the very beginning of this project, it was over our thresholds at that time.” 

Therein lies the challenge, which executive director of the Filipino Cultural District Raquel Redondiez and other community leaders say the city should do more to meet. 

“They’re a perfect example of who Small Sites is for,” Redondiez said. “She’s an institution on that street.”

The Shaufs invested decades in a place whose rising costs made that foothold more tenuous. And how they fare in their fight holds implications for so many other households.

“She’s been helping people for as long as I can remember,” Shauf’s granddaughter Ellenita said. 

“And I’ve never, not a single time, been late on my rent,” Shauf added.

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