22-Year Upper Haight Resident Fights Back After 174% Rent Increase

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The newest story in our occasional coverage of extraordinary cases of evictions and rent hikes in and around the Upper Haight is that of Kate Lust, who's been living at 544 Clayton St. (pictured above) for 22 years.

On June 3rd, Lust received a notification from her landlord that her rent is being raised from $3,105 to $8,500 per month—a 174 percent increase over what she's been paying.

Lust, who shares the apartment with one other tenant, says she's unable to pay the $5,395 difference in rent. 544 Clayton, constructed in 1904, qualifies for rent control, so Lust sought assistance from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which spoke to us about the case.

"Because of a loophole, [Lust] hasn't been the person the landlord is considering the master tenant, even though they moved in at the same time 22 years ago," ACCE's organizer, Julien Ball, told us. "When he moved out, the landlord used that to say they could reset the rents."

However, Lust says that she has personally written rent checks to the landlord, received rent increase notices in her own name, and even received back her original deposit (plus interest), reflecting her 22-year tenure in the flat.

Lust also says the apartment, which is owned by Lynne White and represented by S&L Realty, also has no heat, is host to mice, and has holes in the floor.

"All those things are pretty typical of these old railroad flats," she said, but that doesn't make the rent hike any more feasible for her. (We reached out to S&L's Rob Link, who represents White, but he did not return a request for comment.)

In an effort to stay in her home, Lust said she's spoken to District 5 Supervisor London Breed's office and the city rent board. She also presented her case at a Board of Supervisors meeting after their summer recess. She's currently waiting for the rent board to issue a decision in her case.

Right now, she said, "I'm just doing what I've been doing since June 3rd. I'm leaving no stone unturned. If I lose my home, I have nowhere to go."

Ball said that ACCE's goal is to bring attention to the case, ideally to keep Lust in place in her apartment and under rent control protection. At the very least, they hope to get S&L Realty to dismiss White as a client. To that end, they're hosting a protest at S&L's headquarters at Geary and Spruce next Friday, September 30th at 11am.

Tomorrow (Sunday, September 25th) at 2pm, Lust is also hosting a neighborhood forum at her apartment, "to brainstorm solutions to the housing crisis in our neighborhood." All are welcome.

"I don't know that people understand that when you lose your home that you've been in for a long time, you lose your relationships, you lose your community," she told us. "I've watched children grow up and I've watched people become senior citizens, and I know that when I see them in the street, it's my job to protect them. It's a really good place to live, this neighborhood."

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