‘I Love My Group’: SF’s ‘Flower Woman’ Hopes for Eviction Reprieve From Bernal Heights House


“I used to select flowers as a result of it makes me pleased,” mentioned Donis through the demonstration. “I am an Indigenous particular person and that is my method of praying and contributing to protests, cultural occasions and ceremonial occasions. I’ve offered neighbors with a flower or two as a method of thanking everybody. I really like my neighborhood.”

Donis, 65, says her want could be to remain in her two-bedroom unit for one more yr so she will be able to recuperate from two surgical procedures she must have, associated to severe ongoing well being points. Donis is a most cancers survivor.

“[My mom] wants two quick surgical procedures and hasn’t been in a position to ebook them not understanding if she could be and not using a house,” Maya Luna, Donis’ daughter, instructed KQED on Thursday. “The stress from the state of affairs has accelerated a few of her illnesses. Proper now we wish to give you an settlement that provides her time to deal with her well being wants.”

“I’m praying the landlords withdraw the Ellis Act eviction,” Donis mentioned on Monday. “If I didn’t know English, if I used to be unlawful and if I didn’t know my rights, I might have already been kicked out.”

A woman wearing a red jacket and orange striped shirt hands a flower to another person in a crowd.
Xiomára Chingate, a buddy and supporter of Denhi Donis, provides out flowers to demonstrators outdoors Donis’ Bernal Heights house in San Francisco on Might 16, 2022, to protest an Ellis Act eviction discover Donis obtained. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Greater than 500 folks have signed a petition asking the landlords, Thorsten Gernoth and Blanca Estela Rodríguez, to cease the eviction and hold Donis housed. Even earlier than she obtained discover of the pending Ellis Act eviction, Donis mentioned she had points along with her landlords starting from being prohibited from accessing their yard, to equipment points within the condo together with her range remaining damaged for over two years.

An legal professional representing Gernoth and Rodríguez didn’t return KQED’s requests for remark.

María Cristina Gutiérrez, an activist, spoke on Donis’ behalf throughout Monday’s demonstration and recalled how Donis has been current for a number of social justice actions.

Two women stand together in front of a microphone. One woman wearing a leopard print jacket has her fist raised.
Maria Cristina Gutiérrez (proper) holds palms with Denhi Donis outdoors Donis’ Bernal Heights house in San Francisco on Might 16, 2022, to protest an Ellis Act eviction discover Donis obtained. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“She is just not an elder being a sufferer, she is a revolutionary being the sufferer on this neighborhood and we should deal with our folks, brothers and sisters,” mentioned Gutiérrez. “They allowed all these landowners to tear us off by charging cash that we can not afford and giving us salaries which might be depressing, giving unhealthy training to our youngsters and denying us free well being care. That is what this complete system is all about. Not simply the eviction.”

The Ellis Act is a 1986 legislation that permits landlords to evict their tenants to exit the rental market — however in response to tenant advocates, it is usually used to evict residents with the purpose of ultimately flipping the property for a revenue. Below the Ellis Act, for 5 years after evicting a tenant, a landlord could not re-rent the identical unit for greater than the rent-controlled charge. After 5 years, a landlord could elevate lease to market worth. Evicted tenants have the best of first refusal if their unit is put again on the rental market inside 10 years.

A examine by Tenants Collectively and The Anti-Eviction Mapping Challenge discovered that between 1997 and 2013, 78% of Ellis Act evictions have been began by homeowners inside their first 5 years of possession of the property. A minimum of 10,000 San Francisco tenants have been evicted via the Ellis Act.

People stand outside holding signs that read
Pals and supporters of Denhi Donis, often known as the Flower Woman, collect outdoors her Bernal Heights house in San Francisco on Might 16, 2022, to protest an Ellis Act eviction discover she obtained. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Tenants teams like Tenants Collectively and Housing Rights Committee are at the moment advocating for a statewide measure — Meeting Invoice 2050 — that might work as a safeguard by prohibiting Ellis Act evictions if an proprietor hasn’t owned the constructing for at the least 5 years. The invoice would additionally prohibit evictions by a landlord who has used the Ellis Act inside the final 10 years on one other constructing.

“The Ellis Act might be one of many worst items of laws ever enacted in Sacramento, however we do have the chance to not repeal it, however reform it in a serious method with AB 2050,” mentioned Steve Collier, lead managing legal professional for San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, at Monday’s demonstration. “The invoice would mainly require you to truly be a landlord within the rental enterprise earlier than you get out of the enterprise. So you may really must be there as a landlord and have tenants as an alternative of simply scooping up property, evicting the tenants after which flipping [the building].”

Raquel Fox, an legal professional representing Donis who works on the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, mentioned she hopes AB 2050 will move and assist cease Ellis Act abuses.

“Below the Ellis Act, if the speculators in [Donis’] constructing have been to supply the condo again to her inside the first 5 years, it could nonetheless must be … underneath $500 a month,” mentioned Fox. “But when they waited 5 years … they may provide the condo again to this senior at honest market worth. So they may say, ‘We wish $8,000 a month to lease’ … and in most situations, the tenant could be priced out and the landlords may flip round and simply lease at honest market worth.”

A woman wearing a white shirt and holding flowers in one hand, extends her arms to the crowd.
Denhi Donis, often known as the Flower Woman, provides out flowers to mates and supporters who gathered outdoors her Bernal Heights house in San Francisco on Might 16, 2022, to protest an Ellis Act eviction discover she obtained. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Born in Mexico, Donis got here to San Francisco 25 years in the past along with her two kids, Maya and Emiliano, after fleeing home violence in Chicago.

She and her household spent their first yr in a shelter earlier than she acquired on her toes working on the Ladies’s Constructing within the Mission District and different nonprofit organizations within the metropolis. Donis mentioned she lived within the Mission for 10 years till gentrification pressured her out, and she or he moved to her present condo in Bernal Heights. She’s develop into a well-known face to native residents for donating flowers to neighborhood advocates within the neighborhood, in addition to for Día de Muertos altars and New 12 months’s celebrations.

After a suggestion from her son, she started promoting flowers on Valentine’s Day six years in the past on Cortland Avenue.

“Within the Bay Space, there is not any such factor as reasonably priced housing anymore,” mentioned Maya Luna. “It isn’t sensible to seek out housing for my mother, who’s a avenue vendor. My mother brings pleasure and helps neighborhood occasions, and the neighborhood heard her cry in her time of want and answered the decision. It’s the stress we have now in numbers that this situation that goes past my mother’s single case to the forefront of the Metropolis Council to make reforms within the legislation to not permit an elder to be pushed out of her house.”

KQED’s Sara Hossaini and Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí contributed reporting to this story.



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