It's Complicated

Another Googler (And Serial Evictor) Personally Targeted in Ellis Act Protests

Friday morning Eviction Free San Francisco blocked another Google bus to draw attention to evictions by landlord Jack Halprin at 812 Guerrero. Halprin is currently facing a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court alleging wrongful eviction from a former tenant, while the remaining tenants in his seven unit building, including two teachers, are facing evictions under the Ellis Act, which Halprin filed less than a year after moving in.  It has been alleged that his intent is to create a single-family home out of the multi-unit building.

Besides being a landlord and Google employee, who is Jack Halprin?  Is he really the worst?

According to his Google Plus profile, Halprin enjoys craft spirits, mosh pits, science fiction movies and his “work related passions” are “information governance, data management, the preservation obligation and compliance related issues.” Halprin made a small donation to EQCA in 2008 during the fight against Prop 8, has marched with fellow Googlers in San Francisco’s LGBT Pride Parade and, with his domestic partner at the time, Daniel Ortiz, gave thousands of dollars to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center in 2011.  Seems nice enough!

“Mr. Halprin ensures Google’s legal team has the tools, technology and capabilities to meet e-discovery obligations,” according to a press release for a keynote address to The Masters Conference for Legal Professionals in April of last year.  He left his previous job as Vice President, eDiscovery and Compliance at British information technology firm Autonomy shortly before it was purchased by Hewlett-Packard in a $12 billion acquisition which HP later had to mostly write off.

He’s currently helping customers of the Postini service Google acquired in 2007 to Google Apps Vault, a product which he helped announce in 2012 shortly before signing the deed to his building. Google Apps Vault offers tools for companies that use Google Apps to respond quickly to document discovery requests like archived emails when defending themselves from civil litigation and other matters, tools which Google presumably uses in-house as well.  So he’s not exactly working on military robot technology.  But you could argue that he does help Google defend itself from lawsuits over the company’s controversial privacy and employment practices.

A few months after joining Google, in March of 2012, he and Ortiz bought the building together at 812 Guerrero and Halprin moved in, evicting a former tenant in the process. Ortiz, however, remained in Venice, California according to tenants.  On August 30th of 2012, an eviction notice was served to 20-year building tenant Susan Coss, Halprin’s neighbor in an adjoining apartment.  Ostensibly, Ortiz would be moving into the unit from his home in Venice and making it his primary residence for the next three years.

Halprin allowed Coss to stay in her unit until November 16th, a couple of weeks after the date on the notice, but according to Coss’s attorney Joe Tobener, he and Ortiz filed for separation on November 10th.  And after Coss left, the wrongful eviction lawsuit alleges Halprin proceeded to merge her unit into his as part of an unpermitted remodel.  A check of the online San Francisco Property Information Map database shows two permits on file for 2013, neither of which were for a unit merger.

Halprin later filed for an Ellis Act eviction on the property to empty the rest of the building, possibly in retaliation for supporting their neighbor Coss in the lawsuit according to one of the remaining tenants, Johnny, who spoke from the steps of his building during the evening protest. In the press release announcing the protests, Johnny had stated “I don’t think rich Google lawyers should be able to come into a neighborhood and buy a piece of property that is a rental property and then quickly evict everyone there to make a bigger profit.  I think it’s unethical.”

Halprin told Mission Local that “I do not intend to turn this into condos.” On the one hand, to merge the entire building into a single-family home might require a ten year wait after the Ellis eviction. On the other, typically the buildings are immediately converted to a Tenancy in Common, which, technically, is not a condominium.  The building has been designated a “Potential Historic Resource,” meaning any signficant renovations could require more than just permits from the Planning Department.

Voicemail messages left for Halprin and his attorney, Edward Rodzewich, have not been returned. Rodzewich did formally reply to the wrongful eviction lawsuit on behalf of Halprin, denying all the charges.

Reached by phone, Tobener was optimistic that Coss would prevail. “Their only defense is that they thought they were going to reconcile,” he argued before noting that Halprin didn’t see fit to mention to Coss that he and Ortiz had separated mere days before Coss had agreed to leave. Regardless, tenants say that Ortiz never moved in, thereby violating the primary residence requirement.

A case management conference for the parties in the suit set for April 23rd was recently cancelled, and a jury trial remains scheduled for March 16th, 2015.  After rattling off a number of other, disgruntingly similar cases being handled by his firm (which exclusively represents tenants), Tobener admitted that “three years ago, this wouldn’t have been newsworthy.”  But then these are crazy times in “The Quad.”  Business Insider reporter Kyle Russell, who was in San Francisco to cover the evening protest, reports that later (and not at the march), a “random person went after me for wearing Glass.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener (who’s District 8 includes Halprin’s property) stayed to walk with neighbors even after enduring shouts of “Scott Wiener go home!” by a group including Housing Rights Committee organizer Tommy Avicolli Mecca before the march started moving. Activist Patrick Connors, when asked if he felt that Halprin’s support for LGBT causes and organizations complicated the matter at hand, responded that “Sexual orientation is not a class issue.”  As for the Wiener’s presence in support of tenants? “It’s a reminder that he’s up for re-election.”

“If anything,” he added, “it makes him more baffling.”

The march continued on to 55 Duboce, where another two local teachers face eviction.   As for the tenants at 812 Guerrero still facing the Ellis eviction, the protests may not be able to save anyone’s home, but they might put more pressure onto Mayor Ed Lee to quickly sign recent legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors significantly increasing the mandated minimums for relocation payments. Tenants evicted under Ellis who haven’t yet vacated will be entitled to the Rental Payment Differential provisions starting 90 days from the effective date of the ordinance once they do.  If Lee doesn’t sign it, or attempt to veto it, the bill will become law on April 19th.

Comments (44)

Tech = Death just seems like bad math.

That oddly makes me feel badass working in tech. I also feel like a victim now, so best of both worlds.

* Sorry to be insensitive by the way.

That pic of him has been Photoshopped and not in a good way.

You cited a *tweet* for what the law requires for changing a multi-unit into a single-family-residence. I wonder if there are other ways to know what the law requires. Let me know if the tweet checks out (it doesn’t). 

unfortunate for the residents but its his building, and just as the residents can leave anytime they want, he can stop renting if he no longer want to. That’s how renting works. 

The large percentage of renters in San Francisco produces local laws which are somewhat biased toward renters, but it doesn’t change the fundamental difference between owning and renting. 

Exactly. Rent control has given some renters the false sense of security that they’ve somehow achieved the rights of owners (without any of the commitment, investment or risk). If the city truly were interested in promoting housing stability it would develop programs that would expand home ownership. But it’s a lot easier to grandstand in front of an apartment building while vowing more duct tape ‘fixes’ to a broken housing model. 

Sure, the guy is a jerk. But he’s also a law-abiding jerk. If he screwed up something in the eviction process, the the courts will set him straight, and he will just figure out how to do it legally. 

If you don’t like that this is legal, protest the law, not the citizen who is (presumably) acting within the law. I think that protests like this which harras individuals do little to change the state if affairs and may actually be counter productive to the cause. Maybe I’m wrong. 

IMO, there should be large waiting periods for Ellis Act evictions to prevent this kind if real estate flipping. I also think that the rules governing condo conversion should also apply to people wanting to slice up a multi-unit building into TICs. 

Most of all, we need to get rid of the in-lieu of option which allows developers to pay a small fee rather than build a mandated amount of below-market-rate units. There’s no way we will build ourselves out of this without changing that first. 

“Sure, the guy is a jerk. But he’s also a law-abiding jerk.”

Actually, he isn’t. Did you even *read* the complaint (or even the description of the lawsuit right there in the UA post)? 

Yeah, I did. He did not legally OMI the unit. But his subsequent Ellis Act, if approved, would vacate that unit. He can get sued pretty hard for not abiding by OMI regulations. Hopefully the tenant wins.

I don’t want to defend the guy, but it looks like he meant it to be legal. Like: buy a big home, occupy two units under a legal OMI, combine them, rent the rest. Have the boyfriend move-in in the unit next door and merge them, and leave the rest of the renters in peace. Then shit happens with boyfriend, break-up, no move in, and of course wrongful eviction lawsuit now that boyfriend stays in LA, and then Ellis now that the tenant wants to get back in after wrongful OMI. And then people pick him to be the poster boy of what’s wrong with tech in the city. That’s one costly break-up. 

From what I understand if you intend to evict a tenant to merge two units, you have to go through a long and difficult process with the city which includes a public hearing. If it was their intention to merge the units, they should have sought permits. I don’t see any how this would have ever been legal otherwise.

I don’t think any one is questioning his legal choice. There is cause to question his ethics.

As uncomfortable as that question may be he also chose to buy a building full of tenants. He might be able to make them all go away but they don’t have to do it quietly.

What personally grates me about this situation is while the tech press continues to hammer SF about increasing density (all while giving Silicon Valley’s low density development a pass), the very employees of that industry are actively decreasing density for their own benefit (evicting 7 families/units for one individual).

One employee of one tech company.   Clearly you’ve identified a trend.  Pitchforks!

Folks are obviously angling to make Jack a symbol, but it is happening elsewhere (my friend is in one of three units that was just OMIed by two Google engineers at Duboce and Valencia).  Sadly, we’re beginning to hear these horror stories more and more…

It’s not just tech, bro. It’s anyone who has the money to do it, lawyers, doctors, trust-funders, construction companies, foriegn investors, etc. You act as if tech employees are some special version of upper-middle-class who are meaner than their counterparts when it comes to real estate speculation. 

No, they’re just much more plentiful now.

Seems like these protestors should’nt discriminate where they apply their ire, is all I’m saying. Targeting members of one industry shoots them in the foot because it makes it about big bad evil TECH rather than about what the real problem is.

2 anecdotes out of 100,000’s of households in SF. OK.

How is an OMI an horror story?

My reading of the article is that he didn’t intend to evict all 7 families, but only OMI two units with his boyfriend. So he is only 2/7th as evil as he’s being portrayed in comments here. Then he and his partner separated, making the OMI illegal, making the OMI‘d tenant wanting to come back, making him Ellis act everyone out to prevent the tenant from returning. The Ellis seems like a dick move, I grant you that, he should have settled with the OMI‘d tenant (also I think he’s on flimsy ground Ellis acting tenants when the tenancy of some is unresolved). 

So if you are married or in a domestic partnership here in SF, you can have your partner evict someone in a different unit than you live in?

Does anyone believe that even if he moved up to SF he would have exclusively lived downstairs from his partner? I don’t.

Girl, they’d need the second apartment just to store all the shoes!!

Real estate in frisco has always been a blood sport. And now more than eveh!  So hate the game, not the player. 

And why not both? Makes the game an easier topic to discuss, right?

Yup.  It’s fair and just to hate both the “game” and the people who exploit loopholes in the law.

The game wouldn’t exist if nobody played it.

That may be, but not sure why anyone on this blog would care about real estate in a small city in Texas.

In 2000 my sister was in the position to buy a home in Potrero Hill with a mortgage (early days of easy financing after the tech bust) and made an offer.  Back then it was deemed necessary to send flowers or maybe wine to the seller and write an essay about your life and what you are doing SF.  A letter with an offer amount and basically explain why you need/deserve the apartment they are selling.

I have not heard of that since then.  Does it still occur?  

Yes, it’s gotten that way again. I was lucky enough to find a place of my own after 3 years of bidding wars. For my last one I picked a really nice picture of myself and attached to it a one-page essay on how I would be the ideal person to buy a house which had been neglected for 10 years. 

Apparently, my letter was enough to get me the place even though I was outbid by one other potential buyer.

Don’t be evil.

Except when the teacher’s rear-facing unit down the hall would make a lovely walk-in closet and craft brew kitchen. Then, be evil.

So nice to see you back reporting, Jackson West. You offer a three-dimensional take on our gentrifying villain who is about to become the Google Real Estate Tyrant Poster Boy. I almost pity the poor guy, but not really.

Hi Mike, I don’t pity him, but it’s quite a mess of a break-up that leads to a wrongful eviction lawsuit that leads to him being the poster boy of anti-tech resentment. When it rains, it pours. And he’s not even a geek, he’s a lawyer! 

Tech=death? Rtard much?

This is the kind of person Wiener champions for city gov positions:  Ellis condo owners.

Great to see him out marching.

Gillian has been a great activist for the improvement of her community (and mine, I met her as a parent at KMS pre-school on Guerrero). She pretty much single handedly pushed forward the green median on guerrero that slowed down traffic and made the neighborhood much nicer. She was involved in the St Luke hospital renovation from the community side as well. I’m pretty sure that it’s her activity on behalf of making the guerrero/san jose neighborhood better that recommended her to Sup. Wiener. I’m also pretty sure that you can’t discriminate employment based upon having Ellis acted a unit in the city. 

My feelings after marching on Friday night are too complicated to get out here (sad after talking to folks who are being kicked out of their places with nowhere to go/that my City is losing parts of its soul in the process, hopeful that some seemed to actually care, and so on), but I do want to say thanks for this write-up. I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see no coverage in Saturday’s Chronicle and little elsewhere. I wish I’d gotten a pic of the woman in the wheelchair corking (to borrow a Critical Mass term) the employee shuttle… Be compassionate out there, kids. 

Here I got it, all the people that believe people should just buy houses if they don’t like it need to do this:

1. Start paying 5-6 times the amount of everything you purchase in San Francisco. Food, drinks, events etc. Oh and make sure you start tipping at least 50%, 15-20% is no longer cutting it for people fetching your craft beers.

2. Buy things in San Francisco (online does not count). 

3. GIVE tons of money to schools, and independently fund child care for people.  

4. Donate to non-profits, not just fellow tech companies.

By doing those 4 easy things we may be able to leverage the inequality in the city for all the people that actually make this city work…and yes San Francisco was a big bustling city prior to the internet so it is possible. Otherwise people should feel secure in renting, its mutually beneficial to the landloards and the city since it allows people to survive on shit wages and keeps teachers, small business owners and 95% of the rest of the poeple who turn the lights on around- you eliminate the idea of renting and you turn society on its head- 

And if it is heavily damaged in an earth quake your f*ck’d if you’re an owner.  Renting has some financial perks in some occastions.