A 75-year-old man, who faced eviction from his Chinatown apartment after nearly half a century, got a second chance Tuesday from a judge, if he pays two months' rent and allows the landlord to inspect how clean it is.
Ho Ching Wong was supposed to be evicted last week, but is allowed to stay in his apartment if he meets those conditions, which includes a landlord inspection at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, said San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ronald Evans Quidachay.
During the inspection, the landlord will make sure that Wong has indeed cleaned up his apartment, especially all of his belonging that spilled out into the hallway of the 12-unit building, causing a fire hazard, argued the landlord's attorney, Francisco Gutierrez.
Despite the mess and possible safety issues, Supervisor Aaron Peskin took up Wong's cause, helping him to clean up his home, and finding him an attorney.
Wong has lived in the same apartment in Chinatown across from the Chinese Hospital, since his young adulthood. But in 2010, the building was bought by a new owner, who told Wong he had one month to clean up five decades of accumulated stuff, according to Peskin.
In April, Wong’s landlord filed an eviction lawsuit against him. And the owner’s agent, Peter Chang, presented Wong with an agreement that required him to remove his life's belongings in 30 days, Peskin’s office said.
Peskin contended that Wong signed the agreement, but the Cantonese-speaking man didn't understand what he was doing, and he didn't have any legal counsel. Peskin took up the case, even though Wong had made a mistake in signing the agreement, because he felt sorry for the older man who was on the brink of losing his community, his office said. In May, the landlord told a judge that Wong breached his agreement.
“Evicting this lifelong tenant from his home and away from his community is just inhumane,” Peskin said. “It’s also unfair and extremely challenging to ask someone to part with a lifetime of memories and cherished belongings in just few weeks’ time. If Mr. Wong’s eviction was predicated on his ability to clean up his apartment, he has complied and should be allowed to stay in his home of 50 years.”
A sheriff’s eviction was initially scheduled for June 22. But with the help of Chinatown Community Development Center and a local Chinese newspaper, Wong reached Peskin and Michael Spalding, an attorney at the Homeless Advocacy Project. Together, they helped Wong clean up the apartment.
On Tuesday, judge quipped in court how amazing it was that the apartment was cleaned up in such a hurry, as Wong faced being kicked out on the streets.
But he granted the elderly man's wishes, as long as he complies with the landlord's cleanliness demands. Outside court, Wong remained resolute. Speaking in Cantonese, he said through an interpreter that the landlord lied to him and he has already cleaned out his house.