Concerned members of the community rallied in support of two elderly Burlingame women facing displacement by donating more than $10,000 to help them cope with a pending eviction.
Marie Hatch, 97, has lived in her two-bedroom home near the corner of Oak Grove Avenue and California Drive for 66 years, and anticipated she would be able to stay there until she died, under the promise she claims was granted by her former landlord and friend.
But as the property has been passed down through generations of ownership, the verbal guarantee allowing Hatch to stay at the home has come into question, as has the future of her residency.
For her part, Hatch said she is uncertain what the future holds for her and Georgia Rothrock, her roommate of 32 years.
“I’m just worried,” she said. “Where am I going to go? What am I going to do with all my stuff?”
Hatch and Rothrock, 85, received an eviction notice from an attorney hired by landlord David Kantz earlier this month, informing them they needed to vacate the premises by April 17.
Kantz inherited the home from Vivian Kruse, the former property owner who allegedly promised Hatch she could lease her home for life, and now intends to sell the land.
Through a press release issued by his attorney Michael Liberty, Kantz disputes whether such an agreement with Hatch and Kruse ever existed, and intends to carry out the eviction.
Kantz is willing to give some consideration to the tenants, according to the press release, including offering to work with the potential buyers of the property to see whether Hatch can stay in her home, or if necessary, negotiating a relocation assistance package with the help of city officials.
As word of Hatch’s and Rothrock’s dilemma has spread, community members have jumped to action, starting an online fundraising campaign designed to offer financial assistance to the threatened tenants.
At the time of this article, more than $10,000 has been donated by more nearly 300 people in roughly one day since the campaign began Sunday, Feb. 21.
Hatch said she is thrilled to have received the support from the community, though it was unanticipated.
“It makes me feel wonderful that people want me to stay here,” she said.
Both tenants depend solely on Social Security income to pay their rent, and fear they would not be able to live in San Mateo County amidst the skyrocketing cost of living.
Rothrock is facing displacement for the second time in her life after a former San Bruno apartment she lived in was converted to condominiums, which forced her to move.
While searching for a new place to live, she stumbled into the cafe where Hatch worked, and after a brief discussion, the two agreed to be roommates.
Rothrock, a native of rural Nebraska, said she struggles to understand the competition and occasional perceived ruthlessness which has become associated with the San Mateo County real estate market.
“I’m not used to all the affluence,” she said. “It is just a situation of greed.”
Rothrock said she is working with the Burlingame Advocates for Renter Protections to get the attention of U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and hopefully develop policies granting consideration by landlords for evicted tenants.
The fight over tenants’ rights could continue in the courtroom too, as attorneys Nanci Nishimura and Nancy Fineman, of the Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy law firm, have volunteered to advocate on behalf of Hatch.
The law firm is considering filing a lawsuit against the landlord claiming the verbal agreement has been violated, which, when combined with the considerable amount of care Hatch has invested into the property over the past six decades, equates to a breach of contract.
“A promise is a promise, and that should be enforced,” said Fineman.
Hatch’s son Gary said he wished the land owners would give greater consideration to his mother’s quality of life in her later years.
“I would like her to be able to stay here,” he said.
Yet despite the adverse circumstances, Gary Hatch said he believes his mother is holding up pretty well, all things considered.
“She’s pretty strong,” he said.
Though she understands her future is likely beyond her control, Hatch is hopeful she can stay put.
“It’s my home,” she said while sitting in the living room, surrounded by pictures of her family. “I can’t say it’s my house, but it’s my home.”
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