San Francisco, CA — In the land of the free, government and law enforcement not only wage war on the poor and homeless through various unscrupulous means designed to extract revenue and attack the right to exist but those who try to help the homeless—by feeding, clothing, or sheltering them—also face the wrath of the state. As the following case illustrates, even those who've laid down their lives for the state—veterans—and the ones who help them are now being targeted.
Judy Wu, a landlord in San Francisco has converted 12 properties she owns into 49 housing units over the last decade which she and her husband, Trent Zhu, rent to homeless, low-income and disabled veterans.
Because they've split the units into much smaller ones, the couple is able to provide these veterans with very cheap housing. The contribution to society hasn't gone unnoticed by the city, however, who couldn't care less about the dozens of previously homeless veterans now off the streets thanks to the couple.
According to Reason, Wu's problems stem from a zoning law as the couple's property was only zoned for 15 dwellings.
And in 2015, the city's Planning Department first became aware of the excess units, ordering her to obtain permits to dismantle many of them. In 2016, as she was working to bring her units into compliance, and while her tenants fought to preserve their homes, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued Wu, claiming that her unauthorized dwellings "substantially endanger the health, welfare, and safety of individual tenants, the residents of the City and County of San Francisco."
In reality, however, Wu's tenants love the affordable shelter provided to them through her setup. And, to illustrate just how vacuous and dishonest Herrera's claim of worrying about the "health, welfare, and safety" of the tenants is, this move by the government could leave dozens of poor and disabled veterans on the streets.
Sadly, however, it appears that the state has won. Wu fought the lawsuit in a trial this week and was facing upwards of $8 million in fines for providing cheap rent to veterans. On Tuesday, she settled with the city.
"The basic reason for settling is it's too expensive to fight city hall," said Ryan Patterson, an attorney that represented Wu, according to Reason. "This will allow the owners to move forward and focus on legalizing these properties and working to ensure that as many of these veterans as possible can remain in their homes."
According to Reason, the city's lawsuit notably came before the administrative process that would allow Wu to maintain her current units had run its course, and yesterday's settlement does nothing to settle their legal status.
Since the ordeal began, Herrera and his pack of bureaucratic dogooders have painted Wu and her husband as slumlords exploiting the poor.
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"Defendants' motive for flagrantly violating the law is simple: profit," reads the city's 2016 complaint against Wu. "They rent out units to the most vulnerable members of our communities…as such, they have a guaranteed stream of income."
However, her tenants—who actually live in these homes—disagree and describe a far different scenario.
"Judy Wu is offering veterans housed in these units a chance to rebuild their lives in a way that is respectful and humane to them," says Fred Bryant, a 79-year-old disabled veteran, and tenant of Wu's for the past four years, according to Reason.
"Whenever I needed help of any kind in the apartment, checking the smoke alarm or something," Bryant says, "Judy Wu has been extremely responsive."
Looking at the situation objectively—and not through the eyes of the state—we see a couple using their property to provide affordable housing to those in need. Their tenants are there voluntarily and love it. The only people upset about this scenario have nothing to do with the property nor the people living on it—yet they are hell-bent on ruining the mutually beneficial arrangement because of some building code.
The most infuriating part about these zoning standards is that Wu's homes have met the federal inspectors' biannual inspections over and over, according to Patterson. Bryant agrees, and according to Reason, he described both his unit and those of the other veterans Wu rents too as nice, remodeled units "with all the amenities of a well-outfitted apartment."
"There are a lot of homeless veterans that Judy Wu helped. She's a good landlord as far as I'm concerned," John Brown Jr., another tenant of Wu's toldThe San Francisco Examiner in July of last year.
Even the mayor in 2013, praised Wu for her efforts in providing shelter to homeless veterans.
Sadly, this is of no concern to the bureaucrats who've devoted their careers to stifle free enterprise and mutually beneficial arrangements that help people. Now, dozens of veterans are worried about where they will be able to live.
Although the city said they will allow for the veterans to find other homes before they kick them out of Wu's place, the fact remains they are still kicking them out of homes they actually enjoy living in. Also, finding affordable homes in San Francisco is no easy feat, so rest assured that many of these folks will likely end up right back on the streets. Bravo, government, bravo.