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Supporting tenants at 400 Canal

October 11, 2022

400 Canal St building where tenants are facing eviction.
400 Canal Street apartments

Residents of an apartment building located at 400 Canal Street are faced with potential loss of their housing, having received ‘buy-out’ letters from the building’s new corporate ownership, Tesseract Capital Group, a firm that describes themselves as an “opportunistic commercial real estate private equity company.” As new owners of this housing complex – the largest apartment building in the Canal community – they plan to substantially remodel all 99 apartments and increase rent to market rate, which is expected to be considerably higher than current rent rates. 

This is gentrification in action.

In response, our Policy and Civic Engagement team is working to empower residents, support them to know their rights and stay in their homes, and connect them to legal support.  We are organizing forums, knocking on doors, and getting the word out to people about their legal rights and options. We do this work in partnership with Legal Aid of Marin, Tenants Together, and Voces del Canal, and in coordination with the City of San Rafael. 

At a forum on September 27, the coalition of partners hosted a Renters Rights Community Forum for residents of the apartment complex.  Roughly 50 people participated in event, hearing from presenters in English and Spanish, about their legal rights and resources related to housing, rental assistance, and the eviction process. The atmosphere felt serious and meaningful, and there was ample time for questions.  

The buy-out letters offer three-month rent payment to tenants in exchange for giving up their apartments. The original buy-out letters offered less than what is required by the City of San Rafael through their relocation program. After advocacy and intervention from City of San Rafael staff, the owners are now offering the full relocation fee amount the law affords them. 

Residents receiving these types of notices are often intimidated or uncertain about their legal rights, face intimidating deadlines, and have not been able to successfully be able to find to find new housing in their budget in Marin County. They also lack immediate access to legal advice or professional relocation assistance – barriers that Canal Alliance and the coalition is working to address.  

The ‘buy-out’ letters are not a lawful notice of eviction—renters are not required to leave their home, though they could be in the upcoming months. Rather, the new owners are trying to get tenants to self-evict, a tactic that speaks to a large-scale and systemic problem: lack of affordable housing, the threat of gentrification, and an urgent need for adequate tenant protections for low-income renters. 

As Rose Costello, Civic Engagement Senior Manager, shared in a recent Channel 48 interview, “you have the right to organize with no retaliation, and you have the right not to be harassed. The City of San Rafael has communicated to us that the laws in San Rafael offer more protections to tenants.  

Housing is the most important issue facing immigrants in Marin County. We will continue to work with residents of 400 Canal through this process and to advocate for tenants’ rights and expand affordable housing so no other building and Canal renters face being forced to take their children out of local schools and leave their homes and community because of the inaccessible housing costs in our area. 

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