Dancer, Cultural Asset Faces Ellis Eviction from Bernal Heights

by Stephen P. Booth, Eq. on July 26, 2016

Landlord’s Ellis Effort Targets Another Valuable Cultural Contributor

By serving a 120-day Ellis Act notice, a greedy landlord can wipe away and exclude persons who have contributed a lifetime to a community, whose efforts have worked to make the neighborhood so desirable, in the first place. Thus, by clearing rent-controlled buildings, landlords often reap huge gains without having to pay the societal cost of human displacement. And to what end? For the establishment of another shiny but sterile Marina-like district?

Emblematic is the case of Debbie Taylor. As a young dancer, actress and budding American Sign Language (“ASL”) interpreter, Debbie was drawn to San Francisco 33 years ago for its thriving Arts and Deaf communities. For 23 years Debbie has been settled in Bernal Heights in the 300 block of Park Street and her artistic and humanitarian pursuits have thrived, and the community has surely benefitted. After three decades of contribution and service, on June 3, 2016 Debbie was served with Ellis eviction papers commanding her to leave within 120 days. The paltry statutory compensation does not honor the years of contribution, the extreme emotional turmoil or cover the cost to remain in San Francisco for more than a couple of months.

Decades of Cultural and Community Contribution

As a dancer, Debbie has performed and toured with numerous companies, including the Dance Brigade, a local institution in the world of Dance Theater and Social Justice. Debbie has taught contemporary dance in San Francisco, Berlin, Santa Fe and around the U.S. The bulk of Debbie’s efforts have been in San Francisco. After many years of teaching, Debbie is now on the faculty of Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet School teaching dance improvisation/composition to aspiring professional dancers from all over the country.

The spirit of Taiko drumming also called to Debbie and after years of training with San Francisco Taiko Dojo she has been a performer with the local ensemble known as Taiko Ren for 16 years. Debbie now teaches and composes taiko pieces for the Grrrl Brigade program at Dance Mission, a program that educates and inspires girls to become vibrant, healthy, empowered beings who make art that is truly relevant, which engages their communities and the world.

As part of her unique path, Debbie Taylor became a certified ASL interpreter. She will tell you “I’ve worked as a freelance ASL interpreter in almost every situation imaginable and some you’d never dream up. I’ve had the honor of sharing the rich language and culture of the Deaf community and know the importance of “Deaf Heart”. For four years Debbie was on the faculty of the National Theatre of the Deaf Professional Summer School, and toured as a performer with the company as well.

Asked to describe herself, Debbie says: “my life is about Truth and Beauty, and teaching young people to use dance, theater, music and all of their artistic being to connect to themselves and the wider world from a place of love and compassion. It’s about facilitating communication between Deaf and hearing people and ending the audism that oppresses this community and thereby hurts us all.”

Asked to describe the Ellis eviction, Debbie says: “San Francisco is my home and I’m deeply rooted in the Arts and Deaf communities here. If I am evicted from my apartment of 23 years my whole life will be upended. I will not be able to afford current SF rents and my ability to serve the Arts and Deaf communities and do what I love will be undone. I intend to resist my displacement with all legal means.

Stephen P. Booth, Esq. is an attorney with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic who represents Debbie Taylor

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