Update: This article mentions three properties where tenants are currently facing unlawful eviction at the hands of Matthew Holt and Sydney Daily. Since posting the article, tenants from two additional properties have contacted the Holt Tenant Council and report they are also facing evictions, bringing the total to five.
We have also discovered that Holt and Daily intend to rent out the apartments through RockRose Commerical, which they jointly control.
In San Diego, landlords and property developers are deploying an array of tactics to intimidate, harass, and eventually displace working families, breaking the social and cultural fabric of our community. Immediately following the expiration of San Diego’s temporary “No Fault” eviction ban on September 30, 2022, corporate landlord Matthew Holt, through White Sand Beach Capital LLC and management company NP Properties, which is owned by Holt’s business partner Sydney Daily, sought to evict dozens of families across multiple properties and under false pretenses. They say tenants will be sued if they don’t vacate by Christmas.
With the help of member-run organization Tenant Councils of San Diego, these tenants are fighting back.
On October 7, 2022, the tenants at a Hamilton Street apartment complex came home to find eviction notices posted on their door. The stated reason for eviction: “substantial remodel and demolition.” The tenants reached out to Tenant Councils of San Diego for support. “There were feelings of fear and anxiety, ” said Ananth, a tenant at Hamilton Street, “but also a will to fight this.”
It became evident that the notice was invalid. For a landlord to recover possession of a property based on repair or construction work in the City of San Diego, it must be for a “correction of violations: The landlord, after having obtained all necessary permits from the City of San Diego, seeks to recover possession of the rental-unit for necessary repair or construction when removal of the tenant is reasonably necessary to accomplish the repair or construction work.
Such permits are public record. No permits appeared for the property until after the Hamilton Street tenants sent Matthew Holt and Sydney Daily a letter informing them of their rights and providing a chance to revoke the faulty notice. Permit applications for air conditioning, washer/dryer, tub-to-shower, and light installation suddenly appeared, dated after the landlord’s receipt of the letter – none related to the correction of code/building violations. “We would all love to have in-unit washer/dryer, but the absence of these is not a municipal violation,” said Cashin, a tenant at Hamilton Street — “To top it off, those permits weren’t even paid for yet.”
Appalled by the landlords’ deceitful tactics, tenants identified two additional North Park properties recently purchased by White Sand Beach Capital at Iowa Street and Idaho Street. Both complexes received identical eviction notices. “I couldn’t believe how heartless they were,” said Steven, a tenant at Iowa Street — “to do this to the entire building, plus two additional buildings is just immoral; it’s borderline criminal. And the timing of the notice is awful. Entire buildings have to relocate and get evicted before Christmas and during winter – it’s terrible.”
This effort to gentrify North Park has been driven by investors’ weapon of choice–the fraudulent eviction notice. Carlos has lived with his family at Iowa Street for 16 years. He hasn’t been able to sleep since being served with the eviction notice. “I felt so scared. I keep thinking people will come any night and say, ‘get out, you have to go.’” Landlords like Matthew Holt count on tenants leaving (aka “self-evicting”) after receiving an eviction notice. Most eviction cases don’t make it to court, let alone get challenged. After all, the exchange between landlord and tenant is rooted in power relations. As individual tenants, negotiating for the right to remain is daunting. We have little to no control over whether landlords choose to raise our rent, harass us, or try to evict us. Since individual renters need housing more than landlords need individual renters, the default tenant-landlord relationship favors the landlord. Further, our legal system expedites eviction actions through “Unlawful Detainer” courts, where landlords hold all the cards. Unless tenants act quickly to secure their rights, they can find themselves evicted on false grounds.
Most of the families who live in these North Park complexes, many of whom are seniors, have resided there for decades. North Park, once a diverse community of working-class families, seniors, and students, has recently undergone rapid changes with rising rents and home prices. Property investors have reaped the reward of such changes, while community members face displacement en masse. What these tenants call home, Matthew Holt and Sydney Daily saw as a get-rich-quick scheme. But for their plan to work, they needed to purge the properties of all long-term tenants whose rent could not be increased by more than 10% in any 12-month period. Once these complexes are cleared, investors raise rents exponentially at multiple properties, strategically driving up rents in the neighborhood.
There is no ‘good’ time to be evicted, but it takes a certain level of depravity to displace families during the holidays for a quick buck. “It’s really hard to find another place right now,” explained Martin, who lives at Iowa Street with his wife Letty and two-year-old daughter Lilliana. The eviction notice arrived just days after Lilliana was discharged from the hospital. “It makes me feel angry because the holidays are special for my wife and daughter. I wish I could fix this for my daughter to have a good Christmas. We were starting to pack up things little by little, but [Lilliana] looks at us with sad eyes.” This is the consequence of Matthew Holt and Sydney Daily’s corporate greed, putting profits over people, families, and the health of our community.
Informed by tenant struggle in Boyle Heights, LA, these North Park tenants formed the Holt Tenant Council with the support of Tenant Councils of San Diego. “At first, we were faced with competing with each other for a new place to live, which divides us immediately, but now the council unifies us,” said Steven, on how forming the council changed his perspective. Cashin also explained his reasoning for joining the council. “With the end of the no-fault eviction moratorium, we have a target on our back that takes the shape of a glimmering dollar sign. These real estate investors in collared shirts are attempting to squeeze blood out of a stone. The landlord is no doubt attempting to extract value and evict us through unlawful, manipulative, and heartless means. This is how we are fighting back.”
The Holt Tenant Council’s next step was to draft a unified letter. As articulated in the letter, the eviction notice was invalid. The letter was met with silence for weeks as Holt and Daily were on luxury vacations abroad. Finally, a letter arrived from the landlord’s attorney.
This letter claimed that the reason for eviction was always a “withdrawal of the property from the rental market.” The letter also informed tenants they would be sued unless they vacated their units before Christmas. “I couldn’t believe it,” said a tenant from Hamilton Street, “we have written proof that Sydney Daily intends to relist the post-remodeled two-bedroom unit at $3500, more than double the current price for the two-bedroom unit.”
At their weekly meeting, a sentiment was shared: before forming the Holt Tenant Council, this letter would have prompted them to “self-evict,” believing they had no rights. Not anymore. “I’m glad that everybody’s not alone. The council will unify us to strengthen us. So I’m very confident in the council,” said Steven. Martin agreed, “it makes me feel stronger. It does make you feel like you’re gonna win.”
While resisting displacement and gentrification isn’t easy, neither is giving up your home. As Lowell, a tenant at Hamilton, pointed out, “It took about a year/year and a half to make this a nest for myself. You don’t just move into a place – it takes a while to become home.”
The Holt Tenant Council hopes their efforts will inspire other tenants to forge collective relationships out of their individual problems and confront their landlords together. When an attack on one tenant becomes an attack on all, landlords can’t easily isolate and retaliate. “Just because you’re a renter or you’re working nine to five on the daily grind doesn’t mean that you’re not significant, doesn’t mean you don’t have rights, doesn’t mean that you’re not a human being. You have a chance,” said Steven. As individual tenants, negotiating for the right to remain can be daunting. However, as historical and present-day struggles teach us, this fight need not remain an individual one. If tenants are organized, their refusal to back down becomes a powerful bargaining tool. As emphasized by tenants as their weekly meeting came to a close, “We have the power to resist the violence of evictions and displacement if we band together and fight.”
If you have information about this landlord or are being forced from your home, contact Tenant Councils of San Diego. Thousands of families across San Diego are in danger of eviction. We must come together and organize as tenants to protect each other and defend our homes. Housing is a human right. Nobody should be pushed out of their home and into the street – especially during the holidays.