Arts Funder Reversing Eviction of Family Next to David Ireland House

Carlie Wilmans acquired the duplex next to the David Ireland House in 2016, quickly moving to evict its tenants.  (Sam Lefebvre/KQED)

Updated Thursday, 11 a.m.

Arts philanthropist Carlie Wilmans' eviction of an immigrant family from her property next to the David Ireland House is on hold, according to the tenants' attorney.

Stephen Collier of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, who represents the multi-generational Mission District household, said he's reached a tentative settlement rescinding the eviction lawsuit and allowing the tenants to remain. "But it is not yet finalized," he said.

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Court records show the eviction case is still open.

Wilmans, who confirmed the tentative agreement, is the founder and primary financial supporter of the 500 Capp Street Foundation, which runs the late conceptual artist David Ireland's home as a gallery. "My decision to reverse the eviction was entirely personal," she said in a statement.

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Wilmans bought the 20th Street duplex in 2016. That year she evicted the lower unit's tenants, citing mattresses in the garage as a lease violation. In 2017, she invoked the Ellis Act to empty the upper unit, and the Chinese family of six has been resisting the eviction ever since.

Wilmans planned to "donate" use of both units to the 500 Capp Street Foundation, including as temporary lodging for visiting artists.

In a statement in April, 500 Capp Street staff said they were unaware of the eviction. "We have recently been briefed on the matter and have voiced our deep concerns," the statement read.

As KQED previously reported, news of the eviction prompted outcry. Wilmans framed her actions as part of her work to support 500 Capp Street, but critics called it "art-washing," or a gallery masking the pernicious effects of gentrification with supposed cultural benefits.

In the three months since the evictions came to light, 500 Capp Street has been in disarray.

Wilmans ceded her role as board chair to Jock Reynolds. Head curator Bob Linder was laid off, casting doubt on the future of the gallery's non-Ireland programming; artists currently exhibiting and scheduled to exhibit withdrew their work, and Linder's colleague, curator Diego Villalobos, also resigned.

According to Reynolds and Wilmans, Linder was laid off due to budget shortcomings.

Wilmans has long been the space's chief benefactor: 2017 tax filings show she gave 500 Capp Street 91 percent of its $670,734 in revenue. In the wake of the eviction controversy, though, Wilmans seemed less willing to continue subsidizing the organization's payroll costs.

Mission Local, citing an unnamed source "familiar with the situation," reported Tuesday that Linder's criticism of Wilmans' role in the evictions "may have hastened his departure."

In her statement, Wilmans rejected the suggestion. "If Bob Linder had any criticism of the eviction, it had absolutely nothing to do with his lay off," she said.

Linder and Villalobos have said they're unable to comment due to non-disclosure agreements.

It is unclear for what purposes Wilmans is using the duplex's upper unit, which she successfully emptied last year, but public records show she acquired permits for interior renovations.

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