By Curtis Skinner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A 97-year-old San Francisco Bay Area great-grandmother facing eviction after 66 years in her rented home has received thousands of dollars in donations from people who see her plight as an example of growing economic inequity in the region, a friend said on Wednesday.
Hundreds of people have chipped in since Sunday raising more than $33,000 for Marie Hatch, who has lived in the same cottage in the suburb of Burlingame for 66 years, according to her friend Lisa Krieger who set up a GoFundMe webpage on her behalf. Hatch is being evicted so the owner of the home can sell the property.
"I can't believe the outpouring of love and compassion for Marie. It really shows humanity at its best," Krieger said.
Hatch's story struck a chord as a particularly moving example among thousands of evictions that have taken place amid the Bay Area's soaring housing prices and growing income inequality spurred by cash-rich technology companies and their highly paid employees.
Krieger said the nonagenarian Hatch, who is battling cancer for a second time, was served a 60-day eviction notice on Feb. 11.
Hatch pays $900 a month for the house she shares with 85-year-old roommate, Georgia Rothrock, some 20 miles (32 km) south of San Francisco. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the county is $2,800 a month.
Krieger said the original owner of the home made a verbal promise with Hatch that she could stay there for life. Krieger said when that landlord died, ownership of the home changed hands twice more before coming under the control of the current landlord, David Kantz.
Neither Kantz nor his attorney Michael Liberty could be reached by Reuters for comment on Wednesday.
Liberty told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that Kantz must sell the house this year due to the will of his late wife, from whom he received the property. The paper said Kantz is also evicting Hatch's next-door neighbor, Cheryl Graczewski.
San Francisco tenant lawyer Dave Crow of Crow & Rose said California law provides minimal protections to tenants, meaning that renters are out of luck if there are not strong local regulations. Burlingame does not have rent control laws, he said.
"Is it immoral? Absolutely. Is it legal? Absolutely," Crow said.
Krieger said Hatch could end up homeless if the eviction goes through.
"I don't have the slightest idea where I'm going to go," Hatch told local broadcaster KGO on Monday in an interview. "I don't know."
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)