Missing man's landlord demanding $4,000, friend says
by Seth Hemmelgarn
The landlord of a gay San Francisco man who's been missing since September is demanding that a friend pay $4,000 by Friday, February 1 before he can retrieve the tenant's belongings, according to the friend.
Joe Gulliver, 60, a.k.a. Joe Balducci, was reported missing September 5, according to the San Francisco Police Department. He had "a history of depression" and was considered at risk, a police email said.
Arturo Jackson, 52, a longtime friend and former partner of Gulliver's, said he spoke with Zelko Simoni, the landlord of Gulliver's apartment at 800 Corbett Avenue in the Twin Peaks neighborhood, Saturday, January 26.
Jackson said that Simoni told him if he didn't pay the money by the first, he wouldn't let Jackson enter the unit, and he'd throw out Gulliver's belongings. Jackson said he wouldn't be able to get the money until next week.
"That's heartless," Jackson said of the landlord's demand. According to Jackson, who said Gulliver was a noted photographer, remaining possessions likely include photos and a car worth $2,000.
Jackson, who lives in Sacramento, suspects Gulliver jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge. Officials with the coroner division of the Marin County Sheriff and the San Francisco Medical Examiner said Wednesday, January 30 that they haven't identified any bodies under either of Gulliver's names. Bodies that haven't been unidentified didn't match his description.
Asked in a Tuesday, January 29 phone call with the Bay Area Reporter about whether $4,000 had been demanded, Renee Simoni said, "I don't know about that. No. ... I don't think so. It's still in the hands of the court." She added, "It's going through the legal process because Joe is disappeared or whatever."
San Francisco Superior Court documents indicate Renee Simoni and Zelko Simoni are both owners of the property.
When asked to explain what she was talking about, Simoni hung up the phone. She didn't respond to a follow-up message.
However, court records show that seeking an eviction, the Simonis filed an unlawful detainer complaint against Gulliver in November. According to the documents, a three-day notice to pay rent or quit was posted at and mailed to Gulliver's unit, and possibly given to someone there, October 16. At that time, Gulliver owed one month's rent, which is listed as almost $845.
Among other requests listed in the complaint, the Simonis seek that amount and damages of about $28 a day beginning November 1 for each day that Gulliver remained in possession through entry of judgment.
A judgment by default filed January 9 indicates that Gulliver never responded to the complaint, so it was adjudged that the Simonis recover the "restitution and possession" of the premises.
Brenda Cruz Keith, whom the court documents say is representing the Simonis in the case, wasn't available for comment Wednesday morning.
Told of the situation, Mark Nicco, assistant legal counsel to the San Francisco sheriff, said if rent was owed and there hadn't been an action such as Gulliver being declared dead, the unlawful detainer complaint could be "a legal means to get possession of the property again."
Nicco said Jackson not being let into the unit unless he pays $4,000 is "a judgment call." He added that the property owners could open themselves to liability if they let someone into the apartment, and it's "a hard position for the landlord to be in."
He said it was "a strange situation," though. He also said, "We wouldn't become involved" until the unlawful detainer case "played out in court and an eviction was ordered."
Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who works at the San Francisco Housing Rights Committee and has spoken with Jackson, said of the $4,000, "I don't know where that comes from." He said he didn't know of anywhere in the law "that would make it be $4,000."
In an October interview, Jackson said that he'd last spoken with Gulliver two months prior to that and that Gulliver "was struggling to hold on to his apartment, which he'd been living in for 30 years. He was very despondent and very depressed."
San Francisco police Inspector Anne MacKenzie said in October that no notes, clothes, or other belongings of Gulliver's had been found, and she didn't suspect foul play. MacKenzie didn't respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.
Anyone with information in the case may contact the SFPD missing persons unit at (415) 558-5500 or the dispatch unit at (415) 553-0123. The report number is 120 710 949.