One Saturday in December of last year, six months before we closed our beloved restaurant, Tawla, we said goodbye to our lead line cook — one of the last three people left from our original 25-person team when we opened in the Mission two years prior.
I had watched him grow and take on more responsibility, got to know his family — recently celebrating the arrival of his fourth child — and worried constantly after he was forced to leave his rent-controlled apartment, another victim of the loopholes landlords exploit to get rid of tenants under rent control.
Our cook, his wife, and their four kids struggled for months to find a place to live, moving from couch to couch. Many of us tried any way we could think to help, from tapping our networks to find more dignified temporary housing to figuring out how to pay him more without having him lose access to various low-income programs his family relied on. We gave him time off to apartment-search and attend city-run seminars that are required for one to qualify for low-income housing. Yet he never found success—there were always higher-priority people in line before him.