Andrea Carla Michaels is ensnared in dual battles — struggling to feed San Francisco homeless while battling to stay in an apartment where she’s lived for the last 27 years.
The 60-year-old Harvard University grad is a self proclaimed “Judge Judy” addict who did stand-up comedy and wrote sitcoms in Los Angeles, and taught English to foreign students before relocating to San Francisco. She runs Acme Naming, which brands businesses and products, regularly constructs puzzles for “The New York Times” and has taught Scrabble. She even won a motor home on “Wheel of Fortune.”
Despite her varied interests and background, however, the coronavirus has been troublesome. She’s canceled trips to New York for a puzzle confab, to Boston for her 40th college reunion, to Florida to see her ailing mother and to Stockholm for a wedding. But even more than that, the pandemic has affected her philanthropic work as San Francisco’s “Pizza Lady.”
Michaels earned her moniker for handing out as many as 40 slices a day since 2015 to folks in alleyways. But COVID-19 ended that when her donor, Nobhill Pizza & Shawarma, began making pies only to order. No more leftovers.
This setback didn’t kill her desire to help, though.
Since May, a local grocer, Golden Veggie Market, has given her food it would normally “toss because of faux sell-by dates” such as milk, yogurt, kombucha, oranges, potato chips, cookies and bread.
Golden Veggie’s manager, Ahmed Bawazir, also periodically insists she take bottles of cold, unexpired drinks, as well as fruits and vegetables.
Michaels couples her food deliveries with donated clothing including sweaters, socks, T-shirts and one-size-fits-most sweatpants.
She’s pleased that despite the pandemic she can still give things to the “hungry have-nots,” the do-gooder said. “The ‘NOTS’ being my ‘Neighbors On The Streets.’”
Now, however, she dons mask and gloves and tosses items to those not wearing face-coverings.
Her charitable work “keeps me sane and keeps things in perspective,” she claimed, “but having to fight during COVID-19 to stay in my apartment is almost too much.”
Michaels contends that since the owner (an ex-restaurateur who “just wants to flip it”) bought the building several years ago, he’s dislodged tenants “by not fixing broken items, causing health problems because of construction being done without permits, and by buying them out.”
Only she and one other person remain.
Last year, he filed an eviction notice for the third-floor, one-bedroom walkup on which she’s never missed a rent payment. A court dismissed it.
Ever since the dismissed notice, Michaels has complained “on almost a monthly basis to the building inspector about violations, called the police (who say it’s a civil situation, not criminal), the Health Department, fire prevention people and the Board of Supervisors. But all anyone’s been able to do is fine him, which he sometimes pays, and start to put liens on the building.”
Moreover, she bemoaned that “for somebody who was a stand-up comic for a decade of my life, there hasn’t been one moment of humor. I wake up in tears most days.”
“Friends have been begging me to walk away from the fight but I have a great, sunny apartment in the center of the most magnificent city in the world, and I fight because I know I’m right and so he won’t be able to do what he’s doing to me to the next person. There’s nowhere else I want to be, no amount of money he can offer to buy me out, to buy my home or soul.”