"If timely, effective, and coordinated mental health treatment is not provided to indigent and uninsured residents who are not seriously mentally ill, those residents are at risk of becoming seriously mentally ill and hence requiring more expensive and comprehensive mental health care from San Francisco," according to the ordinance, which was passed in June of 2005. Newsom's budget proposes changing this legislation to enable cuts to those services, which would result in 1,600 people losing treatment, according to Friedenbach.
Unfortunately, advocates for the poor has gotten used to this ritual of trying to restore cuts made by Newsom. "There are some sacred cows that seem to survive year after year, and then we're left fighting over what we can get," said Randy Shaw, executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic (THC).
The Central City SRO Collaborative, which supports tenants living in single-room occupancy hotels in the mid-Market Street area and is operated through THC, is slated to be cut by 40 percent along with three other similar programs — a replay from last year when the mayor proposed eliminating funding and the Board of Supervisors restored the cut.
"I think you'd see more fires, more people dying from overdoses. You'd see really bad conditions," Jeff Buckley, director of the program, told us of the potential consequences of eliminating the inspections and resident training that is part of the program.
Funding was also eliminated for THC's Ellis Eviction Defense Program, the city's only free legal defense program with capacity to serve 55 low-income tenants facing eviction under the Ellis Act.
THREAT TO RENTERS
One of the most controversial proposals to emerge from Newsom's budget is a way for property owners and real estate speculators to buy their way out of the city lottery that limits conversion of rental properties and tenants-in-common (TICs) to privately-owned condos if they pay between $4,000 and $20,000 (depending on how long they have waited for conversion), a proposal to raise about $8 million for the city.
"I went back and forth because I know the Board of Supervisors can't stand this," Newsom said as he broached the subject at the June 1 announcement. "I still don't get this argument completely. Except it's a big-time ideological discussion. It's so darn ideological that I think it gets in the way of having a real discussion."
Yet Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, said the argument is quite clear: making it easier to convert rental units into condos will accelerate the loss of rental housing in a city where two-thirds of residents are tenants, in the process encouraging real estate speculation and evictions.
"It will encourage TIC conversions and evictions because it makes the road to converting TICs to condos that much easier," Gullicksen said. "It's going to be a huge gift to real estate speculators."
Newsom press secretary Tony Winnicker disputes that impact, saying that "these units were going to convert anyway, whether next year or six years. This merely accelerates that conversion without altering the lottery to protect jobs and services."
But Gullicksen said the proposal obviously undermines the lottery system, which is the only tool tenant advocates have to preserve the finite supply of rent-controlled apartments, noting that even if the condos are later rented out, they will no longer to subject to rent control. That's one reason why the Board of Supervisors has repeatedly rejected this idea, and why Newsom probably knows they will do so again.
Avalos said he and other progressive supervisors will oppose the proposal, despite the difficulties that will create in balancing the budget. "It's kind of like putting a gun to our heads," Avalos said of Newsom's inclusion of that revenue in his budget.