Out of place

Evictions are driving long-time renters out of their homes -- and out of SF. Here are the stories of several people being evicted



In his State of the City address last week, Mayor Ed Lee cheerfully characterized San Francisco as "the new gravitational center of Silicon Valley." He touted tech-sector job creation. "We have truly become the innovation capital of the world," Lee said, "home to 1,800 tech companies with more than 42,000 employees — and growing every day."

From a purely economic standpoint, San Francisco is on a steady climb. But not all residents share the mayor's rosy outlook. Shortly after Lee's speech, renowned local author Rebecca Solnit published her own view of San Francisco's condition in the London Review of Books. Zeroing in on the Google Bus as a symbol of the city's housing affordability crisis, she linked the influx of high-salaried tech workers to soaring housing costs. With rents trending skyward, she pointed out, the dearth of affordable housing is escalating a shift in the city's cultural fabric.

"All this is changing the character of what was once a great city of refuge for dissidents, queers, pacifists and experimentalists," Solnit wrote. "It has become increasingly unaffordable over the past quarter-century, but still has a host of writers, artists, activists, environmentalists, eccentrics and others who don't work sixty-hour weeks for corporations — though we may be a relic population."


The issue of housing in San Francisco is highly emotional, and there is perhaps no greater flashpoint in the charged debate than Ellis Act evictions.

When the housing market bounces upward, Ellis Act evictions tend to hit long-term tenants whose monthly payments, protected by rent control, are a comparative bargain. Even if they've submitted every payment on time and upheld every lease obligation for 20 years, these renters can find themselves in the bind of being forced out.

And they don't just lose their homes; often they lose their community. San Francisco has become so expensive that many Ellis Act victims are tossed out of this city for good.

Enacted in 1986, the state law allows a landlord to stop renting units, evict all tenants, and sell the building for another purpose. Originally construed as a way for landlords to "go out of business" and move into their properties, the Ellis Act instead gained notoriety as a driving force behind a wave of evictions that slammed San Francisco during the tech boom of the late 90s. Between 1986 and 1995, just 29 Ellis evictions were filed with the San Francisco Rent Board; in the 1999-2000 fiscal year alone, that number ballooned to a staggering 440.

Under the current tech heyday, there are indications that Ellis Act evictions are gaining fresh momentum. The San Francisco Rent Board recorded 81 this past fiscal year, more than double that of the previous year, and there appears to be an upward trend.


Buildings cleared via the Ellis Act are typically repackaged as tenancies-in-common (TIC), where several buyers jointly purchase a multi-unit residence and each occupy one unit. Realtors often market TICs as a path to homeownership for moderate-income individuals, creating an incentive for buyers to enter into risky, high-interest shared mortgages in hopes of later converting to condos with more attractive financing.

The divide between TIC owners and renters came into sharp focus at a contentious Jan. 28 hearing, when a Board of Supervisors committee met to consider legislation that would allow some 2,000 TIC units to immediately convert to condos without having to wait their turn in a requisite lottery system.


Rivals nightmare attorney Sue Hestor for her selfishness and willingness to spend other people's money.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

Bierman stopped the Panhandle Freeway. Sue Bierman and Jane Morrison are saints.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

Takes an old queen to worship an old queen.

Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

And yank mortgage deductions while you're at it. Then we'll see real turnover.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2013 @ 4:55 am

"Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75." If that is true then why doesn't housing costs reflect what people can earn? We should have 60% affordable housing. I'm sure the Ayn Randians would love to clear SF out of anyone but millionaires but its not very green or fair to make your service people commute an hour from the East Bay to serve them, and that is the role of the city government to strike a balance.. The rich will be sorry when all the teachers, nurses, cafe workers, art community refuses to come and work for them anymore.

Posted by Sigmarlin on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

LLs, as you put it with way too much respect, are invariably among the most vicious predators on the planet earth.

Landlords be damned.

Posted by San Francisco's Lovely Soul Murdered by Greed on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

Love 'em or hate 'em, but you are screwed without them.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

The landlords paid purchase prices that were pegged to rent regulations. They got bargains. Removing rent controls would only give them windfalls.

Let them move to Palm Springs or Oakland and do business there instead.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2013 @ 4:48 am

We're in this terrible situation. It's not that difficult to comprehend. Couldn't any of these people have applied for the city lottery which controls below-market rate housing years ago since everyone knew this was coming? While the plight of these people is of course awful, you really have to wonder about their long-term planning skills. Thinking you can live in a rental for the rest of your life until you croak is incredibly foolish.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

Did everyone know in advance that there would be successive speculative bubbles in housing and tech that would rent this city's fabric asunder?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

The Castro went through a huge speculative bubble in the 70s. Real estate here is known to be totally speculative - that's not going to change bar secession or something similar.

Retirement planning should not include perpetual cheap rent in a major metropolitan area on either coast. Be realistic Marcos.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

They don't care whether the city grows, prospers or has a viable business community or tax base. They only want SF frozen in time as some eternal Peter Pan never-never land for social misfits, wastrels, losers and wannabees.

And you cannot found public policy on a fairy tale.

Posted by anon on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

Past is prologue. Problem?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

Get over it, move on, and quit being so damn precious.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

You'll forgive us for putting up a fight. We're still here.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

Get your story straight.. Either you are "still here" or you are all being dirven out of town. Which is it?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:27 am

They haven't yet evicted all of the rent control tenants and some of us are homeowners.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

a variety of factors - evictions, deaths, divorces, job changes, relocations, people buying a home etc. Many thousand untis more are kept vacant.

At that rate it will take maybe 40 years to clear out all of the really low-rent tenants. However, long before that we will reach a tipping point where more than 50% of residents see that RC harms them more than helps then.

I give RC 10-12 years and then it is gone. The demographic changes in SF will wash RC aside. And it's this move to the center in SF that really scares you much more than whether a few tenants you don't know and don't care about have to move.

Posted by anonymous on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

Truly foul comment. You appear to personify the inhuman unkindness so evident here.

Posted by San Francisco's Lovely Soul Murdered by Greed on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

And ultimately prosperity is the best hope for the poor and underhoused.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

You're mouthing feeble excuses for oppression of other human beings. What is being resisted here is not "prosperity" but the taking advantage of other human beings with less capital and means.

Posted by San Francisco's Lovely Soul Murdered by Greed on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

for your home. Nobody is forced to rent from me, nor to live in SF at all if they cannot afford it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

There's no use reacting to the landlords and speculators posting here. You just make them gloat even more. They're just having some fun pointing out the eventual displacement of any tenant currently living in a 2-6 unit building since the rental units are worth so much more as TICs and condos. Some current tenants will be able to buy their converted unit (or another converted TIC/condo unit), but most won't and will be gone from SF soon enough.

Rather than feed their ego or waste your energy getting angry at these "mean people," when there are millions of people of real estate speculators all over the globe doing the exact same thing, it's better to focus the energy organizing against the government that allows people to legally displace tenants and exploit the real estate market. Government policies are the prime reason these exploiters are allowed to profit so greatly and cause such tenant misery.

We can't prevent human greed and cruelty since it's a large part of human nature. It's silly to try, just as it's silly to try to change someone from being a racist or homophobe by shaming them for their anti-social behavior. We can, however, change laws to protect tenants and homeowners while penalizing landlords and specualtors, such as a 90% capital gain tax on all non-homeowner real estate sales, and by supporting very high tax rates on large rent incomes. Government has full constitutional power over taxation policies and that's where the exploiters can most easily be repelled. With very high tax rates on their exploitive activity, the speculators and landlords will quickly exit the housing speculation market, creating a far more stable and cohesive community in the process.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 11:49 am

not likely to convince many voters in a nation that was built on enterprise.

Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

Ain't gonna happen, ye prostitute for the heartless exploiters of other sentient beings.

Your greedy slime bubble will burst first; upon its filthy waves may you and your ilk be forever swept away.

Posted by San Francisco's Lovely Soul Murdered by Greed on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

Those who criticize "greed" are really criticizing success, prosperity and everything that America stands for.

Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

Greed is a synonym for assholism, you greedy bastard.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

Marcos in one of the gentrifiers. He's an out-of-stater, working in the tech industry, who bought a unit that was a former rent-controlled property in the Mission District that has seen the most gentrification of any part of the city over the past 15 years.

You might think he'd lay low on this issue since it's precisely selfish people like himself who are causing all of the evictions, but he's just one of many dozens of "leftist" hypocrites who pollute public policy discussions in the city while acting like any other profit-maximizing capitalist. While others are meeting and formulating action plans to confront the economic cleansing of the city, he spends all day here making the left look like stupid, arrogant, and childish hypocrites.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

Our unit in a 2 unit building had historically been owner occupied and went into the no-lottery condo conversion process after she aged into a retirement community near her family in socal. It was not in rent control for 8 years before we bought it after being evicted ourselves 11 years ago from our place of 11 years.

Everyone in the chain of custody of our home did not act dishonorably, did not demand their bad bets be bailed out with a change of public policy, and did not displace anyone. And we bought it for one purpose--as a home.

But if San Francisco continues to be sacrificed to each newest biggest bubbly thing, then at least the unit has San Francisco historic charm and will fetch enough rent to pay down our mortgage, pay the insurance, taxes and go a long way towards buying us another much nicer place somewhere less expensive like Portland. We played by the rules.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

you have no way of knowing if the units in your building were ever rented out, nor whether there were any evictions, because records of such things did not used to be kept.

Most multi-units in SF were originally built as rentals as few people owned their own home 100 years ago. So you are living in a building that had rentals at one point, and very likely had evictions too.

Moreover you are depriving a tenant of the ability to live there by occupying it and making money in this booming SF RE market.

Glad to hear you're thinking of moving to Portland, like that carpetbagging leech Weissman.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:31 am

The woman who lived in the unit prior to 1998 was 90+ years old and had apparently owned and lived in the home for decades. We researched this up as did progressive political opponents suspicious of me for use against me. You gotta know that if our home had an eviction history that the housing activists would have spit roasted me if they could, even as Prop A (96) 'affordable housing' [sic] money subsidized our initial eviction.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:46 am

doubt that anyone would use your home against you anyway. Redmond, Welch, Hestor and Shaw all own property and, regardless of whether they were ever rented out or not, don't seem to be given much shit about it. Heck, Brugmann made millions from a property speculation and nobody says a word.

But you say "apparently" so you cannot know for sure there ever was a tenant there, if only maybe a sublettor. The records quite simply are not there. But are you seriously suggesting that you would not have bought the place if you had known for a fact that someone was evicted from there 60 years ago?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:56 am

"Everyone in the chain of custody of our home"

Now Marcos thinks his home is a crime scene.

What's with the po-lice lingo?

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 5:43 am

"and go a long way towards buying us another much nicer place somewhere less expensive like Portland."

What did the poor people of Portland ever do to deserve Marcos?

Marcos' plan:

1) Buy (well, have his boyfriend buy) a condo in the gentrifying Mission, thus destroying potential rental housing stock.

2) Hope that the value of his condo appreciates as much as possible.

3) Sell the condo for as much money as he possibly can, so he can buy a nice house in Portland, while denouncing evil landlords who want to rent out their places for as much as they possibly can.

4) Lecture us all on how moral he is, while he hopes to make a killing as a real-estate speculator.

The solution, obviously, is for the City to limit the maximum allowed sale price of Marcos' condo. Why should be Marcos be allowed to gouge some unfortunate condo purchaser, when landlords aren't allowed to gouge unfortunate renters?

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 5:50 am

Also, I don't see how Marcos could live with himself if he moved to Portland.

Portland is a brutal, exploitative place where evil landlords can raise the rent whenever they feel like it, and can evict people whenever they feel like it. Why, landlords in Portland don't even have to ask the city's permission before raising the rent or evicting someone!

I can't believe that Marcos would agree to be complicit in such a brutal, exploitative system by purchasing real estate in Portland.

The simple, exploited peasantry of Portland are so lacking in political consciousness that they would view a claim that a tenant has a natural right to live somewhere for the rest of their lives, with only nominal rate increases, as positively bizarre.

While San Francisco has sent missionaries to Portland, such as David Weissman, to explain the virtues of rent control and the right to perpetual occupation of one's rental apartment, I'm afraid that it will be a long, long time before the Portland peasantry acquires the political depth and sophistication of San Franciscans.

Frankly, Portland just isn't good enough for politically evolved beings like Marcos!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:23 am

No, no, no, in this scenario, we'd end up buying another house in Portland, probably on a double lot in SE with much garden space, and become real estate emperors, leeching off of the latest tech weenies to try their hand in the labor market to subsidize our second home.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:43 am

There is no shame in trying to make a buck from property or anything else. There is shame in being a hypocrit about it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:49 am

There is no shame about playing by the rules and coming out even, there should be shame about whining to the government to change the rules so you don't take bath but fuck others over for that privilege.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:15 am

Glad to have your support for them.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:28 am

Except the rules prohibit conversions post-Ellis.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:08 am

TIC formations can be altered by city law.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

prospect of future changes allow condo conversion.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

Not without a fight.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

preventing Ellis evictions or TIC formations because both of those are governed by State Law, and the vast majority of Californians are not remotely interested in the fact that a few people who cannot afford to live in Sf end up not doing so.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

But evicting tenants via Ellis is "playing by the rules".

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:31 am

Except the rules prohibit conversions post-Ellis.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:02 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:13 am

So being an exploitative landlord is OK, so long as you are being the exploitative landlord? Got it.

"we'd end up buying another house in Portland, probably on a double lot in SE with much garden space"

God, Weissman lives in SE Portland too. How much do you think the poor residents of SE Portland can stand?

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:10 am

How, troll, can you claim give a fuck about SE Portlanders when you're giving the shaft to San Franciscans?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:04 am


I live in SE Portland. I have probably seen Weissman at Zupans a few times without realizing it.

Just what we need - another entitled San Franciscan screwing up our real estate market.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:11 am