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.


Good story. Sorry to see this happening and that very little can be done to stop it. A young man lived in my building- paying $2000 for a studio. He ended up losing his job and moving out within a year. The landlord was happy. Rent went up and a new person just moved in this weekend. There's a chance I'll become one of the displaced. I'm not sure what I'll do or where I'll go but I won't feel like a failure if I need to move. I simply can't afford a $500K home or $4K a month rental in San Francisco.

Posted by David on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

Yes, it's very sad to see this happening. David wrote,

"I'll go but I won't feel like a failure if I need to move. I simply can't afford a $500K home or $4K a month rental in San Francisco."

No one should feel like a failure if they need to move. Renters are not the problem. The problem is the enormous greed and power of the corporatist Real Estate Industrial Complex. I have owned a home here but sold it. I would not want to own a home here now considering what this city is becoming. Spending $4K a month for an extremely overpriced dump (a cave-like apartment with 1-2 small windows with granite counters in the "charming newly renovated gourmet kitchen" as the main selling point) is ludicrous. Have you noticed that real estate liars always have to use the word "charming" to describe any dump they're trying to unload (I mean "offering"....that's the pretentious language they use)? They also overuse the word, "nestled." I saw one apartment just like that recently in an ad. The selling point was the new commercial appliances in the small kitchen where there was barely enough room to open the oven door---but hey, you have a commercial oven---and two people in the kitchen at the same time would be a tough squeeze. That dump was $3K. No thank you.

I wonder if the (wealthy) elitists and their corporatist politicians have thought about what's going to happen to this city when the tech burst occurs?

International Troll Society Member #12360969212

Posted by International Troll Society Member #12360969212 on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 2:50 am

What kind of person chooses to pay 4K a month for a place they don't even like? You should either pay what it takes to get the place you want and just accept it. Or - and here's the shocker - move elsewhere.

The shortened version of this article reads like this: There is a whole set of people in SF who feel entitled to live in SF without having to pay the true cost of that. Their outrageous sense of entitlement and self-absorption demands that someone else pay part of their rent just so they can live somewhere "cool". Inevitably, they are evicted.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:44 am

Some politicians and their supporters have created the false impression that tenants can rent the same property at reduced rates for the rest of their lives.

The false impression does not align with the current reality of an extreme housing shortage combined with economic and demographic change.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:22 am

Beautifully framed and stated comment, ITSM member! The reality is that there is little to no action taking place in the financial services sector both here and nationally. More layoffs, little or no investing, tons of company money overspent on tech garbage and systems, and the well versed ones are all waiting for SAN FRANCISCO'S WONDERFULLLLLLL TECH BUBBBBBLLLLLEEEE to burst to smithereens.

The sooner it happens, the better.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:04 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

The problem isn't high rents and home prices, because everywhere rents or is sold at those prices. They are affordable, just not to you.

So why not move? Why do you feel you have to live in a place you know you cannot afford. Isn't that a decent definition of insanity?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:40 am

Because rental prices are not some "divine right". These rents are NOT affordable, and our lives aren't going to be dismissed by the phrase "They are affordable, just not to you".

No, they are NOT affordable to the great mass of human beings who have every right to live here in a city which once prided itself upon its humanism, social justice, and progressive values.

Please take your own greed infested cancerous advice and beat it!

Posted by Greedy Landlords Are Ruining San Francisco on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

affordable. A property owner does not need everyone to be able to afford his rent. He only needs ENOUGH people to be able to afford it.

Not everyone can afford a Mercedes either, but ENOUGH people can afford them because they all sell.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

And everybody else can just go off and die, right? What's important is P R O F I T at all and any cost, no matter what suffering that evil greed inflicts upon other human beings with feelings, hearts, and bodies.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

where they should have lived all along based on their fiscal power.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

"If you make money the center of your value system, then finally you have no value system, because money is not a value."--Georg Simmell


Posted by Eddie on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 8:35 am

they harbor the delusion that they somehow deserve to live in one of the most expensive cities on the planet when they know they lack the means to credibly do so.

Posted by anon on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 9:07 am

in the healing process. You've admitted you can't afford it here so reclaim your power and find someplace else where you can! YOU are in control!! Set your boundaries and then stick by them - there are nice places in Daly City, Marin City and Contra Costa County right across the bay which fit your budget and the weather is even nicer there than here.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:55 am

The state has a right to claim and to 'inherit' capital and property -- on condition that the state look after the welfare of its citizens by apportioning to each an equal share of the resources.

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

to the poor and the homeless. They just try and make other people do that. The hypocrisy is stunning.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

You're not welcome here, Lucretia Snapples. Your mind set is toxic. Please take your own wicked advice and leave as soon as possible.

Trust me, the vast, vast majority of San Franciscans will be happy to see the likes of you vanish!

Posted by Greedy Landlords Are Ruining San Francisco on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 2:07 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

You've got lots of cowardly bluster from behind your screen, "Guest of Hell".

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:08 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

"Priceless"? I'm glad you've realized that not every thing has a price, "Guest of Hell".

But I suspect that enlightening moment came and went.

Posted by San Francisco's Lovely Soul Murdered by Greed on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

The guest who claims he is anonymous or the guest who claims that we all are?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

San Francisco has become a more popular places among the tech heads who work or start their own companies. Going urban has become the big thing, live in a city, retire in a city, remember not all people are in the tech industry. That means you can't blame the tech.

Evicting people is not a good thing to happen, just ask people from New York City or any major city. S.F has a very poor record when it comes to building, NIMBY makes the costs of building here so high, add that to the recent booms. In the days of the 60's and 70's you did have people fleeing the city to those outlaying area.

It has swung back the other way. Urban dwellers.

The whole Bay Area on whole is terrible for housing, unless you want to live in Richmond or Oakland where I can tell you this. You will have the same kind of deal of evictions, displacement of residents, bad press on how a group with money will be changing a older working class place.

Posted by Garrett on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:47 am

NIMBYS everywhere, who would imagine that urban agglomerations mass people together and they end up organizing to keep things from deteriorating into tech tenements and slums.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 11:00 am

THe problem starts when someone is a NIMBY but then says we should have affordable housing - hard to do if you never build any.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

You know, this conversation never ends, nor begins, nor has a middle .... why are so many folks against home-ownership? having had been a tenant who was evicted twice, with my family in tow, now I'm forced to sell my 2nd City home because the cost of living is impossible and I don't wat us to be debt slaves. yes, my tenants will be at the mercy of new owners but, too bad, when you buy property in SF you buy tenants. AND, tenants don't OWN the property - get that through your activist heads. they don't pay the PROPERTY TAXES, they don't have to buy INSURANCE for the property, they don't have to worry about the City foisting some damn tree and its maintencance on them. so why do you continue to harp about the poor tenants? buy some property, then suffer the consequences - then, finally, start complaining, believe me you'll have a different point of view.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:59 am

Sounds like you didn't have enough money to make the investment in a second "home" in the first place. I read that it takes a landlord about 12 years to start profiting off the rental income. Tax laws help them to break even during that time, but yeah, I see what you mean, if the tenants have rent control, you can't charge a rent that fits with the top of the market price you paid to buy the building. Either be rich to invest in 2nd property in SF or don't do it. Saves you and the tenants a lot of trouble.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

RC buildings are cheap because of the low-rent tenants with a lifetime lease.

So buy, Ellis, TIC and sell. Easy 100k per unit profit.

Posted by anonymous on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

Golly, you're sooooo doggone smart.

We need more insipid soul-dead bottomliners like you in San Francisco.

Posted by San Francisco's Lovely Soul Murdered by Greed on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

rather than people who leech on others in order to live in a place they know they cannot afford.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

San Francisco does much better with lower levels of investment.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

deficit and has to make layoffs and service cuts, thene xpanding the tax base is a way to prevent that in the future.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 7:36 am

through unproductive activity, making or creating nothing.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 6:25 am

Most jobs are now lawyers, bankers, accountants, realtors, brokers, developers, investors and so on. People in suits who shuffle money around. It's what America does - we leave making things to the Chinese.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 7:28 am

Real estate development, along with health care provision, are the few things that cannot be outsourced and which Wall Street is using to work its will on a supine nation.

Did you all know that Obamacare expands Medicaid which is stakes economic claims on the "estates" of the poor to recover end of life medical expenses? Talk about a death tax!

Posted by marcos on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 7:39 am

small minority of the jobs in the United States. Your universe consists of the non-productive money shuffling class, living off of other people's labor.

Posted by Eddie on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 8:35 am

You rely on China making cheap crap and Mexicans fixing everything.

Posted by anon on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

Often, as I type my deep, important thoughts into various websites, knowing that my insights will be archived into a carefully architected database for future reference, I pause and think: developers really don't create anything.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 1:01 am

cultural and entertainment complexes, transportation hubs and infrastructure.

Posted by anon on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

ah, it seems that you misunderstood one thing - my "2nd" home is not in addition to my "1st", I sold that to purchase the other. Oh, and my tenants are family, so understand that you never get a good return from them. kindness don't pay no bills, and rent control doesn't even enter into this dialogue. hope you see this ...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 11:08 am

Because "home ownership" is an idiotic myth. That's why.

Posted by Greedy Landlords Are Ruining San Francisco on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

The fact that you are too much of a lame loser to be able to ever afford to do that doesn't make those who are more successful than you "mythical".

We are very real and kicking your ass.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

I am reading many comments from people who suggest that those who can not afford to live in San Francisco simply relocate elsewhere. What is being suggested is a a form of economic segregation.
Why is one group of people more or less entitled to live somewhere? Most people living in rent controlled apartments moved into them when prices in the City were not at a crazy level before the tech invasion.
Most have jobs (although usually not earning overpriced tech salaries, or did work and became disabled, or are seniors,portraying them as moochers is unfair and shortsighted, and quite honestly very mean spirited.
I would also note that all you naysayers about rent controlled apartments would be no more be inclined to move than anyone else.

Posted by GuestSJG on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 11:22 am

It is unfortunate. What do you propose we do?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 11:45 am

Build more low income housing with fixed and minimal rent increases every few years.

Case closed.

Result? A San Francisco once again filled with creative artists, spiritual rebels, experimentalists, and what Ms. Solnit calls "relics", those who made SF a marvelous place to live, instead of a Temple of Tech Twit Greed.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:00 pm


And why do you think SF needs any more poor people, under-employed people, homeless people, bad artists and outcasts?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

The world hasn't changed for thousands of years. Landlords have always been calling the shots and tenants have always been treated like dirt. The legal system treats landlords better than tenants. The tax system treats landlords better than tenants. And the government is always there to bail out the banks when the real estate system collapses every 20 years or so. Lowly tenants pay a high rent cost when real estate prices are booming, and pay a high tax cost when real estate is collapsing.

Private landlords are an insidious, vile institution that should have been outlawed centuries ago. The fact the government makes the landlording institution even more vile and ruthless with laws that favor landlords over tenants is even more insulting and degrading.

Selfish, heartless landlords are a dime a dozen wherever you live. Human greed and human domination over others is the same regardless of culture or nationality. Landlords have been taunting and abusing tenants since the beginning of human history. Until private landlords are outlawed, the situation will never change. Landlording is one major reason people buy a home 40 miles from where they work, just so they can escape the vile, selfish landlord institution. It's not working out that much better for them either, becoming a slave to a mortgage bank and the oil companies instead of a slave to a private landlord.

The goals of landlords, banks, and most government leaders are completely aligned: denigrate and humiliate the lower and middle income levels of society and forever enslave them with high housing costs and high regressive taxes. Sometimes I most envy the religious types who envision a better, more peaceful afterlife, while ignoring the hellish landlord system that confronts them when born onto this earth.

As far as the "treasured relics," if they live in a 2-6 unit rent-controlled building, they should cherish their days in SF for as long as they can, because eventually they will be discarded from the city. The land speculators, government, and sheriff will make sure of it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

get an education and a good job, and try and pay for the lifestyle you want.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:40 pm

The Vile Landlord Institution is diluted by the Ellis Act. Penitent landlords can save themselves and exit the greedy, selfish business.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

WOMAN: We don't have a lord.
DENNIS: I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take
it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.
DENNIS: But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified
at a special biweekly meeting.
ARTHUR: Yes, I see.
DENNIS: By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,--
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: --but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more--
ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
WOMAN: Order, eh -- who does he think he is?
ARTHUR: I am your king!
WOMAN: Well, I didn't vote for you.
ARTHUR: You don't vote for kings.
WOMAN: Well, 'ow did you become king then?
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake,
[angels sing]
her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur
from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I,
Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
[singing stops]
That is why I am your king!
DENNIS: Listen -- strange women lying in ponds distributing swords
is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power
derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical
aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well you can't expect to wield supreme executive power
just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: I mean, if I went around sayin' I was an empereror just
because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me they'd
put me away!
ARTHUR: Shut up! Will you shut up!
DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system.
ARTHUR: Shut up!
DENNIS: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!
HELP! HELP! I'm being repressed!
ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!
DENNIS: Oh, what a give away. Did you here that, did you here that,
eh? That's what I'm on about -- did you see him repressing me,
you saw it didn't you?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 07, 2013 @ 8:35 pm