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

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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."

LIMITED OPTIONS

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.

TIC CONTROVERSY

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.

Comments

You can't easily compare cities in Texas to San Francisco for the simple reason the level of real estate investment and speculation is much higher here. At the height of the last real estate boom, in the hottest neighborhoods, nearly 50% of the properties sold were to investors, not owner occupiers. Such speculation artificially raises valuation of properties and consequently, rental costs.

In many parts of the Bay Area, this is again true. Rental costs are going up *because* of evictions and turnover of the property to investors who, although not monopolizing the market, greatly influence valuation increases in the shelter market. Sure, increased demand from the tech industry is driving both increased valuation and speculation also. But I am not sure the type of incomes in tech can continue substantively as high as they are presently. Many already are calling this dot com 2.

Many of the tech workers are, frankly, young and naive ... which is why they are willing to overextend themselves to bid up valuations against speculators. The real estate industry is taking full advantage of the fact these are young people with money.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 11, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

Evictions increase income volatility for those displaced, since there are often no viable work alternatives elsewhere, and commuting from another city would be prohibitively expensive both in time and money. Often decades of business or professional connections can be lost in eviction displacements, a stealth loss which is rarely properly valued.

Given that the article suggests people move completely away from the area might suggest a period of unemployment and perhaps increased unemployability. Again, these are issues that must be addressed when valuing the cost of displacing long term residents.

I would think that the true cost of compensating a long-term tenant would approach $100,000 to $200,000 if all the capital losses of an employed tenant are properly valued.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 9:10 am

The minimum wage crowd can work anywhere, while professionals have skills that are marketable anywhere.

Wrongful eviction lawsuits never take into account such alleged costs, and any attempt to impose them would be deemed an unconstitutional "taking".

People move. It happens - part of life. Deal with it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 9:22 am

Actually many professionals have licenses that are restricted by state, and are not marketable anywhere, and the building of a professional career involves a lot of expense, so your uninformed implication that such costs are irrelevant is incorrect. Those costs should be recaptured through the legal process, either on the front end in buyout negotiations, or on the back-end as a part of an eviction lawsuit. Property rights should not precede civil rights, as you imply.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

just a few miles away, say to Oakland. You'd have to move a long, long way to leave the State.

Property rights ARE civil rights, you idiot. Nobody rents a place if theyw ant long-term security because all renters know they can and probably will be evicted periodically. Deal with it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 12, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

You got person A who currently depends on Rent Control and person B who does not. Parties who are engaged in landlording are sometimes writing poor contracts to prospective tenants and tenants are not always experts in the field of tenant laws. You got folks that spend a great deal of their time finding ways to meet their america dream and folks that spend a great of deal of no time achieving that same goal. There is a balance for densely populated city's that have the human need to simply coexist and it needs to be enforced. Another reason why communities have counterbalances like rent control is that helps Joe Machanic help Joe Workman achieve his goals or Jane Coffee helping Jane Daytrader move our consumer economy. A productive city makes a productive local economy and you need people to be close by to help you achieve your goals. Rent Control works. Without it we wouldn't have checks a balances. Greed eats away at your human right to live like a bunch of pitbulls mauling a defenseless baby. Fact, Native Americans were displaced in America in our not so distant past. We should displace hardworking laborers that did or did not do what you were doing 10 years ago?! Rent control aids local economies and help a community to thrive in a capitalist society as well as protecting your place of residency while you achieve your longer term goals. P.S. the housing boom was the only time in recorded human history that homes went as high as it did. Check the data on the US Home Price Index. We have enough problems with our economy today.

Posted by Someone is guilty on Feb. 14, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

The incivility in these comments is sickening. I can't stomach it. Hearing people talking (anonymously, no less) about the greed of relatively low-wage workers wanting to get a raise (and probably not getting it) or wanting to be able to live in the city, as they work full-time and still cannot afford market rate...and you call THEM entitled. What about the entitlement of those earning six figures who feel they have the right to own everything and everyone, up to and including the entire city, by virtue of having a huge salary? And then they once again blame the working poor for their poverty (though this problem affects the middle class as well, as the city has priced them out) by saying they must have made poor choices in their education or career. Bullshit. First of all, some of our most intelligent, educated people work in fields that do not carry six-figure paychecks, like social work or nonprofit work, because they care about things other than just money. Does that mean they don't deserve to live in SF? Second, the idea that everyone is born equal and has an equal opportunity in life in this country is pure BS. This country has lower social mobility than any country in the developed world. If you are born poor, you will probably die poor. It is the few exceptions that prove the rule. These jackasses talking about "entitlement queens" as they try to buy out the city almost undoubtedly come from families that were well-off enough (at least) to afford them a good college education, and were educated enough themselves to make this a priority. They probably never had to work as teenagers or young adults to help their family. They have undoubtedly never faced an eviction because, despite working full-time, they couldn't pay market rate on overpriced rental units. And before one of you brings it up, I'm sure there are a few token examples among you who can brag about the poverty you overcame, but again, it is the exception that proves the rule.
The truly entitled class in this country are those at the top, who feel entitled to their tax breaks, entitled to buy out what others have worked so hard to get or keep, entitled to exile those who don't make as much money as they do, entitled to dictate politics because they can write checks to politicians. This makes me sick. I moved to the bay area last summer and felt at home here--though naturally I cannot afford to live in SF, even on a very solid middle-class salary, and had to get a place in Oakland, which is still expensive. Little did I know I was moving in among vultures who feel entitled to six-figure salaries and property but call those who struggle to pay the bills "entitled." Disgusting.

Posted by Irene on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 11:23 am

Irene, I agree completely with your points.

This site needs more input from people of our perspective and less of the infestation -- which, by-the-way, is mostly just one anti-social kook with probable issues around his relationship to his mother or toilet training -- but know that the trolls' *purpose* here is to cause a disturbance among right-thinking people.

To that point, I'd recommend you avoid feeling sickened by it, but rather put more effort into rhetorical tacks that are positive; such as expressing ridicule.

Less of dismay and more of righteous scorn will have greater effect towards making the trolls STFU.

One more tip: if you are going to spend the time to write detailed comments, split them up with ore paragraph breaks adding a carriage return after each one to make them easier to read.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 15, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

get these losers out of the city and let a new breed of people in.

the people mentioned in this article need to move on with their lives and stop being so jewish and greedy

Posted by Guest finn bell on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

we can start by dumping all the riffraff, homeless, overgrown hippies and self-entitled.

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Posted by Royston Dan on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 1:34 am

I'd love to get paid to leave my apartment! San Francisco is losing it's character, and many of my friends have already fled for better places. Change is really hard, I know, but it happens. You can either fight it (and likely lose) or you can try to turn it to your advantage.

My heart goes out to those of you who are having a tough time making ends meet! I hope you find your way through this.

P.S. If you are offered money to leave your rental, consider asking for 3 to 4 times the amount you are offerred. You'd be surprised how much "the rich people" are willing to pay.

Posted by Change Happens on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 12:53 pm