SFBG Wrap, April 9-16 - Page 2

Shrimp Boy is innocent (say his attorneys), Airbnb comes clean, and Ellis Act reform advances

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Whether the TNCs should provide insurance has been the subject of intense debate in state and local governments over the past year. The recommendations to the CPUC come specifically out of a hearing on TNC insurance that Jones held March 21. The Guardian also wrote an editorial, "Sharing economy should share its wealth," calling for rideshares to provide insurance, not only because it's unfair competition (insurance costs money to provide, a burden taxi companies carry but not TNCs), but because people and TNC drivers in accidents were left for broke, lacking inadequate insurance. (Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez)

ELLIS ACT REFORM ADVANCES

Sen. Mark Leno's Senate Bill 1439 — which would protect rent-controlled housing in San Francisco by amending the Ellis Act, including making property owners wait at least five years after buying a property to evict tenants under the act — cleared its first legislative hurdle last week.

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee passed the measure on a 6-4 vote, and it heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee next. The bill has strong support in San Francisco, from progressive constituencies through Mayor Ed Lee to support by leaders in the business community and tech world.

Yet the measure faces a tough road in Sacramento, where the landlord lobby and other conservative interests oppose it. "A bill that could strip San Francisco landlords of their freedom to leave the rental housing business heads to a key Senate committee next month," the California Apartment Association wrote last month in an alert to its members.

But as Tenants Together demonstrated in a recent study of how the Ellis Act has been used in San Francisco since its passage in 1985, a legislative reaction to a California Supreme Court case upholding rent control laws, the legislation has largely been a tool used by real estate speculators to clear rent-controlled buildings of tenants. The study found that 51 percent of Ellis Act evictions took place within a year of the property being purchased, 68 percent within the first five years, and 30 percent of Ellis Act evictions were from serial evictors, often by businesses specializing in flipping properties for profit.

"California's Ellis Act was specifically designed to allow legitimate landlords a way out of the rental business, but in San Francisco this state law is being abused by speculators who never intend to be landlords," Leno said today in a prepared statement. "As a result, longtime tenants, many of them seniors, disabled people, and low-income families, are being uprooted from their homes and communities. The five-year holding period in my bill would prevent these devastating evictions from forever changing the face of our diverse city." (Steven T. Jones)

FROM GOOGLE BUS TO GOOGLER'S HOME

The morning of April 11 kicked off with yet another Google bus blockade in San Francisco's Mission District, only this time housing activists said a Google employee is directly to blame for displacing residents.

The blockade, which took place at 18th and Dolores streets, was short-lived but featured speeches by tenants facing eviction, as well as a giant cardboard cutout depicting 812 Guerrero, a seven-unit building where tenants are facing eviction under the Ellis Act.

The property owner is Jack Halprin, a lawyer who is the head of eDiscovery, Enterprise for Google. He moved into one of the units after purchasing the building two years ago and served eviction notices on Feb. 26, according to tenant Claudia Triado, a third grade teacher at Fairmount Elementary in San Francisco who lives there with her 2-year-old son.

The Bay Guardian left a voice message for Halprin requesting comment, but got no reply