Realtors send deceptive mailer to SF renters

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The San Francisco Association of Realtors, which has a long history of actively opposing the protection of tenants and rental housing, now wants tenants to believe it is on their side. The Realtors even recently formed and funded the Committee to Preserve Rental Housing to alert tenants about a ballot measure that they say favors dreaded rich people.

The only problem: It's complete bullshit.

“Wealthy tenants will benefit most if Proposition F passes,” warns a mailer that landed this week in the mailboxes of San Francisco apartment dwellers, referring a local ballot measure that would allow renters to delay rent increases if they lose their job or their salaries dip by 20 percent or more.

But the mailer warns that the measure would somehow favor rich renters, citing this example: “Take a tenant whose annual income has dropped, for any reason, from $250,000 to $200,000. Under Proposition F, that tenant would be able to apply for financial hardship status and, at the discretion of a public official, qualify for financial relief.”

Yet the measure doesn't really allow that scenario. Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, which helped draft the measure, points out that it only applies to renters who pay 33 percent or more of their incomes in rent, which in the Realtors' example, would be a $5,500 per month home.

“Which, even in San Francisco, is pretty high,” he said. Plus, the Rent Board (that “public official” the mailer darkly warns of) could still tell that poor rich guy, sorry, you're denied, perhaps it's time to find a slightly cheaper place to live. But Gullicksen said he's not surprised at such a deceptive attack from the Realtors (which formed the group on April 30 using campaign attorney Jim Sutton, downtown's usual dirty trickster, according to an Ethics Commission filing).

“The Realtors over the years have increasingly taken the lead in fighting rent control measures, so they are now even more active than groups like San Francisco Apartment Association,” Gullicksen said, noting the Realtors have also pushed hard on ending condo conversion limits and other efforts to protect rental housing. “The individual Realtors are also landlords and speculators to a great degree.”

I called the Association of Realtors for comment and am waiting for a return call, but I'll add their response as a comment if and when I hear back.

Gullicksen was confident renters would see through the mailer, particularly because it was required by law to include the line “major funding by San Francisco Association of Realtors.” He's more worried about voter turnout, which could be low for the June 8 election. And even though two-thirds of San Franciscans are renters, they aren't the most reliable voters and could constitute as low as 40 percent of voters in this election.

So if you rent, don't be fooled and don't forget to vote.