Ed Lee's State of the City: What evictions? What displacement?

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Mayor Ed Lee punctuated his State of the City speech with a nice little quip: "Every San Franciscan deserves a clean, safe place to call home." I agree.

So why, in a speech lasting more than an hour, did the mayor not once mention that thousands of San Franciscans are facing the loss of their homes -- and will be forced out of the city -- because of the same policies that he's proudly promoting?

These things are always self-congratualtory and full of the requisite bullshit. But Lee's description of the State of the City was nothing more than a fantasy to the two-thirds of San Franciscans who live in rental housing, many of whom are living with an unacceptable level of insecurity. Much of the city's rental stock -- and the effectiveness of rent control -- is at risk at speculators are buying up properties, tossing the tenants out with the Ellis Act, and converting them to tenancies in common. This is a massive civic crisis, brought on in part by the boom in tech jobs and the consequent boom in high-paid young people who want to live in a city that has virtually no vacant housing.

We saw this before, under Mayor Willie Brown; we called it the Economic Cleansing of San Francisco. It was awful, and it's happening again.

But you wouldn't know that to hear the mayor completely ignore the issue.

Oh, Lee gave it a toss-off line; gee, the rent is too high, but we can't ignore the laws of supply and demand. Gee, we're going to build 45,000 new housing units, and that will fix everything.

But Lee, of all people, ought to know that housing in San Francisco has never followed the laws of supply and demand. This is a highly irregular market, because demand is essentially unlimited. Housing fills us as fast as you build it. And none of the new housing that's currently under construction or in the pipeline will be affordable to current SF residents who live in rent-controlled units and are at risk for eviction.

When you're evicted under the Ellis Act in San Francisco today, to make room for someone with more money, you wind up having to leave the city. That's the bottom line. And everywhere you turn, tenants are facing that ugly prospect.

The mayor spent much of his time talking about jobs. That's fine; he's proud that the unemployment rate in the city has fallen to 6.5 percent, but he insists he won't rest until everyone has a job. Actually, most economists would say that's impossible; capitalism, by its nature, exists with a structural unemployment rate that rarely falls below 4 percent. In fact, 4 percent is generally considered "full employment."

More important, the overall rate is 6.5 percent, but it's way higher for people without college degrees, for youth, and for African Americans. (It's above 50 percent for transgender people.) The tech boom isn't providing jobs for all of the unemployed current San Francisco residents; a lot of the jobs are going to people who don't live here and are moving here for employment. They are putting pressure on the existing housing stock. That always leads to displacement.

None of this is to say that tech jobs are bad or that we shouldn't have companies that pay high wages locate in San Francisco. What it means is that the city first has to protect its existing vulnerable populations -- and that's not happening.

I would encourage Mayor Lee to talk to the Housing Rights Committee, or the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, or any of the other tenant lawyers who are fighting desperately every day to state off evictions. He'd get a very different picture of the state of the city.

Comments

1) It encourages tenants to never move, even tho they would like to

2) It encourages property owners to switch to owner occupancy

3) It suppresses the construction of new rental units apart form condo's, because of the worry that they may later be covered by rent control

In fact, all land use rules push up prices and rents

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 9:44 am

Houston! Problem?

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:33 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

Re: point #3: Rent control only applies to pre-1979 buildings. Worrying that new construction will eventually be covered by rent control is a silly concern.
Just as silly as owners who remove units from the market and keep them vacant. If they can get, on average, $2500-$3000 per month, minus expenses and still refuse to bring it back on the market, then they are spiteful and don't value a decent return (definition of greed?). Sell the property to someone who knows that they have to work to maintain a property, is a decent citizen and understands the need for housing. The "marketplace" has inflated the value of properties without landlords having to do very much. If the economy tanks, rental properties' values in SF do not tank as much accordingly and then there is the predictable rebound. And capital improvement pass-throughs as allowed by SF Rent Ordinance allow for recouping much of the costs plus interest, amortized.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

construction is rent controlled. That is why every developer and investor i have spoken to would rather build new rentals 10 miles north, south or east where there are no such worries.

And the fact that thousands of units are kept vacant and unrented ought to tell you how LL's feel about rent control, To give up that amount of rent and leave a unit unused is a damning testimony about how punitive RC really is. So are Ellis evictions which are highly destructive of value and yet LL's feel they have no choice.

Oh, and passthru's are a total PITA. Check out the forms.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

It ain't all about housing and poverty, it is about rampant municipal corruption that leaves us with crappy transit, filthy streets, unmaintained and privatized parks, that keeps ineffective nonprofiteers on the quasi public payroll while their advocacy domains crumble, all so that Lee's patrons can continue to rake in the cash.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 10:46 am

ethos. Are you sure you're living in the right country?

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 11:58 am

I grew up in NY back when the infrastructure was fully invested and the public realm was not squalorific.

Libertarian capitalist conservatives have turned our country into their country.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:29 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

It was said by a liberal, Galbraith, who saw that capital did not invest everywhere to elevate living standards.

The Democrats tried that but Vietnam put the kibosh on that all by consolidating the claim that the military industrial complex has to this day on the public treasury.

In the places where there was sufficient public investment, such squalor was constrained to the margins.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

It was said by a liberal, Galbraith, who saw that capital did not invest everywhere to elevate living standards.

The Democrats tried that but Vietnam put the kibosh on that all by consolidating the claim that the military industrial complex has to this day on the public treasury.

In the places where there was sufficient public investment, such squalor was constrained to the margins.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

sector is not a new thing nor a product of Reagan or neo-conservatism.

Rather it has always been the american way compared to Europe where the primacy of the state and the bureaucracy is accepted far more cheerfully.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:07 pm
Posted by Eddie on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

it isn't in accordance with the will of the people?

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

as long as the two-headed corporate/war party is our only choice.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

elections are bought or stolen.

Get a new song. The voters are way smarter than you give them credit for.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

and foreign policies between Obama (D) and Romney (R). Unlike you, I hold Americans in high esteem. You regularly refer to them as fat and placated.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

is somehow not valid and irrelevant is patronising and false.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

choose only from severely proscribed choices. Like the choice between war and war. Or austerity or austerity.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

And see how many votes you get for your weird take on reality.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:26 am

economic and political democracy, peace, and the recognition of the inherent equality of all people.

Cowardly people like yourself who accept their sujugation to economic authority and support exploitation are the cogs the ruling elites desire.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:53 am

platform of world peace, equality and all those other fuzzy notions that you offer up as a substitute for rational discourse.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:08 am

an attacking style, is far from rational discourse.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:14 am

debating that should be welcomed in any forum that claims to welcome disparate viewpoints.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:35 am

with Limbaughtic.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:50 am
Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:09 am

is the money you make by evicting people and exploiting vulnerable day laborers.

Here's another label: economic terrorist.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:23 am

Many of them left voluntarily though.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:39 am

Lists of lies specific to each topic discussed!

"You never win a debate"

"You resort to ad hominem and labels"

etc...

This is going to be fun!

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:25 am

You are no more Socratic than my cat.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:53 am

Yes, the policies that people vote for Democrats who run on these issues over and again but that the Democrats steadfastly refuse to implement once elected.

The Republicans, for their part, follow through on their conservative promises, just as the Democrats follow through on the Republicans' conservative promises.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:15 am
Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:36 am

Actually, voters want social security, socialized medicine for seniors, want a reasonable chance to be employed and want the capitalist wars to end. The Democrats run on all of this and once elected turn around and do what the Republicans were going to do if they were elected.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:46 am

implement a small part of their program because politics is about compromize with other parties.

That said, we have social security and medicare. We just aren't paying for them right now.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:02 am

Right, WE are.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:07 am

American workers have been paying -- and continue to pay -- Social Security's costs. You are a despicable liar.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:08 am

we have a 16 trillion dollar national debt.

If voters paid the full costs of these welfare schemes, they'd be screaming to end them.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:20 am

running a surplus.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:35 am
Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:45 am

Not for long.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:46 am

1 Progressive ideas are not popular

2 Progressives want to tell everyone else how to run their lives

3 Only corporations pay tax

4 Poor people here are actually quite wealthy.

5 All politicians lie

6 "Purity progressives" can't compromise

7 Progressives have situational ethics

8 Progressives ignore pressing problems while promoting pet projects.

9 Anybody who thinks the police must have proper civilian oversight is a "cop hater."

10 Presidents always move to the center

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:55 am

Which is why not so many rentals get built in SF even tho theoretically post-79 constrcution is exempt.

Most developers aren't stupid most but most progressives think that the voters are.

Posted by anon on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

What evictions, what displacement is right, ironically. There are no statistics to back up this Tenant's Union nonsense about spikes in Ellis Act and evictions by would be condo converters and "thousands in danger of being displaced." None.

Ellis is barely even up. All this doubling and tripling and thousands and blah blah blah?

It's b.s.

Posted by kennydojo on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

My block has been clearcut of existing renters in all buildings < 8 units.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

There's also natural turnover and owner move-in's, which very possibly happened with the unit that you currently keep from being rented out to a deserving tenant

Posted by Guest on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

From March 2011 through March 2012 Ellis evictions went up from 61 to 64.

You can look at the rent board's own study. All this stuff that they're screaming about spikes in Ellis is straight b.s.

Redmond is a polemic douche with a simplistic black and white mindset. And his paper is a phoney conlgomerate cynical same slinging stack of nothing.

Posted by kennydojo on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 3:31 pm