LGBT icon evicted, leaving town, blasting Wiener

The man who made this movie is gone from San Francisco

Documentary filmmaker and longtime queer community activist and leader David Weissman is leaving San Francisco -- because he and three other tenants of his place on Oak Street have been evicted under the Ellis Act. These evictions are happening all over town; it's a disaster. Weissman isn't going quietly, though; he's penned a sharp letter to Sup. Scott Weiner that's making the rounds in tenant and LGBT circles and creating enough controversy that Wiener has put out a long response.

Weissman told me the rash of Ellis Act evictions is horrifying, particularly when seniors are involved. "So many people who have lived through the AIDS epidemic are now finding themselves unwanted and adrift," he said. "There have always been two competing visions of San Francisco, and the one that's ascendant now says that people who can own property and make a lot of money will make this a better city. But I've always believed that what makes this city great are the creative types who don't always have a lot of money."

Read his letter to Wiener and the supervisor's response after the jump. (UPDATE: It's worth noting what Weissman posted below, that he is not becoming homeless and spends half his time in Portland, where he will no doubt now live. He won't be a San Franciscan any more. He writes: "Thanks to everyone for your kind words of support. The letter was intended to bring attention to the larger issues at stake, that most renters in SF are in serious and increasing risk of Ellis Act eviction. As most of you know, my own situation is unusual, in that I've been living back and forth between SF and Portland since 2004, with the full knowledge of my benevolent late landlords. I will always be a San Franciscan in my heart, and am trying to find ways to maintain some kind of base there."

Dear Supervisor Weiner:

We've met a few times. I'm the producer of the documentaries We Were Here and The Cockettes, both of which chronicle the history of Gay San Francisco. I've been a San Franciscan since 1976. In 1979 I was on the campaign staff of Prop R, a rent-control initiative that didn't pass, but which pushed the Board of Supervisors to pass the significantly weaker Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Law. I subsequently became a Legislative Aide to Supervisor Harry Britt. I worked a couple of campaigns with Dick Pabich and Jim Rivaldo, and also worked closely with Bill Kraus -- heroic leaders whose names I hope are familiar to you.

I am being forced out of my apartment that I've rented since 1986 due to the Ellis Act. This will end my 37-year residency in San Francisco. I must say that I find your policies regarding housing in San Francisco -- your consistent bias toward home ownership at the expense of tenants and affordability, to be dismaying, and an affront to the legacy of Harvey Milk. In my own situation, it has been extremely clear that the limitations on condo conversion provided somewhat of an impediment to the immediate eviction of everyone in my building (all gay, 3 out of 4 of us are seniors), motivating the landlord to at least pay us to leave rather than just evict us at very minimal cost to him. But even this is appalling -- your efforts should be toward further combating the effects of the Ellis Act, rather than contributing to the tsunami of evictions that is destroying the fabric of our City. No buyout can compensate for the loss of our homes.

I don’t doubt that you have good intentions, and that you have done some good things as Supervisor. Though you didn’t live here in the worst of the AIDS years, I assume you’ve been somewhat impacted by that history. But for those of us who elected Harvey Milk, who fought the Briggs Initiative and Anita Bryant, who created this amazing gay community centered around Castro Street, and then who fought for our lives and the lives of our brothers through two decades of AIDS deaths... having a gay supervisor promoting policies that are forcing so many of our generation out of our homes and out of the City to which we have given so much is heartbreaking.

Wiener's response, posted on Facebook:

Hi David. Yes, we have met several times, and I’ve always been a huge admirer of your work. You’re an icon in our community. “We Were Here” is one of the best and most moving films I’ve ever seen.

Your email is deeply distressing to me. It’s awful that the Ellis Act was used to evict you and the other tenants out of your building. I don’t support the Ellis Act and I publicly supported Mark Leno’s (unfortunately unsuccessful) legislation to restrict its use. Back in the 90s, when I was a new lawyer, I defended numerous tenants against the wave of evictions at the time, both Ellis Act and Owner-Move-In evictions, and it was as heartbreaking then as it is now. I’m truly sorry that this happened to you and sorry for the City that you now are leaving. I would be more than interested in helping you find a place in San Francisco that you can afford. Please let me know if you want my help in that effort. I’m at your disposal.

It took me a day to respond to this email, because it’s a challenging response to write. Something terrible happened to you. You have every right to be angry and frustrated that so many great years in San Francisco, building our community, may come to an end this way. (I truly hope that we can avoid that, of course.) But, I do need to respond to some things that you said in your email about me. I hate to have to respond -– since what happened to you was so awful -– but I don’t think that your comments about me, which you’ve now disseminated publicly, are fair or accurate. It’s not accurate to describe my policy bent as having a “consistent bias toward home ownership at the expense of tenants and affordability.” I know you disagree with my legislation to provide one-time relief to owner-occupied TICs that are at risk of foreclosure, and I’ll get to that in a bit. I’m not sure how much you know about my public positions and votes over a decade on housing issues, but I’ll describe them for you. While I do support helping people achieve home ownership –- and I don’t in any way run away from that -- I’ve supported just about every pro-tenant measure that’s appeared on the ballot, including measures that my predecessor and Mayor Newsom opposed (that’s not a criticism of my predecessor or Mayor Newsom, both of whom I strongly supported, but we had a difference of opinion). I supported Prop B, which required disclosure to prospective condo purchasers of the unit’s eviction history. That went on the ballot after the Mayor vetoed it, and I supported it. I supported Prop H, which increased relocation payments to tenants in no-fault evictions. That went on the ballot after the Mayor vetoed it, and I supported it. I supported Prop M, which banned and created penalties for harassment of tenants. That went on the ballot after the Mayor vetoed it, and I supported it. And, as noted, I supported Mark Leno’s effort to restrict the application of the Ellis Act. I also supported limiting or banning condo conversion for units that were made vacant through use of the Ellis Act.

As a member of the Board of Supervisors I’ve continued my work supporting tenants. I authored and passed legislation banning universities (including Academy of Arts University) from converting rent-controlled apartment buildings into student dorms. That was a huge win for tenants, and I pushed it through against intense opposition. I authored and passed the Good Samaritan Ordinance, which was supported by tenants groups and which provides affordable temporary apartments for tenants who are displaced by disasters.

Now, let’s talk about my work around affordable housing. I was one of the people who negotiated the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Prop C, which appeared on last November’s ballot and won. I campaigned for it passionately. It will generate $1.5 billion for affordable housing in coming decades. I’ve been closely involved with the 55 Laguna project, which will create quite a bit of affordable housing, including affordable housing for LGBT seniors. I’ve supported every transition-age youth housing project that’s come to the board, all of which have been controversial. I’ve publicly begged Larkin Street to create more youth housing in the Castro.

I stand by my record on housing policy, including support for tenants and for creation of affordable housing. Your perception of my overall record simply isn’t accurate.

As for my TIC legislation, I respect your opposition to it, but I don’t think it’s fair to state that by helping struggling TIC owners stay in their homes –- and helping them avoid foreclosure -– I’m forcing gay people from their homes. David, you and I don’t know each other well, but if you got to know me, you’d know that I’ve spent my entire adult life (which has been more years than you might think) fighting for the LGBT community. Whether playing a key role in building the LGBT community center, fighting my neighbors on Collingwood Street when they tried to get rid of LYRIC, leading the charge to restore HIV funding cuts in our city budget, to helping get transgender people health coverage under Healthy San Francisco, or sponsoring the legislation that created the LGBT senior task force, support for my brothers and sisters in this community has been at the core of everything I do.

The TIC legislation is not what its opponents have painted it to be. I’ve posted a full explanation of the legislation here.
This legislation provides one-time relief to TIC owners in owner-occupied TICs that are in the condo lottery. San Francisco law restricts or prohibits condo conversion for buildings that have had Ellis Act or other bad eviction history. This legislation sticks by those restrictions. These TIC owners are in serious trouble. They purchased thinking they’d be able to convert in 5-7 years. It’s now looking like 15-20 years. That’s 15-20 years on a group mortgage –- where if one owner defaults everyone defaults -– paying double the interest rate of other homeowners, and being unable to refinance even if you’re about to experience a balloon payment on the mortgage. If we don’t help these TIC owners, we’re going to see a wave of foreclosures and people losing their homes. While I fully understand the opposition to condo conversion, I guess my question is whether allowing these homeowners to go into foreclosure is a good thing for the city. I don’t think it is. This is a one-time and discrete piece of legislation designed to help a group of San Francisco residents -– primarily long-time residents -– who are in serious trouble.

These TIC owners aren’t aliens who landed here and snapped up units. Almost every TIC owner I’ve ever met is a first-time homeowner who rented for years (often renting for a lot of years) and then scraped together a down payment to be able to purchase a place. They’re middle class, since if they were wealthy they’d be able to buy more than a TIC. Many are people who’ve lived here for a very long time –- 15, 20 years or longer. Many are gay. These are San Franciscans just like you and I are. They, too, are part of the fabric of our city. I don’t think it’s anti-tenant, anti-gay, or anti-anything to provide them with some help by letting them condo convert their units so that they can have housing stability.

It’s estimated that 85% of these TIC units are owner-occupied. And for the very small number of tenants who live in these buildings, the legislation mandates that they receive lifetime leases with full rent and eviction controls. Again, 85% of the units are occupied by their owners.

David, I regret having to respond to you like this. That’s pretty much the last thing I want to do with someone who’s going through something as traumatic as what you’re experiencing. But, since you made a pretty bald public assertion about what I stand for and who I advocate for, I thought it necessary to respond.


Wiener represents everyone in his district and the city. not just gays and not just tenants. I think he's done a good job, and a better job than most, of listening to his community rather than only lobbying for his special interest groups and backers. Do you really think Avalos listens to homeowners and landlords in his district? Not a chance.

Wiener is a god guy trying hard to finesse the many conflicting priorities in this city. He can't give everyone everything that they want, but he mas more integrity, honesty and balance than most.

And yes, I am a Castro resident.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

I'm sorry I don't know how long you've been here (I've been here 30 years okj?_)but S. Wiener is yet another of the carpetbaggers - sorry :(

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 8:02 pm

Leave Scott alone! Hes a very nice man who happens to be a virgin.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

He's probably saving himself for marriage.

Posted by antfaber on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

He's lived here since the mid-90s. How long does one have to live in the city not to be considered a carpetbagger?

Posted by Hortencia on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

Weiner is a Carpet bagger to some, Avalos, Mirkarimi, Campos, Daly, etc... are not.

Avalos a native son of LA was interviewed by the Guardian and he complained that people were coming here telling us how to live. This passed by without comment by the various carpet bagger progressive who pass do the endorsements, all out of town carpetbaggers like Avalos.

Just let it go, the progressive mind.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 8:03 pm

I don't mind Shawn or TJ either, give them a story, please. Unfortunately, I, Thucydides, explain for you that the Russian and Chinese oligarchies strenuously objected to such a totally just and feasible act, on the theory that they themselves were vulnerable to the contagion of the Arab Spring, and also because they wished to deter America from attacking Iran over the nuclear weapons program they themselves encouraged, and clandestinely supplied, and all in order to weaken Israel, and thereby strike at America indirectly. Asphalt Arts also collaborates with ArtsWork: The Kax Herberger Center for Children and the Arts, a program of the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, to bring “the expressive power of the theatre and digital story-telling” to Tumbleweed youth. This man is the first true Statesman that the USA has produced in many, many years. She’s entertained until dinner is ready!

Posted by Checks unlimited reviews on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

evicted? Is it because they are somehow less worthy of sympathy?

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

Good question, anon. The focus on LGBT evictions stems from how badly queer-people were historically treated by their families, bosses, drill sergeants, etc. before they moved to SF. In SF they had finally found acceptance, and a sense of community. At long las, they had found a home. That's also the reason you see signs like, "welcome home" in stores in the Castro.

Obviously, this is my own opinion and I could easily be wrong.

Posted by Snoozers on Feb. 03, 2013 @ 12:13 am

I don't see how what might have happened 50 years ago and 3,000 miles away has any bearing here.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:01 am

"While I fully understand the opposition to condo conversion, I guess my question is whether allowing these homeowners to go into foreclosure is a good thing for the city. I don’t think it is."

If there is no moral hazard to making financially ill-considered and morally questionable investments, then we can count on more and more ill-considered and morally questionable investments.

If these units were to go through foreclosure and be sold on the market, then the price would be determined by the rent they'd command and they'd be on rent control ongoing.

It would be in the public interest for these TIC communes to go belly up and recycle that housing for productive uses consonant with their reduced market value.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

Not all problem loans are with TIC's and, in fact, most are not.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

Those individuals are not asking for special public policy to be enacted to bail their asses out from their poor decisions, now are they? They're taking responsibility for their choices.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 6:16 pm


Oh wait, you probably think that is somehow different.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:00 am

They made their choices with rent control as the law and with it in mind. They are asking for no special treatment to correct their error like the TIC commune owners are asking to be bailed out just like Wall Street for their bad bets.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:13 am

wtf is the matter with you?

Posted by guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

clear hypocrisy in the way he thinks that owning a condo isn't impacting the availability of rentals but somehow owning a TIC is.

His ownership deprives the community of a potentially affordable unit.

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

Nobody during the years between which a senior sold her home to move into an assisted living facility and the time that we bought it asked for special treatment, for the law to be changed to accommodate anyone's poor, risky decisions so that they got a get out of jail free pass to avoid the consequences.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

help your fellow San Franciscan. But you don't. You occupy what could be an affordable rental. so selfish and hypocritical.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:01 am

We just might move out of our condo, rent it out at high rent and without rent control, and use the proceeds to buy something somewhere else where the constant gnawing of capital at the urban fabric does not make such an annoying nose all while having tenants finish buying us our first home.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:14 am

But you are no different to any Ellis evicter or TIC owner.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:20 am

Nonsense, we evicted nobody, we ourselves were evicted.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

Therefore you are adding to the lack of homes in SF.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

Why not pioneer a system which would return your condo to it's pre-conversion form?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:48 am

about the under-housed, which he evidently does not safe and comfortable in his TIC-like shared ownership situation.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:03 am

I cut property, income and sales tax checks to pay the government to handle that.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:06 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:18 am

"I cut property, income and sales tax checks to pay the government to handle that."

Remarkably, that's what people who purchase TIC's do, too!

Of course, while simply paying the government may be good enough for Marcos, that's not good enough for evil TIC owners, who need to be crushed.

TIC owners are required to house poor people, unlike Marcos!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:39 am

I personally know David Weissman, and when he is out of town and living in Portland, he rents it out at a very affordable rate to friends, students, and artists. Just so you know. Don't assume you know answer to a question you haven't asked.

Posted by BZweig on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

primary and permanent home, then his enjoyment of rent control in SF is illegal, and his SF LL could sue him.

In any event, he clearly has options for a home and has had a long run of cheap rent as well. I suspect there are more worthy cases for sympathy.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

1223 SE 36th Ave

He bought it with the rent money he saved

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

I suspect his SF landlord is retaining a lawyer right now. And since Weissman owns the PDX home, he could actually pay the judgment.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:02 am

if he had permission of the landlord to sublet? If not he's lucky he wasn't evicted long ago.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

laws. I wonder if this publicity will lead to him being sued for fraud?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

I am rooting for these end-runs around rent control to come up short and for those apartments to be put back on the market as rentals under rent control.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

It would be in the public interest for Marcos' condo to go belly up and recycle that housing for productive uses consonant with their reduced market value.

Citizens! Expropriate Marcos' condo, and turn it into socially desirable low income housing!

All Property Is Theft, But Marcos' Property Is Especially Theft!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

before they argue that nobody else should.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:02 am

We "got ours" by playing by the rules and not insisting that government change the rules to bail us out of bad bets.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:15 am
Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:20 am

Fine, then they're stuck with an apartment they cannot rent, that is not attractive to TIC purchasers and cannot be converted to condo for perhaps 20 years.

Problem? I'll bet.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

There is moral hazard in believing one can obtain a secure, lifetime residence through renting.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:43 am

30 to 120 days notice. So why do they whine when that happens?

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:00 am

Actually, that's not true -- in San Francisco, if you pay your rent on time and don't violate the terms of your lease, you can only be evicted for "just cause." Without the Ellis Act or an owner move-in, it's entirely reasonable to believe that you can rent and stay in your home for life. People who buy rental property know this when they buy it. They know (unless they are utter fools who didn't read the disclosure documents) how many tenants live there, what rent they pay, and whether they are of a protected class. So no landlord should complain that the rent is too low; when they bought the building they knew what the rent was and they knew they couldn't raise it beyond a limited amount per year, and yet they bought it anyway.


Posted by tim on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:48 am

here with facts and reasoned arguments? Watch out for the flames.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:58 am

For the same reason why they allow the farm animals to make themselves at home inside the chat rooms.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:10 am

A property owner may legally choose to exit the rental business and cannot be forced to continue to provide rental housing.

It is not reasonable to believe one can rent the same SF property for life, particularly at a discount. Those who claim that we can are creating false expectations, which can lead to inadequate planning for the future.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:05 am

their number one complaint about rent control is not the actual control of rents but the fact that a tenant is a lifetime sentence. It's more about lack of control than just money.

There are 15 just causes for eviction and only about half of them are for tenant misbehaviour. There are non-fault just cause evictions available for Liis (of course), owner move-in's, relative move-in's, condo conversion, merging of units, demolitions and cases where the unit is deemed illegal, unfit for purpose or substantially rehabilitated.

So, in practice, tenants do often have to move against their will, even in SF.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:08 am

who the heck is Marcos to decide what is and what is not a good investment for people he doesn't know.
What kind of messed up god complex does he have?
Mind your own business Marcos. You pay your mortgage on your mission district place without interference, make sure to allow other people to have the same free will.

Posted by Greg_the_diKC on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 1:25 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

The good investment is rent controlled apartments, not an end run via eviction with TIC's. The people I knew were all evicted from my block over the past 10 years. Now the new TIC owners want special treatment so that they can reap a windfall at the expense of future tenants. I don't think so.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 03, 2013 @ 8:56 am