Watch this depressing time-lapse visualization of Ellis Act evictions

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Each red dot represents an Ellis Act eviction. The size of the circle is determined by the number of units.

A series of red circles explodes on the screen, each representing another rental unit where tenants were driven out by an eviction through no fault of their own.

With a new time-lapse visualization of San Francisco Rent Board data spanning from 1997 to August of 2013, viewers can instantly grasp the cumulative impact of Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco.

It was created by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a newly hatched volunteer effort started to raise awareness about the rising trend of displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Watch it here.

A landlord doesn't need just cause to oust a tenant under the Ellis Act; the law permits a property owner to stop renting units, evict all tenants, and sell the building for another purpose. The recent wave of tech startups and resulting influx of highly paid employees has fueled a spike in Ellis Act evictions as demand for housing has increased.

Working in collaboration with the San Francisco Tenant’s Union, Anti-Eviction Mapping Project volunteer Erin McElroy teamed up with core volunteers Olivia Jackson, Jennifer Fieber and a team of several others to analyze and map data from the San Francisco Rent Board.

The Ellis Act visualization is the first of several planned by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project. The size of the circles that pop concurrently with each date corresponds with the number of units displaced.

“We started it with the idea of making a comprehensive map that would show things that weren’t being documented by the Rent Board,” McElroy explained. To that end, the project team has spearheaded a survey to gather data on tenant buyouts, harassment by landlords, rent increases, and bogus attempts to use the Ellis Act to carry out an eviction. The survey is available in Spanish and English, with a Chinese version coming soon. 

“We also want to map where people relocate to, in order to display the current and pending gentrification of other areas – particularly the East Bay,” she added.

In the next few weeks, the team will release maps based on data showing owner move-in evictions and foreclosures.

“We don’t have funding or anything like that,” McElroy explained, but the Tenants Union has allowed them use of its office space for meetings. The effort took several months of research and programming, and the result is a story of the displacement of 3,705 housing units over the course of 16 years – all of which can be absorbed a matter of minutes.