Tenant groups propose sweeping package to ease the "eviction epidemic"

Longtime progressive activist Ernestine Weiss was among the attendees at our "Housing for Whom?" forum last night.

Tenant advocates today proposed a sweeping set of legislative proposals to address what they’re calling the “eviction epidemic” that has hit San Francisco, seeking to slow the rapid displacement of tenants by real estate speculators with changes to land use, building, rent control, and other city codes.

“In essence, it’s a comprehensive agenda to restrict the speculation on rental units,” Chinatown Community Development Center Policy Director Gen Fujioka told the Guardian. “We can’t directly regulate the Ellis Act [the state law allowing property owners to evict tenants and take their apartments off the rental market], but we’re asking the city to do everything but that.”

The package was announced this morning on the steps of City Hall by representatives of CCDC, San Francisco Tenants Union, Housing Rights Committee of SF, Causa Justa-Just Cause, Tenderloin Housing Clinic, UNITE HERE Local 2, Community Tenants Association, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“San Francisco is falling into one of the deepest and most severe eviction crises in 40 years,” SFTU Director Ted Gullicksen said. “It is bad now and is going to get worse unless the city acts.”

The package includes: require those converting rental units into tenancies-in-common to get a conditional use permit and bring the building into compliance with current codes (to discourage speculation and flipping buildings); regulate TIC agreements to discourage Ellis Act abuse; increase required payments to evicted tenants and improve city assistance to those displaced by eviction; require more reporting on the status of units cleared with the Ellis Act by their owners; investigate and prosecute Ellis Act fraud (units are often secretly re-rented at market rates after supposedly being removed from the market); increase inspections of construction on buildings with tenants (to prevent landlords from pressuring them to move); prohibit the demolition, mergers, or conversions of rental units that have been cleared of tenants using no-fault evictions in the last 10 years (Sup. John Avalos has already introduced this legislation).

“The evidence is clear. We are facing not only an eviction crisis but also a crisis associated with the loss of affordable rental housing across the city. Speculative investments in housing has resulted in the loss of thousands affordable apartments through conversions and demolitions. And the trend points to the situation becoming much worse,” the coalition wrote in a public statement proposing the reforms.

Evictions have reached their high level since the height of the last dot-com boom in 1999-2000, with 1,934 evictions filed in San Francisco in fiscal year 2012-13, and the rate has picked up since then. The Sheriff’s Department sometimes does three evictions per day, last year carrying out 998 court-ordered evictions, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told us, arguing for an expansion of city services to the displaced.

At “Housing for Whom?” a community forum the Guardian hosted last night in the LGBT Center, panelists and audience member talked about the urgent need to protect and expand affordable housing in the city. They say the current eviction epidemic is being compounded by buyouts, demolitions, and the failure of developers to build below-market-rate units.  

“We’re bleeding affordable housing units now,” Fred Sherburn-Zimmer of Housing Right Committee said last night, noting the steadily declining percentage of housing in the city that is affordable to current city residents since rent control was approved by voters in 1979. “We took out more housing than we’ve built since then.”

Peter Cohen of the Council of Community Housing Organizations actually quantified the problem, citing studies showing that only 15 percent of San Franciscans can afford the rents and home prices of new housing units coming online. He said the housing isn’t being built for current city residents: “It’s a demand derived from a market calculation.”

Cohen said the city’s inclusionary housing laws that he helped write more than a decade ago were intended to encourage developers to actually build below-market-rate units in their projects, but almost all of them choose to pay the in-lieu fee instead, letting the city find ways to build the housing and thereby delaying construction by years.

“It was not about writing checks,” Cohen said. “It was about building affordable units.”

Last night’s discussion began with a debate about the waterfront luxury condo project proposed for 8 Washington Street, which either Props. B or C would allow the developer to build. Project opponent Jon Golinger squared off against proponent Tim Colen, who argued that the $11 million that the developer is contributing to the city’s afforable housing fund is an acceptable tradeoff.

But Sherburn-Zimmer said the developer should be held to a far higher standard given the obscence profits that he’ll be making from waterfront property that includes a city-owned seawall lot. “Public land needs to be used for the public good.”

Longtime progressive activist Ernestine Weiss sat in the front row during the forum, blasting Colen and his Prop. B as a deceptive land grab and arguing that San Francisco’s much ballyhooed rent control law was a loophole-ridden compromise that should be strengthened to prevent rents from jumping to market rate when a master tenant moves out, and to limit rent increases that exceed wage increases (rent can now rise 1.9 percent annually on rent controlled apartment.

“That’s baloney that it’s rent control!” she told the crowd.











In particular, regulating TIC's was tried before, by Bierman in around 2000, and it passed only to get quashed in the court. The problem is that TIC formation isn't a change of use. TIC is merely a form of ownership, and is subject to state laws.

While raising relocation costs is also a non-starter, as if they were any higher, they would be deemed a direct obstacle to an Ellis, and the Ellis Act specifically disallows any municipality from placing onerous conditions on what is supposed to be an unfettered right to exit the rental business.

The best thing the city can do is offer more in the way of relocation services, but even then only to old, sick or disabled people. Moving home is a reality for everyone and regarding it as a crisis is a tad dramatic.

The real reason for Ellis evictions is that controlled rents end up being uneconomic for longer-term tenancies. Allow more reasonable rents and the Ellis "epidemic" will vanish from sight. But you have to think in terms of consensus with property owners, and not endlessly bashing them.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

I would imagine that this coalition has consulted plenty of attorneys and the City Attorney to make sure that the package is enforceable.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

city has passed has been rejected by the courts. Examples are the last attempt to try and regulate TIC's (Bierman) and also the Daly law to bar payoffs.

Prop 8 would still be law if you were correct about this.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

And make sure as much of that law sticks as possible. Of course some of it will be struck down. Courts are so capricious these days it is hard to predict what they will uphold or strike.

But I would guess that the coalition has taken the realities of history into account and has planned accordingly.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

That's the way these things work. But several of these ideas immediately strike me as legally impossible.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

Ask for 100, settle for 50%+1.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 7:15 am

1) In negotiation
2) The city attorney says no
3) The supes dont pass it
4) The mayor vetoes it
5) The courts bounce it
6) Sac passes a law trumping it

Ask for 100, think you get 50, end up with 25.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 7:29 am

Awesome. Good work, tenant groups--we need this legislation to preserve rent-controlled units. The Ellis Act has wrought destruction and it's got to stop.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

to prevent cities from stopping them.

All you can do is demand more documentation and disclosures.

Some of the ideas will clearly not work, particularly around TIC's.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

It looks like the coalition has its ducks in a row on this and will succeed if the legislation passes. The strategy seems pretty sharp and straightforward.

You are of course free to sue to try to stop it from working.

Good luck.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

If you had any experience of how these things work, you would know that that list gets whittled down as part of a negotiation to get either 6 votes or 8 on the BofS. The city attorney may strip some things that he thinks will not fly legally. And then of course it typically gets challenged in the courts, and part or all of it gets bounced if it is excessive.

Why do you talk about things clearly know nothing about?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

And the picture you are painting is simply meant to discourage. It has little basis in reality.

If this coalition is announcing a strategy for legislation, I assure you they have vetted it with attorneys, and the City Attorney.

Will things get stripped out because of politics? Of course they will. That's how the legislative process works.

Let's focus on what we can achieve, not on what you would like us to believe is not achievable, because you don't want us cutting into your overly large slice of cake.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

The city can and should help evictees who are old or sick, by finding them something else.

Higher moving expenses in return for a quicker move-out should be do-able.

But the idea of regulating TIC's is a total non-starter - it was tried before.

And using DBI to victimize some buildings over others doesn't sound viable either.

Of course, you dont want compromize with owners. You want total victory. Because you think they are evil. But that is your problem, not theirs.

BTW, have you told your LL that you think he is evil and dangerous?

Posted by anon on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

"Destruction" is a gross over-statement. Far more tenants have lost their homes because of not paying their rent and breaching their lease. Why not address those instead?

Posted by Lillipublicans on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

All housing, and all mittens, should be allocated by the government!

I like yoghurt.

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

We can do that now under existing law, of course, but I am too lazy to bother and would rather whine here instead.

Posted by racer on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

I've applied for a $100 million grant for my non-profit housing co-operative!

Once I get it, I'll make the goblins screech!

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:23 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

endless cat and mouse games.

SF cannot be home to everyone regardless of their economic status.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

They will merely put more burdens on the subsequent owners of the units.

I suspect more owners will Ellis and then AirBnB. I already know of one building where this happened.

Posted by Lillipublicans on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

I like Timmy R's plan outlined here awhile back to base housing entirely on seniority.

People who have lived in SF the longest should have first dibbs on any available housing.

We could build a beautiful gerontocracy.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

Why should they pay more rent because a group of selfish long-timers are hoarding all the affordable housing?

Won't that cause stagnation as the city becomes older and new arrivals dry up?

I'd argue we need the opposite - you lose rent control after, say, a decade, in order to give someone new a shot.

Posted by racer on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:07 pm

Young queers will have to live in El Cerrito or some grotty place like that, until elderly queers in SF shuffle off this mortal coil.

And owning a house in Portland should not disqualify you from having a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco!

It's a matter of basic human rights!

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

he would not be able to do so.

Can you imagine how painful that would be for us all?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

State Law bans vacancy control, and not allowing the rent to rise when the last original tenant moves out would be illegal under state law.

Even if the original lease still applies, once every one of the original tenants has left, the rent may be raised to market, and the replacement tenants have to pay the new higher rent.

That is what 6.14 notices are all about, referring to the section of the Rules and Regs of the Rent Board.

Posted by racer on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

We should be like New York, where rent controlled apartments are inheritable!

Then we can have generations of entitled people living in an apartment, paying a few hundred dollars a month for centuries!

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

But you really have to jump thru hoops to inherit an apartment. 99% of people give up because the application is so onerous.

And of course rent control is means-tested in NY.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

Someone wrote this:

"Or we could just build more homes and do away with all these endless cat and mouse games. SF cannot be home to everyone regardless of their economic status."

That last sentence is true and who exactly wants to move here? I've not read in any comments on other message forums based in the US or internationally anyone saying how they are absolutely desperate to move to San Francisco and can't wait to do so as soon as a home is built for them here. I've not read anywhere on the Internet, "I would love to live in San Francisco but can't because there's no home for me there." What I do read is comments such as this, "I've never had any interest in living in San Francisco." When asked where they would prefer to move, the answer was: Seattle, Chicago or Boston. So I don't know where this ridiculous idea has come from that the masses can't wait to move here. One wonders did this loony idea somehow come about from the Real Estate Industrial Complex and their corrupt liars as a way of building all of these pretentious stuffy condo boxes for snooty people and having the condo boxes being pre-bought by Chinese investors? If anything, the average person in San Francisco is moving away from San Francisco because of the cost of living here.

Over the years, I've known some people who don't live here and when I suggested they might consider living here they said: Hell no. The views and weather are nice but not with that cost of living.

But there's this group of idiots who say, "Build it and they will come." Really? That thinking has not worked in China at all. They've built cities in China which have no one in them. "60 Minutes" did a segment on it. Watch this video:

This '60 Minutes' Video Of China's Ghost Cities Is More Surreal Than Anything We've Ever Seen


Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 11:38 pm

and that may be rooted in SF's brief flirtation with destiny in the "summer of love" which appears to hold weight in the minds of those old enough to remember it.

And of course historically California was seen as an Eldorado.

But that was then and this is now. CA has become expensive, over-regulated and fool of people who want to tell others what to do and how to live. Businesses and successful people leave just as more huddled masses (often illegals) arrive. The State and local finances are a disaster and everything here is more difficult than elsewhere.

SF still has an appeal, and for those who want to succeed in Tech, it's still valid and viable to move here. The problem is that lots of more inadequate types, who feel they do not "fit in" elsewhere, still think of SF as a place where they can "be themselves" (translation - never grow up).

It is these (for want of a better word) "losers" who shop up and demand that SF be cheap enough so that they can get by on an unskilled minimum wage job, or even welfare. Yet they add nothing to the city while feeling so self-important.

The city needs to grow up and become an adult.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 6:00 am

I'd put them at around 50, or more. The tail end of the hippie invasion personified by people like Tim, Welch except that their earlier arrival enabled them to jump on the property bandwagon, meaning these topics are just academic to them.

The three stooges here would not be able to move to SF now, as they would be victims of the very thing they claim to support - rent control. Because rent control drives up rents at the margin, because it suppresses the vacancy rate.

The paradox is that between the people like Eric no longer being able to move here, and the influx of new market-rate condo's, the demographic of SF will become more moderate politically. Which means that it is the progressive movement that may die out rather than become stronger.

The dwindling of the SFBG is just one aspect of the moderation of the city. And once poor rent-controlled tenants are no longer a plurality at the polls, rent control itself may simply go away.

It's a long game.

Posted by anon on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 7:13 am

And when it happens the city will become far better for it, rather the the feral human roaming, feces and urine infested slum it currently is….

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 7:32 am

people that don't fit into your definition of ideal, can you?

Tedious and hateful.

I think "inadequate types" attack people and groups they don't like on the internet. And yes, those attackers are "losers." So see if the shoe fits. I'm certain it does.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 7:28 am

Just describing a reality.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 7:31 am

First, it takes no account of cash buyers, where income isn't the issue at all. It is estimated that about one third of home purchases in SF are cash-only e.g. empty-nesters returning from the burbs, or stock option millionaires.

Second, many who live in Sf work elsewhere and vice versa. What matters is the Bay Area figures. The percentage of people who work in SF who can afford to buy a home in Oakland is considerably higher.

That's why we built BART, right?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 7:44 am

"empty-nesters returning from the burbs, or stock option millionaires" reinforces the point that most new buyers are from outside San Francisco and in this current tech boom, many from outside the Bay Area and California.

Why don't cash buyers count? You don't accumulate enough cash to buy a house outright unless you have or had a very high income or inherited the money from someone.

We'll just exclude the Zuckerbergs of the world because it hurts your narrative.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 8:18 am

can buy more or better things.

Well, gee, yes. Isn't that why we all want money?

Those who lack the funding to buy a home in SF can rent in SF, or buy in Oakland, or relocate elsewhere.

There are always options. But yes, it is obviously better to have more money, and a good reason to study and work hard, take risks and make sarificies.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 8:49 am

But so what? They can buy much more cheaply in Bayview or Excelsior.

If only 15% of SF'ers can afford to live in SF, what percentage of them can afford to liv elsewhere in the Bay Area, which is the larger and more meaningful metro area here.

Since every home on the market sells very quickly, they clearly are affordable to enough people.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 10:35 am

How many Aspen residents can afford to buy in Pac Heights, that is the real, salient question?

Posted by marcos on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 10:48 am

small and local enough, you can come up with some statistics which, while making useful sound bites, convey nothing about the real value of homes or the ability of people to buy them.

There's a house on my block that recently sold for 2.5 million. What percentage of people in 94110 could afford that? Almost zero. Does that matter? Not in the slightest. The home wasn't been marketed to residents of 94110 but to residents of 94114, where that price for a 3-4 house isn't unusual at all.

There are lies, damn lies, and statistics and, sadly, that 15% figure plucked out of the air has so many holes in it you could use it for a sieve.

What percentage of people in the Bay Area can afford to buy the average Bay Area home? Now that would be a useful stat and, since the home ownership rate across the Bay Area is over 50%, I suspect that it is far less scary.

If you cannot afford a Mercedes, then buy a Ford.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 11:20 am

And only 0.01% of SF'ers can afford a Bugatti Veyron.

It's not right, I tell you.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 10:50 am

Only 15% of San Franciscans can afford to buy a house that is on the market now.

Some number approaching 100% of housed San Franciscans can afford to live in San Francisco because they do.

Dig up the statistics about Bay Area affordability and share them here. I'd be surprised if more than 25% of Bay Area residents could afford to buy a house for sale anywhere in the Bay Area today.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

and so have small mortgages, no mortgages, low property tax basis and so on.

The statistic only matters for those buying now, so it doesn't matter that all those who bought years ago could no longer afford to.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

Unlike all these tenant measures, Wiener's proposal will actually create new homes out of existing homes. He estimates it could add up to 20K new units.

That is a much better solution that playing class warfare with the existing units.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

where's Avalos and Campos and the rest of the gang, calling for the same things in their districts??

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

Rent Board, there is a mandatory mediation session between the city and the owner, where the city asks the owner what he needs to revoke his eviction notice.

This might be tax credits, interest-free loans, direct subsidies to boost the rent, and so on. All dependent on the landlord retaining the building as a rental for X years and/or as long as the existing tenants are there.

Everyone gets something and we don't have this winner and loser one-sided nonsense.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

So taxpayers can subsidize people who can't afford to live here? No thanks.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 9:10 am

But if a property owner is Ellis'ing a building full of tenants AND the city is concerned about that THEN the city should pay the owner to keep the building as a rental rather than see it vacated.

Point being that it is better to give landlords a carrot than a stick, because the more we try and make life difficult for landlords, the more they will Ellis and invest elsewhere.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 9:20 am

Yes, let's create another bureaucracy to administer subsidies to every evicted tenant in SF.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 9:41 am

continue to rent to the tenants rather than Ellis the building.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 9:58 am

That's a distinction without a difference

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

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