State Sen. Mark Leno, with Mayor Ed Lee and Assemblymember Phil Ting

By Tim Redmond

FEB 24, 2014 — A broad coalition that includes tenant activists as well as tech leaders is supporting State Sen. Mark Leno’s bill to reform the Ellis Act, but it’s not clear how many will also back an Ellis measure by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano.

At a press conference in Chinatown this morning, Leno and Mayor Ed Lee were joined by Supervisors David Campos, David Chiu, Scott Wiener, and Norman Yee, along with tech mogul Ron Conway. A representative of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was also on hand.

The presence of the mayor and the tech industry is just the latest indication of how serious the eviction crisis has become – and how much of a force the tenant movement has become in local politics. When you get a crowd like this for an anti-eviction bill, it’s clear that 2014 is, indeed, the Year of the Tenant in San Francisco.

Leno made his point very clearly: The Ellis Act was never intended to help speculators who buy a property, evict everyone, and flip it. The law, he said, we designed for longtime landlords who want to get out of the business.

“The business of being a landlord is 100 percent occupancy. The business of being a speculator is 100 vacancy.”

He held up a copy of the Ellis Act and noted, “nowhere in this law is the word ‘speculator.'”

The bill would require that a landlord own a property for five years before doing an Ellis eviction, and would bar anyone who has Ellised one building to buy and clear out another one. (more after the jump)

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Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.
  • Elizabeth

    None of this would put ANY of the financial burden of below market rate housing on the developers, which is where it belongs. They are the people who can afford it. Mayor Lee and his cadre are perfectly happy to take the opportunity to shore up their tenant support without actually taking the meaningful steps needed.
    They would need to act against the interest of their biggest financial backers, the developers and big corporate owners of post 1979 apartments, who are exempt from both rent control and eviction protection.
    Rather than being satisfied with the bogus building below market offsite or promising to pay into an ineffective fund, developers should be compelled to build lower cost housing on site or in the neighborhood where their high profit units are. It is within the power of the Supes and the Mayor to do this, but they will not volunteer. The voters — all of us — need to work together to make them do it.
    Tim — what do you think?

  • Roy McKenzie

    Thank you for mentioning the Ellis Act reform protestors in this piece. It’s stunning to me that the best talking point that anti-reform protestors (most of whom it seems would not be affected by these reforms) have is that: “It’s just one law after another.” That is a feeble argument at best and it seems like they probably didn’t fully comprehend the talking points their anti big gubment counselors coached them on. Thanks again!

  • SJG

    I think both bills have merit, however, the politicians in Sacramento, all seem to have the real estate interests in their pockets to some degree. I wonder how the pols would resist the push back from the R/E lobbyists. I would like to be more optimistic about the success of these bills.
    I haven’t heard any comments from Brown on this issue, it would be interesting to hear his opinion.

  • chris charles

    So is there anything in it that bans Airbnb from doing business? If not then there is no point to it. Then again, if there was not the “Nimbyism” of past, then none of this would even be an issue…

  • Am I allowed to post this on twitter?

  • Bud Mor

    The problem is that there is no fairness in the debate. Tenants just want to pay ridiculously low rents, and have no chance of being evicted.

    Rent increase are below the rate of inflation, while increases in property taxes are now running about the same as inflation; and maintenance and insurance increase every year. At some point no matter how good a tenant is in the traditional manner (paying on time, keeping the place in good nick) they become bad tenants because they are paying insufficient rent.

    If we as San Franciscans want rent to be subsidized, why do we only look to landlord to pay that subsidy? We don’t ask Safeway to provide cheap food–we tax everyone. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg and the affluent tech bus rider kick in to pay for rent control? Why do any people with high incomes even get rent control?

    The debate is completely one-sided; especially when you note that there are practically no Ellis Act evictions in the city–on an annual basis, rounded to the nearest 1/10th of 1-percent there are no Ellis evictions in San Francisco (as a percentage of units in the city). You have to go the the level of 1/100th of 1-percent before the number registers. There is about 1 chance in 4,000 of being Ellised. If there were no more Ellis evictions it would hardly change the housing problem in San Francisco at all. Politicians are lining up to deal with this and it is a complete red-herring. Preventing 100-Ellis eviction isn’t addressing the problem at all.

  • Ks8man

    Small property owners will be/are the one affected the most by Leno/Ammiano’s legislations after the sleuth of bills introduced or passed since December. In the past 5 months, 8 bills proposed or passed into law hit investors and small properties owners alike in broad strokes, now that even Small property owners will need to evoke Ellis Act to get back their properties. Mayor Ed Lee issued an executive order in December, that prevents/deters any remove of illegal units. If a single family owner lives on the top floor and rented out the illegal unit on the bottom floor, or if both floors are rented out separately and either way have turned the single family home into a de-facto 2-unit, then under this executive order, the owner would have limited options to get back his/her unit(s). Very often, owners of single family homes would risk the downside of renting out the illegal units in order to help with the mortgage, is because their families are small, or kids are young, or they are mobile enough to climb the stairs, knowing some day down the road when they need the units back (because of grown children, or expansion of home office space, or the in-laws really move in town, or if they become old and disabled and needed to live on the ground floor), then they could, by invoking “removal of illegal unit”. However, with the removal ban, the owners no longer have this option.

    You may ask, they could still do an OMI or RMI, right? But if any renters downstairs is a protective tenant, and the owner is not, then OMI/RMI won’t work, must use Ellis Act. However, the owners now can’t afford to do Ellis Acting under Campos’ law that was introduced in Feburary. The relocation fee of $50K/unit in average, plus the 7month to 1+ year legal proceeding fees, would be inaccessible to small property owners.

    These 8 pieces of laws/bills introduced in rapid succession were connected one with the other. And at the end, even small property owners and single family home owners are being pushed out of the rental businesses. It will be devastating to SF rental market if the moms & pops are out of business or simply decide it is not worth the risk.

    That’s why, I think, the small property owners came in droves to protest, because they understand the consequences of the laws/bills ahead of the majority population. But they are not very good at explaining to the mass, or maybe the media is not good at listening to their perspective.

    My 2 cents.

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