Tenants protest Farrell’s move to block effective anti-eviction bill

Only one of two competing bills on owner move-in evictions gets a hearing. It's by far the less effective one

Tenant advocates will rally at noon on the steps of City Hall Monday/12 to denounce a move by Sup. Mark Farrell to fast-track his bill on owner move-in evictions while refusing to schedule a hearing for a stronger competing bill by Sups. Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim.

Farrell, who chairs the Land Use and Transportation Committee, put his measure on the agenda for Monday and it’s also scheduled to come before the full board Tuesday.

Sup. Mark Farrell won't allow a competing eviction bill to move forward
Sup. Mark Farrell won’t allow a competing eviction bill to move forward

The Peskin-Kim legislation has been pending before that committee for weeks, but Farrell controls the agenda and has not put it on the calendar. That means his less-effective bill, which has the support of the Apartment Association, may be the only one the supes get to vote on.

Both bills address the surging problem of fraudulent OMIs. In just the past two years, according to the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, 830 units have been cleared by landlords claiming that they or a relative want to move in, but an extensive NBC news investigation found that many of those are fraudulent—and the city does no real enforcement.

Farrell’s bill would require a landlord to sign a document under penalty of perjury stating that they or a relative will reside in the unit for at least 36 months, and provide annual certification that they still reside there. It would extend the statute of limitations for an unlawful eviction action from one year to three years.

All just fine, as far as it goes.

But Peskin and Kim go further. Their bill would require that a landlord who does an OMI and decides to move out within five years offer the unit to the previous tenant, at the previous rent. If a new tenant moves in, that tenant could not be charged more than the previous rent. It would subject a landlord who evicts a tenant then re-rents the place at a higher rent to criminal charges.

It would allow a tenant who has been charged excess rent to sue for treble damages.

And, perhaps most important to tenant advocates, the Kim-Peskin bill would allow nonprofit organizations with an interest in housing issues independent standing to sue landlords over fraudulent OMIs. That’s critical since the city has done nothing to enforce existing law.

The Kim-Peskin bill was crafted with input from the Tenants Union, the Rent Board, eviction-defense lawyers, and the Anti-Displacement Coalition member organizations, according to a tenant group press release:

“We were initially hopeful when Supervisor Farrell decided to champion this issue, and tried to work with him,” said Deepa Varma, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union. “But this dialogue didn’t happen. He did not even calendar the legislation that advocates helped to develop. It makes us wonder if he is more concerned with politics than stopping evictions.”

 In a letter to the Mayor and Supervisors, tenant advocates state: “While (Farrell’s) looks good on paper, it fails to include any of our recommendations in the language we need to make them effective.”

More:

We are hopeful that the Peskin/Kim legislation will move forward, that supervisors won’t be fooled into supporting a weaker proposal than we need,” states Cynthia Fong, Richmond District Community Organizer/Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. “None of the provisions the advocates suggested cause a burden for those landlords — who legitimately intend to move into a unit, but they will make it much more difficult for those landlords who wish to evade the law.”  She added, “Any legislation that does not include these recommendations will not stop these evictions, as well-intentioned as it may be.”

Peskin sounded a bit surprised when I talked to him. “Given the major dysfunction in Washington DC, the supervisors have mostly been getting along pretty well,” he said. “The progressives and the more downtown factions have been working together. This seems to be an exception.”

Farrell, he said, had publicly agreed to hear both versions, but has now backed off. “The good news is that the Farrell bill is a step in the right direction,” he said. “But the Kim-Peskin bill is a much bigger step.

“We have a bill that has the support of the Apartment Association and one written with the input of the tenant groups who have been dealing with this on the front lines for years.”

I tried to contact Farrell for comment, but have not heard back from him.

There are, of course, political considerations here. Farrell is widely reported to be interested in running for mayor, and clearly wants a piece of “pro-tenant” legislation to use in that campaign. (So why didn’t he work with the tenant groups? Why didn’t he do what Sups. London Breed and Ahsha Safai did with inclusionary housing, and work out a deal with Peskin and Kim that everyone can support?)

All of Farrell’s cosponsors are from the more moderate side of the political debate, including Breed, Malia Cohen, and Jeff Sheehy.

Sheehy faces a challenge for re-election from Rafael Mandelman, who told me he strongly supports the Kim-Peskin version.

“It’s pretty clear that there’s a crisis of evictions throughout the city in District 8 and elsewhere,” he said. “If we are really serious about stemming the illegal evictions, it’s important to be working with the organizations that are dealing with these evictions daily. The stronger enforcement provisions in the tenant-supported measures are important.”

And where is the mayor in all of this? Does he really want to stop illegal OMIs – in which case he would support the Kim-Peskin bill?

I suspect that Peskin and Kim will seek to amend their provisions into the bill at the full board – and we will see where the supes fall on a critical tenant issue.

  • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

    After what happened with the Iris Cañada saga, I do not trust the tenants rights orgs or the progressives to make rational decisions when it comes to property rights, or tenancy rights, in SF.

    • renew

      Don’t you think concepts like “landlord””private property” and “rent” are so 20th Century, if not downright feudal? Don’t you want to go and disrupt them somewhere?

  • curiousKulak

    /i”The Kim-Peskin bill was crafted with input from the Tenants Union, the Rent Board, eviction-defense lawyers, and the Anti-Displacement Coalition member organizations”i/

    I understand why the .orgs and advocates (and profiteers (e-d-lawyers) had input on the bill. But what business does a City agency (the Rent Board) have in trying to influence legislation?

    Sounds like Mayor Lee – who appoints these people – has an obvious role in this measure, which contradicts the position the author gives to him.

    • playland

      Also, efficacy. Because Farrell is an adult in the room.

      There are about 400 OMI evictions a year. The NBC study found that 25% may be bogus:

      After six months, 271 door-knocks, and dozens of phone calls, the Investigative Unit was able to survey residents about their living situation at about 100 addresses where an owner move-in eviction took place. In 24 cases, nearly one in every four, the landlord or family member who was supposed to be living there was not. Instead, there were often new tenants living there, paying significantly more rent than the previous tenants.

      So that clearly sucks. 100 units a year. But how many more would be prevented by the more extensive Peskin-Kim bill vs Farrell. 10 units a year…maybe?

      What the more draconian bill would do is encourage more buyouts. The landlord tells the tenants that he/she can do a legal OMI, so the tenant is out in any event. But he/she will give then a few grand if they move on their own accord so that the landlord doesn’t have to track them down in 3 years to offer them their old apartment back.

      • SnapsMcKenzie

        Historically less than 1 per day. Tell me why this is a crisis again?

        • Ragazzu

          Half a dozen a week, hundreds a year. If you’re the defrauded party, it’s a hell of a crisis. You might end up on the streets.

          • curiousKulak

            It’s only a crisis if you were “defrauded”? Good to know.

            Isn’t the “fraud” that they’ve been paying less and less every year for whenever? How long does a fraud like that continue?

            And, correct me if I’m wrong, but the NBC study only determined that the OMI instigator wasn’t in the unit (<25% of the time). No discovery on whether there was a buy-out, death, or other legit reason – only that the OMI-er didn't answer the door. Not defending scam artists, who don't 'play by the rules they signed up for'. Just saying the rules are incredibly bent and fluid.

        • Geek__Girl

          For the people who are being evicted it is a major crisis. For the landlord looking to line his pockets, it is huge payday. Some of us have actual compassion for people who are not rich,

          • Don Sebastopol

            I have been evicted. It was an inconvenience and a hassle, but not a crisis. Also, those evicted may not poor be poor.

  • SnapsMcKenzie

    Less than 1Ellis eviction per day, in a city of 852,000. Wow – what a crisis.

    • curiousKulak

      Remind me again – can a senior/disabled be evicted under OMI, or is that only under Ellis?

      While the numbers aren’t that great, some of these may certainly be a “crisis” to the individual households. However, to others, it will vary from an inconvenience to a major headache to a relief.

      While i don’t, personally, think the added restrictions are all that onerous, the portion that allows 3rd party ’cause of action’ means that a lot of legit OMIs will probably get hassled with a ‘drive-by’ lawsuit, cured by a 4- or 5-figure ‘settlement’. No wonder the “eviction-defense attorneys” are at the table, and the SFAA/SPOSF/CAA are not. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!”

    • Geek__Girl

      What a jerk….

      • SnapsMcKenzie

        Income inequality massively widening, climate change threatening, Planned Parenthood funding eliminated and what are you concerned about? An extremely rare type of eviction. What other esoteric causes are you concerned about honey – the plight of the Chagos Islanders or the independence of Western Sahara?

        • Geek__Girl

          ROTFL! No, not one per day, actually a bit more. One per day would be about a hundred less. I realize that you are looking to protect landlords, as you probably are one. This is an outrageous practice. When a landlord pull something like this, he should be subject to BOTH civll and criminal penalties. This is not extremely rare at all, and it affects people who are most likely to be seriously hurt by it. Trying to hand wave it away as esoteric and extremely rare is about the silliest thing I have seen, and that is saying a lot. And seriously, “honey?” Who do you think you are? Trump?

          • SnapsMcKenzie

            1. Not a landlord
            2. Interesting how progressives want to see everyone in jail but those who commit violent crimes and violate immigration law.
            3. No, not Trump either.
            4. Ellis evictions are an infinitesimal percentage of the number of evictions in SF yearly. They just fit the paradigm of the rapacious landowner, so the left loves to harp on them. In reality – they’re not worthy of the thousands of hours of coverage they get each year.

          • Geek__Girl

            1. You certainly seem to favor their view.
            2. Well, personally I am all for people who commit violent crime going to prison.
            3. Eyeroll…
            4.So, that makes it right? They are particularly nasty when they are fake.

          • curiousKulak

            The “fake” ones (still only a question mark) are not even one-a-day (25% of 400 — not the whole 400) — are less than 2 a week.

            Personally, I have no interest those idiots who make the rest of us ‘look bad’; though I do believe they have the right to their property, and that if the City wishes for people to live here who can’t, then it ought to be the ones doing the providing, and not some private individuals. (Corporate entities should come under different rules; i wonder if you’d agree with me there?).

          • Geek__Girl

            First off, it doesn’t matter if it is one a day, one a week, or one a year. It is wrong. And those doing this deserve to face both civil and criminal penalties.

            Second, you all do a pretty good job of making yourselves look bad. When you CHOOSE to engage in the business of renting property, you are accepting to be subject to the law. If you violate that law, because “you have the right to your property,” well, tough. You knew the rules going in. You can’t change your mind.

            Third, as I have said more than once, your mother should have taught you to share. When I hear people moaning about how people shouldn’t live here if they can’t afford ridiculous high rents, it is disgusting. San Francisco has a long history as a diverse city. That’s what makes it special. It’s not the natural beauty. It is the rich history, which you find gets in the way of your making ridiculous profits.

            The issue is not whether or not you have a right to make a profit, but how much profit you should be able to make by harming others.

    • Don Sebastopol

      This is for OMI not Ellis. At most 100 fraudulent OMI’s per year. But you are right, not a crisis.

  • goodmaab

    Farrell needs to let the other bill by Peskin and Kim be heard at the same time so that the other supervisors can take the time and listen to the arguments and come to a rationale happy medium…. To not allow it is similar to the republicans ramming through healthcare without showing the legislation…. Pure crooked….

    • playland

      FYI, the way it works is that Farrell’s bill will be discussed by the full BOS at which time Kim, Peskin or anyone else can propose amendments and make arguments for anything they think is missing.

      So….not “Pure crooked”, sorry.

      • goodmaab

        You did not read the article and how he is not letting Kim and peakins bill through like safai was doing as well. Shows bad mannerisms and pay to play politics…. We don’t need that when we have more pressing issues to solve… He was crooked alright in this process as stated by peskin Farrell follows in the footsteps of a few more supes and mayors prior…. Who play dirty in the sandbox….

        • FunnyBecauseItsTrue

          L O L, bad mannerisms and pay to play politics.

          In SF, the only type of mannerisms are “bad” and the only type of politics are “pay to play”. This statement goes for the progs and for the mods. There are valid criticisms to be made, this is not one.

        • playland

          Yes, I read the article. You don’t understand how the BOS works, @goodmaab:disqus

          When they debate the Farrell proposal Kim or Peskin can make motions to amend it to make it more similar to their own. And if their motion gets 6 votes then the bill is changed. And if 6 supes still vote for the changed version then it will become an ordinance.

          Also, Tim got it wrong. Peskin said today at the BOS that they ARE working to find a compromise between the two proposals. Also, there are procedures to pull it out of committee if the votes are there.

          You could learn how the BOS works or you could just continue with your nonsensical rants. I’m betting on the latter.

          • goodmaab

            Take your view or that of others the workings of city hall have levers and pulleys and the trap door or two… Farrell like elsbernd is playing the trap door

          • playland

            OK…I know it is easier to offer nonsensical rants than it is to understand how the BOS works, so I understand where you are coming from.

            Peace out.

          • goodmaab

            He met with landlord groups but not the tenant groups…that shows how the SFBOS does not work, to be fair we wait and see how it is amended at city hall, better process would be for Farrell to be more open eared (peace out…)

          • danimalssf

            That is not true, he did meet with tenant groups, including Deepa Varma herself, and further, Farrell has already incorporated some of the Peskin/Kim proposal into his. Joe Fitz’s article in the Examiner goes into some of that detail.

            Who are these tenant groups who will get the right to bring enforcement actions? And why do progressives, who routinely rail against neo-liberal policies of the gov’t sub-contracting out their obligations to the private sector, make an exception to this subbing out?

    • curiousKulak

      on that healthcare … I seem to recall cries about Pelosi and the Dems ramming thru a HUGE piece of legis, overnight, with hardly any chance to read it. Of course, that was ok; but hearing the Dems cry this time rang a bit hollow.

      Anyone else?

      • Geek__Girl

        I was strongly opposed to how Pelosi handled the ACA. And there are provisions of the ACA that are quite horrid. Others are excellent. But the Republican health care bill is worthless as a whole. I worked counseling people who were deciding on health benefit choices for a major national company. I saw what the ACA had done to their health plans. They were not affordable, and in many cases, were near worthless. But, some of the more abusive practices, some I had personally experienced in the past, were outlawed. But under the Republican bill, pretty much everyone loses, except the health insurance companies.

        • SnapsMcKenzie

          On this – you’re 100% correct.

      • danimalssf

        You mean the 36 days of hearings the 2009 Senate had on the ACA? Or the 25 straight days of full Senate debate on it? Not to mention all of the amendments that Republicans offered, and that were accepted, during those hearings? You’re actually going t compare that to the backroom shenanigans that are going on now?

        • curiousKulak

          Sorry – I was merely mimicing a meme I’d heard from likes of the Rs. I suppose there were many more hearings (and input) than the Trump-couldn’t-care Bill. But, iirc, that final Obama-care bill did pass in the mid of the nite with barely a look at all the changes (I assume some at the last minute).

          Obama-care certainly needs changes. Just not the ones Ryan has proposed.

  • Don Sebastopol

    Landlords will just find another way around any new tenant protection.

    • SnapsMcKenzie

      Or the courts will strike them down. Every one of Campos’ attempts to do an end-run around Costa-Hawkins was struck down. And with Gorusch on the Supreme Court property rights activists are lusting for a chance to strike down rent control nationwide.

      • Don Sebastopol

        This is tenant protection not rent control, as I understand it. But it is true that without rent control they may not have been a need for as much tenant protection.

    • curiousKulak

      SOME landlords. Thus, a significant amt of tenants will be advantaged/ a significant amt of LLs will be disadvantaged. But there will remain a small number of tenants who will be vulnerable and who will fuel the next round of ‘tenant protections’ from electable-worthy politicians.

      Sounds almost like a v predictable game.

      All played with private persons (and in some cases corps) private property. One of the big draws for RC is that “it doesn’t cost the jurisdiction anything!”

      • Don Sebastopol

        It is an arms race that drives mom and pop out of business leaving the LL business to heartless professionals who have the resources to deal with the regulations; further creating the need for more tenant protections; driving more mom and pops out of business.