To his credit, Lee noted that the only way to get amendments to the Ellis Act is with broad support. So he said he’s “asking labor, technology, and real estate” to help him convince the Legislature that the law is being abused. He’ll get labor; whether the titans of tech and real estate are willing to throw the out-of-town speculators under the bus to quell some of the anger in this city is one of the most interesting political questions of the year.

Even bigger questions: Is there any way to get the Legislature, dominated by people who don’t live in cities where rent control is an issue, who have historically sided with landlords on almost everything, to move on this? And in the meantime, since everyone agrees that’s a tough battle at best, why shouldn’t we do what we can to protect tenants through local laws?

The bill that will most likely be introduced in Sacramento would either exempt San Francisco from some of the Ellis Act provisions, or require that a landlord own a building for a certain period of time (say, five years) before using the Ellis Act. By the time it gets through all of the various committees, who knows what it will look like.

But a five-year mandate would at least be effective in tamping down some of the rampant speculation that’s going on. And it would be hard to find any reasonable person in San Francisco who opposes that.

At the same time, a significant increase in the statutory relocation and regulation of buyouts and TIC would provide more immediate help – and unless the mayor is signaling his opposition, ought to be something that could be enacted fairly quickly in San Francisco.

At the rally for Sup. Eric Mar’s TIC legislation, Gen Fujioka, who works with the Chinatown Community Development Center, told reporters that the mayor has been meeting with tenant activists and seems open to local legislation. If he tries to push the whole battle to Sacramento, there are going to be a lot of unhappy renters in his home town.

And if the mayor really wants to be a leader in the fight to make San Francisco a “city for the 100 percent” (his words) why isn’t he out front pushing the supervisors to pass this sort of stuff?

As usual, the mayor’s press office (which seems to ignore 48hills) didn’t respond to my request for comment. What: we don’t kill trees so we don’t exist? And this from the “tech mayor?” Jeez.


The MTC got a good bit of flak over its proposal to charge Google and the other tech companies just $1 a stop to pull their private buses into Muni zones. That price (less than the cost of a Muni bus ride) was set because state law mandates that “fee” programs cover only the cost of operating them.

But there are good arguments that the cost of the Google shuttles is more than the administration of a shared-stop program.

Check out this study from Alexandra Goldman at UC Berkeley, that looks at how Google buses are driving up real estate prices in some neighborhoods. Sven Elberlein has an interesting point about the environmental impacts:

And speaking of the much-touted car and CO2 reduction claims—Google says its buses are taking 4,000 cars off the road and 20,000 metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere— some really good questions were asked to that effect: like how many bus riders would have chosen to move to SF in the first place if it weren’t for the buses, or what about the CO2 emissions of those displaced residents who now have to drive to get to work?

Actually, a lot of people wouldn’t have moved here if it weren’t for the buses. The shuttles allow Silicon Valley companies to turn San Francisco into their bedroom community, while allowing Peninsula towns to ignore any responsibility for building housing. And in the meantime, longtime local residents who don’t work in high-paid jobs are forced to live far out of town – and commute, which puts pressure on transit and causes environmental problems.

I don’t think anyone has done a definitive study on the environmental impact of companies based in Mountain View and Cupertino that encourage workers to live in San Francisco by providing private transit. But all the available evidence says this is a real issue.


Oh, and by the way: They figured out how to do affordable housing in Vienna. Not so complicated, really.