A map of all the no-fault evictions in the city (antievictionmap.squarespace.com)


By Tim Redmond

I’m not a church-going sort, but at least once a year I go speak to the Unitarians, and this Sunday’s topic was The State of San Francisco.

Angry. Scared. That’s the state of the city.

In fact, I had drinks the other night with a friend who does not always share my leftish political views, and even he was shaking his head. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to San Francisco,” he said.

None of us does. We’re in uncharted territory. No American city in modern history has even seen so much money pour in, so fast, with so much pressure on existing housing stock that the population is being forcibly changed by an out-of-control market.

So I talked to the Unitarians about fighting evictions and how we can upend the Ellis Act and a lot of other things (including the War on the Poor), and one of the people in the audience asked me why I thought it was fair to force someone who had owned a building for 30 years and had tenants paying less than market rate to keep the place. Why not let them go out of business and sell?

Well: I can argue that, in a crisis like this, the government simply has to regulate housing as if it were a public utility, and that’s part of the answer. The other part is that many of the Ellis Act evictions don’t actually involve someone who has been a landlord for 30 years and wants out. The market is being driven by a small number of speculators who are buying up buildings and filing Ellis Act petitions immediately, people who are buying rental property with no intention of being landlords. It’s all about the quick flip and the fast buck. (more after the jump)