Sunday, September 27, 2020
Uncategorized SoMa tenants back anti-speculation and relocation efforts

SoMa tenants back anti-speculation and relocation efforts


Public housing and SRO residents voiced concerns about a lack of “step up” housing in the city, which provides a path for people to move into better housing. In other words, they feel trapped in sub-par, often tiny units.

Landlord harassment, Ellis Act evictions and overcrowding in immigrant housing are also among the issues facing the neighborhood, said District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim, who attended the convention.

It’s going to take a multi-pronged approach to find a solution, Kim said, and added that she’s working on legislation that would set a goal for maintaining at least 30 percent affordable housing in District 6 and require a conditional use permit for market-rate housing.

However, even people paying market rate prices are starting to feel priced out as well, Kim said. “There is a greater identification with tenant’s issues” among higher income renters.

So, the very economics that are pricing out poor people could actually begin to unite tenants of different income levels. Although there didn’t appear to be any high-income tenants at the convention, the effects could be seen in the November election, when affordable housing advocates hope to have an initiative on the ballot.

The details of that measure will be fleshed out at a citywide tenant convention Feb. 8, at 1pm, Tenderloin Elementary, 627 Turk.

Some of the ideas tossed around at the SOMA/Tenderloin convention included taxing excessive rent above a set level, curbing speculation, demanding more affordable housing, repealing the payroll tax break on mid-Market to fund the Community Land Trust, increasing relocation fees in no-fault evictions (such as Ellis Act evictions) and giving neighborhoods more of say in development projects.

The group voted to send to the citywide convention a proposal for an anti-speculation tax, which got tremendous support at the Haight-Richmond convention, along with an increase in the relocation fees for Ellis Act evictions. Those two measures alone, some tenant advocates say, could significantly slow down the out-of-control wave of Ellis evictions and provide a lot more protection for local renters.

Other ideas headed to the citywide convention: An excessive-rent tax and a repeal of the Mid-Market tax breaks, with the money going to affordable housing.

Once a haven for poor artists, SOMA is still known for warehouses that have been subdivided into smaller units with standard common spaces such as a kitchen, bathrooms and living room. However, warehouses are technically commercial spaces and many landlords knowingly rent them out to live-in tenants.

That’s a serious threat to the neighborhood, since units that aren’t up to local codes and are technically illegal are ripe for evictions. Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Chiu have both introduced legislation aimed at either encouraging building new in-law units or making illegal units legal, but it’s not clear where these Soma units fall into the mix.

So the Feb. 8 citywide convention will have plenty of good ideas, and it’s almost certain that the November election will be defined in part by a major tenant initiative. The only question remaining is how far the tenant movement wants to push – and how hard the landlords will fight back.



Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at), follow @supermarke on Twitter.


  1. I find it ironic that TNDC would send a rep to this meetings asking for accountability when their property managers are levelling eviction notices to some of their tenants for the same petty nuances umbrella. A organization that is suppose to help alleviate homelessness is using the current law to do just that, send people to the streets.

  2. I got there late and could not get my concern into the mix. I am concerned about the city’s definition of short-term rental. When the Chiu legislation of last year proposed to put a halt to landlords converting units to short term rental, it did nothing to halt the conversion in my building and I’m sure in other buildings as well because the city defines short term rental as anything less than 30 days.

    A corporation can still save money by renting the apartment for 30 days rather than a hotel room, even if their employee only stays 2 or 3 weeks!

    When I brought this up with housing folks, I was told that it is because one needs to live in an apartment for more than 30 days to establish tenancy. I’m sure that this requirement can be kept while still identifying short-term rental on newly rented units to 90 days, or even 6 months.

    My dilapidated, filthy building that is sinking on one side (in the Tenderloin) is now over 75% converted into furnished studio apartments, complete with wi-fi and plush towels, that rent for $2300 per month!

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