More than half of the evictions in San Francisco is the past year have involved landlords who owned the building for less than six months.
As Tenants Together director Dean Preston put it, “If you don’t want to be a residential landlord, then don’t buy rental property.”
Lee made some of his strongest comments on evictions and tenant rights, echoing what many of us have been saying all along: “Everybody who lives here ought to be able to stay.” That means, of course, that until new housing is completed, many of the newly arrived tech workers who make high salaries will have to live somewhere else; there’s no room for them in the Mission or North Beach unless someone who lives here now is displaced.
Not, apparently, a problem for Conway, who said that “the vast majority of the tech community wants to stand with you to stop longtime tenants from getting evicted.”
There was nobody from Google there; preventing evictions and displacement could force a chance in that company’s bus routes, since new workers wouldn’t be living in neighborhoods that now have virtually zero vacancy rates.
Perhaps 50 people showed up for a counter-demonstration, holding signs demanding that the Ellis Act be left intact. Organized by the Small Property Owners of San Francisco, the gathering was quite odd: Josephine Zhao, one of the organizers, told me that she didn’t think any of the landlords in the group had used the Ellis Act, and most of them have owned their property for more than five years anyway – and thus wouldn’t be impacted by the Leno bill.
I spoke with Noni Richen, president of the Small Property Owners, and she told me she’s owned her building since 1974. She acknowledged that the Leno bill would have no impact on her, or on many of her organization’s members. So why the opposition?
“We have to push back,” she said. “It’s just one law after another.”
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At one point she jumped into the press conference to denounce everyone there. “Why should we have to subsidize people paying 1970s rent,” she asked. “It’s your fault, all of you elected officials.”
I suggested to Richen that her opposition to any reform, even one that would have no impact on here, was about the same as the Second Amendment gun nuts who oppose the most reasonable regulations and “push back” on any gun bills. She didn’t like the analogy, but it’s not entirely inaccurate.
(Richen also told me that she reads 48hills and that I’m “crazy.” We try.)
Leno’s bill isn’t the only Ellis reform on the state and local agenda. Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has a bill that would allow San Francisco to impose a moratorium on Ellis evictions until the city catches up with its affordable housing responsibilities. Cecilia Tran, a field representative for Ammiano, read a statement citing Ammiano’s strong support for the Leno bill.
When Leno asked for questions, I raised the Ammiano bill – which was an unfair question for the senator, who clearly can’t speak for the rest of the coalition. So I cornered Conway afterward and asked if he would support it, and he said he hadn’t heard of it and couldn’t say. He had the same response when I asked about the Campos bill, which would increase relocation payments; hadn’t seen it, he said.
The mayor was a bit more responsive, and was clearly aware of both other measures. “At this time, we don’t know yet,” about supporting the Ammiano bill, he said. As for the Campos measure, “we are looking at it.”
Assemblymember Phil Ting told me that he opposes the Ellis Act and fully supports both the Leno and the Ammiano measures.
That’s good. He didn’t say no.
Leno’s bill would go a long way toward slowing evictions. Longtime landlords could still evict tenants and then sell to speculators, but “they don’t,” Leno noted. It’s much harder to tell someone you’ve known and rented to for years that he or she is out on the street – which is why many speculators don’t even meet or have contact with their tenants.
If you combined that will the Campos and Ammiano legislation, we might actually be able to preserve affordable rental housing in this city.
And it’s possible. As Leno told me, “In Sacramento, tenants bills were always seen as the left fringe, but now this issue is decidedly in the mainstream.”