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UncategorizedCampos bill on Ellis Act clear first hurdle

Campos bill on Ellis Act clear first hurdle

All three members of the Land Use Committee -- Jane Kim, Scott Wiener, and Malia Cohen -- voted for a key tenant bill
All three members of the Land Use Committee — Jane Kim, Scott Wiener, and Malia Cohen — voted for a key tenant bill

By Tim Redmond

March 24, 2014 — Legislation by Sup. David Campos that would significantly raise the cost of evicting tenants under the Ellis Act cleared its first hurdle today as the Land Use and Economic Development Committee approved it 3-0.

The unanimous vote is a sign of how serious the tenant movement has become in the city today – and how even supervisors like Scott Wiener, who has been friendly to landlords, are willing to sign on to pro-tenant bills.

Wiener, along with Sup. Jane Kim and Sup. Malia Cohen, voted to send the measure to the board with the recommendation that it be approved.

The measure would require a landlord who is evicting a tenant under the Ellis Act to pay relocation fees equal to the difference between the current rent and market rent – for two years. That could mean more than $50,000 for some long-term tenants in neighborhoods where rents are soaring.

The hearing today was much shorter than last week’s session, which featured dozens of speakers on all sides and a tenant rally in front of City Hall. But Wiener persisted with his concerns about how the bill would impact small landlords.

He asked over and over again if landlords would get a chance at a “hardship” exemption if they couldn’t afford to pay the fees – and how the Rent Board would evaluate that situation.

The reality is that almost no small landlords use the Ellis Act; it’s a handful of big speculators. And as Campos pointed out, all the concern over the potential for a theoretical small landlord to be impacted by the measure “ignores the big picture of what’s going on out there.” No legislation is perfect, and overall, the damage that’s being done by the rash of evictions is way more serious than the possibility that one small owner could be financially pressured to pay relocation fees to a tenant.

The measure now goes to the full board April 1, starting the next round of the political battle. It seems pretty likely now that Campos will have six votes – but Mayor Ed Lee has declined so far to say if he supports or opposes the measure. So to be sure it gets enacted, the measure needs a veto-proof eight votes.

Of course, in this Year of the Tenant, it’s hard to imagine that the mayor would come out against the bill. Or is it?

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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