Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Uncategorized City Beat: City College, the Ellis Act – and...

City Beat: City College, the Ellis Act – and the real state budget battle


A growing coalition is calling on Gov. Brown to put more money into human needs and less into debt service
A growing coalition is calling on Gov. Brown to put more money into human needs and less into debt service

By Tim Redmond

MAY 7, 2014 — A bill by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano that would curtail the ability of state officials to suspend indefinitely an elected local community college board was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee today, and it’s got an excellent chance of winning approval of both houses of the Legislature. That’s because Republcans and Democrats both have expressed serious concern about the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, the rogue body that is trying to shut down City College.

The bill doesn’t directly address the ACCJC, but the fallout from the way that panel has treated City College is spilling over into other areas of politics. In this case, the bill, AB 2087, would allow the state Community College Board of Governors to step in and take control of a local agency only for a limited period of time, and only if the special trustee who is appointed consults with the local elected board.

It would mandate that the state agency say in advance when authority will be returned to the Community College Board that the voters put in place.

“The actions of the Board of Governors have been undemocratic – taking away the powers of properly elected public officials who have done nothing illegal, nothing wrong,” Ammiano said. “You don’t have to agree with everything the trustees have done to recognize that this is basically telling the people of San Francisco that their votes don’t count.”

Now, since this is state law, the provision can’t go backward in time – the bill wouldn’t force the board to announce a date to return powers to the SF College Board. But it would send a strong message that the Legislature doesn’t like this open-ended takeover of community institutions.

A state Senate committee, meanwhile, approved Sen. Mark Leno’s Ellis Act, bill, sending that measure to the floor, where it will need 21 votes. Nobody thinks that’s going to be easy – the real-estate industry remains powerful in Sacramento, and in the past, it’s been hard to get even modest tenant measures approved. But there’s a lot of push behind this one, and it only applies to San Francisco. Democrats would have to be serious pawns of the landlords to vote against it.

Of course, some of them are ….


One of the more alarming things I heard today: There’s a plan that might mean the end of Flax on Valencia, one of the coolest places in the city. I’ve been buying art supplies (and yeah, feeding my addiction to fountain pens) at Flax for 30 years. My kids get stuff for their school projects there. It’s a great location, easy to get to on transit, right along the Valencia bike corridor – and that also makes it attractive to real-estate investors who are looking to cash in on the market for luxury condos.

As Hoodline reports, nothing is solid yet. Any final decision is probably two years away (that means a least two more spring fountain pen fairs!) And a big housing project could still make room for the locally owned store on the ground floor (but at, I would guess, a much-increased rent). Could City Planning mandate that the existing tenant keep its existing lease as a condition of a condo project? I don’t know, but it’s worth a try.


Two planning commissioners appointed by the Board of Supervisors are up for new terms. I wonder if Hisashi (Bill) Sugaya and Kathrin Moore have done anything to anger the allies of the mayor.


The Chron’s John Wildermuth says that
Mark Leno is on a “collision course” with the governor over extending the Prop. 30 tax cuts, but that misses a couple of critical points. For starters, when the current tax plan expires, Gov. Jerry Brown will be on his way out the door – and Californians will be used to the notion that the state’s finances are a bit more stable. So Brown won’t be running for anything and I suspect won’t be fighting terribly hard to undo one of his better legacies.

Besides, as Leno pointed out after the rally that set off this non-furor furor, the only reason Brown had to push for Prop. 30 is that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger abolished the Vehicle License Fee, blowing a $6 billion hole in the state budget, without ever suggesting any way to pay for it.

You want the VLF back? (I do, but the voters don’t seem to.) If not, there’s not much of a choice here – renew Prop. 30, or see the state go tumbling back into near insolvency.

By the way, the rally last week was mostly about the differing approaches to the Guv’s “rainy day fund.” Brown wants about 90 percent of the new revenue the state’s getting to go either to pay off debts or into a savings account for the future. Both nice ideas – although as Leno points out, there is no requirement that the state retire its debt early.

The bigger problem is that so many programs have been cut over the years, and ol’ Governor Tightwad is doing very little to back fill that need. So there’s a growing statewide coalition that is asking for at least some of the new money to go for human needs – very real human needs – today. What, we’re going to tell today’s high school seniors that they can’t go to UC because the guv wants to pay Wall Street bondholders – so students have to take on more debt while the state pays its’ off?

Ammiano took the opportunity to criticize not only the cheapskate in Sacto but the mayor of SF and his tax cuts for the tech industry. “It’s fine to be friendly to tech,” he told me, “but not to give away all that money that’s needed for local services.”

Something we have to keep in mind: Some of the same trends that we all (including the mayor) denounce at the state level are happening right here at home.




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.


  1. as a landlord i want to call some BS here.

    first, taxes are capped by prop 13. if they’ve gone up appreciably then its because of capital improvements. a lot of commercial property owners also got reductions in their assessments after the big market collapse.

    yes costs for various services have gone up – as have rents on new leases. capital expenses and portions of assessment can be passed through and i have a hard time believing that you’re not taking those gains.

    third, landlording is a business and its awfully hard to have sympathy for having some generally minimal increases in operating costs when the value of the underlying asset you’re maintaining has gone through the roof. policy shouldn’t guarantee an internal rate of return.

    finally, in all this talk about means testing…i don’t expect to have a claim on my tenants’ raises, which is really what means testing is in practice.

    as landlords in SF we’ve got it really really good.

  2. Please don’t confuse the small mom and pop landlord with the real estate speculators. They are two different animals with completely different values and goals. Mom and pop landlords usually invest in real estate as a hedge against retirement costs, speculators want it all NOW! (the new economy attitude with everything, instant gratification) But yes, there are plenty of landlords losing money because of rent control, usually mom and pops who will kindly work with their residents through the hardships of life, I know mine has. Unfortunately, being kind hearted in this new economy has left them in a poor business situation. Don’t think it’s only the rent that has gone up, taxes, plumbers, special assessments, electricians, carpenters, roofers, water and sewer fees have all gone up more dramatically then the rents, and with mom and pop landlords under rent control, it leaves them NO other option but to sell, often to LLC’s or corporations who have to Ellis Act the property in order to correct the obsolete rental income. If Leno’s law goes through, forcing the new owners to wait 5 years to Ellis Act, it will simply become common place for the existing owner to perform the Ellis Act prior to selling the building. Having renters paying their fair share, albeit sometimes it would need to be on a sliding scale, would be the only fair way to correct these issues. Not even the gov’t could afford to give away free housing, it’s simply NOT practical.

  3. It would be quite a challenge to find a landlord in SF that is losing money at the moment. Requiring a temporary hold on the ability to exit the rental business will do little to hurt the property owner. Speculators are a plague on this city at the moment and must be put under serious regulation to prevent the damage they currently are causing.

  4. By MIKE NEMETH State Sen. Mark Leno needs to address apartment industry concerns about his anti-Ellis Act bill, which could lock San Francisco landlords into the rental housing business for years on end, even if they’re losing money. Those instructions came from the Transportation and Housing Committee, which narrowly approved Leno’s SB 1439 on Tuesday

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