Thursday, April 15, 2021
Uncategorized The right-wing attack on tenant protections in San Francisco

The right-wing attack on tenant protections in San Francisco

-

A few property-rights protesters crashed the Yes on G rally Oct. 6
A few property-rights protesters crashed the Yes on G rally Oct. 6

By Tim Redmond

OCTOBER 9, 2014 – On Monday morning, Oct. 6, in a federal courtroom, the oldest pro-corporate, libertarian legal organization in the nation was trying to shut down San Francisco’s tenant relocation law.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, funded in part by the Koch Brothers, has a long history of attacking progressive legislation and is particularly hostile to government regulations that limit private-property rights. It was founded by allies of Ronald Reagan, and once tried to halt the blockade of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by suing protesters for $1 million.

Now the PLF has taken aim at a bill by Sup. David Campos that increases the relocation fees that landlords have to pay to tenants in an Ellis Act eviction.

A few minutes after the hearing ended, a group of pro-landlord folks who also denounced regulatory limitations on property rights invaded a Yes on Prop. G rally at City Hall, leading to some tense moments.

I know of no direct connection between the PLF and the Small Property Owners of SF, but the events of Oct. 6 both indicate an organized, well-funded attack on San Francisco’s ability to fight Ellis evictions.

Judge Charles Breyer, in an official court portrait
Judge Charles Breyer, in an official court portrait

 

Judge Charles Breyer is hearing the case against the Campos bill, and the hearing Monday was a preliminary discussion of the issues. The judge acknowledged that the city had an entirely rational basis for passing the law – city officials, he said, “did a thoughtful analysis of a crisis in housing” – and he added that there is no question that crisis exists.

The issue at hand, he said, is whether it’s legal under the US Constitution for the city to remedy the situation by forcing landlords to pay money to tenants – or whether that’s an illegal seizure of private property by the government.

The PLF is all about illegal seizure. The law firm has fought long and hard to keep public agencies from passing regulations that might decrease the economic value of private property. The law on this is really complicated, but PLF attorney J. David Breemer says the city ordinance amounts to “out and out confiscation.” His argument: Landlords have the right to do what they want with their property, including evicting tenants under the Ellis Act – and anything that puts a substantial financial burden on that process amounts to the government taking over private property.

In the hearing before Judge Breyer, Breemer repeatedly insisted that the city law is unconstitutional because the relocation payment “can be spent for anything, not just for a new place to live.”

The concept: A tenant living under rent control for 20 years who suddenly gets an Ellis Eviction will be paid enough money to cover the difference between the low existing rent and the rent he or she will have to pay on the open market – but in theory, that tenant could just take the money to Vegas and put it on 31 red. And, of course, accept homelessness as the consequence.

The deputy city attorney on the case, Christine Van Aken, had a pretty solid response: Everyone, she said, buys housing. It’s a human need. If the tenants who are evicted want to stay in San Francisco, they’ll have no choice but to spend that relocation money on housing. That’s the whole point of the law.

“If housing were a good that might not be purchased, this would be a different story,” she said.

Breemer kept up his thesis, that the law was “taking money from some and giving it to others.” This is the essence of the PLF philosophy: Government should be as limited as possible, and shouldn’t do much of anything (including taxation) that shifts wealth from the rich to the poor.

He tried over and over again to say that the Campos legislation was poorly drafted, that it was too much of a broad-brush approach and not narrowly tailored. On that point, Breyer disagreed:

“Could the legislation be drafted differently? Of course it could,” the judge said. “But that’s a political question, and I’m concerned about walking down that path.”

Throw it all out

The PLF is making the broadest possible attack on the law, saying that it’s invalid on its face – not just in some cases, but in every case. The right-wing law firm wants the entire ordinance thrown out.

The city attorney says that the law is valid because it establishes a clear nexus between the problem – too many evictions – and the solution, and because the solution is pretty closely tied to the problem.

“In an eviction, a landlord imposes and adverse impact on a tenant,” Van Aken said, “and that tenant is exposed in perpetuity. The landlord must mitigate that impact for just two years.”

And in fact, it’s a response to a very serious problem: “San Francisco policymakers,” the city’s trial brief notes, “have decided that this should not be a city only for the rich.”

Breemer tried to claim that a landlord is exposed by being forced to accept the economic impact of rent control in perpetuity, but Breyer said that’s irrelevant: “We already did it.” And there is a solid body of law stating that rent control is valid and defensible.

Breyer also noted that there’s a provision in the ordinance to protect landlords who have a financial hardship. Breemer argued that there is no means test for the tenant, but the judge asked “does that make any difference?”

Then Breemer complained that the money goes directly from the landlord to the tenant, and doesn’t guarantee any new affordable housing. Breyer: “Would you object if the money went to a city fund?”

Van Aken: “I don’t think if the money had to go to a city fund there would be any less of a challenge from the Pacific Legal Foundation.”

Breyer asked both parties to send in another set of briefs around the technical issues in two federal cases, Nollan v. California Coastal Commission and Dolan v. City of Tigard. I’m not a lawyer, of course, but as I understand it, those two cases address the question of whether a government program that has an impact on private property is related to the impact it imposes, and that the economic impact is roughly proportional.

Here’s the city attorney’s response:

Plaintiffs allege that the 2014 Mitigation Ordinance works an unconstitutional exaction: it imposes a condition on their right to evict tenants under the Ellis Act that is unrelated to the harms of eviction and that is not roughly proportional to the degree of those harms.

At bottom, that claim fails because landlords’ required mitigation payment is roughly proportional to the harm they impose on their tenants by evicting them from a rent-regulated unit and forcing them to seek new housing at market rates. But the Court need not even reach the merits, because Ninth Circuit has held that (1) a relocation payment to displaced tenants is not an exaction; (2) a Nollan/Dolan claim cannot be asserted as a facial challenge; and (3) the Nollan/Dolan test does not apply to legislatively imposed conditions.

This is what the next round of the lawsuit will hinge on.

The PLF lawyer ducks a question
The PLF lawyer ducks a question

Breemer held a press conference on the sidewalk outside the federal building after the hearing, and repeated the mantra that the relocation money was “no strings attached.” I asked: Suppose the money went directly to rent payment to a new landlord, would you still oppose it?”

Breemer: “I’m not going to address that.”

Of course not. The PLF opposes rent control in any form, and is trying to push its agenda onto the city.

Who hired the buses?

I rode my bike down to City Hall, where the Yes on G campaign was holding a rally to support the idea of an anti-speculation tax. A group called the Small Property Owners of San Francisco bused in people to try to shout down the tenant advocates.

It was very much an organized event: An email from Josephine Zhao, an organizer of the SPO, which I’ve obtained, notes that

Just got the word, the opposition is mounting an offense on Prop G, we must be there to counter. Please wear your blue shirt, and come to the side walk of City Hall East Entrance (Polk) on Monday, 10/6/2014 at 10:45am.

The No on G side didn’t just need to show up – there were Mercedes buses on hand to pick them up afterwards.

As it turned out, the Yes on G folks outnumbered the other side by about ten to one. The landlord side was loud at times, but not very effective – except that media accounts talked about two dueling rallies, instead of pointing out the message the Yes on G was trying to send.

The message of the Yes on G rally: The landlords are lying to you
The message of the Yes on G rally: The landlords are lying to you

Most of the people from the SPO side – at least, the ones I talked to – seemed to be single-family homeowners, who would not be affected in any way by Prop. G. They seemed to be arguing that if this passes, they could be next.

I called Zhao to talk about all of this, and she said that “the way things are going, the city is pushing small property owners to the point where they can’t survive.” I asked how that could be happening, and she said that single-family houses with in-laws would be covered by the anti-speculation tax. Not a whole lot of people are buying and selling those units in a short period of time.

She insisted that “we are not flippers, we own for a long time.” So I repeated: How does this possibly impact you? Her only answer was that people who inherited rental property and sold it quickly might have to pay the tax. That seems like a fairly small universe.

At any rate, I was curious: Who paid for the buses and the T-shirts?

48hillsproggrallybuses
Who paid for the buses? Nobody will tell me

If the SPO is running its own campaign against Prop. G, then by law it’s an independent expenditure committee that has to file paperwork with the Ethics Commission and list its donors and expenses. If it’s part of the official No on G campaign, that that operation has to disclose where the money is coming from.

Eric Jaye, who is managing the No on G campaign, told me that the data he has at this point “shows no money to them and no money from them.” In other words, the No on G campaign, which has duly filed its contribution and expense reports, didn’t pay for the buses.

I asked Zhao who did and she said: “You are smart. You figure it out.”

The way I would figure it out, of course, is to ask her. “We have done or will do the proper paperwork,” she said.

But as of today, there is no filing at the Ethics Commission showing an IE from the Small Property Owners on Prop. G.

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.

88 COMMENTS

  1. No, I did not defend Yelp and condone the outrageous CEO/employee pay ratio. I pointed out this Talia Jane, as well as Daniel Whittaker, are not being honest, because I do not think they are the best person to represent respective cause to fight for.

    If you are in the same plight as a real struggling tenant, and/or worrying about food on a daily basis, while proven to be a honest person, I would throw my unconditional support to you.

  2. No, it’s really not. Majority of landlords in SF, NYC, etc.ate absolutely shitbags, and someday we should bring back the guillotine to deal with them. Second, why are you defending Yelp! over their dismal pay even though those workers have to live in a high rent city in order to work for them? The best that can happen is for SF service workers, drives, and low level employees to quit their jobs, desert the city, and let these smug bastards get their own coffees, do their own laundry, while surrounded by the homeless population they’ve helped create, and demean.

  3. I doubt the landlord Lee is one of those 1%ers. It’s naive to paint all home owner (small landlords) evil and all tenants victim. It just happened this Daniel Whittaker is not an honest person as he claimed.

    Why do you think each party will vet their own presidential candidate before general election? Because if there’s some skeleton in the closet for that candidate got dug up by the other party, it will hurt their own party candidate’s credibility and electability.

    If you want to fight the right cause, find the right person to represent the case. The blindness of support thrown to someone like him won’t push your goal any further.

  4. I’m sure SF 1%ers are happy they have your support Darren. Maybe one day they’ll let you clean their ass with your tongue for all your hard work, you stupid worthless prick.

  5. No argument with this. I didn’t mean to imply that the social contract was or should be only at the city level, though I’d probably prefer more local control on this issue.

    But I still don’t see that you and David substantively differ (except that he writes less respectfully).

  6. That’s not quite true, Chris. The reason that no-fault evictions are allowed isn’t because we the people agreed to that. it’s entirely possible that the voters would vote to stop all no-fault evictions.

    The problem is more that if such a provision were enacted, it would be bounced by the courts as being contrary to state law and probably on constitutional grounds as well, in much the same way that challenges to Santa Monica’s vacancy control and efforts to force LL’s to stay in business led to the Costa-Hawkins Act and the Ellis Act.

    In other words, the social contract that you allude to may exist, but it exists at a much higher level than just the city. The city has passed various measures in the last couple of decades that have been bounced by the courts or by state law.

    So there is an over-riding social contract that says that the city’s social contract cannot go too far. The real problem, put more simply, is that SF cannot be too left-wing without falling foul of a higher authority.

    On a more practical note, I think we have to allow no-fault evictions because, while they may be inconvenient for a tenant, they may also be necessary for an owner who needs that property back. And as you appear to realize, if tenancies were effectively lifetime tenancies, then there would be far fewer landlords, fewer rental buildings and higher rents

  7. Absolutely. I just see David saying that these ideals aren’t written on stone tablets, they’re agreements worked out among civil society. I don’t know if he’d even disagree with what you just wrote.

    And if the govt did declare that people who choose to rent out their building are obligated to maintain that building as a rental as long as the people living there want to continue living there, and to limit the rate of increase of rents, then as long as they don’t apply these rules retroactively to people who are already landlords, that just becomes part of the business decision about whether to rent.

    And then probably fewer owners would choose to rent in that situation, so housing stock would decrease, so initial rents would be higher, circumventing the desire to expand affordable housing. But then at least if someone moved into a rental, they could be assured that they wouldn’t be forced to vacate their home at some arbitrary time and potentially face a rental market in which they couldn’t afford any available alternative and would have to move away to a cheaper city.

    If the people, via their representatives, decide that’s the deal they want despite the effect on housing stock, who are you to say they shouldn’t get to have that deal, because property rights?

  8. It comes down to what you mean by “reasonable”. Trying to compel me to rent out my home when I don’t want to strikes me as unreasonable.

    If you’re going to control my rents then you have to allow me to quit the business and change the use of my building.

    If the government really wants my building to be a rental, then it should buy the building from me at a full market price, and then run it themselves.

  9. Sure, property rights are established by laws, which are established by society, hence constituting a social construct, no? Yes, the Bill of Rights establishes limits on how the govt can infringe on property rights, but the Bill of Rights and rent control laws are also social constructs, right?

    Again, anyone could post as “David” and make claims to be the same person who is running in D6. I suppose he probably is the same person, but I have no way to really know and so wouldn’t base voting decisions on what he posts here alone.

    But to the point: I don’t see David saying all property rights should be invalidated, just that there are reasonable limits to them. E.g., do you really think it’s impossible for a Republican to think it’s not okay for someone to, say, buy the house next door to you and blast loud music 24/7, or dump toxic chemicals in the back yard?

  10. It’s odd how progressives can pile on the abuse on whites and asians, but never dare say similar things about blacks and hispanics.

    Evidently a landlord wanting exercize his legal right to exit the landlording business bothers you far more than the massive rates of violent crime we see in our cities.

    Very strange.

  11. Property rights are a set of legal rights long established in this country and deriving from the statutes and common law of England.

    If you read the Bill of Rights, it is clear that the founding fathers wanted to limit the ability of government to take private property except in very specific circumstances. The idea that the government can tell someone that they must be a landlord just because they currently are one would strike them as horrendous.

    Salaverry has made comments here indicating that he is one and the same as the one who wan against Campos/Chiu in June and is now running for D6. I have no reason to disbelieve him although I am baffled how he could claim to be a Republican.

  12. Free Leland Yee? Are you fucking kidding me? It’s disgusting to see you gushing over Chinese people, painting all of them to be “oh so hardworking and oh so honest and just trying to make enough to have a comfortable old age” as if they can’t be just as corrupt, greedy, stingy, selfish, rude, inconsiderate, racist and manipulative as anyone else. But now I know why you’re bending over and taking it where the sun doesn’t shine for them and extolling them ALL to be something ALL of them clearly are not: you’re running for Dist. 6 which is predominantly Chinese. That’s all pretty disgusting, but going so far as to defend Leland Yee who was caught red handed with some pretty horrendous crimes under his belt is inexcusable. You aren’t FIT to be a Supervisor as you’ll clearly say anything you have to to get the people of District 6 to vote for you.

    And let me tell you something else David… you are WRONG about the Ellis Act relocation fee ordinance. I personally know 5 people who have Chinese landlords and they have confirmed what so many people say: Chinese landlords are some of the worst, most stingy, selfish, greedy, lousy landlords anyone can have. I’ve lived here since 1987 and every single person I know who has had a Chinese landlord has said EXACTLY the same thing. Two of these friends of mine are being Ellis Acted by their scumbag Chinese landlords both who have numerous properties in SF are doing it solely for greed. So before you sit here and trash Tim Redmond the way you have, take a look in your own backyard and bullshit propaganda you’re attempting to spread.

  13. First, note that you’re assuming that the poster calling themself “David Carlos Salaverry” is the same person who ran for election under that name? Anyone could post under any name. So it seems somewhat foolish to let posts here influence your willingness to vote for someone. I could post the same words “David” posted under the name of any candidate you might vote for instead.

    Second, I’m curious how you do conceive of property rights. How is it not obvious that they are a social construct? What other option is there?

  14. The prop G money goes to the general fund, and it would be a takings by the government. It does not have to be transfer of value to a specific individual. Unless the gov can show a direct and specific benefit to the entire community.

    Prop G may pass, we will see. But I think it has a good chance of getting bounced by state court.

  15. It’s not racism to notice correlations between different factors and classification systems. It’s racist to act upon them prejudicially as if they are universal truths. That’s an important distinction.

    However in this case my real point wasn’t about race at all. But rather how progressives incorporate race into the fabric of their arguments. Identity politics is seldom attractive and rarely effective.

  16. I agree with most of what you said, but you are wrong about two things. The takings argument hinges on the fact that the money does *not* go to the general fund, it goes directly to the tenant. If SF had this the funds move to the general fund, I think this would have a better chance of surviving takings scrutiny under the taxing power.

    Secondly, this is almost certain to pass. There is massive anti-landlord hysteria going on at the moment.

  17. marcos, is your point that Asians are not smart and hard-working, as Salaverry also said?

    And that it is racist to claim that they are?

    I think it’s far more racist to imply that they are not than to imply that they are.

  18. Tim, why do you allow this kind of racist filth on your site? “The problem with Asians, of course, is that they are smart and hard-working, while the left needed them to adopt full-fledged non-white victim status.”

  19. The most recent and obvious case of anti-Asian bias among SF’s progressives was the conspiracy theories raised during the last mayoral elections, claiming vote-rigging and vote-stuffing in Chinatown by community leaders there. No proof was ever found, of course, but that didn;t stop them slurring them anyway.

    Five of our eleven supervisors are Asian but the left doesn’t trust them to vote the right way.

    The problem with Asians, of course, is that they are smart and hard-working, while the left needed them to adopt full-fledged non-white victim status.

  20. I’m curious why you ran in June as a Republican if you don’t believe in strong property rights?

    I voted for you then without realizing that you are somewhere to the left of Chiu, and maybe even Campos.

    I won’t make that mistake again.

  21. Sam-whoever-he-am says “When you write that “there is a solid body of law stating that rent control is valid and defensible”, it’s important to note that unlimited control of rents has never been allowed anywhere.”

    But Redmond is correct on rent control, and Sam-whoever-he-am tosses out another red herring. No one has claimed that the government taking power or rent control is unlimited.

    Sadly, deeper questions are not addressed in the sophomoric bickering evident here. The deeper question is, “What is the history of private property rights?” And, “What should the future of private property rights be in San Francisco?”

    It’s important to note from the get go that except for Locke’s argument to the sacredness of the labor portion of property rights, all further thought, legislation and jurisprudence has unequivocally and universally defined private property as a social construct NOT as an emanation from God.

    Market fundamentalists like Sam-whoever-he-am—sacralize private property at least an an emanation from the Holy Founding Fathers. This is self serving horseshit. Private property rights exist only by the threat or actual use of police powers to enforce, and last I looked the police are government employees, paid for by taxpayers. Voila. The social not the sacred, the provisional not the permanent construction of property rights.

    Private property rights also exist in a geographic matrix. Used to be one owner’s right to pollute trumped the adjacent owner’s right to clean air and water. No longer. Now the externalities are part of the bundle of socially adjusted rights that make up what we call property.

    The other point the fundamentalists ignore is that property rights vary widely, across time, across geography and across cultures.

    In San Francisco, we have every right and every reason to tailor our concept of property rights to fit the particular situation here and now, within the limits (hopefully) of common sense.

  22. The Nollan decision was authored by Antonin Scalia and related to easements on beachfront property in SoCal creating precedent. The Dolan decision further restricted what government agencies (the Planning Dept in an Oregon town) could demand as mitigation for a permit approval.

    But if the City Attorney is correct that the Nollan/Dolan test “does not apply to legislatively imposed conditions,” the PRI case doesn’t have legs. Clearly, a legislative body, The SFBOS imposed the compensation for Ellis Act evictions.

    However, Redmond seems to be trying to create a new hissy fit among progressives. Others have noted the decided slant of this article. More importantly IMHO, attacking Josephine Zhou is just plain dumb politics.

    Zhou represents ethnic immigrant and naturalized Chinese landlords. To attack Zhou is to attack an ethnic group and to leave oneself exposed to the charge of progressive racism. Others—notably Randy Shaw—have hinted that this was part of Redmond’s opposition to Jane Kim in 2010 in favor of the then favored progressive Democrat for D6.

    Were Redmond less ideological and more canny, he would put down the broad brush that paints ALL landlords as greedy and make distinctions between small property owners—heavily Chinese—and large property owners who tend to be whiter and more corporate.

    Many Chinese immigrants did (and still do) work their butts off to accumulate modest capital to buy property expecting at least a comfortable in old age. Some anti-landlord invective (not that from Redmond) borders on overt racism against successful Asian immigrant landlords. There was some of this evident in the D10 debate where Malia Cohen’s people passed out anti-landlord hit pieces on Marlene Tran for standing with Zhou at a protest.

    More importantly, Redmond (and I expect many progressives) can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that Zhou and her forces are potential allies on some issues. Like AirBnB. If the Redmond-Welch-Engmann-Marti axis wants to put a ballot measure up in 2015, progressives would be wise to court Zhou and her supporters rather than enrage them with a sideshow hit piece filled with red meat to rally the demoralized troops.

    As for the merits of Prop G… no comment.

  23. Except, Aaron, that that would be illegal under state as well as city law. You need to amend the Costa-Hawkins Act, the Subdivision Act and probably a bunch of others too.

    Plus of course, even if you could pass all that in Sacramento, no developer would choose to build under those terms,

    And do you really believe that only the “one percent” buy homes in SF? Bearing in mind that about 35% of SF homes are owner-occupied?

  24. Ballot Initiative that states clearly 50% rental / 50% for sale in any development.

    Rates on the rental’s and for sale would be tiered to start at a base rate on rent prices, rent controlled even if new construction. 500-1000 per month for a studio / 1001-1500 for a 1bedroom, 1501-2000 for a two bedroom and not a penny more.

    The for-sale units would be tiered or inclusive of 25% co-op buy in, and 25% market rates…
    start those units at 100,000 for a 1 bedroom or sim. and market can be market.

    Than the 1% can bid up on the 5% of housing for market rate,
    and the rest of us can start seeing some housing for the people.

    The manufacturers of this housing will have a limit on “profit” margins
    perhaps 5% but not 20-25% currently.

    Any additional money on sales goes to TRANSPORTATION / SCHOOLS / PARKS and PUBLIC AMMENITIES.

    we just have to mandate what each development will provide or across the board mandate for adequate public interests being met on housing transit etc.

  25. Welch pulled the initiative because he knew a solution was in the works. Now it’s done the matter is moot.

  26. Exact case-in-point. Congratulation, your noise-to-signal ratio continues its astonishing climb. Reach for the top!

  27. They had little confidence that it would pass. San Francisco residents are not very interested in having the government tell them that they cannot occasionally have a visiting guest staying in their spare bedroom.

    The home sharing community is much larger than you think.

  28. You ignore my main point and try and quibble about a side issue to save face. Anyway there are several other nations with very high unemployment rates like Croatia, Bosnia and Portugal.

    While even the major economies like france, Germany and Italy have rates well above the US.

    My point is made.

  29. So is it true that Carlson, Welch and Engemann had the sigs for a ballot measure on Airbnb ready to go but held off on submitting it for the November election?

  30. Unemployment rates are routinely higher all across Europe:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_in_Europe_by_unemployment_rate

    That’s the point that is relevant here because it shows how confiscatory redistributive policies actually harm those they are intended to help.

    We don’t make that mistake in the US where even poor people typically vote against higher taxes, because they know it will cause harm to the economy and to employment prospects.

  31. The question of which side of a debate is “fallacious” is something discovered by the process of debate, and not something summarily decided by one side to that debate.

    Tim’s civility requirement is that we should post on the topic and not about other posters. I keep to that rule, and suggest that others should too.

  32. “Civil discussion” is a complete farce when one side consists of nothing but fallacious arguments, obfuscation through pedantry, and semantic bullshit. When push really comes to shove and one can’t use an overwhelming typhoon of fourth-grade rhetoric to flood the comments, just resort to the old “civil discussion” saw.

  33. You lied when you wrote “Many nations in Europe have 20% or 30% unemployment rates because their voters have enacted high taxes, high welfare payments and, as a result people don’t bother trying hard.”

    Only two industrialized nations in Europe have unemployment rates > 20%, Italy and Spain.

  34. marcos, you are using two different ways of measuring unemployment there.

    Unemployment is far higher in Europe than here, even in the supposed economic leader of Europe, Germany.

    The only European nation with a US-level of low unemployment is the UK, which wisely stayed out of the Euro and which enjoyed the Reagan/Thatcher revolution – something that the rest of Europe passed by.

  35. Do you really believe that the nonprofity types are organizing in the interests of people? If they are, they’re not doing a very good job of it.

  36. No, it’s a balance between those who have money but no voting power, and those who have voting power and less money, and who might otherwise simply vote to enrich themselves through confiscatory policies rather than through the traditional methods of achieving success.

    It’s in the public interest because we should not be disincentivizing hard work and risk-taking by passing laws that instead allow massive tax hikes and welfare payments. Many nations in Europe have 20% or 30% unemployment rates because their voters have enacted high taxes, high welfare payments and, as a result people don’t bother trying hard.

    So our system is in your interest, even if there’s a part of you who would rather just be legally allowed to steal.

  37. When you write that “there is a solid body of law stating that rent control is valid and defensible”, it’s important to note that unlimited control of rents has never been allowed anywhere. Rent control is illegal in over 30 states and in fact only exists in a small number of cities across the US. So rent control is the exception rather than the rule. Most jurisdictions hold that it is unfair, illegal and unconstitutional.

    Moreover even where it exists it is constrained by various legal limits. For instance, even SF allows 15 reasons to legally evict a tenant. It excludes new construction, condos, SFH’s, live-work lofts and (of course) government-owner properties.

    And the ordinance specifically states that a landlord is entitled to a reasonable rate of return. The ordinance could try and freeze rents, or even reduce them, but does not because that would be legally challenged as a taking. Likewise the ordinance does not control the rents of vacant units or temporary units, and only controls rent increases for the duration of a tenancy. And it allows passthroughs where a LL’s expenses increase.

    So the idea that the city can just pass anything is misguided, and various changes that have been passed by the Supes or approved by the voters have been bounced by the courts. There are limits and the question here is whether those reasonable limits have been breached by indiscriminate windfall payouts by landlords who are doing nothing wrong other than wishing to stop being a landlord.

    It’s an “exit fee”. And the state’s Ellis Act bars municipalities from placing obstacles on the ability to Ellis evict so there is a real question here whether these sums go way beyond reasonable relocation expenses.

    A key point here is that there is no consideration of individual situations. What if a tenant wins the lottery or gets a huge inheritance on the day he gets the eviction notice? Then the landlord’s payment can be spent on wine, women and song. Is that right?

    I’d prefer to see the reimbursement of actual relocation expenses, and that they be capped as “reasonable” so that a tenant cannot move from a Bayview studio to a Pacific Heights condo on his landlord’s dime.

    If you support reasonable relo payments based on actual costs, then that is fair. If you see this more as a massive fine for simply acting legally, then it is wrong. Nor should these fees be made excessive merely to deter Ellis evictions but only to mitigate tenant hardship. No tenant should be rewarded for what would become winning the Ellis lottery. We might even see tenants behaving badly to try and provoke an Ellis eviction so that they can get the money when they had already intended to move anyway.

  38. The “balance” you are talking about is a balance between the interests of people and the interests of money. Whatever system that is, it sure as hell ain’t democracy.

  39. While it’s true that wealthy people and businesses can more easily make large donations for political purposes, there opponents can often put larger number of people to work campaigning and protesting.

    So there is a balance here. One side employs money and the other side employs feet on the ground. It’s a wash.

    Since there are always more poor people than rich people, there is a need to allow self-defense by the rich to ensure that the minority does not simply vote to confiscate their assets. Our nation has a long proud history of defending minorities against majority tyranny.

    The Citizens United SCOTUS decision merely endorses the desirability of that balance.

  40. Whenever there are resources funding political activity to the extent that they can organize and bus in bodies, then that raises questions above and beyond the underlying policies in question as marshaling such resources is beyond the reach of most everyone and most advocates for most policies.

  41. Another highly biased piece by Tim.

    “The right-wing attack on…in San Francisco” That’s called a moderate democrat in SF.

    What does it matter to the story what brand of buses the protesters arrived in? You still assume all property owners are wealthy? You make it sound as if gathering via coordination and protesting or voicing an opinion is wrong? SEIU does it, Tenant Union does it, everyone against something does it.

    Regardless of which way the Judge rules, remember, this is only a hearing. Full court press to resume after ruling. But, if the Judge sides with property owners, Dennis will have to think long & hard about spending resources to defend a dog with fleas suit.

  42. When does the other case come to trial? It was filed by an 80 year old man who wants to claim his property so his daughter/caregiver can live there.

  43. Tim is wrong, and so is that propaganda photo wrt homes with inlaws. They are considered 2 unit bldgs, and absolutely fall under prop G. Buy one of those, have a job relocation, medical emergency, family matter, etc. and need to sell- you’re fucked big time. The kids inherit this property and need to sell because they live elsewhere, Can’t all live in the home, need the money to pay for their kids college, etc.- they are fucked.

    This law is completely insensitive to real family needs, and is an absolute taking. Plus, the money just goes to the general fund. Couldn’t even direct it towards affordable housing. I’m sure the PLF or another group will be challenging this too if it passes.

    I have a feeling this thing ain’t gonna pass, even with the demographic composition of SF now. Ten years ago maybe. But now, more people are realizing that socialist SF is a thing of the past. Gotta look forwards, not backwards folks.

  44. I told you all to track federal and state relocation law which restricts relocation payments from projects that have public funding to cover housing costs only. Campos did that on the relocation rate, came in at half of what the government requires to easily pass scrutiny. But if they didn’t put restrictions on how the compensation can be used then that is an easily remedied patch.

Comments are closed.

More by this author

Breed won’t promise to spend real-estate tax money on rent relief

The voters approved Prop. I last fall to support tenants and affordable housing, but the mayor says she will use the money for her own priorities.

Reese Erlich, foreign correspondent and radical reporter, is dead at 73

After a life of progressive politics, ground-breaking journalism, and social activism, a legendary writer loses battle with cancer.

There’s a lot more to the GG Park debate than cars v. bikes

This is part of a huge discussion the city needs to have about transportation -- and equity -- in a post-COVID world.

SF could have affordable Internet for everyone for $35 a resident

Why isn't the Breed Administration moving for municipal broadband? That's The Agenda for April 11-18

A new move to get corporate money out of state political campaigns

AB 20 would ban contributions from corporations to any candidate for state office in CA.

Most read

Radical right group is trying to attack public-sector labor in SF

Anti-union mailers are going to workers home addresses -- but really, this group is looking pretty desperate.

How To Reopen Nightlife: Enough with the boys’ club, make room for women

DJ femmelectric and promoter Alex McGeagh speak about equity, access, and safety for women and nonbinary folks.

Black Freighter Press sails in, boosting writers of color and radical imagination

The revolution will be published, with the help of SF Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin and Alie Jones' new outlet.

City College students fight back against brutal faculty cuts

Firing teachers could also mean the end of a lot of treasured programs.

You might also likeRELATED