The Agenda: Taxing Uber and Lyft …

... and making sure that the landlord who evict a 100-year-old never gets a condo-converison permit

THE AGENDA There’s not a lot going on at City Hall this week; everyone seems to be too busy campaigning. But Sup. Aaron Peskin is introducing an interesting resolution – and it’s probably just the beginning of what could be a full-on battle over taxing Uber and Lyft.

Cities around the country – often frustrated by the way these rideshare companies have illegally entered the taxi market, congested traffic, and avoided the normal regulations that apply to business that pick up and deliver passengers – are moving to tax every ride.

Peskin is already calling for a ballot measure to tax the companies. But he’s also asking the state Legislature to allow cities to charge a transportation-impact fee – which wouldn’t require going to the ballot (where Uber and Lyft could spend millions trying to kill the measure).

When these illegal taxis came on the streets, and the city started to (just a little) ask whether they were legal, Uber went to Sacramento and got the state to give Transportation Network Companies special protection from local laws.

So it might require state legislation to allow California cities to charge a fee for the damage these companies are doing to city, creating a level of congestion that makes it harder to get around town and slowing down Muni.

(Despite what Uber says, these services are not an alternative to private cars; they’re an alternative to public transportation.)

It typically means little when the SF supes call on the state to do something – but in this case, Peskin is calling on our own local delegation – Assemblymembers Phil Ting and David Chiu and Sen. Scott Wiener – to push this legislation.

Chiu and Wiener have always been Uber-friendly.

I asked all three for comment; only Ting got back to me, and his office said he hasn’t seen the resolution and can’t comment yet.

That resolution comes up at the board Tuesday/6.

The Planning Commission is slated to make a final decision Thursday/8 on denying a condo-conversion permit to the folks who evicted a 100-year-old woman from her Page St. apartment.

That would bring to the close one of the uglier chapters in local tenant history.

Peter Owens bought the 668 Page Street building in 2002, for $1.3 million. His goal all along, he told the planners, was to clear the building of tenants and create “home ownership opportunities” by selling the individual units as tenancies in common.

Then he planned to convert those units to condos.

In the end, he would make a lot of money, and the people who bought the TICs would make a lot of money, too.

But there was one obstacle in the way: Iris Canada. The African American senior fought the Ellis Act eviction that Owens attempted, and her lawyer forced the owner to give her a “life estate,” allowing her to remain in the unit until she died.

At that time, she was 85. And 15 years later, she was still alive.

So Owens moved to evict her anyway, on the grounds that she wasn’t living in the unit. She was, indeed, travelling, and spending time with her family elsewhere.

Either way: She was 100 when the sheriff came and took away her stuff and changed the locks on the door. That’s just not acceptable by any standard.
At first, the Planning Department staff urged the commissioners to approve the conversion permit. But at the hearing, when it became clear what really happened, the panel voted 6-0 to deny it.

“What’s going on in this city kind of makes me sick,” Commissioner Dennis Richards said. “It’s so selfish and so money-oriented.”

Now the department has turned around, and the staff recommends rejection of the final permit. But the deal isn’t done, and I don’t know what Owens and his lawyers have up their sleeves.

If Owens had just been willing to wait a little longer, and let Canada live out her life in peace, he’d be able today to make a big chunk of change from his condo plan.

Now, if the commissioners stand firm, they’ll be sending a strong statement: Evict a centenarian in the name of greed, and you don’t get your permit.

The meeting starts at 1pm at City Hall.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Brian,

    You ole devil, you.

    Thank you for telling us who has free speech in SF.

    We, clearly, did not know.

    May God do the right thing to such speculators as they deserve.

    And, Brian …

    May He/She do it unto you double.

    Just to be fair.

    Alioto for Mayor!

    Go Giants!

    h.

  2. Curious,

    You’re right, of course.

    He should have considered having her whacked as an alternative.

    In that neighborhood he cudda had it done for pennies on the dollar which is always the goal, right?

    ‘Raise her rent’?

    After 50 years of rent-control he couldn’t have made up the difference with an allowable hike.

    He just wasn’t cruel enough.

    A rare good guy in this market.

    Alioto for Mayor!

    Go Giants!

    h.

  3. If she did not have a legal basis for her action, Owens could have simply ignored her. But, since he was using the threat of eviction to coerce her into signing a paper, she obviously had some legal standing he could not, and would not, tolerate.

  4. Given that the eviction was based on false claims, I would disagree. Unfortunately, her death tended the issue moot. I’m sure you were overjoyed.

  5. She wasn’t trying to protect her aunts legal rights. Owens offered to waive the evection. Owens offered to waive $100,000 in legal fees. She was trying to secure rights beyond the lifetime lease for herself after her aunt died. Is it extortion in the eyes of the law? No. Morally is it extortion? I think so. Semantic were games or waste of time. You know exactly what happened. And if you don’t then you shouldn’t even be commenting.

  6. I’m mildly curious what her Defense put up for arguments as to her fulfilling her agreement.

    Oh, that’s right …”traveling”. Just like all the other 97 yo seniors on a fixed income. Hope I’m that healthy at her age.

    But I do wonder if all the legal wrangling might not also have had a hand in her eventual demise. Thats a hecka lotta stress for someone half her age. And then discovering that all the ‘advice’ she’d been getting was … bogus … yes, that woulda broken my heart too.

  7. Owens was the Affordable Housing manager for Burlington VT. Of course, the publicity and complications forced him to quit/retire.

    But, such are the rewards for lowering her rent – never raising it – and only asking her to sign off on the papers or live up to her agreement.

    Disgusting.

  8. Extortion is a crime, a felony in fact. So, right off the bat, your claim is obviously a lie. She may have been trying to protect her aunt’s legal rights, that Owens was trying to run over in his rush to cash in, but “extortion?” Nope, that is just pure BS.

  9. It was in another state. This guy really was a piece of work. I really hope he doesn’t get to cash in.

  10. Geeks,

    Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t this Owens fellah have a job looking for homes for seniors?

    No, really, I think he did.

    Musta been where he got the idea.

    Wonder how the headline played at work ..

    ‘Non-Profit Caseworker tosses 100 year old tenant to curb’

    Alioto for Mayor!

    Go Giants!

    h.

  11. Pretty hard when you are not aware that the landlord is snooping while you are traveling. She had a right to be on a trip, and the senior center was a place she went for meals. They are a number of them.

  12. Obviously, she had a legal right to not sign the paper (otherwise it would have been worthless) so this is basically coercion on Owens’ part.

  13. You don’t think the judge would have been swayed if Meals on Wheels or a visiting nurse said that they called on Ms Canada at that apartment? If a senior center said that they picked her up there (per Tim’s original story)? What evidence DID her lawyer present to prove that she lived there?

  14. Oh, you know, in this town, with all the negative bias against tenants, it’s almost next to impossible for a tenant to convince the authorities they actually live where they live. Iris and her niece are just po’ victims of discrimination and neglect.

    The politics around this whole case are what’s really sick. Yeah, there’s greed in the City. But there’s also Hate. And Hate is far worse.

  15. What about all the health complications from being used by those closest to you for their own gain?

    All she had to do was sign the damn paper. But, nooo. The niece saw a way to get in on the action, and put ole auntie in the crosshairs.

    And we’re not just talking about Peter Owens. There are four other unit owners who have also followed the rules (which, according to the judge, Iris didn’t). Give those people their permits!

  16. Damm…sue the lawyer for malpractice. He couldn’t convince the judge that she was living in the apartment? Couldn’t get an affidavit from one of the caregivers/delivery services saying that they regularly called on her there?

    Could you convince a judge that you really did live in your home? How hard would it be to do so?

  17. There’s no reason why we can’t match NYC and Chicago and slap Uber and Lyft with a $1/trip flat tax to fund transportation.

  18. Tim also neglected to mention Iris’ niece that was trying to extort the landlord for her own gain. That was the real reason for the eviction. This story sounds really horrible but is total BS. Keep peddling the fake new, Tim!

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