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News + PoliticsHousingSupes agree to endorse rent-control measure after another strange debate

Supes agree to endorse rent-control measure after another strange debate

Breed won't side with tenant groups but board votes 8-2 in favor of Costa-Hawkins repeal; 'pro-housing' officials are actually anti-tenant.


The Board of Supes approved a measure endorsing the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act today after another bizarre debate featuring Huntington Beach—and Mayor London Breed refusing to sign on with the tenants.

Sup. Dean Preston asked Breed during Question Time if she would support the repeal of the state law that strictly limits local rent control. She said she has “a more nuanced view,” and went on to repeat the landlord talking points that rent control could discourage new housing construction.

I find this particularly interesting since the entire Yimby concept is that more housing will bring down prices. But if landlords can’t charge high rent, they won’t build? Then what’s the point?

Sup. Dean Preston said the ‘pro-housing’ state officials are actually anti-tenant.

But never mind: Breed said that cities need to allow developers to build “housing of all types,” which is a lovely fantasy; developers only build what makes them the highest profit. She called for laws that are “less burdensome.”

Breed: “Even well-meaning regulations like rent control can create barriers to new housing.”

Preston then asked: If Costa Hawkins is repealed, would you support rent controls on vacant apartments?

Before 1995, when Costa-Hawkins passed, this was one of the defining issues for San Francisco politics. Elected officials who were on the side of tenants were for vacancy control; officials who were on the side of landlords were against it.

The late Sup. Harry Britt got a vacancy-control bill through the board in 1984; the late Mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed it. When Art Agnos ran for mayor in 1987, vacancy control was a key part of his platform. In every supervisorial race, this was a litmus-test issue for every tenant group in the city.

Breed: “I am not prepared to say yea or nay.”

Then the measure by came before the board, and Preston was pretty clear: “This is a straightforward measure. Every tenant group, every anti-poverty group, supports it; the California Republican Party, the Apartment Association, and California Yimby oppose it because they oppose rent control.”

And we went into Wonderland again.

Sup. Matt Dorsey said the repeal would “empower anti-development local governments,” and again quoted a Republican member of the Huntington Beach City Council saying that the bill would allow that city to enact such strict rent controls that nobody would build new housing.

No private for-profit developer will ever build anything except high-end housing in Huntington Beach. Private for-profit development there will do nothing to ease the affordable housing crisis in California.

But, as Sup. Hillary Ronen noted: “Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have rent control in Huntington Beach? We might get a few less units for the luxury people, but we would lock in rent control for the masses.”

You think the Republicans would really do that?

The entire thing is, as Ronen said, a “red herring.”

More: Dorsey said that “pro-housing” Democrats oppose the bill, including State Sen. Toni Atkins, Sen. Scott Wiener, and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks.

Preston: “The constant thread around ‘pro-housing’ Democrats is so bizarre and such propaganda. These are people who take hundreds of thousands of dollars from the real estate industry. They are not friends of tenants. They are the reason that rent control is pre-empted by the state. … This is a mask-off moment for California Yimby. People who oppose this should listen to every tenant organization, every affordable housing group, every anti-poverty group in the state.”

He said “we have seen the result of Costa-Hawkins” in the soaring rents and affordability crisis in the state.

The discussion was a preview of what we will see in the fall, as the landlords spend maybe $100 million to stop the repeal. They will argue that it’s “anti-housing.” They will lie about the impacts. They will find the likes of Wiener, Atkins, and Wicks to front their campaign.

It didn’t work at the Board of Supes: Dorsey and Sup. Joel Engardio voted No. Sup. Catherine Stefani missed the meeting. The rest voted Yes—which means that Breed can’t veto the resolution, and the city is on record supporting the proposition.

More important, Breed is not on record supporting it. Two other candidates for mayor, Sups. Aaron Peskin (a co-sponsor) and Ahsha Safai, are on record in favor. The other candidates are not.

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Tim Redmond
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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