Tenant battle brewing

Housing activists and local politicians push parallel reform agendas



Benito Santiago, 63, was born and raised in San Francisco. But now that he's received an eviction notice from the apartment he's lived in since 1977, he isn't sure what the future holds.

"This is roots for me," Santiago told us. "I have more affinity for San Francisco than the Philippines," his family's place of origin.

He works part-time with disabled youth enrolled in San Francisco public schools. "The idea that I built a rapport with these students here ... to be put in a position where I wouldn't be able to work with them, I'm a little saddened and depressed by it," he said. "If I'm homeless, I can't be taking care of these kids. I mean — it's a worst-case scenario."

He's been exploring alternative housing options, and trying to stay positive. He says he's even trying to "change the rate of vibration" of the real estate speculators seeking to oust him as part of his pre-dawn meditation and ritualistic movement practice, a routine he developed to mitigate the chronic pain he dealt with after being hit by an automobile when he was crossing the street in 1980.

"Hopefully, they can have some compassion," he said.

Santiago is hoping to get a temporary extension to stave off his eviction, and he's been looking into publicly subsidized below-market rate apartments. But rent for even the most affordable of those places would eat up 75 percent of his monthly income, he said. Unless he can find an affordable arrangement somewhere, he might end up having to leave the city.



Santiago has been a part of a growing movement underway in San Francisco to reform the Ellis Act and introduce meaningful legislation at the local level to protect the city's renters.

In recent weeks, the San Francisco Anti Displacement Coalition, made up of a wide range of organizations including the San Francisco Tenants Union, has hosted a series of neighborhood tenant conventions to solicit ideas that will be boiled down at a citywide tenants' gathering scheduled for Feb. 8. At that meeting, organizers plan to hash out a strategy and possibly solicit ideas for a ballot initiative.

The tenant conventions are happening on a parallel track with efforts to reform the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to remove apartments from the rental market and evict tenants.

"Our goal is to ban the use of the Ellis Act in certain circumstances," explained Dean Preston of Tenants Together, a nonprofit focused on strengthening the rights of renters.

"More than half of Ellis Acts are performed by people who bought the properties within the past six months," he told us. "Their whole purpose is to buy it and kick everyone out. It was supposed to be for long-term landlords to get out of the business" of being landlords, he added. Instead, "it's being completely abused."

Sen. Mark Leno is working with Mayor Ed Lee on a response that would seek to lessen the impact the Ellis Act has had in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano is spearheading a separate effort.

"At this time, he's not really ready to say which avenue he's taking" in terms of a legislative strategy, said Carlos Alcalá, Ammiano's communications director. "Because that can rule out that avenue."

Preston said he's been through waves of evictions before, but the organizing now taking place has been especially effective at drawing attention to the issue. Oftentimes, "the speculators are not from within the city or even within the state," he pointed out. "That has fueled a lot of activism and courage."

For Santiago, the organizing has given him heart during a difficult time. "I'm hearing a lot of sad stories," he said, "and I am not alone."


Because it doesn't matter whether I Ellis myself or sell to someone else to do an Ellis.

The Ellis happens because the building is not fiscally viable and not because of the individual owner.

Why didn't you cite the rent that Benito has paid since 1977? Because it would be outrageously low and would not serve your argument at all.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

What are the specific reforms they are considering?

And what does that ridiculous statement from Ammiano's press secretary mean?

Remember when Ammiano got his tenant out of his in-law unit in 2005? A buyout wasn't it? Why didn't that get more attention?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 5:28 pm

And since Ellis specifically targets just a handful of cities like SF, then SF cannot ask for a special exemption from it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 8:17 am

I feel for Benito, but he was from somewhere else, like his parents - the Phil, btw, which is going through a bit of a renaissance as well.

And Ammiano got his tenant out too.

I'm just wondering how far the voters of California are going to let the left dictate everything. I'm sorry for Mr. Santiago but that is how it goes. As a tenant, you never know and SF is a very expensive city to live in these days. There's no free lunch in SF anymore.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

" There's no free lunch in SF anymore. "

BULLSHIT! What drugs are you on? The Tech Surveillance-State Industrial Complex is getting a free lunch every day from the city with their generous corporate welfare from the city.

The ubiquitous Gentrification and Eviction Shuttles also get a free lunch in SF from the city by using Muni bus stops. And I could go with a list of the corporate free lunches in SF.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2014 @ 1:18 am

corporation that pays a lot of tax now pays slightly less tax.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 9:17 am

The cave called, it wants it's bat shit back….

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 10:39 am

So funny coming from the biggest cheerleader for freeloaders in SF…. The RENT CONTROL freeloaders. Talk about not paying your fair share you serial cheapskates….

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 10:47 am

If you wan "ROOTS" you buy property. No one should be forced to rent to anyone for life ! That is just theft pure and simple ! Property rights are constitutional rights and there is no constitutional right to live on San Francisco. In spite of what greedy property hording " activists" ( who are just thieves in common theft) say.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 4:18 pm

Why does the Bay Guardian allow people to make stupid comments as "Guest" without signing their name? The East Bay Express doesn't allow unsigned comments to be posted, which seems a very sensible policy. Tell us who you are.

Posted by Michael Lyon on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 11:26 pm

Why does the Bay Guardian allow people to make stupid comments as "Guest" without signing their name? The East Bay Express doesn't allow unsigned comments to be posted, which seems a very sensible policy. Tell us who you are.

Posted by Michael Lyon on Jan. 24, 2014 @ 11:30 pm

because people can make up any fake name they want.

We have no way of knowing if Michael Lyon is your real name, so what is that worth?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 9:18 am

Yes, but a comment system designed for purposes other than driving page views would allow for people to filter out the trolls not because we don't want to hear your "good news," rather because we can't help but hearing your perspective in every corporate media outlet.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 9:38 am

do not like anyway. Even if registration was required, there would be nothing to stop someone registering dozens of handles and you would not be able to block them anyway.

SFBG is fine just as it is, encouraging free speech while allowing us to ignore anything we do not like.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 11:16 am

No, I have to weed through the muck to find the value. I want to ignore the crap and only see what I want to see because it should be my right to make that choice for myself without any consideration for what you want.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 11:22 am

And your value is crap to many.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

Exactly, so it is my right to control the use of my time by filtering out the crap so that I can only read what is important to me. Your insistence on forcing me to read your crap is abusive. Your interpretation of "freedom of speech" is that everyone must read your tripe.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

The problem seems to be more that you cannot resist reading everything. Most of us have developed skills in filtering comments but you appear to lack that skill.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

I've got to read your swill to know that it is swill. I'd rather use the magic of computers to send your swill to the bit bucket to save me the bother.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 6:06 pm

either every post of theirs is valuable or none of them are.

That is clearly not true. Most people here write some good posts, some bad posts and a bunch of indifferent ones. You have to read each one in order to determine which it is.

What you are really saying is that you focus more on the messenger than the message. That is, of course, a classic failing of many on the left. Fortunately, both SFBG and I do not want to see that being done here.

You reading some swill is the price you pay for free speech and a free press.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 6:23 pm

We really don't care. The noise to signal ratio is so high that if we put the squelch up too high and miss some value, the net increase will be worth it.

Thanks for your concern and thanks for playing.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 6:45 pm

If you couldn't see my posts, you'd have nothing to do all day long.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

focus on marcos by stalking him and replying to almost all his posts (even about brunch).


Marke B: When will the promised changes take effect?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 6:45 pm

so he's the real hypocrite here.

SFBG have promised no changed - only an enduring commitment to free speech, which I support, as does anyone who hates censorship and values the free and fluid expression of ideas and thoughts.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

Your internet stalking of me runs the range from vomit through diarrhea plumb onto urine as fluid expression of ideas and thoughts.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 7:32 pm

more than others are, then that is because you are issuing more garbage than others here. The simplest way to avoid being slapped down and refuted is to improve the quality of your posts.

I am equal opportunity refuter and if the time ever comes when someone else here posts as stupidly as you do, they will get the same treatment.

My only commitment is to the truth.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 7:42 pm
Posted by marcos on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 8:02 pm

If you cannot express your point with words, then your point will not be made.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 27, 2014 @ 6:54 am

You go out of your way to bring marcos into your commentary. marcos, the white tech gentrifier; marcos, blah blah blah. You even spread your obsession with him to other websites.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

If one particular poster feels my wrath more, that is because he spouts forth more.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 27, 2014 @ 6:55 am

Wrath of a swarm of gnats.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 27, 2014 @ 7:08 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 27, 2014 @ 8:03 am

sometime around August 2013.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 7:25 pm

Just a vague statement of intent to look into it, which was mostly said just to placate the most egregious whiners here.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 7:30 pm

Most modern comment systems show a history of a person's posting, including when they registered. Whenever we read a controversial post by someone who only has a few posts in their history, it's a huge red flag the account was recently opened or is rarely used. It's almost always a clear sign of a troll that we can ignore in the future.

Because it's the trolls who seem most against a registering system on SFBG I'm assuming they realize their hateful, trollish posts will lose a lot of impact if people can either read their post history to get a good overview of their hatefulness, or can see it's a rarely used registration name that is used by someone for malicious trolling.

Speaking of registration systems, I like the one at Daily Kos. Is there any way to license it from them since the SFBG covers different topics than DK so it's not a threat to their business model? Even the hated Viaflora system used by sfgate seems to have quieted down many of the previous trollers (and obsessive posters), which makes reading their comment section better, even if you can't currently "ignore" the more obsessive and facile posters.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 11:36 am

which are new and some of which were older. You could vary though them making it hard to know whether someone really was new or old.

Believe me, every system has it's flaws, and it's mostly a myth that you can micro manage and censor content.

Also note that a switch to a different comment system usually means losing all history - a serious deterrent to switching system

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

It would be trivial to discover and share troll user names so that they could be blocked by a registered user and a registered user could block accounts that have not been registered for a length of time and used productively unless white listed.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

That is impossible to enforce, as there is effectively no practical limit to either the number of email addresses I can have nor to the number of different IP addresses I can use.

I have never encountered a comment management system that cannot be finessed by a reasonably tech-savvy and sufficiently determined user.

Another idea would be for you to lighten up and open yourself to a broader set of opinions. Listening to the same echo chamber all the time can deprive you of valuable learning opportunities.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 2:53 pm

Not many people will go to the trouble of opening multiple accounts just so they can harass other commenters. Even if they do, we can just as easily ignore the new names as well. The trolls invariably fall back on their favorite truisms - "tenants are lazy" or "the poor can be cured if they worked harder" or "the rich are more prosecuted than the poor." We've heard it 100 times before. Most of us enjoy reading other opinions, but no one likes to be bombarded by half-wits.

A community functions best when people are comfortable. The ability to stop listening to someone is just as important as the right to speak in a public forum.

My guess - Anon - is that your days here are numbered after a registration system happens because no one enjoys your childish rants or mal-formed opinions. You'll be the first with 30 "ignores" a day after typing your first snarkism.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

certain strings of words, as in your examples, then you can do that now, and have no need of censorship tools. In fact, that is what I do.

Sorry, but SFBG have gotten this right. Free speech is more important than the fact that a few narrow-minded people want to suppress opinions that they do not agree with.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 5:10 pm
Posted by guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 5:50 pm

control and censor free speech. The left really cannot function without a strict command and control structure. We've seen that in every communist nation, which invariably had to exert massive censorship to maintain it's power.

He's also angry because he is routinely outsmarted here.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 7:24 pm

So Rodrigo must join the rest of SF that pays 75% of their income to rent - and he gets to stay here? Why am I supposed to feel sorry for him?
Surely there is a better sob story than his?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 27, 2014 @ 7:18 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 27, 2014 @ 8:04 am

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