SF Board of Supervisors approves new tenant protections

Housing affordability has become the top issue in San Francisco, as today's meeting reinforced.
Rebecca Bowe

The Board of Supervisors today (Tues/17) gave unanimous final approval to legislation aimed at giving renters in the city additional protections against being displaced by real estate speculators, and initial approval to legislation protecting tenants from harassment by landlords, both part of a wave of reforms moving through City Hall to address rising populist concerns about gentrification and evictions.

The anti-eviction legislation, created by Sup. John Avalos and co-sponsored by Sups. Eric Mar and David Campos, seeks to preserve rent-controlled and affordable housing by restricting property-owners' abilities to demolish, merge, and convert housing units, three of the most common ways that affordable housing units are being eliminated in the city.

There was no discussion of the Avalos legislation today as it was approved on second reading, belying last week’s initial discussion, which got a little heated at times. “San Francisco is facing a crisis,” Avalos said last week as he conveyed the importance of passing the ordinance before the end of the year. “We've been called on by our constituents to declare a state of emergency for renters in the city.”

Last month, Campos held a high-profile hearing at the board on the city’s affordable housing and eviction crisis, and won approval for his legislation to double how much tenants being evicted under the Ellis Act receive. Today’s board meeting also includes a first reading of legislation by Campos to help protect tenants in rent-controlled apartments from being harassed by landlords seeking to force them out and increasing rents.

"We have heard about tenants being locked out of their apartments. We have heard about loud construction work being done...for the purpose of forcing the tenants out," Campos said today of his legislation to allow targetted tenants to have complaints heard by the Rent Board rather than having to file a lawsuit. Later, Campos said the legislation sends the message "that is not something that is going to be tolerated in San Francisco."

Campos' legislation also received unanimous approval and little discussion, even by supervisors who generally side with landlords over tenants, perhaps including just more potent this issue has become. Board President David Chiu also today introduced a resolution to support his work with Mayor Ed Lee and Sen. Mark Leno to amend the Ellis Act at the state level, hoping to give the city more control over its rent-controlled housing. 

Avalos last week said he is so convinced of the urgency of the current situation that he responded to concerns voiced during the Land Use and Economic Development Committee Meeting on Dec. 9 about how the new legislation would work in the cases of temporary evictions and residential hotels by immediately making amendments to the ordinance without objection.

Nonetheless, further questions arose during the Dec. 10 meeting. Sups. Norman Yee and Katy Tang expressed reservations about the legislation applying in the case of owner move-in (OMI) evictions.

“I would love to support the piece, but this part just doesn't make sense to me,” Yee concluded. “I'm not getting how it hurts the tenants.”

While Avalos explained that OMI evictions still take affordable housing off the market, he agreed to compromise by reducing the ordinance's 10-year moratorium on demolishing, merging and converting housing units to five years.

Then, Sup. London Breed spoke up.

“This might not be popular for me to say as a legislator, but I'm very confused,” she began. “I know we have this crisis of Ellis Acts around the city, but I really feel pressured, and that this legislation is being rushed. I can't support something that I don't completely understand the impacts of. I just need more time.”

While Breed did not have the chance to review the legislation before the meeting, she had found the time to prepare speeches about President Nelson Mandela's passing last week and her alma mater Galileo High School's recent football victory.

Concurring with Breed, Cohen stated, “I understand that we are in a crisis of protecting our rental stock units, but I'm hesitant. Connect the dots for me, how does this save rentals? Or conserve affordable housing? What are we trying to do here?”

Kim reprimanded her fellow board members for not attending the meeting prepared, then stated, “I would support moving the ordinance forward today. The situation we are facing here in the city is extremely challenging...and this legislation is one of the tools we have for it.”

Sup. Scott Wiener and David Chiu echoed Kim's support, commending Avalos for promptly addressing their former issues with his amendments and additions.

When Cohen used her time on the floor to respond to Kim's admonition by stating, “I certainly do my homework. I don't want to be made to feel bad for not getting it on the first time,” Campos suggested that it might be a good time to put the discussion on hold and open the floor for public comments.

While members of the community stepped up to the visitors’ podium, Yee and Campos met at the back of the room while Breed conversed with Sophie Hayward of the Planning Department, who had reviewed the ordinance before it was presented for recommendations. After further discussion with Avalos himself, Yee returned to his seat to speak with Tang. Satisfied with what she learned from Hayward, Breed came over to discuss the ordinance with Campos and Avalos. Cohen remained seated for the duration of the time, speaking with no one.

After the conclusion of public comments, Avalos reiterated the importance of passing the ordinance as soon as possible. “We have been called on by scores, hundreds of people, to preserve this stock,” he stated. “This legislation will help keep families in San Francisco.”

The ordinance was passed unanimously in its first reading, but the fight is not over. Breed for one made it clear that, while she understood the ordinance better after her preceding discussions, she was only giving it her support because she knew the legislation would be up for further review in a week, when all the supervisors will have had time to study it more closely.

With the affordable housing and displacement issues only generating more heat in the last week, today there was only prompt, unanimous approval and no discussion. 


The most invasive measure is the prohibition on granting DBI permits. However, most Ellis Act evictions do not merge or demolish units anyway. They simply then sell the units "as is", or remodeled, to an owner occupier.

And in fact merges and demolitions are quite hard to get permits for anyway.

The other measures are even weaker. Giving Elli'sed tenants the first rights on BMR housing won't stop a single eviction and, indeed rewards the evictees. The losers there are the families who now will not get those BMR units.

And the ability to legalize in-laws will not provide any more rental units, nor will it prevent any evictions that are not already difficult to pull off anyway.

Finally, many landlords will continue to just pay tenants off to move, and there really isn't anything the Supes can do about that. Nor will this affect any LL's ability to Ellis.

A whole lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

God forbid they accomplish anything meaningful with their various schemes - then the 1% might actually be in real trouble - LOL.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

When do the Ellis Act payments double? I want more money.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

I believe there would need to be some discussion with Sacramento with that. Likewise they would need to take legal advice. The problem is clear - if the relo expenses appear punitive, then the increase may be bounced on the grounds that a municipality is trying to interfere with the right of a LL to exit the business as prescribed by State law.

There's a more practical problem too. If I am going to Ellis you, I have a budget for that. the more i have to pay you in relo, the less I have for any discretionary payments that Ellis evictees typically get. And the more probable that I will push for you to pay the rent due for the duration of the eviction, which tenants typically do not have to pay.

The city is dancing around the Ellis Act because they know there are strict limits to what they can do to stop them. In fact, they have probably already done everything they can.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

Don't they understand that doing something, no matter how useless, is more important than actually tackling the issue from all angles?

Who do these uppity hussies think they are?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

"Don't just sit there - do something!"

I see nothing in this that will deter a single property owner from Ellis'ing a building if he was planning on it before. Indeed, it might accelerate such Ellis evictions if there is any fear that the discussions with Sacramento might yield some changes in State law.

Especially now the condo conversion is off the table now, I can see little reason why a landlord does not proceed immediately to Ellis unless he is lucky or devious enough to have had turnover and enjoys market rents.

The law of unintended consequences applies, as it always does.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 11:54 am

Jason Grant Garza here ... so KIM per the article ... Kim reprimanded her fellow board members for not attending the meeting prepared, then stated, “I would support moving the ordinance forward today. The situation we are facing here in the city is extremely challenging...and this legislation is one of the tools we have for it.”

Wow, what GALL ... when she had her big to do HEARING thing over bad police investigations ... what did I get in trying to bring forward MUCH needed evidence ... you know ... non refutable (videos) and I got WHAT ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xtqja9Up02A and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DogpfAUdBg4 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7GI9YAElnk and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6Vw1f9OMLU and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K37J2PCKDA . Mind you it is NOW December 18, 2013 and still NOT a PEEP from KIM'S office.

Go to youtube ... type in Jason Garza to see over 250 videos of meaningless TRIPE given to me by Officials verses results (none, nada, zip) as planned and carried out ... What you don't want another DEADEND referral, Sorry that all we can do, We really care and now another great one ... LGBT "SAFE ZONE" at SFPD where the gimmick is the propaganda of TREATMENT with respect, honesty and compassion... again, more meaningless words ... watch the videos as I continue to document and record the FARCE and INHUMANITY.

So again it is December 18, 2013 and I wonder if this reprimand will have ANY effect on KIM or her office to call me for proper process ... shall we bet?

Let us see WHAT I get the at the SFPD over the LGBT "SAFE ZONE" ... watch the videos and ask yourself ... have I gotten the respect, honesty and compassion as
the propaganda states ...watch the videos.


Again ... meaningless words producing NO HELP or REAL results ... only to keep the ILLUSION going. Keep Drinking the KOOL-AID.

Posted by Jason Grant Garza on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:42 am

I may destitution some help with this for the sake of my work.
My website is [url=http://www.miright.com/]miright.com[/url] and I may poverty design like on your site.

Posted by thomaslobar on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 7:18 am

this is about one thing - punishing property owners. how do conversions where there was an OMI four years ago, help keep the unit for "affordable housing"? Most apartments which go on the market now, are not, using any basis.
this was rammed through so property owners did not have time to even know it was on the table.
As far as fair rules for affordable housing - why doesn't anyone support "means testing", making sure the tenants getting super long term deals on their apartments cannot afford market rates. If the city wanted fairness, they would require annual 1040's submitted by tenants to show the tenant makes under a given annual amount and he or she does not commute - since rent control supposedly was for people who work in the city, not elsewhere.

Posted by ray on Dec. 27, 2013 @ 4:09 pm

Landlords have the right to do as they please with their property. Ellis Act evictions support the rule of law. Tenants aren't being penalized in any way. They are free to live anywhere else they can afford to live. There is no such thing as an unrestricted right to live on someone else's private property. Progressive activists sound like conservatives by mindlessly opposing the good things gentrification does for San Francisco: http://alfidicapitalblog.blogspot.com/2013/11/san-franciscos-anti-progre...

Posted by Anthony Alfidi on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

Looks good, just adjust the paragraph a little.

Posted by angeljackets.de on Dec. 29, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

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