San Francisco Evictions Up Sharply

Chart by Dorothy Atkins

Chart by Dorothy Atkins

En Español.

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While the eviction cases of artist René Yañez  and the Lee family have underscored the pressures on San Francisco tenants, the numbers show that their stories have become increasingly common.

Trying to stay in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco is simply becoming more difficult and with real estate prices booming, that’s unlikely to change. Landlords have several legal means to evict tenants with deals and many are putting the measures to use.

Between March 1, 2012 and Feb. 28, 2013, the number of eviction notices filed with the San Francisco Rent Board jumped 26 percent compared to the previous year, according to the board’s annual eviction report.

The largest increase was in the number of landlords invoking the state’s Ellis Act — a piece of 1986 legislation that allows building owners to evict tenants as long as they evict all of the tenants in a building and as long as they keep the apartments off the market for five years. This year, the number of Ellis Act evictions increased 81 percent from 64 households evicted to 116, the report shows.

More building owners are also giving people the boot because they want to move into their units. There were 185 households affected by so-called owner move-in evictions this year, or about a 46 percent increase compared to the 127 households evicted in the previous year.

Since 2011, about 8.7 percent of owner move-in and Ellis Act evictions were in the Mission District.

The number of tenants forcing out roommates is also on the rise with roommate evictions increasing 58 percent to 41 affected tenants this year, compared to 26 last year.

Meanwhile, there was only about a 17 percent drop in cases where tenants were evicted because they breached their rental agreement.

As more families are being evicted, more people are becoming aware of the trend.

This week the arts community has rallied around the Yañez family and a protest is planned for October 12. Last week the news was filled with the case of Gum Gee Lee, 74, and her husband, Poon Heung Lee, 80, who called their rent-controlled unit home for 34 years. The Lees fought being evicted under the Ellis Act, but so far have only been able to get a 10-day reprieve.

The couple organized a protest that drew the city’s largest media outlets and more than 100 housing activists. Yañez is in the process of fighting his eviction, but tenant advocates said there are few legal means to fight an Ellis Act eviction. After they have been served with an eviction notice, elderly and disabled tenants have one year to move out.

The New Yorker published a post on the general mood of helplessness at the San Francisco Rent Board, which fields questions from upset tenants facing eviction.

The recent media attention was enough to move Mayor Ed Lee to triple the amount of funding for eviction prevention services and release $700,000 from the city’s Housing Trust Fund on Monday to provide more counseling services to those facing evictions.

Click here to see a larger version of the Ellis Act map. To see a larger version of the owner move-in map click here.

14 Comments

  1. Bob

    I do sympathize with the Yanez family. However, to have a community rally to fight for them to keep $450 rent on TWO apartments seems really ridiculous. Fairness for landlords as well as for tenants, please.

  2. D. Reed

    San Francisco should implement a system of incentives and rewards for landlords who provide housing to long-term residents. For example: property tax credits for owners with protected tenants, or a housing voucher system that balances the financial responsibility between the housing provider and the city.

    • Edris

      Absolutely! A useful commnet!

    • sjg

      I agree. There must be some sort of middle ground that can be reached where tenants can maintain their apartment and property owners can not completely bear the brunt of the low rents. I don’t see how tech companies and their minions get tax breaks no one else receives and the city can not manage to come up with some sort of plan that doesn’t involve free blow jobs to Twitter

  3. Neighbor

    According to the 2010 census, there are 222,165 renter-occupied housing units, so even with this increase in evictions, they remain incredibly rare.

  4. BellaDancer

    I understand the concern for people who are no longer able to stay where they have been for a long time. If San Francisco taxpayers really believe that low income residents should have financial support to live in SF, they should VOTE to spend their tax dollars in this way. What is not working is people telling OTHER people to support low income residents.
    By demonizing rental property owners, 80% of whom own fewer than 10 units and are “mom and pops” rather than big corporate speculators, well meaning but ill-informed people are effectively saying that the mom & pop grocery on the corner should charge some people less than market rate — sometimes less than their cost — for a quart of milk and a loaf of bread.
    The very high vacancy rate in San Francisco, clearly demonstrated after the 2010 census, is in no small measure due to the fact that rent control has a rebound effect, moving owners to just take their rental units out of circulation rather than cope with the country’s most extreme rent control laws.
    The economics are clear. New York and Berkeley both dramatically scaled back rent control because it does not work.
    The Ellis Act is State law. SF cannot eliminate it.
    Progressive leaders like Rafael Mandelman need to LEAD by telling people the politically uncomfortable truth.

    I understand the concern for people who are no longer able to stay where they have been for a long time. If San Francisco taxpayers really believe that low income residents should have financial support to live in SF, they should VOTE to spend their tax dollars in this way. What is not working is people telling OTHER people to support low income residents.
    By demonizing rental property owners, 80% of whom own fewer than 10 units and are “mom and pops” rather than big corporate speculators, well meaning but ill-informed people are effectively saying that the mom & pop grocery on the corner should charge some people less than market rate — sometimes less than their cost — for a quart of milk and a loaf of bread.
    The very high vacancy rate in San Francisco, clearly demonstrated after the 2010 census, is in no small measure due to the fact that rent control has a rebound effect, moving owners to just take their rental units out of circulation rather than cope with the country’s most extreme rent control laws.
    The economics are clear. New York and Berkeley both dramatically scaled back rent control because it does not work.
    The Ellis Act is State law. SF cannot eliminate it.
    Progressive leaders like Rafael Mandelman need to LEAD by telling people the politically uncomfortable truth.
    http://blog.sfgate.com/ontheblock/2011/03/30/why-so-many-vacant-homes-in-san-francisco/

    • George Moscone

      Gee, the poor landlords, they can’t seem to eke out a living in San Francisco with all these restrictive laws. What planet are you living on? The bottom line is that anybody who forces another person on to the street because they can’t afford the rent (or can’t afford to buy the place) is a scumbag. Laws protecting tenants used to be even stronger and there was a good reason for that. The reason is, there is more to life than the “free market.” People actually give a crap about their neighbors sometimes.

      • ray

        wrong: laws are more pro-tenant now than they have ever been. and, employers put employees out on the street sometimes, grocery stores raise prices and make it more expensive to eat, and just because someone was here first, should not give them an inalienable right to low rent while their salaries go up, or they work outside the city, or they have property and investments which make them far from poor. greedy tenants who want a deal rhetoric, don’t make it right.

  5. hip ster

    It is a sad state of affairs that such a beautiful city has made life difficult for the long term residents, but this has been evident for some time in san francisco. think of the individuals who were relocated from the fillmore in the 60-70′s with the promise of housing but could never return because the market had changed so dramatically. People of color are disappearing from the city.
    However, the reality is that the only individuals who can afford to buy in san francisco are those economically stable. even with set-aside properties in each multi unit buildings, it’s virtually impossible for lower income people to afford to stay in them or buy a unit.
    This is not the fault of greedy landlords as protrayed here. people buying into the city want to live in the city. plain and simple. it’s not an investor city unless they can flip the property. the laws of the city make it impossible. we are to fault someone for wanting to live in their own property? it would be interesting to know how many of the units mapped on these pages are multi-unit properties as opposed to single family units. i think it would paint a different picture.
    I am all about preserving the diversitiy of the city. to a certain degree, rent control and other set aside requirements provide that option. There is no right answer.

  6. RabbitMan

    Like it or not, money dictates where you can live. It’s the world we live in…

Comments are closed.