Editor’s note: This is a regular series of conversations with District 9 Supervisor David Campos addressing issues and events in the Mission. If you have questions for Campos, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission Local: Realtors are suggesting that the expedited condo conversion proposal — specifically the moratorium on the lottery for condo conversions — approved this past summer has now made “tenants in common” as valuable as condos and that is pushing owners of multi-unit buildings to use the Ellis Act to evict tenants in the building and then sell it. Can you share your thoughts on that?
David Campos: It’s something that we have heard and it’s something that I certainly have questions about. The report that we commissioned on the displacement didn’t really get into why the displacement is happening. And issues around [tenants in common] for some people are part of the reason. And so I think it’s something that should be explored, I just don’t know enough to know why all of this is happening. I think it’s connected to a lot of different things.
ML: The city seems to have incredible delays in putting up new housing — the audit on affordable housing published in 2012 shows the city way behind. The Association of Bay Area Governments asked the city to create 5,639 units for moderate-income households (earning between 80 and 120 percent of the average median income), and the city created just 725. From 2007 to 2010, the Association of Bay Area Governments mandated that San Francisco develop 7,400 affordable housing units, but the city built only 4,500. What has changed to expedite affordable housing and would you support getting rid of the developer’s option to pay a fee or to build affordable housing elsewhere? This would mean that affordable housing — at least some — would be created in any new building with more than 10 units.
DC: I think that as a general rule, we should prioritize building affordable housing on site and not paying an in-lieu fee. I think that building the housing on site for every project is the priority — should be the priority. Legally, it’s not clear if we can do that — if we can just require it. There are legal issues around that. But I think that as a matter of policy, we should ask that in every project, that the affordable housing is included on-site where the project is being built. And I agree that we’re not meeting our objectives under [the Association of Bay Area Governments]. And I think that we need to create not just more housing, but more housing that’s affordable for middle-income and low-income folks.
ML: What’s going on with the liquor license moratorium — where does it stand?
DC: There was a special-use district that was modified, that instituted some changes to the moratorium. The changes include allowing licenses to transfer from within the district, and it kept a lot of the moratorium in place, but it allows at least for licenses to be transferred from within the geographic area of the district. It also makes it easier for these businesses to become more ADA-compliant and to expand if they want to. So there were some modifications that were passed.
ML: In the situation with the eviction of René Yañez, have you stepped in to help him find a new home?
DC: We have worked with him, we have tried to work with the San Francisco Apartment Association to see if they can — they represent a lot of these landlords — to see if they can help find a place for him. So we have tried to do what we can. Nothing so far that I know has materialized. And that’s the challenge that we have — there isn’t a lot of affordable housing that’s available for these folks. And that’s one of the reasons why we are proposing to increase relocation costs when someone is evicted through the Ellis Act because right now, the relocation that’s paid is really not sufficient to allow that person to find something that’s affordable in the city.
ML: And on that same topic, how do you choose who you help in terms of evictions?
DC: Anyone who seeks help, anyone that we hear about, we try to help. And that includes not only residents, but also businesses. So you know, we try to help as much as we can. And we get calls not only from within the district but lately a lot of calls from outside the district. And we try to connect people with different folks who might be helpful.
ML: Can you talk about the legislation you are planning on introducing to combat Ellis Act evictions?
DC: We have a two-prong strategy. We have a strategy in Sacramento where we’re trying to work with Assemblymember Ammiano — and now we know that the mayor is also interested in working — in allowing jurisdictions like San Francisco to have their own modifications through the Ellis Act so that they can address issues that are happening in their own jurisdiction. So that’s one strategy.
And then the second prong is the local strategy, where we are trying to see what we can do locally. And at the local level, we have three main proposals. The first proposal, we introduced legislation to protect tenants from harassment. Right now, if there is an allegation of harassment against the tenant, the only option that the tenant has is to file litigation — to file a legal case against the landlord. And what we have done is introduce this legislation that creates a course of action so that they can bring the issue to the rent board.
The second piece of legislation is legislation that would increase the relocation cost for people who face Ellis Act evictions. And the idea is to make sure that if someone is evicted through the Ellis Act that they have enough money to be able to find something in San Francisco.
And then the third piece of legislation at the local level is to regulate buyouts because what we know is that for every Ellis Act eviction that is recorded, we know that there are probably two to three [more] reported to the city. That’s where the landlord and the tenant have an informal agreement where the tenant moves out, and there is no regulation of buyouts right now. And so I believe that in order to deal with the displacement, that it’s not enough to simply focus on the Ellis Act evictions, that we also have to focus on the buyouts.
ML: Can you describe the city’s long-term plan to deal with its LGBT homeless population? Is this a high priority for the city right now?
DC: It’s a high priority for me, and I do think it’s a priority for the city. We’re doing a number of things. One of the things that we heard from the LGBT homeless community is that they don’t feel safe in the shelter system. So we have been working to open a LGBT-friendly homeless shelter. We’re trying to increase also the cultural competency of staff at the existing shelters so that they know how to interact with the LGBT community and make sure that LGBT homeless people feel safe.
We’re also trying to increase the number of shelter beds that are available because we know that the homeless population is growing and that we don’t have enough beds. But giving them housing is just part of the solution — there have to be services that come with that, including substance abuse services [and] mental health — so we have to increase the availability of those programs.
ML: Why don’t you update your newsletter more frequently?
DC: You know, we try to do it as frequently as we can. It’s been really busy and crazy with everything that’s been happening in the office and so the relocation/affordability crisis has taken up a lot of time, but we try to do it every month.
ML: Last question — with Thanksgiving around the corner, pumpkin or apple pie?