The anti-eviction anxiety and rhetoric playing out on the streets is moving to City Hall as Supervisor David Chiu plans to introduce a new tenant protection law during today’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Chiu declined to provide details until the law is introduced, but his would be the sixth tenant protection law introduced by city supervisors recently. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors has adopted three tenant protection laws, including one that would give priority for public housing to those who’ve been evicted under the Ellis Act. Two other proposals are working their way through the legislative process.
“The current laws are not keeping people at their homes,” said Tyle Macmillan of the Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC), a coalition of nonprofits.
Many of the ideas being proposed are coming from activists and residents who have been meeting at conventions throughout the city. A city-wide convention held on Saturday at the Tenderloin Community School was a standing-room-only affair. Some 400 activists, politicians and tenants from throughout San Francisco chanted anti-eviction slogans and proposed laws aimed at slowing down evictions.
“Whose city?” chanted Maria Zamudio, an organizer with Just Cause, a nonprofit that helps tenants fight evictions. “Our city,” responded the crowd in unison.
“Vote them out!” one man yelled in the background as the crowd laughed.
The meeting was a culmination of four conventions held throughout the city designed to come up with ways to stop evictions in San Francisco, which are on the rise in the city. Ellis Act Evictions, a law that allows landlords to evict tenants to get out of the rental market, have increased by 170 percent from 2010 to 2013, according to a report by the city’s budget analyst.
Neighbors have proposed everything from an eviction moratorium to taxing people who work outside of San Francisco.
“We have momentum,” said Macmillan of the EDC. “Some of the ideas are pretty radical, but even if they lose at the ballot at least it will be part of the conversation.”
Their apparent success is also playing out down the street at City Hall as local politicians seeking higher office have adopted some of the ideas. Six of the 11 Board of Supervisors were at the meeting, including Supervisors David Campos, Malia Cohen, John Avalos, Eric Mar, Jane Kim and David Chiu.
Last week, Campos, who is running for State Assembly, introduced a law that would force landlords who enact the Ellis Act to pay higher relocation costs to tenants. Under the proposal, landlords would be forced to pay the evicted tenants the difference between their current rent and a comparable apartment for two years. The hope is that it will persuade landlords that eviction is simply not worth it.
His rival in the city-wide election, Supervisor David Chiu, introduced legislation that would legalize some of the estimated 30,000 illegal in-law apartments — a move that would grant those residents protection under the city’s rent laws. He plans to introduce another tenant protection law on Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Blanca Reyes, who is facing the threat of eviction from her rent-controlled apartment on 25th and Florida streets, welcomes the politician’s attention.
“They offered me $25,000. I haven’t accepted their offer,” she told the crowd. “It is my neighborhood and I don’t have to leave.”
At the meeting people were asked to rank seven policy proposals, ranging from a moratorium on evictions to imposing a tax on expensive rentals. The ranking is just to see which policy they prioritize because it’s possible that they could pursue all seven ideas, Macmillan said.
Back at the school gymnasium, Zamudio was encouraging the crowd when one of the banners fell and hit her from behind.
“Evictions, man,” she said, “they hit everyone.”
Now that the convention is over, organizers plan to march on 24th Street on February 26.
Below are some of the proposals being considered.
“Anti-speculation tax.” Impose windfall profits tax on speculators who buy and sell off housing without keeping the building for at least six years. The rate would decrease each year of ownership starting at 50 percent of the gain, with the quicker the “flip” the higher the tax.
“Eviction moratorium.” One-year pause on certain no-fault evictions including owner move-in evictions for long-term tenants with more than 10 years of tenancy. Pause also on demolition and capital improvement evictions except for code compliance or safety upgrades. The moratorium would not apply to the Ellis Act evictions. Other exceptions would apply.
“Department of rent-control enforcement and compliance.” Create a new city office charged with assuring that policies comply with laws protecting tenants, monitoring enforcement and supporting research on rental housing.
“Upgrade relocation assistance.” Increase relocation for no-fault evictions (aside from Ellis Act evictions) to pay the difference between displaced tenants’ existing rents and market-rate rents for not less than two years. Proposal would follow now-pending Ellis Act relocation assistance legislation.
“Excessive rents tax.” Create a tax on rents on new rental agreements if rents exceed affordability levels set by the city. The tax would increase with higher rent level up to some level less than 100%.
“Housing balance requirement.” Restrict or condition city approval of new market-rate housing based upon meeting affordable housing goals and replace housing lost because of Ellis Act Evictions and demolitions. Policy would create incentives to build new affordable housing and preserve rent-controlled housing.
“Legalize illegal units.” Improve process to convert illegal rental units into legal rent-controlled housing. Restrict “removal of unit” evictions where units can be legalized. Waive non-essential zoning and code requirements not related to safety.