By SHALWAH EVANS
The Board of Supervisors put aside the budget Tuesday to pass four ordinances that protect tenants from huge rent increases and expand the definition of affordable rent.
But it was largely a symbolic gesture as the 6 to 4 vote was two votes short to override the mayor’s promised veto. Sophie Maxwell was excused because she is also a landlord. Supervisors Carmen Chu, Sean Elsbernd, Bevan Dufty, and Michela Alioto-Pier voted no.
“Most San Franciscans are renters. We know that families are struggling,” said District 6 supervisor Chris Daly, who was in favor of the package. “If and when the mayor says no, what else is he going to say no to?”
The first ordinance would amend housing code section 503(d), extending affordable housing to any persons sharing housing by deleting the word “families” from the language. This means roommates who fall into other affordable housing criteria would get the same benefits as a family. A second ordinance prevents a landlord from applying rent increases if tenants add roommates unless the landlord can prove that the costs have increased.
Landlords would also be unable to bank increases so that no one hike could be more than eight percent of the tenant’s base rent that year.
And finally, a rent increase would be disallowed if it cause a tenant’s rent to exceed 33 percent of the tenant’s gross income.
Some 80 percent of Mission District residents are renters—the highest in the city where 65 percent of the residents rent.
“This is a time when tenant protections are needed the most because of where the economy is,” said District 9 supervisor David Campos.
The meeting heated up when an item concerning a $388 million general obligation bond for streetscaping and road repair came to the table.
The resolution adopted concerned using borrowed money in the form of a bond that would be paid off through property taxes, as opposed to money from the General Fund to repair sidewalks and street structures and to do road resurfacing and curb ramps.
“I’ve had the fiscal gun pointed to my head many times—‘if you don’t say yes it’s never going to happen’—I’m not going to accept it this time,” said District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who was most passionate about rejecting the resolution. “It’s just not acceptable to say this is the only way we can do this.”
Carmen Chu, District 4 Supervisor, who joked that she and Elsbernd are hardly ever on opposite sides of a bill, expressed concern for failure to pass the bill. She said that if they did not include some sort of resurfacing of San Francisco streets it would cost more in the long term, according to the Department of Public Works.
Supervisor Daly was visibly upset with his colleague District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who originally co-sponsored the bill but decided to vote against it because it excluded the expensive process of putting utilities such as electricity underground. Supervisor Chu said that while doing so would be a beneficial step—it’s better to put utilities underground while streets are already being fixed—the city has about 400 miles of such work to complete–too many to accomplish with the available funds.
Representatives from the mayor’s office implored the supes to support the bill, saying the issue was about providing 2,600 jobs. Supervisors Alioto-Pier and Elsbernd remained the only opposition in the 9 to 2 vote.