As the exodus of families from San Francisco continues, policy makers are looking to eviction laws to keep families in the city and Supervisor Eric Mar has proposed legislation to include them as a protected class under owner move-in evictions.
Opponents argue that the number of families affected by owner move-in evictions is not enough to warrant them as a protected class.
“We’re talking about a very small group of people,” said Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment Association. “The more restrictions you see put on private housing the harder it is for tenants to find housing situations that are pleasing to them.”
Notably, eviction rates have fallen dramatically since Proposition G was passed in 1998, which mandated protections from owner move-in evictions for senior, catastrophically ill, and disabled tenants.
At the time the measure was approved, 1,410 owner move-in eviction notices were logged with the Rent Board. By 2002, notices were down to 594; and in 2008, 143 were filed.
Nonetheless, tenant advocates believe families too should be protected.
“We believe there are many more families,” said Cassandra Costello, Supervisor Mar’s aide.
And so do tenant rights organizations.
The San Francisco Tenants Union, the St. Peter’s Housing Committee, and the Housing Rights Committee filed a total of 90 owner move-in evictions in the first six months of 2009, 29 percent of which were in households with children.
“The official statistics are sort of the tip of the iceberg,” said Ted Gullicksen, director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, noting that eviction threats from landlords outnumber formal notices two to one.
The Legislative Analyst report calculates a high range estimate of more than 45 families evicted between March 2008 and February 2009.
But no tracking system currently exists to know for certain how many families are displaced. As it stands, owners don’t have to report whether children are involved in an eviction.
Gullicksen maintains the problem is particularly grave in the Mission District, where the highest number of owner move-in eviction notices has occurred each year since 1994.
“There’s a fair number of tenants in the Mission who have long-term tenancies paying lower rent who are often the targets of these kinds of evictions,” he said.
New and others argued that the unintended consequences of a new measure could create bigger problems than the issue of families facing owner-move in evictions. Assuming a family owned a four- or two-unit building, they’re going to be less willing to rent to a family with children under the age of 18 if they’re a protected class, explained New.
Bill Quan with the San Francisco Association of Realtors added that evictions are not the reason families leave the city. In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, he highlighted homelessness, safety issues, and a lack of housing affordability as the main factors.
Whether the new legislation will pass is yet to be seen. Supporters believe it has a good chance.
“The question is always whether the mayor will veto it,” said Gullicksen, as Mayor Gavin Newsom has vetoed all initiatives proposed in the last year.
So far, the measure has six supporters — two short of the eight needed to override a mayoral veto. Currently, the legislation is sitting with the Land Use and Economic Development Committee pending some language changes by the city attorney.
The second hearing is expected to take place by the end of November.