We first ran this series — The Housing Crisis of 1978 in Seven Clips — in 2010. We will also be looking at the next jump in housing prices that occurred in the late 1990s. This introduction tells you what is in each clip. Feel free to skip around through the clips, which are all in the related links.  See all seven clips here.

Imagine rents going up three, four, even seven times in a single year!

This was the case for many Mission and San Francisco residents in 1978, the year before the Board of Supervisors approved rent control.

Documentary filmmaker Charles Bolton and the production company Optic Nerve, now Ideas In Motion,  caught the angst in “Pushed Out For Profit.” The film aired on KQED on Sept. 6, 1978.

In the interest of reminding readers of the Mission’s history, Mission Local edited seven short clips from “Pushed Out For Profit.”

The documentary shows the plight of the tenants and the successful campaign for rent control. The style is unapologetic in its activist bent.

The film “was criticized for showing only the tenants’ side of the story,” Bolton, the filmmaker said recently. “Our object was to teach people to get organized in neighborhoods.”

The film includes an interview with young housing activist Calvin Welch, who is still an affordable-housing advocate and lives in the Haight. Mission Local interviewed him for Clip 7.

Supervisor Harvey Milk, one of the most visible figures on the issue of rent control, appears in his Castro camera store in Clip 5. Six months after he was interviewed, San Francisco’s first openly gay supervisor was shot and killed.

Apart from the more familiar faces such as Milk and Enola Maxwell, others who appear in the film include former Mission tenants Reuben Burke, Pat and Gene Westegaard, Bill and Julie Camerlo. All of them used to live on Shotwell Street. Mission Local revisited their old house to meet the current tenants in Clip 3. We also meet the ex-tenant Julie Camerlo in Clip 4.

The supervisors passed the Rent Stabilization Ordinance in 1979. Rent control now applies to some 170,000 rental units in the city. It limits the amount of rent increases and the reasons for evicting a tenant.

However, rent control only covers buildings built up until 1979. Numerous efforts to extend the rent ordinance to houses or apartments built after 1979 have for the most part failed. Sara Shortt,
executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, pointed out an exception. Recently, she noted, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend eviction protections of the rent ordinance to post-79 buildings in foreclosures.

Also, the recession has slowed the rate of rent increases. Tenant evictions have also decreased.

The San Francisco Rent Board’s statistics released in September 2009 show tenant reports of alleged wrongful evictions decreased by eight percent compared to the previous year — from 531 to 488.

Read about tenants’ rights at the SF Rent Board‘s website.

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  1. Those guys in the 70’s clip…ay ya yay. Now that was slackers before slackers were invented in the 90’s gen X recession. Dem is boomer slackers!

    And that Julie chick- kinda cute in the 70’s, but man did she go down hill. 5 kids? Was homeless? How about get an education, marry smart and keep a job?

    Oh, and all those ‘smart’ flippers in the late 70’s/80’s. Bet they’re kicking themselves for not hanging on to those mission buildings. Dooh!

    Every decade peeps have got to be smarter to survive/thrive. Accelerated Darwinism.

  2. I think we should all live in constant guilt because we can afford to live here which affects other people’s god-given rights to live here.

  3. The emphasis should have been to help people own their homes, instead of fighting “The Man”. It’s been over 30 years, their mortgages could have been paid off by now… and they would have much greater security, not to mention a valuable asset that can be passed on to their families.

    1. Nonsense. Owning works for some people, but isn’t a viable option for many others. Apparently your advice is to just to keep blowing bigger and bigger housing bubbles.

      The health of the economy should be deleveraged from the extractive FIRE sector. Basing an economy on finance and real estate is great for the .1%, but a disaster for workers, as current conditions demonstrate.

      1. The main reason people don’t buy is because they cannot afford to. If you look at places where homes are cheap, like much of the south and midwest, the home-ownership rates are very high, maybe 80% to 90%.

        So if people aren’t buying in SF it’s because they are priced out and not because they don’t believe in the home ownership model.

        More Americans become millionaires through real estate than any other one business. Often they achieve that by doing nothing more than buying a home when they are young and trading up a couple of times.

        Now, there may be times when buyers stay away figuring that prices must drop. But despite all the bubble talk, RE prices rarely go down for long, and the trend is always up as long as we have economic and population growth.

        Buying property is the best way that the ordinary joe can achieve financial security.

      2. Not for everyone, but we can do much better than the current ~35% homeownership rate. As for the “current conditions” – they demonstrate that being an owner in this city the only dependable form of rent control.

  4. Reports of wrongful eviction at the Rent board is a meaningless statistic because there is no requirement for a tenant to do that if he wishes to pursue a lawsuit for wrongful eviction in the courts. You should instead look for the number of such cases filed at county court. I doubt that it has increased. If anything landlords are becoming more careful to ensure all the paperwork is correctly filed when doing a UD.

    “The film “was criticized for showing only the tenants’ side of the story,” Yes, a common error of some reporters and journalists who allow their own subjective opinions to taint representation of the truth.

    1. How about the money that flows from for-profit developers and the City to nonprofit housing developers to get them to stand down on representing San Franciscans in planning efforts?

      There is a law in Glendale, CA that severs the link between developers and electeds that I’d suggested to several progressive supervisors. They balked at going after the iron triangle of corruption:


      If we’re serious about this, then a measure similar to this needs to go on the ballot.

      1. It’s the art of the compromise. If you work with developers, you get some new BMR homes. If you don’t work them, your ideological credentials remain impeccable but there are no new BMR homes.

        Do you want to be pure or effective? Success is not building nothing.

        1. One BMR unit per 8 market rate units is not winning anything, it is losing 7 more than you get for a score of -7 which is not winning. Playing to barely win would mean 1 BMR unit per 1 market rate unit.

          1. Except that no developer would build for a 1-1 mix, so you would end up with no BMR’s.

            The fact that you look at it as 7-1, and that the 7 is somehow losing shows why you lost this battle. You hate market-rate units so inexplicably much that you’d sacrifice BMR’s just to stop them.

            And that is why you have no influence in this process and why you lost the battle. The voters are not as negative as you are.

          2. But marcos, you told us you had “retired” from all this because the battle had been lost.

            You blamed the non-profits and your progressive brethren for “selling out” to developers.

            So which is it. Did you win or did you lose?

    2. Thanks for the link, landline, to a very thorough piece about SF real estate economics and politics by Darwin Bond.

      …more evidence (as if we needed it) that legalized bribery of politicians is rampant at the federal, state and local levels.


      Supervisors Weiner and Farrell appear to be wholly owned subsidiaries of the real estate industry.

          1. Not at all. I was simply showing that all supervisors are in someone’s pocket and so it is disingenuous to cite just some and not others.

            I’d categorize Wiener as one of the more independant Supes, in fact.

          2. If by “independent,” you Weiner’s looking out for the oppressed banker/developer/realtor/landlord class, I’d agree.

          3. No, what i meant is that wiener actually listens to people and will change his mind if convinced. Has Campos EVER changed his mind?

            I recall before he was elected he knocked on my door as part of his campaign. I bombarded him with questions for about 20 minutes. He listened, learned and didn’t parrot ideological twaddle but rather talked about pragmatic solutions.

            He passed the test. He’s one of the good guys.

          4. Wiener does not listen to anyone, particularly his constituents. I have been in more than one meeting with neighbors where he has just sat and looked bored and refused to engage in any discussion. It is amazing that some one with such poor personal skills could have any success at politics — I think he makes up for it by just lying a lot.

          5. Valenchia, I have found Wiener to be the exact opposite – thoughtful, engaged and open-minded.

            I guess it depends how you approach him.

          6. Wiener is an amazing civil servant. I’ve found him to be thoughtful, open minded and fair, even thought there are times I would have preferred he vote another way. Compared to most of the BOS in the past 20yrs SF is very lucky to have him. He would make a great Mayor.
            If not for him, housing especially affordable housing would be stuck.
            Thank you Scott. You keep this town sane.

      1. I was disappointed that the author of the article didn’t broaden his targets to include “progressive” Supervisors including Campos who also receive ample donations from real estate interests.

        1. These are tiny amounts. $250 here; $500 there. Do you really think that’s significant?

          All politicians accept legal donations but that doesn’t mean they will compromise their principles.

          1. The beauty of our system of legalized bribery is that the politician can never be proven to be compromising his principles.

            He just makes believe that his principles are the same as the people giving him the money.

          2. So I cannot prove that he isn’t compromising his principles and you cannot prove that he is?

            So we’re both guessing and speculating then, right?

          3. That’s where common sense comes in.

            If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

            Sure, nobody can prove politician X does something in exchange for donations, because politician X isn’t stupid. He’s likely a lawyer by training, and knows how to do LEGAL BRIBERY properly. That means nothing in writing or electronic exchanges – any deals are made verbally, in person.

            I, for one, believe that legalized bribery is deadly for the society because it subverts logical, long-term planning by our representatives. But it’s become so entrenched (and growing) that it’s now almost impossible to change.

          4. John, the only way we can settle this is for you to wear a wire and approach Weiner with a check and a request. Will you do it?

          5. I rely on the power of reason, logic and facts to persuade. I have no need of bribes and I have no reason to believe that Wiener does either.