Out of place

Evictions are driving long-time renters out of their homes -- and out of SF. Here are the stories of several people being evicted



In his State of the City address last week, Mayor Ed Lee cheerfully characterized San Francisco as "the new gravitational center of Silicon Valley." He touted tech-sector job creation. "We have truly become the innovation capital of the world," Lee said, "home to 1,800 tech companies with more than 42,000 employees — and growing every day."

From a purely economic standpoint, San Francisco is on a steady climb. But not all residents share the mayor's rosy outlook. Shortly after Lee's speech, renowned local author Rebecca Solnit published her own view of San Francisco's condition in the London Review of Books. Zeroing in on the Google Bus as a symbol of the city's housing affordability crisis, she linked the influx of high-salaried tech workers to soaring housing costs. With rents trending skyward, she pointed out, the dearth of affordable housing is escalating a shift in the city's cultural fabric.

"All this is changing the character of what was once a great city of refuge for dissidents, queers, pacifists and experimentalists," Solnit wrote. "It has become increasingly unaffordable over the past quarter-century, but still has a host of writers, artists, activists, environmentalists, eccentrics and others who don't work sixty-hour weeks for corporations — though we may be a relic population."


The issue of housing in San Francisco is highly emotional, and there is perhaps no greater flashpoint in the charged debate than Ellis Act evictions.

When the housing market bounces upward, Ellis Act evictions tend to hit long-term tenants whose monthly payments, protected by rent control, are a comparative bargain. Even if they've submitted every payment on time and upheld every lease obligation for 20 years, these renters can find themselves in the bind of being forced out.

And they don't just lose their homes; often they lose their community. San Francisco has become so expensive that many Ellis Act victims are tossed out of this city for good.

Enacted in 1986, the state law allows a landlord to stop renting units, evict all tenants, and sell the building for another purpose. Originally construed as a way for landlords to "go out of business" and move into their properties, the Ellis Act instead gained notoriety as a driving force behind a wave of evictions that slammed San Francisco during the tech boom of the late 90s. Between 1986 and 1995, just 29 Ellis evictions were filed with the San Francisco Rent Board; in the 1999-2000 fiscal year alone, that number ballooned to a staggering 440.

Under the current tech heyday, there are indications that Ellis Act evictions are gaining fresh momentum. The San Francisco Rent Board recorded 81 this past fiscal year, more than double that of the previous year, and there appears to be an upward trend.


Buildings cleared via the Ellis Act are typically repackaged as tenancies-in-common (TIC), where several buyers jointly purchase a multi-unit residence and each occupy one unit. Realtors often market TICs as a path to homeownership for moderate-income individuals, creating an incentive for buyers to enter into risky, high-interest shared mortgages in hopes of later converting to condos with more attractive financing.

The divide between TIC owners and renters came into sharp focus at a contentious Jan. 28 hearing, when a Board of Supervisors committee met to consider legislation that would allow some 2,000 TIC units to immediately convert to condos without having to wait their turn in a requisite lottery system.


There were effectively no hispanics in SF then, while the balcks were mostly around the Fillmore.

Studying some local history might make you more credible when you are defending your gentrification.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

Something San Francisco has decided it will do everything to prevent. In a capitalist society those with more money win every time. These tenants will lose - they cannot hold out against the money machine.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

All those cranes?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:24 pm
Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

10th and Mission, Trinity Plaza (rental), Mission and 15th, Dolores and Market, Duboce and Market, 19th and Valencia, 15th and South Van Ness, the dirt is flying and thousands of units are under construction with more to come.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

Dirt can fly but 250 units ain't cutting it.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

This year is not last year.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:29 am

You've said both things at different times now.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:41 am

I am neither supporting nor opposing development with these posts, simply pointing out to Lucrecia Bermudez what is happening on the ground right now.


Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:47 am

market-rate housing so it is good to hear that you are now neutral on them.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:00 am

For the purposes of this thread, either there are thousands of units in the pipeline or there are not. Since I can see two cranes pooping out hundreds of units each, suffice it to say that there are indeed thousands of units in the pipe line whether I support them or not.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:16 am

It deters new supply of homes.

So pick which side you are on.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:29 am

Put condos in Tim Colen's back yard and we'll talk NIMBY.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 10:04 am

People take them as short-term measures, and never expect to lumber their landlord with a lifetime sentence.

Posted by anon on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

You want San Francisco to be like most places. Why not live there instead of seeking to make everywhere like anywhere? I guess the opportunities to profit off of others' misery just can't measure up.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

want it to evolve naturally. You're the one trying to impose your own private fantasy onto the city, and you aren't even from here.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

Public policy sets the bounds on how a city will develop.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

So is the ability to form TIC's.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 9:30 am

I dont know if you know, but section 8 has been closed for years. There is not even a wait list to get onto due to past administrations corruption assigning them to family and friends for cash donations... It is very a very corrupt arm of SF govt. So, actually, NO older residents could not apply to anywhere for city help with low income housing because there was nothing to apply for or to. And also, I really doubt that anyone saw our slimy ass Mayor lie and sneak his way into office (with some question about vote tampering mind you as well as an election scandal about illegal donations) and then make a whole bunch of sweetheart deals with huge tech firms to move here with their entire work force. How on earth could anyone see this coming when Ed Lee promised that he was just filling in the interim until the election after Gavin Newsom vacated early. He promised that he would NOT run for the upcoming open position. Then with the last minute help of Rose Pak and Willie Brown, he jumped in last minute and then stole the race. All of this was a shock and for most of the old tenants, they are still in shock!

Posted by bluepearlgirl on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

Shaming property owners is not going to solve this problem.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

immediately becoems the antichrist.

Posted by anon on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

Homeownership=good, TIC eviction/conversions = bad.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

evictions. Not all evictions lead to TIC's and not all TIC's are created by evictions.

Thousands of tenants have been given their first opportunity to buy because of TIC's - the first step of the ladder of home ownership.

Oh, and if you live in a condo, then it was converted at some point, so how can you claim conversions are bad?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

How is your reverse condo conversion going? We need to more rent controlled housing in the Mission.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

Two unit buildings were exempted from rent control in 1994, condo or no.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

for a rent much lower than the market rent, as a gesture towards affordable housing.

So why won't you be doing that? After all, LL's only have to cover their costs, right?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:49 am

Nobody is shaming property owners, trolls lie again.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

own TIC's, so you are as guilty as they are.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

I'm more special than everyone else. That's why I devoted my life to pointing out how terrrible and stupid everyone else is, especially those individuals trying to help make the city a better place, like Randy Shaw, Ted Gullickson, Calvin Welch and many others who have been fighting to maintain some economic and racial diversity in the city.

One of the best ways to get to the top of the heap is to take down everyone else. It doesn't matter if they are tenants who need to be evicted, or it's assassinating the character of people who get in our way, or gossiping about the love lives of people we don't like, or showing up uninvited to disrupt meetings where people are trying to organize and discuss strategies. Anything to bring down everyone else helps me win.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 5:52 am

The way that Randy Shaw got to the top of the heap was to take down everyone else, Ted Gullickson not so.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:30 am

Are you suggesting that is off-topic on a politics website?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:36 am

IF the FHA stopped insuring jumbo loans this madness would stop. This isn't free enterprise or free markets. This is government mortgage subsidies and tax breaks for the rich.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

It's not going to make a huge difference if the FHA stops insuring those loans beneath the $625,000 limit or not. Reducing conforming loan limits to $250,000 or lower is not going to bring down prices in SF. The only thing that will do that is building more housing. The SF market is very tight because there is very little on the market and we are not adding more units at anywhere near the level we need to in order to build a sustainable, broader-based housing market here.

Stop asking the government for solutions. The government is not the solution to this problem. Repeat that again. And again.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

Ending QEx and target rates near zero is why there is such irrational exuberance in the SF housing market right now.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

And people still can - I went to a showing this weekend which had over 250 people in it. Insanity - people want to buy. The recent rise in mortgage interest rates, however small, is driving the market even higher.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:52 pm

over asking, with multiple bids. Good for everyone who took a risk. Bad for everyone who sat on their ass and clung to their rent-controlled hovel.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 4:33 am

Even business booster Alan Greenspan could tell an asset bubble and the irrational exuberance surrounding it.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:31 am

and the stock market then proceeded to go up by 130%, and never went back down close to it's 1996 level ever again.

I suspect your market calls are even worse than his.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:45 am

Great article. Further TIC flipping of rental buildings should be stopped. Renters kicked out to create a lame style of homeownership that's caused a lot of naive TIC owners to regret buying. The developers are the only ones laughing.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

Whatever the outcome of the current condo conversion legislation, the demand for homeownership is not going away. TIC financing will evolve in response to the demand, but probably not in time to help those currently in distress.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

Demand for home ownership evaporates the minute the Fed ends QEx and target rates within 25 basis points of zero. The music stops and there are no more chairs.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:32 am

years. They will only go away when the markets and banking system are fully recovered, and by then the fundamental case for RE will be bullish anyway.

If you could really predict markets, marcos, you'd be rich. And you're not.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:47 am

TIC first time homeowner's dream was the nightmare for the tenants who got kicked out of the same building. Eff TIC''s.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

Ugly are the new condos too. Craptacular.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

You are conveniently ignoring that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:46 am

That this has even gotten this far means that ranked choice voting has been a total disaster for the people it was designed to empower.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

Don't blame me, I spoke and voted against Prop A/Rank Choice Voting a decade ago.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

It was to achieve the same results more quickly and cheaply.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 06, 2013 @ 7:43 am

but the change indeed was indeed supposed to affect the outcomes better suited to the wishes of the electorate.

Besides eliminating the need for costly December runoffs, this is what I had in mind at the time of voting on IRV:

1) IRV leads to less-negative campaigns when candidates find it more advantageous to draw attention to commonalities among themselves where they exist, and provides a powerful incentive to avoid meritless personal attacks; which might tend to alienate one's own possible down-rank supporters.

2) Eliminate the advantage deep-pocket corporate campaign cash donors had for the run-off.

3) Eliminate the worry and uncertainty voters constantly faced over which among many candidates on a crowded November ballot they should support so as to have the best chance of electing someone desireable in the runoff. It used to be that you'd have to rely on privately-commissioned polls to know how to vote.

That last part sucked and marcos has never answered that complaint with his glib pronouncement that IRV has cost progressives seats; itself a dubious though not completely implausible statement.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 09, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

A realtor with Paragon Realty sends out regular emails to potential buyers and sellers about the SF housing market. The latest email had lots of charts showing inventory listings are down 30%, while demand is unrelenting.

A few quotes:

"If someone asked me to sing a song about the San Francisco real estate market in 2012, I would name it “Lots of Buyers with Nothing to Sell” and set it to the tune of “Bibbity Bobbity Boo”.If had to make one up for 2013, it would be the same thing, only louder. The supply/demand equation has only become more unbalanced since January 1."

"If you are a frustrated buyer, there are still ways find good deals. More and more homes are sold off-market, for example. Another way to unearth a fair value is to check homes above your price range to see if any of them have been sitting for awhile. These listings may have more motivated sellers."

And this for the kicker:

"Tenant-occupied properties also offer terrific opportunities for buyers who understand San Francisco’s rent laws. If you’d like to learn more about how buyers are still finding good homes, please call me. I’m always happy to share."

The message is clear. If you're a tenant in a 2 to 6-unit building you should be planning for an eviciton so that someone richer than you can buy your "home." And with another 300,000 H-1B visas on the way - most headed for jobs in Silicon Valley - and with Mayor Lee warmly embracing the tech firms that are the ultimate source of these evictions, tenants should probably plan on an eviction sooner rather than later.

Throughout human history tenants have always been treated like dirt. It shouldn't be too surprising the City of St. Francis has declared an all out war against tenants since it's always been filled with some of the more pretentious and selfish people on earth, including Greens like marcos who fight new construction so that existing tenants can be evicted even faster.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:01 pm