Keep the focus on real estate

Shift gentrification-blame from the hipsters to City Hall


OPINION Let's stop blaming the hipsters. The Google bus, that annoying icon of yuppie invasion and transit privatization, is not the lead driver of gentrification's reckless stampede reshaping our city (though it does play a role). The upscale restaurants dominating commercial strips may be economically and aesthetically offensive to many, but they are the natural byproducts of gentrification's much-ignored elephant in the room: the real estate industry.

While headlines, comment threads, and café chatter fixate on the tech industry and yuppies with fistfuls of dollars, it's the profit-gobbling real estate companies and speculators who are jacking up rents and evicting so many small businesses and renters—and they are surely happy to stay out of the spotlight.

Gentrification is a many-layered beast nurtured by cultural and economic trends, regional and local labor and housing factors, and public policies (or lack thereof). Beneath the surface-level aesthetics, it is about displacement of people who don't fit the dominant economic growth plan—radical market-driven upheavals of communities often abetted by government policies and inaction.

The stats are familiar but bear repeating as they are so destructive: average apartment rentals exceeding $2,700 a month, requiring someone making $70,000 a year to pay half of his or her salary in rent. Literally thousands of no-fault evictions in the past decade, according to the Rent Board.

Despite rampant displacement of thousands of San Franciscans, there has been little response from City Hall: no hearings, no proactive legislation, not even bully-pulpit style leadership. We must demand more.

Where is the leadership demanding the city do everything in its albeit limited power to halt further displacement of residents and small businesses? The toxic combo of tenant evictions and home foreclosures by the thousands — driven principally by major banks and real estate companies — is destroying lives and communities.

Some of this is beyond City Hall's jurisdiction: state laws like the Ellis Act and Costa-Hawkins enable no-fault evictions and prevent vitally needed commercial rent control. Still, beyond their valiant opposition to the Wiener-Farrell condo conversion threat, city leaders have been largely silent about this latest wave of gentrification that's eviscerating communities, driving out small businesses, and squeezing renters to the bone.

What can we do? We won't defeat gentrification with city hearings or loud protests or online screeds and petitions — but we need all those things, along with serious public education, to shine a bright hot spotlight on the companies and individuals defining who lives and votes here.

We need a new era of citywide awareness, unity, and action to literally save San Francisco — a bold unapologetic vision that puts affordability and diversity at the forefront of what our city is about. We can't have diversity without affordability; it's that simple.

Renters are gearing up to fight back. An 'Eviction Free Summer' is being planned — an innovative campaign to counter the rash of evictions that are generating both displacement and skyrocketing rent prices. The idea of 'Eviction Free Summer' is to put evictions and evictors in the spotlight, to put would-be evictors on notice and capture the attention of city officials who have so far done little to stem their tide.

We must demand accountability and action by City Hall and state legislators to rein in the real estate industry and put the brakes on evictions and other displacement. People's lives, neighborhoods and communities, and the very fabric and identity of our city are at stake.


You write:

"average apartment rentals exceeding $2,700 a month, requiring someone making $70,000 a year to pay half of his or her salary in rent."

Yes, Chris, and the average family income in SF is about 75K a year and so, shockingly, the average SF family can afford the average rental home.

"Literally thousands of no-fault evictions in the past decade, according to the Rent Board."

Literally? There were 100 Ellis evictions last year. so out of some 300,000 residential buildings in SF, 0.033% of them were Ellis'ed. Shocking?

Oh and guess what? For every person that moved out because of an eviction, another person moved in. So fear not - the population of SF is not declining.

"it's the profit-gobbling real estate companies and speculators . . "

Again, wrong. There aren't many RE mega-caps in the US and none of the major REIT's are involved much in SF. Unlike places like NYC and Chicago, where most landlords are corporations, in SF it is mom'n'pop landlords who provide most of the rental housing. And yet they are treated worse than most US cities treat REIT's.

So what do they do? All they can do - Ellis. People who think like you brought this on yourselves. You made rent control so strict and punitive that a law was passed to furnish an exit strategy.

Now deal with the result of what you have wrought.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

Great comments
Totally agree

Posted by Guest on Jun. 01, 2013 @ 7:40 am

You betcha. And I'm totally not the same dude as the guest who posted the two above comments. Totally.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 01, 2013 @ 7:59 am

Those who blame landlords never blame tenants for abusing the system. Why hasn't he written that we need "means testing' - determine annually who is and is not in the categories of low income AND working in the city (not commuting)? Maybe because he doesn't care if tenants making in the six figures and up have rent controlled apts. Exactly why should landlords subsidize them, or guarantee them for life with their apts their parking spots, or reduce their rents if 20 years from now (through no fault of the landlords the tenants view is impaired)? Why isn't he calling for price controls on food? on clothing? If residents are entitled to live here, forever, if they were lucky enough to get in early, why shouldn't all store owners be required to subsidize the tenants with other basic needs as well? ... maybe because the system is totally abused and the policies backfiring on tenants who do deserve help, because of self-serving authors like the writers.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 01, 2013 @ 8:45 am

Means testing is a mean and nasty idea that rears its ugly head during almost every debate on rent control. It's a backdoor way to eliminate it entirely, by first dividing tenants and weakening popular support. It's completely unfair, because it allows landlords to gouge some people and not others, when in reality they shouldn't be gouging anyone, regardless of whether the person being gouged can "afford" it or not. And who decides who can "afford" to be gouged anyway? You? Among the negative consequences of means testing would be an acceleration of discrimination against rent control-eligible tenants.

But none of that matters to the advocates of means testing. Because the advocates of means testing don't really care about sound policy. They're not even advocates of means testing per se. Means testing is a means to end. Means testing means the end of rent control.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 01, 2013 @ 10:21 am

Wealthy tenants would never allow sensible reforms like means-testing. They will hoard their rentals until the day they're evicted.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 01, 2013 @ 10:38 am

Wow. A little less than 15 Ellis evictions per month in a city of over 800,000. What a crisis! World Can't Wait!!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on May. 28, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

don't pay their rent, are consistently late with their rent, who commit crimes, a nuisance or breach their lease.

Yet somehow SFBG never mentioned that. focusing instead on minor causes of evictions.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

Ellis evictions are by definition no-fault evictions. The Ellis Act specifically gives landlords the right to evict their tenants upon removing their property from the market, or changing the usage of the property (i.e. converting a residential unit into a commercial space, or converting rental units to condos).

Evictions due to non-payment of rent, late payment, breach of lease, nuisance, etc. are an entirely separate matter. Personally, as a hard-working San Franciscan struggling against being forced out of the City, i have no sympathy at all for people who are evicted for non-payment, or worse, who manipulate the laws designed to protect tenants.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

evictions when there are far more common types of evictions, regardless of whose "fault" it is.

And "fault" really shouldn't come into it at all, since it should be the basic right of a property owner to decide who, if anyone, lives in his homes.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

Paying close to half of one's annual salary on rent is not an affordable situation. Someone making $75K can "afford" to pay 43% of their income in housing? And then what? And how many mouths do they feed on that salary? Can they save for a rainy day? For their children's college education? To buy a home? For retirement? When you pay close to half your salary on any one part of your budget, you're in trouble. Now imagine if you make less than $75K. Now what do you do? We need affordable housing in this city - for families, for the elderly, for singles, for students, for everyone. And affordable housing that doesn't cram people into box either.

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2013 @ 7:04 am


El Cerrito.


Daly City.

All easily accessible to San Francisco via public transportation.

Of course, none of these places are cool enough for people who "deserve" to live in San Francisco.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on May. 29, 2013 @ 7:45 am

Sunny? Rainy? Why are you here? Aren't there development issues in Portland for you to discuss? Poor people there to attack?

Are you a displaced SFer pining for the Bay Area, bitter at those of us who still live here in affordable rent-controlled apartments?

Your presence here is very, very odd; not very, very, odd. However, you are terribly, terribly persistent.

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2013 @ 8:12 am

"Are you a displaced SFer pining for the Bay Area, bitter at those of us who still live here in affordable rent-controlled apartments?"

I don't pine for the Bay Area at all, thanks.

For most people, the great achievement of their lives is something other than managing to hang on to a ratty rent-controlled apartment.

"Your presence here is very, very odd; not very, very, odd."

Well, since the new leading blogger at the SFBG actually lives in Los Angeles, perhaps not so odd. He feels free to opine on San Francisco rent control as well, for some reason.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on May. 29, 2013 @ 8:49 am

Especially if you don't miss the Bay Area?

To throw shots at other commenters, like this one: "For most people, the great achievement of their lives is something other than managing to hang on to a ratty rent-controlled apartment." Uh, you don't know anything about tenants' accomplishments nor the quality of their dwellings, as if those facts matter to you.

Is Portland so boring that you must troll the SFBG website?

Your almost constant presence here predates the hiring of Johnny Angel, by the way.

Persistently, persistently odd.

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2013 @ 9:04 am

"Then, why are you here?"

For the lulz, of course. When I lived in the Bay Area, I lived in those grotty non-SF cities (including Oakland). It was rather pleasant, actually - it vastly amuses me that Tim Redmond and the SFBG view people moving to the East Bay as some sort of horrible human rights violation.

"Is Portland so boring that you must troll the SFBG website?"

LOL. For some reason, people in Portland don't think that you acquire a perpetual right to reside in a rental property at a fixed rent by moving into it. For that level of dementia, I have to read the SFBG.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on May. 29, 2013 @ 9:19 am

Obviously rent control in The City didn't keep him in The City, so one has to doubt its efficacy...

Posted by Hafez Assad on May. 29, 2013 @ 9:53 am

"How's the weather in Portland today?
Sunny? Rainy?"

Rainy, of course.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on May. 29, 2013 @ 8:51 am

I love Portland, came to SF from there in 1978, bought my 1,200 sq ft upper market condo for 85K in 1981. It's paid for now and worth 800K. Now that I'm old, I can get a reverse mortgage and live like a king. Some people gain wisdom as they get older, some just stay stupid. Some people smoked and now have COPD. The choices you make have consequences, I'm sick of losers who blame others for their self inflicted problems.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 10:27 am

You made a great "choice," buying a 1200 square foot condo for about 3x the average San Francisco income. Today the average per capita income in San Francisco is about 50K. Please tell me where I can find a 1200 foot condo in San Francisco for 150K or so. I want to make the same good choices as you did.

Either that, or stop insulting people who are struggling due to circumstances beyond their control. The reality, old man, is that you got lucky. You were lucky enough to be born during a golden era of American prosperity, before conservatives tore apart the social fabric and wealth concentration hit full swing. A lot of life's outcomes in this country depend on luck. The "choices" you made are simply not available to people today.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 01, 2013 @ 10:31 am

"Beyond your control" is the attitude of a loser. If you have smarts, nothing is beyond your control. I did not get "lucky" I knew exactly what I was doing. $150,000 was a lot in 81, you could have bought a 3 flat building for $25,000 just 12 years before. Maybe you would benefit from those Anthony Robbins courses?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2013 @ 2:24 am

I don't need to pay money to some rich bullshitter who got rich off of suckers paying to hear him blabber, and laughs all the way to the bank after each one of his lectures. I'm successful enough. Some of it was choice, and some of it was luck. I know people who made better choices than I, and are in the shitter. And I know plenty of people who didn't do much, but got really lucky. The choices you made are simply not available to today's young people. Every single rich person I know thinks they did it all on their own. They need to believe that to justify in their own psyche why they "deserve" such wealth when others have so little. That it's all about the "choices" you make is a convenient rich man's philosophy. But it's all a delusion, because when I look at how these people made their money, luck always plays a tremendous role.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 02, 2013 @ 8:04 am

You are blind and wrong. Everyone has choices. I could not afford Pacific Hight's in 1981. Did I cry like a baby and rant about how I was priced out? No I bought in the Mission/Upper Market. It was ghetto then but now it is expensive hipster central, a thousand dollars a sq. ft. I had $1.67 when I got to SF in 1978. Only idiots who are looking for excuses as to why they screwed up tout the " luck" option. The odds are the same as the lottery for "luck", extremely rare. Yet there are lots of successful people who can and do buy property in SF right now and luck had nothing to do with any of their successes. But their being financially literate did.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2013 @ 8:37 am

I never claimed that luck alone was responsible for people's success. Luck is a necessary but insufficient condition. Well, actually sometimes luck alone is sufficient, but usually hard work/good decisions increase your odds. But without some luck, all the financial literacy in the world doesn't mean squat.

Take real estate. It's literally impossible to do what you did in San Francisco. Something like 10% of the already high-income San Francisco population can afford a house in San Francisco at today's prices. Most of those who own are LUCKY enough to have bought in earlier or inherited property from mommy and daddy. That was not at all true in 1978 or 1981 or whenever you made your lucky purchase. Back then you could buy in at roughly 3X average income. You can have all the financial literacy in the world, but if you're in that 90% today, you're shit out of LUCK.

You'll probably argue that one shouldn't buy in San Francisco then. Maybe buy in the Oakland ghetto instead of the Mission ghetto. But the casino of real estate speculation is littered with the carcasses of gamblers who bet on the wrong ghetto. And it is a casino. Not a lottery, where your chances are one in million, but perhaps a mob-run poker den, where the odds are marginally better but the game is still rigged. All the financial literacy in the world won't tell you which ghetto will be the next big boom, and which one will languish for many more decades. If you guess right, you get to brag on internet chat boards about what a financial genius you are. If you guess wrong, you slink away with your tail behind your legs. But in reality, the first guy is no smarter than the second.

There's an even bigger question though... why should success or failure in this world depend on financial literacy? I noticed early on that you've refined the usual conserva-troll argument that success depends on hard work and/or intelligence. Perhaps it's because you can plainly see that it does not. There are many, many hard-working and intelligent people who live out their days in poverty and insecurity. So you say it's about "financial intelligence." But what exactly *is* financial intelligence? If such a thing even exists, basically it's knowing how the game is played and being able to rig it in your favor. I would submit that it's a fool's game. If you don't have connections and inside information, financial intelligence boils down to making a lucky bet at the roulette table. But even if it were true, is that really meritocracy? Is that the kind of society we want to create, where success depends on either luck, or skill at playing a game in order to accumulate more wealth?

Shouldn't success depend on how much valuable work you're doing for the rest of the community, rather than making a lucky real estate deal? And can't we create that kind of a society? Of course we can, if only we had the political will.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 02, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

What an accomplishment!!! Keep up the good work and be thankful you bought the equivalent of a present day non-existent $200,000 condo. Old, boastful and alone. Enjoy bragging online. It's all you got.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2013 @ 11:53 pm

You poor miserable deluded losers. I bought another condo a little more than a year ago for under 200K. No one was buying then (yes, even in San Francisco ) So now I have a nice profitable rental (No rent control of course, I would never buy a socialist property that is city controlled) that is RAPIDLY increasing in value. So yeah I have 2 condos in SF. I was not lucky to buy then, I was smart. All the sheep were too scared to buy because the bottom was not yet apparent. I'm older and have been through many bust and booms and took a risk the bottom was near. It was pin point accurate and now that condo is worth more than double what I paid for it. (I have really low property taxes, thank you Prop 13). You could have bought a condo for under 200k too just 2 years ago too.. NOW YOU CAN"T Sorry losers…Oh even though I'm older I embarce newer technologies and with the internet, I have lots of very atractive 20 something's come over to my place all the time for "socializing". I'm never lonley

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 9:45 am

call you a liar. Maybe 400K in a bad part of town at the low and, even at the bottom, the average wasa round 600K

So either your place is tiny, in a dumpy neighbourhood, both or you're lying.

Oakland, on the other hand, you could have gotten a place for that and probably still can. But SF RE prices only dipped 10% or so.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 9:57 am

At the point where he said he was surrounded by a harem of 20-somethings catering to his every whim, it became painfully obvious that he's making it all up on the fly.

Dude probably lives in one-room SRO.

Posted by Greg on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 2:41 pm

Please losers, all it takes is ADAM4ADAM and a sling.... but then you guys are busy whining about how you are victims to others success's

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2013 @ 6:30 am

While you worry about being Ellis acted in your rent controlled hostage apt.(thank God for the state Ellis Act) I'm secure in my PAID for San Francisco Condo.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 8:10 am

"...are we really going to allow the profit-hungry market and wealth-seeking executives and speculators decide who lives and votes here?" is "Yes."

Posted by Hortencia on May. 29, 2013 @ 8:26 am

The people themselves decide that for themselves, based on the quality of life here and the tradeoff of it being a destination for the successful.

No doubt some will choose cheaper places and, for those, I wish them bon voyage.

Posted by Anon on May. 29, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

Are we really going to let the property hungry, greedy tenants control property that belongs to others that they cannot afford, hold this property hostage to their entitled poverty?

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 8:33 am

you cannot afford something, then the government should intervene and give you something by confiscating it from it's rightful owner.

The founding fathers, in their wisdom, established a "takings" clause in the constitution to prevent such abuse but of course, as in many other ways, that sacred documents has been defiled and devalued to the point where the US now has most, if not all, of the problems of Europe, which our founding fathers tried to valiently to avoid.

Hortencia isn't a problem but she has been bribed with other peoples' money.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 8:46 am

And why shouldn't they be able to live in San Francisco?

Posted by Guest on May. 30, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

In fact, anyone who lives in SF pays a higher percent of their pay on their home than they would elsewhere. Yet they stay here, presumably because they think it is worth it. If YOU don't think it is worth it then you are free to move elsewhere.

I'm not sure we do need more "affordable" housing because that just means that someone else subsidizes your housing costs. And who might that be?

Posted by anon on May. 29, 2013 @ 8:37 am

It's their choice and if they want to live in SF that much, then why not?

Posted by Anon on May. 29, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

Affordable = Detroit.... I may want to eat caviar, but can't afford it, I can still eat potatoes and will not starve.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 8:46 am

sturgeon eggs is manipulated by a committee of bureaucrats. Then everyone can eat caviar, right?

I also support Porsche control, private yacht control and diamond control.

Posted by anon on May. 31, 2013 @ 9:02 am

Unfortunately no, not everyone can eat caviar. Just the lucky few who are unjustly and unfairly shielded from market forces by the bureaucrats will be able to eat caviar, that they would otherwise not afford. There is simply not enough caviar for everyone.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 11:20 am

Unfortunately no, not everyone can eat caviar. Just the lucky few who are unjustly and unfairly shielded from market forces by the bureaucrats will be able to eat caviar, that they would otherwise not afford. There is simply not enough caviar for everyone. So unless you are one of the anointed ones, you are out of luck, unless you have the cash.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 11:34 am

Both are expensive and therefore not for everyone.

So why not implement caviar control? Artificially lower the price of caviar and then ration it, maybe giving controlled caviar only to those who have been eating and hoarding caviar for decades?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2013 @ 11:30 am

You move to Stockton…..

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2013 @ 9:54 am

I love how people think real estate owners make everything trendy, that is not true, they just want people to rent space and pay that rent. They would like to see long term tenants in their store space. I remember Valencia St as being ho hum, in face really didn't thought about it. Until Slanted Door moved in, great place to eat when it first opened, but had better.

I remember others places opened up, good food, stores followed, people loved this area so they started moving in, snapping up apartments, homes, and flats. The area was close to the Castro which to many was a selling point and it was cheaper then the Castro.

The thing I remember most about it was the 90's, no Google or phone apps, or internet crazed tech hipsters. Just people who wanted to live in the city, people with money from other sources.

Posted by Garrett on May. 29, 2013 @ 9:55 am

Google was certainly around by 1996.

Seems like you just didn't have your eyes open.

But yeah, SF is a much better city now than 20 years ago. In all seriousness, why does SFBG believe that dirt poor people and homeless people make SF "interesting" and "diverse"?

Never understood that.

Posted by anon on May. 29, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

The "Eviction Free Summer" campaign will be a sad reminder that renting is temporary. How can you possibly force people to rent out their property when they would rather owner occupy it?

Posted by Guest on May. 29, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

Landlords lets make it an Ellis Act improvement summer!!!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2013 @ 6:40 am

remodelled after an Ellis eviction.

It also improves the general populace, replacing low-rent, under-employed people with younger, more educated and productive people.

And of course leads to more property tax revenues for the city.

While the poorer folks end up living somewhere better suited to their budget.

A true win-win-win-win for everyone.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2013 @ 6:58 am

When you price all the poor people, the artists, the welfaros, the dissidents, minority people who have called SF home for generations, the working class, the service sector, the radicals, the refugees, the idealists, etc and replace them with wealthy people you effectively kill the soul of the city. You make it just another boring and well policed expensive and bland suburb. It seems like the new wave of over-privileged corporate sycophants and trust funded yupsters do not know, respect or care about the vibrant history of culture and resistance our town has. Ask some of these characters about the significance of the general strike or the labor movement and they generally lose interest. I have been living here since the 80s and the direction this town is going breaks my heart. That said, I am a homeowner (below market rate condo) and I will stay here to fight the millionaires and support the underclass until I am dead in the ground.

Posted by Guest on May. 30, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

you all keep saying "when" it happens, the fact is that it has ALREADY HAPPENED and it HAPPENED A LONG TIME AGO.

also, fuck you and your BMR condo. You gamed the system and got your piece, but you ultimately ensured the destruction of the city you claim to care about. BMR units are nothing but a bribe to the collective so that Actual Condos at Actual Prices can be built and kick out all the hippies you claim to love, jerk.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2013 @ 11:02 pm

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