Was it a great year?


At noon Dec. 19, a group of about 50 housing activists led by the Housing Rights Committee gathered at 18th and Castro, next to the giant Shopping Season Tree, to discuss the wave of evictions tenants are facing at the end of 2012. Tommi Avicolli Mecca held up a list of 26 buildings that are currently being clear of tenants under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to evict all their tenants and sell the property as a single-family home or tenancies in common. With him was a long line of tenants who are facing holiday homelessness thanks to landlord greed.

"There are too many tenants being evicted to fit in front of the tree," he said.

We heard story after story: A man living with AIDS facing the loss of his home after 17 years. A family being forced out after 18 years. Seniors, kids, disabled people ... all of them almost certainly displaced from San Francisco.

"San Francisco is becoming a city of the rich, and we are being pushed aside," said Lisa Thornton, who works at Rainbow Grocery and is losing her home.

"This," Mecca said, "is an epidemic of evictions."

And we all know why: As the second tech boom roars in to San Francisco, high-paid young workers are able to afford to buy TICs or single-family homes, and long-term rent-control-protected tenants simply can't compete. It's not a pretty pciture.

So I almost barfed when I say Randy Shaw's glowing paen to Mayor Ed Lee. "San Francisco had one of its greatest years in 2012, as the city’s job growth and vibrancy outpaced nearly everywhere else," he wrote.

Oh, gee, he says, there are some problems:

Few want San Francisco to become a city where only the rich and subsidized poor can live. But these same fears were felt in the 1980’s. When I was moving to San Francisco in 1979, the lines for vacant apartments were just as long and the competition for vacant units as fierce as what we read about in 2012. We couldn’t believe we had to pay $375 for a Mission one bedroom apartment, a rate that is less than half the cost of an SRO room without private bathroom today. San Francisco has long been an expensive city that keeps getting pricier.

So what -- because we were worried about displacement in the 1980s means we shouldn't be worried today? Those worries were real -- gentrification of San Francisco neighborhoods has been rampant for decades. It's changed the city, for the worse.

In the 1980s, Shaw was part of a broad coalition that fought to get rent control laws and eviction protections and limits on condo conversions. Now he's acting as if none of that was worth the fight, as if protecting affordable housing wasn't, and isn't, the most critical issue in the city today.

A great year? Fantastic vibrancy and job growth? Not if you're one of the growing numbers of people who are losing their homes to Ed Lee's vision of economic development.



Property values rose stratospherically as a result - it was a complete failure and led to the total collapse of the middle class in Boulder - most of whom fled to the suburbs of Denver.

Hey - sorta sounds like San Francisco does now!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 11:37 am

But did Boulder try demolishing luxury housing as a warning to future comers?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 11:47 am

No - they just refused to approve any permits for new construction. New construction also rarely occurs in San Francisco and that coupled with a sclerotic, corrupt building department + rent control have led us to the situation we're in now.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

using eminent domain to acquire market-rate housing at the taxpayers' expense and then demolish it based on a vague ideological vision would ever attract majority support?

Even you cannot be that weird and whacked out.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

...of a housing crisis. I don't think the policies you laid out, or the ones practiced her in SF, have helped us non-rich folks.

I also want to make clear I DO NOT believe crime correlates to race. The crime rate is certainly not down in the Mission. There have been many murders this year in the neighborhood.

Posted by Erika McDonald on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

The "crisis" exists because there are too few units on the market. Putting more units into the market would reduce demand.

Instead of offering meaningful solutions you're simply demanding we double down on the failed policies of the past: restricting supply, boosting rent control, opposing development. We've been doing that since the last 1970s and things have only become worse.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

regulations and high housing prices. You see that across the globe and not just in SF.

The lowest home prices in the US are in places where the building of homes is freely allowed. The highest home prices is where it is highly restricted.

I could solve the housing affordability problem in SF tomorrow if I were put in charge of the Planning Dept. and given unlimited powers. But the poverty pimps and NIMBY's would never allow that.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

Nobody on the "build out way out" side has been able to offer up even back of the napkin economic analysis that suggests that we will see some downward pressure on price after building a certain number of units over a time period.

More important are the what are now second order questions, what kind of city will you end up with and what do you do with what you've created after that?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

would be a change in the supply-to-demand ratio, and therefore that the average asking price to own or rent would fall. Now, it's possible that cheaper housing in SF would simply attract more people and so, in the long-term, it wouldn't make any difference. But in the short-term, it must lower prices.

Whether it makes SF the kind of town you might like if we did that is another question. Essentially we would look more like Chicago and NYC where a large percentage of the people live in high-rises.

But it is precisely that notion of keeping SF "just the way it is", and with all that attendant NIMBY'ism, that keeps SF unaffordable. If you want SF to stay cute, it's going to stay expensive. If you want it to be cheap, it's going to stop being cute.

You can have either lax planning codes or cheaper housing. You cannot have both.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

Argument by the Waving of the Hands. There is demand for San Francisco because of what and how San Francisco is. Change that and demand for San Francisco will diminish and whomever is left will be in charge of a built out husk of mediocrity.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

highest order and therefore attracts young, ambitious people from across the country and across the planet. It's a center for biotech, IT, finance, law and property.

It certainly helps that it's has a pretty location and good weather. But without a good economy, people wouldn't come here. And it would take a heck of a mot of new high rises to change the weather and the surrounding scenery.

If the only people who came here were bad artists, the homeless, and bums, then we'd be like Oakland, which is much more affordable despite having the same weather and scenery. It has no jobs, you see.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

San Francisco has been in demand for decades now, long before this speculative bubble. Good thing that you're not engineering software, none of it would work if crafted with your flimsy logical reasoning capacities and the whole knowledge economy, the one that's based on reproducible knowledge and the scientific method would crash.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

If no jobs were here, nobody would come here, except perhaps the homeless for the weather and the handouts.

Inbound immigration plus a good economy means expensive housing. It's not hard to figure that out. And so not everyone who wants to can afford to live here.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2012 @ 7:04 am

If we could add 25,000 over the next ten years that'd help enormously. Instead we add less than 2% of that every year.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

million dollar plus condo's. We need to buld cheaper homes. But nobody wants to build rentals because of the fear that rent control will be extended to new construction. And the planning rules prevent high-rises, which is the only way to build large numbers of affordable new homes.

So, it stays expensive and elitest. And perhaps that doesn't matter.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

blacks and hispanics are disproportionately involved in crime, it is ridiculous for you to assert that there is no correlation between race and crime. There is, in fact, a massive correlation.

And yes, you can build your way out of a housing shortage. A shortage emans just what it says - not enough housing. Maybe SF will never be cheap, even if we built 100 tower blocks with 1,000 units in each of them. But it sure would help.

Not everyone who wants to can afford to live in SF. Guess what? I can't afford a Rolls Royce car either. Should the givernment help me too?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

POC advocates can be full of shit on their analysis and approach and have little support in the communities they claim to represent, but that does change the fact that racism is an intrinsic fact of US society.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

statistical correlation between crime rates and race.

Here's a clue. The cities with the highest crime rates include Oakland CA, St. Louis MO, Camden NJ, Gary IN, Detroit MI and Memphis TN.

Notice anything about them?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

Ethics is pretty well spelled out, the confusion might result from the fact that you've figured out a way to defamiliarize yourself with this basic concept that underpins social organization and civilization.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 8:06 am

values and morals gives the lie to absolutionism in ethics.

"X is right" is virtually indistinguishable from "I like X" or "I approve of X".

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 8:19 am

Right, you get to do whatever you want to no matter how much is materially screws over someone else. Ain't that con-fucking-venient?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

ipso facto, entail that all behaviors are equally good or bad. It does, however, puncture and thwart those who would claim a particular morality trumps all others purely for the purpose of furthering their own personal agenda.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

Don't you live in a TIC? Be careful before throwing stones.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

from poor people of color by playing a part in gentrifying the Mission and making it white again.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

The home we live in was previously owned by a white woman who passed away in an assisted living condo in Los Angeles within the past decade at age 102. The unit passed into our hands via converters as she was wrapping up her independent life. Nothing to see here.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

And a unit that, because of your occupation, is no longer available as an affordable rental?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

We do not live in a TIC, you are wrong.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

because it means that unit is forever lost to rent control. You own and occupy a unit in a POC neighborhood that is not longer affordable.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

Did you condo convert? Or was it post-1979 construction?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

No, it went from what we think was a single family home to being divided into two TIC units and then condo converted. We bought it after we were evicted.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

because it removes housing units from rent control forever.

Did you carefully weigh that factor inconsidering occupying a unit that had been permanently removed from the city's affordable housing stock?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

The deal at the time was to trade 2 unit buildings for a firewall on larger buildings. The housing activists see most who own condos as rich conservatives.

But for of all of their opposition to evictions, they were nowhere to be found when 13 folks, tenants, small businesses and even a showing artist of color, were evicted, especially when it was an a nonprofit doing the eviction.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

When you get right down to it. Didn't you read Tiny's piece today? She'll tell you what time it is!!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

Since college, I think.

Marcos opposes new build of homes because that would devalue his own home. When it comes right down to it, activists and progressives are just as greedy and hooked on RE as those they criticize.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

I'd have no problems if the housing built was intended for San Franciscans who are housing impoverished instead of foreigners and speculative investors.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

And only let in people who you personally and ideologically approve of?

How liberal of you.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 22, 2012 @ 7:02 am

I congratulate you on owning a home in SF. You are very fortunate and obviously care for the community.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

It's truly overwhelming to see the never-ending battle that tenants as well as businesses are facing in SF.
In addition to skyrocketing housing costs, countless beloved businesses are closing up shop due to landlords doubling and even tripling rent.

I'm curious if people know of businesses and merchants associations organizing together against landlords who are spiking rents.

The latest long-running business to closest Currents bath/aromatherapy shop at 911 Valencia St. It's landlord is tripling the rent and forcing them to leave after 15 years.

What community resources are out there?
Is there any legislation that folks can support to address the negative community impacts of such evictions?

Of course we live in a free-market where this is the name of the game. But community organizing and public policy has a role to play as well.

The Mission's bookstores are facing eviction:

The Mission's restaurants can't keep up with spiking rents:

As others have already been evicted:

Posted by jls on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 12:35 am

SFBG. But I have news for you - small shops, restaurants and businesses open and close all the time. The failure rate for small businesses is very high. Throw in a city undergoing significant demographic change and these kinds of transitions are inevitable.

SF has no commercial rent control and, if it did, business would fail even more often because property owners would simply convert to residential and sell, as they do with RC flats now.

Capitalism is a tough, competitive business and the weak don't survive. Bailing out the poor is one thing; bailing out doomed business is a step too far, even in a left-wing city like this.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:51 am

these pages often, but the "Guest" here is a particular and frequent commenter on the site who posts under the generic name to avoid having each sick utterance ineluctibly associated with all the others. Once you begin to recognize the M.O. though, it's handy to discount such out of hand; further analysis invariably reveals each to be based on a series of erroneous preconceptions and/or outright lies. The purpose of these posts is not to carry on a discussion but to produce a feeling of pain. I call this Guest "bold-lying-Guest" but "failing sadist Guest" might be more appropriate.

You make some good points. When landlords are done jacking the rents around and sending established businesses down the drain in exchange for starry-eyed expectations which will soon be dashed, everyone ends up with the costly result, both in terms of lost economic- and cultural- vitality.

Bold lying Guest, I hope you can read between the lines here: |f|u|c|k|y|o|u|

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

If you are a low-rent business in a high-rent location then, one way or the other, you will not survivie. Either you move to a more appropriate location or you close down. You can hardly blame landlords for charging a market rent - they are not charities.

The rest of your rant is of course just a personal attack, which belittles both you and the points you try and make. Learn civility even if you can't be right very often.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 6:48 pm

It's said that Reagan made callousness and greed acceptable. But if Reagan made it acceptable, today's far right has taken it a step further. What was once a cardinal sin, is now asserted not just as a right, but a "duty." The rabid Randian right gives reptiles a bad name.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 25, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

bid? But rather take the second or third highest? Or maybe even the lowest bid? Just because you're not "greedy".

Likewise, if your boss offers you a raise, do you decline it because to accept it would be greedy?

If not, then why complain when others do the same thing as you clearly do, and try and maximize their revenue or minimize their costs?

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 7:21 am

People flock to California; nobody moves to North Dakota. Even the Wall Street criminals who make up these reports based on their own contrived data don't want to live there, proving they don't believe the garbage they spew.

California is poorly run in one way though (but it's not necessarily our fault). We send our tax dollars to states like the five supposedly "best run" states so they can survive because otherwise they'd be starving, because those parasitic red states don't produce anything. Of course that begs the question... if they're so well-run, why do they need our dollars?

Posted by Greg on Dec. 25, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

There is no pride from having a paralyzed, compromized, administration, with massive taxes and yet the worst services and education, and the most debt, and the lowest credit rating, in the US.

If that is success, give me failure.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 25, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

If you want to move to failed states like North Dakota, dependent on the largess of producer states like California, nothing is stopping you. It's one thing to move to another country (very difficult... trust me, I've looked into it); quite another thing to move to a different state (very easy -I've done it many times in my life, and finally settled on the state I want to live in). And yet no one does. All those people who whine about high taxes and poor business climate don't want to move there. No, they come to California where taxes are high and business climate is supposedly so poor. Even the Wall Street types who make up these metrics don't want to live in their contrived utopias. So if North Dakota comes out ahead of California, then that just proves the metrics themselves are meaningless.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 25, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

then you should leave? But it's OK for you to tell me to move to the Dakota's if I don't liike CA?

Again, an independent study shows that CA has the highest taxes, the most debt, AND the worst services. And somehow you think that is not a problem?

CA is a basketcase and the laughing stock of the nation. And you're OK with that?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 25, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

If you had a home in the 9th Ward of Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina you cant just call the city and tell them to stop nature or fix a levy. San Francisco is now a wealthy retirement/ tech /trust fund community and the flood gates are open - there are many articles about sf going grey I'm still fairly young and want to enjoy my youth being middle class and own a home etc(i moved away). I hear the bay bridge is going to be 10$ in the near future so even if you live in oakland the man's going to get your $ to even breath in SF..lol have fun fighting over scraps in sf if your not rich. Many middle class and poor people that remain in sf think people(politicians/developers/investors) care about feelings.....lol work on being rich if you are not if you want to remain in sf or stay in your 1bedroom/studio and pray you don't have an eviction. cheers

Posted by Guestjames on Jan. 08, 2013 @ 1:17 am