LGBT icon evicted, leaving town, blasting Wiener

The man who made this movie is gone from San Francisco

Documentary filmmaker and longtime queer community activist and leader David Weissman is leaving San Francisco -- because he and three other tenants of his place on Oak Street have been evicted under the Ellis Act. These evictions are happening all over town; it's a disaster. Weissman isn't going quietly, though; he's penned a sharp letter to Sup. Scott Weiner that's making the rounds in tenant and LGBT circles and creating enough controversy that Wiener has put out a long response.

Weissman told me the rash of Ellis Act evictions is horrifying, particularly when seniors are involved. "So many people who have lived through the AIDS epidemic are now finding themselves unwanted and adrift," he said. "There have always been two competing visions of San Francisco, and the one that's ascendant now says that people who can own property and make a lot of money will make this a better city. But I've always believed that what makes this city great are the creative types who don't always have a lot of money."

Read his letter to Wiener and the supervisor's response after the jump. (UPDATE: It's worth noting what Weissman posted below, that he is not becoming homeless and spends half his time in Portland, where he will no doubt now live. He won't be a San Franciscan any more. He writes: "Thanks to everyone for your kind words of support. The letter was intended to bring attention to the larger issues at stake, that most renters in SF are in serious and increasing risk of Ellis Act eviction. As most of you know, my own situation is unusual, in that I've been living back and forth between SF and Portland since 2004, with the full knowledge of my benevolent late landlords. I will always be a San Franciscan in my heart, and am trying to find ways to maintain some kind of base there."

Dear Supervisor Weiner:

We've met a few times. I'm the producer of the documentaries We Were Here and The Cockettes, both of which chronicle the history of Gay San Francisco. I've been a San Franciscan since 1976. In 1979 I was on the campaign staff of Prop R, a rent-control initiative that didn't pass, but which pushed the Board of Supervisors to pass the significantly weaker Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Law. I subsequently became a Legislative Aide to Supervisor Harry Britt. I worked a couple of campaigns with Dick Pabich and Jim Rivaldo, and also worked closely with Bill Kraus -- heroic leaders whose names I hope are familiar to you.

I am being forced out of my apartment that I've rented since 1986 due to the Ellis Act. This will end my 37-year residency in San Francisco. I must say that I find your policies regarding housing in San Francisco -- your consistent bias toward home ownership at the expense of tenants and affordability, to be dismaying, and an affront to the legacy of Harvey Milk. In my own situation, it has been extremely clear that the limitations on condo conversion provided somewhat of an impediment to the immediate eviction of everyone in my building (all gay, 3 out of 4 of us are seniors), motivating the landlord to at least pay us to leave rather than just evict us at very minimal cost to him. But even this is appalling -- your efforts should be toward further combating the effects of the Ellis Act, rather than contributing to the tsunami of evictions that is destroying the fabric of our City. No buyout can compensate for the loss of our homes.

I don’t doubt that you have good intentions, and that you have done some good things as Supervisor. Though you didn’t live here in the worst of the AIDS years, I assume you’ve been somewhat impacted by that history. But for those of us who elected Harvey Milk, who fought the Briggs Initiative and Anita Bryant, who created this amazing gay community centered around Castro Street, and then who fought for our lives and the lives of our brothers through two decades of AIDS deaths... having a gay supervisor promoting policies that are forcing so many of our generation out of our homes and out of the City to which we have given so much is heartbreaking.

Wiener's response, posted on Facebook:

Hi David. Yes, we have met several times, and I’ve always been a huge admirer of your work. You’re an icon in our community. “We Were Here” is one of the best and most moving films I’ve ever seen.

Your email is deeply distressing to me. It’s awful that the Ellis Act was used to evict you and the other tenants out of your building. I don’t support the Ellis Act and I publicly supported Mark Leno’s (unfortunately unsuccessful) legislation to restrict its use. Back in the 90s, when I was a new lawyer, I defended numerous tenants against the wave of evictions at the time, both Ellis Act and Owner-Move-In evictions, and it was as heartbreaking then as it is now. I’m truly sorry that this happened to you and sorry for the City that you now are leaving. I would be more than interested in helping you find a place in San Francisco that you can afford. Please let me know if you want my help in that effort. I’m at your disposal.

It took me a day to respond to this email, because it’s a challenging response to write. Something terrible happened to you. You have every right to be angry and frustrated that so many great years in San Francisco, building our community, may come to an end this way. (I truly hope that we can avoid that, of course.) But, I do need to respond to some things that you said in your email about me. I hate to have to respond -– since what happened to you was so awful -– but I don’t think that your comments about me, which you’ve now disseminated publicly, are fair or accurate. It’s not accurate to describe my policy bent as having a “consistent bias toward home ownership at the expense of tenants and affordability.” I know you disagree with my legislation to provide one-time relief to owner-occupied TICs that are at risk of foreclosure, and I’ll get to that in a bit. I’m not sure how much you know about my public positions and votes over a decade on housing issues, but I’ll describe them for you. While I do support helping people achieve home ownership –- and I don’t in any way run away from that -- I’ve supported just about every pro-tenant measure that’s appeared on the ballot, including measures that my predecessor and Mayor Newsom opposed (that’s not a criticism of my predecessor or Mayor Newsom, both of whom I strongly supported, but we had a difference of opinion). I supported Prop B, which required disclosure to prospective condo purchasers of the unit’s eviction history. That went on the ballot after the Mayor vetoed it, and I supported it. I supported Prop H, which increased relocation payments to tenants in no-fault evictions. That went on the ballot after the Mayor vetoed it, and I supported it. I supported Prop M, which banned and created penalties for harassment of tenants. That went on the ballot after the Mayor vetoed it, and I supported it. And, as noted, I supported Mark Leno’s effort to restrict the application of the Ellis Act. I also supported limiting or banning condo conversion for units that were made vacant through use of the Ellis Act.

As a member of the Board of Supervisors I’ve continued my work supporting tenants. I authored and passed legislation banning universities (including Academy of Arts University) from converting rent-controlled apartment buildings into student dorms. That was a huge win for tenants, and I pushed it through against intense opposition. I authored and passed the Good Samaritan Ordinance, which was supported by tenants groups and which provides affordable temporary apartments for tenants who are displaced by disasters.

Now, let’s talk about my work around affordable housing. I was one of the people who negotiated the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Prop C, which appeared on last November’s ballot and won. I campaigned for it passionately. It will generate $1.5 billion for affordable housing in coming decades. I’ve been closely involved with the 55 Laguna project, which will create quite a bit of affordable housing, including affordable housing for LGBT seniors. I’ve supported every transition-age youth housing project that’s come to the board, all of which have been controversial. I’ve publicly begged Larkin Street to create more youth housing in the Castro.

I stand by my record on housing policy, including support for tenants and for creation of affordable housing. Your perception of my overall record simply isn’t accurate.

As for my TIC legislation, I respect your opposition to it, but I don’t think it’s fair to state that by helping struggling TIC owners stay in their homes –- and helping them avoid foreclosure -– I’m forcing gay people from their homes. David, you and I don’t know each other well, but if you got to know me, you’d know that I’ve spent my entire adult life (which has been more years than you might think) fighting for the LGBT community. Whether playing a key role in building the LGBT community center, fighting my neighbors on Collingwood Street when they tried to get rid of LYRIC, leading the charge to restore HIV funding cuts in our city budget, to helping get transgender people health coverage under Healthy San Francisco, or sponsoring the legislation that created the LGBT senior task force, support for my brothers and sisters in this community has been at the core of everything I do.

The TIC legislation is not what its opponents have painted it to be. I’ve posted a full explanation of the legislation here.
This legislation provides one-time relief to TIC owners in owner-occupied TICs that are in the condo lottery. San Francisco law restricts or prohibits condo conversion for buildings that have had Ellis Act or other bad eviction history. This legislation sticks by those restrictions. These TIC owners are in serious trouble. They purchased thinking they’d be able to convert in 5-7 years. It’s now looking like 15-20 years. That’s 15-20 years on a group mortgage –- where if one owner defaults everyone defaults -– paying double the interest rate of other homeowners, and being unable to refinance even if you’re about to experience a balloon payment on the mortgage. If we don’t help these TIC owners, we’re going to see a wave of foreclosures and people losing their homes. While I fully understand the opposition to condo conversion, I guess my question is whether allowing these homeowners to go into foreclosure is a good thing for the city. I don’t think it is. This is a one-time and discrete piece of legislation designed to help a group of San Francisco residents -– primarily long-time residents -– who are in serious trouble.

These TIC owners aren’t aliens who landed here and snapped up units. Almost every TIC owner I’ve ever met is a first-time homeowner who rented for years (often renting for a lot of years) and then scraped together a down payment to be able to purchase a place. They’re middle class, since if they were wealthy they’d be able to buy more than a TIC. Many are people who’ve lived here for a very long time –- 15, 20 years or longer. Many are gay. These are San Franciscans just like you and I are. They, too, are part of the fabric of our city. I don’t think it’s anti-tenant, anti-gay, or anti-anything to provide them with some help by letting them condo convert their units so that they can have housing stability.

It’s estimated that 85% of these TIC units are owner-occupied. And for the very small number of tenants who live in these buildings, the legislation mandates that they receive lifetime leases with full rent and eviction controls. Again, 85% of the units are occupied by their owners.

David, I regret having to respond to you like this. That’s pretty much the last thing I want to do with someone who’s going through something as traumatic as what you’re experiencing. But, since you made a pretty bald public assertion about what I stand for and who I advocate for, I thought it necessary to respond.


boss. That's how scared the establishment is about the damage your posts here do to their cause and profits.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

What a paranoid little shit troll. I did not ask who is paying you to post here all day, just who is paying you. Looks like I hit a nerve!

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:54 pm

knowledge of your boss, and you've confirmed that by over-reacting.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

and neither do you from the looks of it.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

– Supervisor Scott Wiener, 2012: "I don't have a problem with nudity in general, but it's not proper to expose your genitals on the street corner for hours and hours."

Imagine 24 people with Supervisor Dan White's, 1978 statement as follows:

- Supervisor Dan White, 1978: "I see naked men walking around which doesn't bother me as far as my personal standards of nudity, but it's just not proper,"

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

– Supervisor Scott Wiener, 2012: "I don't have a problem with nudity in general, but it's not proper to expose your genitals on the street corner for hours and hours."

Imagine 24 people with Supervisor Dan White's, 1978 statement as follows:

- Supervisor Dan White, 1978: "I see naked men walking around which doesn't bother me as far as my personal standards of nudity, but it's just not proper,"

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 4:50 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

Why is it rent control which makes people crazy - both those who are protected by it and those whose property rights are constricted by it? It's rare any column here gets as many comments as those concerned with rent control.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

Rent control is inherently adversarial.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

system under which we live.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:16 pm

Rent control always wins at the ballot box.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 11:39 pm

the will of San Franciscans by passing state laws like the Ellis Act or by trying to pass a statewide proposition against rent control. That's how they repealed rent control in Boston, Brookline and Cambridge, Massachusetts, a statewide proposition to decide the local laws of just three municipalities.

The "New Federalists" are against local control when it is at odds with their economic interests. Their only principles are what makes them the most money at the expense of others. It's easier and more profitable to steal than it is to produce or create something.

Economic terrorists.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 12:00 am

Californians declined to ban rent control at the ballot within the past 5 years.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 8:04 am

most of those who rent aren't affected by rent control, it really wasn't a good cause for voters to get behind.

However, the death knell for rent control will probably come from Sacramento.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

Most notably, SF never approved vacancy control (before it was banned under State law) whereas Berkeley and Santa Monica did.

But there is a danger with democracy that the poor, being a majority, can be tempted to vote to simply confiscate the wealth of the rich, who have fewer votes.

In a sense they do that thru taxes anyway, but at least in that case those who vote for more tax also have to pay more tax, as we saw with Prop 30.

Rent control is seductive because it appears that the subsidies are "free" and so voters won't have to pay for them. It's an illusion, of course, because they end up paying in different ways such as, say, a lack of available rental housing. Or of course visits from Mr. Ellis, as with Weissman.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 8:16 am

Rent control always wins at the ballot.

What kind of idiocy in the troll world cannot distinguish between the words "rent" and "vacancy" ?

"But there is a danger with democracy that the poor, being a majority, can be tempted to vote to simply confiscate the wealth of the rich, who have fewer votes."

What's so dangerous about that? Why are you afraid of democracy?

Perhaps if only property owners could vote, that might allay your fears?

Maybe that's too draconian for you, if just white people, no, just white males could vote, then everything would be okay for you, because as we all know, white males are not in any way, shape or form dangerous.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 8:52 am

The rrest of your post is also wrong. RC only wins as much as it does because the voters do not directly pay foir the subsidy so they see it as a free lunch.

And then they wonder why rents are so high. And why Ellis evictions are on a rip.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 9:45 am

"The rest of your post is also wrong"

"You (Progressive) never win a debate"

"You (Progressive) resort to ad hominem and labels"

"I get the better of you (Progressive) every time"

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 10:09 am

Even the great unwashed voters of SF could see thru the vacancy control scam.

And for those who do not know, it was vacancy control that directly led to the two huge holes that have been driven thru rent control - Ellis and Costa-Hawkins.

So it's doubly ironic that SF should have so many Ellis Act evictions when SF never had vacancy control.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

in their self-interest when they actually have a choice. Usually, you fall back to the argument of the primacy of the voters will and the moderation of the San Francisco electorate. In reality, you pick and choose, which is unsurprising because you are unprincipled.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 10:46 am

free lunch for 2/3 of the voters when, in fact, it is nothing like that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

you think voters are stupid.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

They are not omnipotent - voters passed Prop 8 for example. Tim would say voters were stupid for passing Prop 13 while I'd say they were justified in doing so. Just because something gets a majority of support at the ballot box does not make it right.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 3:52 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

"Rent control always wins at the ballot."

It's time to take the next progressive step, as was proposed in Berkeley twenty years ago.

Why should fat-cat homeowners like Marcos make a windfall profit when they sell their house or condo?

Obviously, there should be limits to how much Marcos can sell his condo for - the price he sells for should be limited to the rate of inflation. A city agency could be created to control and limit house prices, just as there is already a city agency to control and limit rents.

If it is wrong for landlords to make windfall profits from real estate, it is wrong for Marcos to make windfall profits from real estate!

It is time to take the next step - from rent control to house price control!

Stop the ripoffs!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 9:59 am

"A man's home is his castle." The idea that you can't be put out of your home because someone comes along willing to bribe your landlord any amount to do so is a fundamental American value -- one made an ever more critical neccessity due to the extreme wealth disparity which now exists.

That rent control doesn't have even greater success at the polls is a testament to the problems with the implementation of democracy.

Thanks for helping to point that out, disgusting lying piece of crap troll.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 9:18 am

Lilli's cheap rent is a Basic American Value!

Let the peasants live in San Bruno, not Lilli!

"That rent control doesn't have even greater success at the polls is a testament to the problems with the implementation of democracy."

Most people either want to buy a house, or don't want a system that locks you into a single rental in perpetuity, no matter how your circumstances change, because you can't compete against existing tenants for alternative rentals.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 9:37 am

It's a fundamental American value.

Only a complete twit -- one capable of being taken in by any one of the various bits of the Right Wing catechism -- would be swayed by the half-witted analysis above which fails to take into account that would be renters are beneficiaries of the law as soon as they become renters.

In fact, the appeal of San Francisco rentals (or at least for the subset of San Francisco rental real-estate upon which the law acts) is, in part, based on the fact that once rented, an apartment cannot be taken away capriciously, or used as a lever for extortion.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 9:59 am

"In fact, the appeal of San Francisco rentals (or at least for the subset of San Francisco rental real-estate upon which the law acts) is, in part, based on the fact that once rented, an apartment cannot be taken away capriciously, or used as a lever for extortion"

Why, I don't understand why anyone rents outside of San Francisco, given the lack of rent control protections!

Without rent control, no one would rent in San Francisco!

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 10:22 am

security and premanence. Even under rent control, you are out if your building is Ellis'ed, or your unit is OMI'ed, or there is a substantial rehabilitation.

There is no reasonable expectation that a renter can spend his lifetime squatting in just one place. Nor should anyone want that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

only in existence in a few cities. Boston's went away and NYC now only has RC for the poor.

There's nothing really American about price controls.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 9:46 am

Back to grave Ayn Rand!

Posted by C. SINGS on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 11:31 am

Price controls create scarcity. We just have to learn to live with that trade off.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 9:46 am

You've got the causality backwards again. Price controls come about ONLY when there is scarcity and one economic class is harming another economic class. Even True-Blue Republican Richard Nixon instituted price controls when his big business supporters were gouging consumers on all sorts of products and services in the early 1970's. Since there were scarcities and prices were skyrocketing (partly caused by the US going off the gold standard and partly caused by exploding government debt causing inflation), he had no choice but to institute wage and price controls.

Similarly, in many nations at war food and energy shortages often arise. If left to the "market," the rich would consume most of the country's food and energy resources and leave little for the bottom 70% of society. There too price controls are often used and mandatory rationing is implemented to ensure that everyone gets a minimum level of food and energy and therefore doesn't starve or freeze to death during the economic stresses always caused by wars.

Similar to the bogus land-use zoning issue raised recently ("strict land-use laws cause housing shortages," when in reality it's the opposite that's true: "strict land-use laws are enacted because developers are raping the physical environment in their quest for profits and destroying the livablity of the local residents"), these backwards thinking posts on SFBG really dumb down the discussion. But I suppose that's part of the point. If you keep repeating the same lies over and over, then maybe some people will believe it. At least you've got Wiener, Farrell, Chu, and Sullivan drinking your kool-aid, so good job there.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

You really should think before you open your mouth.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

The post said 70% of the poorest rungs of society would suffer if price controls and rationing weren't imposed by the government. Personally I'd prefer if no price controls or rationing were imposed since then it's likely the majority of the population desparate for food and heat would overthrow the government and hopefully expel the top 30% of economic elites that consume the majoriy of a country's resources. They could expel them to the US where economic warfare against the bottom rungs of society has become a high art form.

And I don't buy the 1% nonsense. In most countries it's much closer to 25-35% of the country's population that has economic privilege: the largest landlowners and capital owners are obvious enough, but add to these groups the entrenched political and government bureaucracy groups; the bondholders; the professional groups (doctors, lawyers, developers, etc.); the well-compensated parts of the artisan classes; the legions of local, county and state government workers who all have a stake in the existing status quo; the children and relatives of these economic elites; the tenured university and college professors and employees who also have a big stake in the existing status quo; the military groups and 3rd party suppliers; the smaller landlords and small business owners; the well-compensated managers who help landlords and business owners increase their wealth; and a few other favored economic groups that exist in almost every country. Add up all of these favored groups and the percentage of any country's economic elites is closer to 25-35%, not the 1% touted often by the know-little "leftists." Some of these economic groups may be more favored than others, but they all have much more economic clout than the 65% of the poorest rungs of society, who often fight among themselves for the few economic scraps remaining. Exceptions exist, of course, such as in northern Europe or in the poorest countries like Chad, but for much of human history these economic groups have always had their heavy boots on the throats of the bottom 2/3 of society.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

Which is blatant nonsense unless most people are rich.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

In present day San Francisco, an alarmingly large number of rental property owners are responding to price controls by legally removing their properties from the supply of rental housing.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

are being held deliberately vacant rather than the owner risk a left sentence with a bad tenant whose rent doesn't cover the costs.

The law of unintended consequences applies as much to rent control as to every other piece of misguided public policy.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 11:21 am

Reading these messages reminds me of how this is another instance of Weiner uniting people with diverse needs and opinions, and we're all working together for solutions that benefit everyone. Harvey would be proud of him.

[Insert sarcasm here.]

What's next on Weiner's agenda to make San Francisco a better place to live and work?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 9:22 am

This guy lives in Portland! See ya....

Posted by Richmondman on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 11:12 am
Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 11:21 am

Sounds to me like Weissman is just another San Francisco "creative" type who wants to have his cake and eat it too. Based on the comments - here's what I'm seeing - a rent controlled apartment in SF while living in Portland - doesn't sound very legal....then renting out and collecting rent on the vacant rent controlled apartment in SF while living in Portland...also doesn't sound very legal. You want to live in multiple cities, but spend time making movies, traveling and writing hate mail to a supervisor who has mostly done a lot of good in a city full of people really difficult to please, well then you have to work for it - no one's going to hand it to you just because you're creative and think you deserve it. I'm so sick of the "creative" types making it seem like those of us who don't spend the day fingerpainting are somehow lacking some essential piece of humanity or do not contribute in other ways. indeed, the subsidized healthcare, housing and other amenitites in this city are mostly paid for by...wait for it...the very professionals that Weissman indirectly points at as the culprits of his eviction and the changes in SF.

Posted by Gay Guest on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

he could probably have done better than some subletting various homes in various cities while gaming the rent control laws and defrauding his landlord.

The sense of entitlement that some of these bad artists feel towards their "right" to live in a place they clearly cannot afford is stunning.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

Rent amounts should be means tested. The current situation is beyond ridiculous. Newcomers will pay 2500+ for a tiny 1BR anywhere in the City while the entitled long term tenants will keep dirt cheap rentals as crash pads / second homes.

With someone else's property!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

Weissman had a great deal for a long, long time. Why renters feel that they should be able to remain in rental stock in perpetuity, especially when they don't even reside in the property full time, is mind boggling.

All of you on about "TIC owners made a bad financial decision," should realize that staying holding onto a rental unit forever is also a decision with consequences.

Posted by kennydojo on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

You evict then you can't convert, very simple.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

are going to be allowed to convert. From what you say, they never evicted anyone.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 02, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

From what you infer, you are an idiot troll.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 03, 2013 @ 8:58 am

The listener infers. The speaker implies.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2013 @ 7:10 am