Tenant groups propose sweeping package to ease the "eviction epidemic"

Longtime progressive activist Ernestine Weiss was among the attendees at our "Housing for Whom?" forum last night.

Tenant advocates today proposed a sweeping set of legislative proposals to address what they’re calling the “eviction epidemic” that has hit San Francisco, seeking to slow the rapid displacement of tenants by real estate speculators with changes to land use, building, rent control, and other city codes.

“In essence, it’s a comprehensive agenda to restrict the speculation on rental units,” Chinatown Community Development Center Policy Director Gen Fujioka told the Guardian. “We can’t directly regulate the Ellis Act [the state law allowing property owners to evict tenants and take their apartments off the rental market], but we’re asking the city to do everything but that.”

The package was announced this morning on the steps of City Hall by representatives of CCDC, San Francisco Tenants Union, Housing Rights Committee of SF, Causa Justa-Just Cause, Tenderloin Housing Clinic, UNITE HERE Local 2, Community Tenants Association, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

“San Francisco is falling into one of the deepest and most severe eviction crises in 40 years,” SFTU Director Ted Gullicksen said. “It is bad now and is going to get worse unless the city acts.”

The package includes: require those converting rental units into tenancies-in-common to get a conditional use permit and bring the building into compliance with current codes (to discourage speculation and flipping buildings); regulate TIC agreements to discourage Ellis Act abuse; increase required payments to evicted tenants and improve city assistance to those displaced by eviction; require more reporting on the status of units cleared with the Ellis Act by their owners; investigate and prosecute Ellis Act fraud (units are often secretly re-rented at market rates after supposedly being removed from the market); increase inspections of construction on buildings with tenants (to prevent landlords from pressuring them to move); prohibit the demolition, mergers, or conversions of rental units that have been cleared of tenants using no-fault evictions in the last 10 years (Sup. John Avalos has already introduced this legislation).

“The evidence is clear. We are facing not only an eviction crisis but also a crisis associated with the loss of affordable rental housing across the city. Speculative investments in housing has resulted in the loss of thousands affordable apartments through conversions and demolitions. And the trend points to the situation becoming much worse,” the coalition wrote in a public statement proposing the reforms.

Evictions have reached their high level since the height of the last dot-com boom in 1999-2000, with 1,934 evictions filed in San Francisco in fiscal year 2012-13, and the rate has picked up since then. The Sheriff’s Department sometimes does three evictions per day, last year carrying out 998 court-ordered evictions, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told us, arguing for an expansion of city services to the displaced.

At “Housing for Whom?” a community forum the Guardian hosted last night in the LGBT Center, panelists and audience member talked about the urgent need to protect and expand affordable housing in the city. They say the current eviction epidemic is being compounded by buyouts, demolitions, and the failure of developers to build below-market-rate units.  

“We’re bleeding affordable housing units now,” Fred Sherburn-Zimmer of Housing Right Committee said last night, noting the steadily declining percentage of housing in the city that is affordable to current city residents since rent control was approved by voters in 1979. “We took out more housing than we’ve built since then.”

Peter Cohen of the Council of Community Housing Organizations actually quantified the problem, citing studies showing that only 15 percent of San Franciscans can afford the rents and home prices of new housing units coming online. He said the housing isn’t being built for current city residents: “It’s a demand derived from a market calculation.”

Cohen said the city’s inclusionary housing laws that he helped write more than a decade ago were intended to encourage developers to actually build below-market-rate units in their projects, but almost all of them choose to pay the in-lieu fee instead, letting the city find ways to build the housing and thereby delaying construction by years.

“It was not about writing checks,” Cohen said. “It was about building affordable units.”

Last night’s discussion began with a debate about the waterfront luxury condo project proposed for 8 Washington Street, which either Props. B or C would allow the developer to build. Project opponent Jon Golinger squared off against proponent Tim Colen, who argued that the $11 million that the developer is contributing to the city’s afforable housing fund is an acceptable tradeoff.

But Sherburn-Zimmer said the developer should be held to a far higher standard given the obscence profits that he’ll be making from waterfront property that includes a city-owned seawall lot. “Public land needs to be used for the public good.”

Longtime progressive activist Ernestine Weiss sat in the front row during the forum, blasting Colen and his Prop. B as a deceptive land grab and arguing that San Francisco’s much ballyhooed rent control law was a loophole-ridden compromise that should be strengthened to prevent rents from jumping to market rate when a master tenant moves out, and to limit rent increases that exceed wage increases (rent can now rise 1.9 percent annually on rent controlled apartment.

“That’s baloney that it’s rent control!” she told the crowd.











"It is no secret to anyone that the campaign for affordable housing in San Francisco is treading water at best."

Marcos is correct about the non-profit housing builders and managers. They are part of the problem when it comes crafting solutions to overall housing issues, but they're still doing good work building housing for a small segment of the population who would be on the streets if not for their work. I'd never criticize them other than they should be more honest about the very narrow field they work in and not pretend they're "housing experts." When I see Peter Cohen's name or Randy Shaw or Calvin Welch talking about "affordable housing" issues that supposedly apply to everyone I vomit because, in fact, they are working with Wall Street bankers selling tax credits to multi-millionaires, and working with big-money bankers who finance the construction, and working with expensive lawyers who are experts in the detailed rules and regulations of non-profit housing law to get their projects built. It's important work but it has nothing to do with housing issues for the other 95%. So far I've never heard anything from any of them that provides worthwhile solutions to housing for the rest of us. And if they own a property already, all I see is a hypocrite talking as if they expect me to live in one of their non-profit managed buildings while they get to live in a unit without an officious, nosey landlord looking over their shoulder. No thanks.

"Nobody in the movement has cornered the market on experience and wisdom, and we should all listen to each other and learn together.'

This is your megalomania talking. It disrespects people who have devoted their lives to a particular subject and it makes it seem like you're some superman who's going to save the day. There are 800,000 other people in the city. Shouldn't we ask for their opinions too? It's one thing to ask more expert people directly - not publicly - "why not this or why not that," but to pretend like you already know what you're talking about or that you're some informed critic on a public chatboard is lunacy. It disrespects yourself. It disrespects the service the SFBG provides by allowing these open conversations. And it disrespects the many people who have worked on these issues for decades. You've made at least 10 posts above that make you sound incredibly ignorant, yet they're asserted with this air or righteousness and authority. It's madness talking and it wastes people's time.

If you truly want to learn more about the subject go volunteer to work at Gen's or Ted's or Fred's organizations, if they'll have you for a few years (but please don't volunteer during one of my shifts since I want nothing to do with self-described "activists"). I'll guarantee you that you'll know 50% LESS in two years than you think you know now. These subjects are that complicated and nuanced, with hundreds of regulations and hundreds of court cases and hundreds of competing interests. I don't care how smart someone is, they don't just waltz in and tell everyone "this is the way it should be and if you don't agree with me then you're all sell-outs or idiots or agents of the 'man.'"

All I see is someone pretending to be an intellectual about something he doesn't know much about and pretension is one of the worse sins ever. If you want to be useful to humanity, pick one subject that needs work and apply yourself for 5, 10 or 30 years. Maybe, but only maybe, you'll make a difference. But all you're doing here for the past few years is making "progressives" look like they don't know what they're talking about and turning off scores of people who might be otherwise attracted to get involved with the heavy, dirty work of the details and the slow progress it takes to a better result.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

...years now and I don't need your advice on how to be an effective activist.

If you actually had the guts to come forward with your real name, I might be willing to pick up a dialogue with you and try to figure out what has struck a nerve with you.

But until then I have to assume you are just a manipulator trying to stir up conflict between activists.

Any time you want to approach me in real life, by all means do so. I'm sure that you can figure out how to reach me. A lot of people have my contact information.

I'm guessing what got you all fired up is my comment about nonprofits working on affordable housing being conflicted because they get city grants. Sorry, but that's just stating a fact. And I did not even call out anyone specific.

The only organizing group I have really let loose on in this or any other public media is the bicycle coalition because they have supported bad developer projects that I was fighting to stop, and in the case of Parkmerced they probably even tipped the scales into our losing that campaign.

Other than that group I have never publicly gone after any other organization in the media. So it is strange to me that you are suddenly so defensive.

Why don't you email me with your concerns so we can seek a common ground.

Now on your specific charge about my posts; would you be so kind as to detail what in my blog comments you think is so reprehensible? The stuff I am taking about is very basic stuff that only right wingers and libertarians disagree with.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:12 pm

People like you think they have all the answer. You love to talk but hate to listen. You should be out there ASKING people what they want and not TELLING them what they should want.

It is OK for you to speculate about a marxist housing market in SF but of course it will never happen. That's like a develop coming here and demanding all land use laws are repealed. That is about as likely.

People just see you as a hopelessly out-of-touch extremist and that is why, for all your effort, you achieve so little. I don't achieve very much either, but the difference is that I know and admit it. You do not. You are deluded.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 6:25 am

Can you describe in detail what I have worked on in the past two decades in San Francisco? In my past three decades as an activist? And then describe how I have supposedly achieved little?

I would guess that you are not even aware of what I have worked on and achieved.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

I only have to look at the forest of skyscrapers and the armada of private auto's in SF to see that you have failed with your vision.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 8:23 am

What most strongly triggers my questioning whether you have the judgement or experience to criticize me or anyone else in the movement (and makes me believe you are probably not even real) is your mind boggling claim that Paul Kangas somehow pulled back the curtain on the local clean energy campaign. If you believe that, you have almost zero credibility.

Let me introduce you to Paul Kangas' latest post on these blogs.

To see it go to:


and to verify that this is really Paul and not one of our resident trolls, go to his FaceBook page at:


I think this dispenses with the analytical capacity of Mr. Kangas on slavery, or any other issue.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

Clearly you do...

Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

Why is this tolerated by SFBG?

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

SFBG (mostly) tolerates all your spamming, lilli.

You've trademarked racer さ, perhaps?

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

It can't be good for you or your health.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

In fact often in recognizing evil we have compassion for the one who is so deeply wounded inside, that he does evil to others.

Posted by +ULFBERH+T on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

It is compassion.

Hatred comes from bitterness, envy and resentment that others have more than you do.

Posted by anon on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

Charging some of the highest rents in the world doesn't sound like a gift to me. 

Posted by steven on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

world, so how can rents not be? Your math doesn't add up.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

be "some of the most expensive in the world"?

I never agreed to that, and I am a voting citizen of San Francisco. And so are all of my other fellow tenants in San Francisco. We outnumber homeowners and landlords and it is time for us to demand a change.

Posted by +ULFBERH+T on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

building costs to buy.

And the rents on that building have tor eflect the costs to run it, or else any owner will simply Ellis.

And your co-op idea doesn't change that. If your building costs 100K a year to run, then your rents have to cover that, or your co-op will go bust.

Trying to explain the economics of property ownership to people who clearly do not understand it and have no experience of it is hard work.

Posted by anon on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

Can you point us to a web site which shows how much it costs to run a rental building per unit in San Francisco WITHOUT

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:34 pm
Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

something like this.

Loan/opportunity cost - 5% of value

Property tax - 1.2% of value

Insurance - 0.5% of value

Maintenance - 1% of value

Water/Trash etc 0.5% of value.

Call that 8% of value each year, so 80K a year for a million dollar building, although most rental buildings cost more than that.

So rent have to be around 7K a month total just to break even.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

(Post a site. I am certainly not going to take your claims at face value.)

Let's look at a 30 unit apartment building. What are the costs (other than paying for the purchase of the building).

Show a site with a calculator. I'm sure there is one.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

Essentially you need a rent equal to at least 5% of the building value to cover your costs. And then there is the opportunity cost i.e. the return you could get on that same money elsewhere.

I have no idea about any website and, anyway, each building is different with its own unique cost structure. But you can reckon on 5% to 8% of the value each year

Far and away the biggest cost for a landlord is the acquisition of the building. The rest is fluff in comparison. So yes, if buildings were free, rent would be much lower. But they are not - they are extremely expensive..

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

...to be flipped for profit, rent to tenants would be miniscule.

Anyone who now understands this reality, knows what kind of housing policy to campaign for...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

pay down the mortgage. then, and only then, after 30 years, do your costs fall. Until then, you have to charge market rents to cover your costs.

So, start now, and we will all have cheap rent in 2043.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 6:18 am

Maint would be the cost of the building and its systems divided by the useful life of the building and its systems.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 7:10 am

enough of maintenance. The problem is that rent control gives the owner no incentive to perform that maintenance. Then, if the building decays too much, it gets demolished and its replacement has no rent control.

This is one of the many ways in which rent control backfires.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 26, 2013 @ 8:21 am

Can you point us to a web site which shows how much it costs to run a rental building per unit in San Francisco WITHOUT including the cost of purchasing the building?

It would be very elucidating in this debate to see those numbers.

It is certain, that they are miniscule compared to the building mortgage and profit above those costs and the mortgage.

Why don't you show us I'm wrong.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

the same owner for decades, which rarely happens.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

...cost once a building is paid off and it is not -allowed- to change owners. The whole point is to see what tenants would pay if financial speculation were removed from the process.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 7:01 pm

Look, if you want to take buildings into city ownership, or into trusts or co-op's, you can do that now. You require no changes in the law. Just raise some finance, buy the buildings, and get on with it.

That's the great thing about America. If you have an idea and can convince others to back you, it can happen.

So stop relying on others to do this for you and get started!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

...evictions breaking out like a plague all over the city.

If you and your other cronies would care to stop evicting people, then you might tone down tenant ire enough to delay socialized housing. It's really up to you. Continue to act like pre-revolutionary French elites and pretty rapidly your ability to own buildings will be taken away from you by a very angry proletariat.

Whether to wise up or continue to act foolishly is entirely up to you at this point.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

Weed smokers of the world unite!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

Does Eric seriously believe that we are about to have some socialist uprising in the US, and rip up the Constitution.

I am sure it comforts him to believe that, but nobody with a brain can see any evidence for that happening.

It's just his twee daytime fantasy.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 6:16 am

energy and the environment. I do not know that for sure because I do not know so much about it myself. Rather I disagree with his premise that the planet is doomed.

But he certainly doesn't understand even the basics of how RE is financed, nor the economics of providing rental housing.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 8:54 am

One might think that a landlord would account for mortgage payment and major systems investment as a capital expense while accounting for interest, insurance, taxes, tenant admin and regular maintenance as operating expenses. Figuring this out is not rocket science.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

source that from rental income. You cannot just "accrue" it or "amortize" it.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 6:14 am

for less than, say, 4 grand a month?

I'd prefer these approaches:

1) The city gives tax breaks or credits to landlords with low-rent tenants so that they do not Ellis

2) SF co-ordinates with Oakland to build homes there for poorer SF'er. They have space and cheap land, and we have money.

3) Work together with landlords on a compromize rather than constantly trying to pass laws that discourage landlording here

Posted by anon on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

...buildings that are perfectly profitable in the hands of the original/current owner at lower rents.

Why should we be allowing people to purchase housing in a way that raises housing costs only by virtue of speculative value increases that have nothing to do with the actual use value of the property.

Original/current owners should not even be allowed to sell buildings in that way. We should make them either hold onto their buildings, or sell them to the city or a land trust.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

You'll have to move to another country if you want a law which prohibits a property owner from selling their property.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

At minimum, he would need to change the US Constitution, and reverse the takings clause.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

But another century. Like Bulgaria 1970s...

Posted by Guest two on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

Let me guess. Eminent domain?

Even then, you have to pay the market price.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

How low is your intelligence to not be able to realize NO ONE CHARGES HIGH RENT! It is entirely a function of supply and demand. If no one wants it the price is low. If everyone wants it the price is higher. IDIOTS….

Posted by Guest on Oct. 25, 2013 @ 7:17 am

...dangerous people for what they are. And seek to defend myself and my community against their dangerous actions.

If a rabid wild bear was in my neighborhood, I wouldn't hate it, in fact I would even feel sorry for it. But I would also recognize that it is crazy and needs to be stopped or it will kill everyone in the neighborhood.

An landlords pretty much fit into that category.

They are essentially very large rabid wild animals that must be stopped before they hurt and kill people and destroy neighborhoods.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

I'm sensing a pattern here. every time you meet someone with a different political outlook from you, you call them "dangerous" and "evil" and decide that it is OK to hate them.

Is this the famed San Francisco tolerance and respect for diversity?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

I said they are profoundly stupid and dangerous.

Can you cut and paste the bit and provide the link where I somehow said I hated either landlords or climate crisis deniers?

This isn't about hate. This is about sanity and civilizational and our species' survival (in both cases). Neither 'free market' housing nor global climate collapse denial are sustainable.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

Cutting and pasting the text, and providing a link, to any comments made by me (or anyone else) that supposedly suggested violence toward landlords or climate crisis deniers.

No one has done so on this blog.

It would seem far more likely that the poster is suffering from a persecution complex and is wildly imagining conspiracies to do him and his fellow elites harm; conspiracies which do not exist.

That's one of the problems with wealth disparity. It breeds paranoia in the wealthy; and to such an extent that they encircle themselves behind elaborate gated and walled communities and houses with security guards.

I'm very glad not to be one of them.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

"Cutting and pasting the text, and providing a link, to any comments made by me (or anyone else) that supposedly suggested violence toward landlords or climate crisis deniers."

Of course not. Comparing landlords to rabid animals doesn't imply a threat of violence in your world, I guess.

What do people normally do with rabid animals?

During the Stalinist show trials of the 1930's, a popular slogan was "Shoot the Mad Dogs!"

No threat of violence there, either!

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

...when I wrote that passage, was one of a tranquilizer dart.

You see, if you knew me better, you would know that I am a vegan and an animal rights activist and believe that solving problems with violence toward either animals or people is immoral, foolish and futile.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

You really think rabid animals are subdued with tranquilizer darts?

On the Disney channel, maybe, but not in the real world.

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

the disease that causes rabies does not make animals immune to tranquilizing chemicals

that would be some kind of bug if it could do that

probably from Krypton

hmmmm.... maybe we should try kryponite for treating rabies....

Posted by behofdhi on Oct. 24, 2013 @ 9:24 pm

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