Hundreds attend hearing to call for action on evictions

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Hene Kelly of Senior and Disability Action leads supporters in a chant calling for an end to evictions.
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

Tenants, organizers and residents impacted by Ellis Act evictions packed the Board of Supervisors Chambers at San Francisco City Hall today, Thu/14, for a hearing called by Sup. David Campos on eviction and displacement in San Francisco.

“It seems to me that we have a tale of two cities,” Campos said at the outset of the hearing, which was held by the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee. “The vast majority of individuals are struggling to stay in San Francisco. We must act urgently to address this crisis, which I believe is a crisis.” He added, "We are fighting, I think, for the soul of San Francisco."

Tony Robles of Senior and Disability Action, who showed up at the hearing wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with pobre (the Spanish word for “poor”) printed across the front, expressed his frustration with the surge of evictions taking place in the booming economic climate. “We have been overlooked – the workers, communities of color … it’s almost as if we are an afterthought,” he said.

Fred Brousseau of the San Francisco Budget and Legislative Analyst’s office delivered a report on his recent analysis of eviction and displacement trends across the city.

Overall evictions in San Francisco rose from 1,242 in 2010 to 1,716 in 2013, reflecting an increase of 38.2 percent, according to San Francisco Rent Board Data highlighted in Brousseau’s report. 

Ellis Act evictions in particular increased by 169.8 percent in that same time frame, he said, with the most recent data showing a total of 162 Ellis Act evictions over the twelve months ending in September 2013. That number reflects units evicted, not how many tenants were impacted.

Ted Gullicksen of the San Francisco Tenants Union emphasized that tenant buyouts, frequently offered in lieu of an eviction, are also driving displacement even though these transactions aren’t reflected in city records.

“We need to get in control of these buyouts,” he said. “There are about three of them for every Ellis Act eviction. When you consider them in combination with Ellis, the numbers are very dramatic.”

Brousseau also showed a slide profiling the people who’ve been impacted by evictions citywide. Almost 42 percent had some form of disability, the data revealed, while 49 percent had incomes at or below the federal poverty level.

On the whole, Brousseau said, a total of nearly 43 percent of San Francisco households are “rent-burdened,” a term that officially means devoting more than 30 percent of household income to monthly rental payments.

Throughout the afternoon, tenants shared their stories and fears about getting frozen out of San Francisco by eviction. “I’m looking at shopping carts, and I’m terrified,” one woman told supervisors during public comment. “You have to do something. It might not be enough for me right now, but you can’t do this to any more people.”

Hene Kelly noted that elderly tenants are being disproportionately impacted by Ellis Act evictions. “They don’t have the reserves, they don’t have the jobs, and they don’t have the money to be able to move if they are evicted,” she said. Referencing landlords and speculators who are driving displacement, she added, “It makes me think of cabaret. Money, money, money, money, money makes the world go round.”

Campos noted that he is working with Assembly Member Tom Ammiano on a proposal to grant San Francisco the authority to place a moratorium on Ellis Act evictions.

He’s also working toward legislation that would create a mechanism at the San Francisco Rent Board allowing tenants to register complaints of harassment or other forms of pressure from landlords seeking to drive them out.

His proposal also envisions doubling the amount of relocation assistance that landlords would have to provide to tenants, in the case of no-fault evictions. He also mentioned the possibility of regulating buyouts, by requiring landlords to record these transactions with the rent board, and possibly prohibiting property owners from charging market-rate rent directly after completing a tenant buyout.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Lee recently announced that he is working with Sen. Mark Leno on legislation that is meant to reduce Ellis Act evictions. That proposal would require additional permits or hearings before an Ellis Act eviction could go forward, and place more stringent regulations on the sale and resale of properties where tenants have been evicted under the state law.

Just a couple weeks ago, a coalition of housing advocates proposed a sweeping package to turn the tide on evictions.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that housing advocates are gaining momentum as the spike in tenant ousters continues in pricey San Francisco, where rents are the highest in the nation.

"We’ve never been late on our rent," noted Beverly Upton, executive director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium, who is battling an Ellis Act eviction. "We’ve paid for every improvement ever done in 25 years. And now we have to leave." She appealed for legislators to take action for the sake of the city's future, asking, "Once the advocates and the organizers and the people who care are gone, who will be left in our city?"

Comments

a considerable variation of outcomes that we can normally control.

Rent control randomizes winners and losers. How is public policy served by such a capricious process?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

It's not just to help the poor. It's to ensure fair prices for all.

That said, it doesn't exactly randomize. The vast majority of landlords are richer than their tenants.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 9:26 am

everything else?

And what is "fair" about a system that favors someone who has hoarded the same unit for decades but punishes the new arrival?

Presumably you love Prop 13 because that is "fair" in the same way?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 9:52 am

The government should have a role in regulating prices for essential goods. Not "everything," but things like food and housing, sure.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 10:16 am

waiting lists because, if the price is artificially low, then demand becomes artifically high. Example - when I lived in NYC heat was included with my rent. As you can guess, I had the heat on full all the time.

Anyway, 99% of the nation does not control rents, so clearly America does not agree with you.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 10:29 am

and quite spectacularly too. Riots at electronic stores, hyper-inflation and food scarcities - all the result of his increasingly desperate attempts to control the market through armed force and intimidation.

Greg keeps babbling about a "rentier" state. He should take a look at Venezuela - that's a classic example of a rentier state. Over 90% of Venezuela's export earnings come from oil and its output is falling due to Chavez's nationalization of the state oil company.

You can't blame everything on "greedy businessmen" when your own policies have led to the current situation. Venezuela has had a decade of total control by the Chavistas and where is it now?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 11:25 am

"Riots at electronic stores"
One altercation at one store. If you call that a riot you haven't seen Black Friday. At least no one got killed like that security guard at the WalMart a couple years ago.

"hyper-inflation "
Much less than under the neoliberal predecessors

"food scarcities"
Complicated issue, but it's mainly due to a combination of organized sabotage by private sector producers, and the fact that production hasn't kept pace with demand. It's kept pace with the population growth, but that same population has vastly more purchasing power after 15 years of Chavista governance. The middle class has dramatically expanded (in contrast to America), and with that expansion has come much more demand. You have millions of people who can suddenly afford refrigerators and cars and twice as many calories as they ate in the 1990s, so there will be some growing pains while production catches up. The hoarding and sabotage don't help either.

On a more general note -Guest above has it backwards. Price controls do not cause shortages. Price controls are one way of dealing with shortages. If you do nothing and let the invisible hand take care of things, you also get shortages, just by a different name. Either way, fewer people get the product than want it. With price controls, at least everyone has an equal shot. With the invisible hand, the poor are locked out.

"Over 90% of Venezuela's export earnings come from oil and its output is falling due to Chavez's nationalization of the state oil company."
They're not burning through their patrimony as fast as global capital wants them to? So what? The oil ain't going anywhere.

Venezuela has had a decade of total control by the Chavistas and where is it now?
Poverty reduced to a fraction of what it was. Illiteracy wiped out. Infant mortality way down. Inequality down to first world levels. Free health care. Free and accessible university education. Dramatically improved living standards. Real income double to triple what it was in 1998, and much more equally distributed. Real democracy. Inflation way down from when the country was ruled by a two-party capitalist duopoly. Unemployment at 7%. Highest minimum wage in Latin America.... it's in a much better place than before Chavismo, I'll tell you that.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 18, 2013 @ 10:43 pm

No one makes you rent in San Francisco, there are plenty of cities with your dreamed of CHEAP RENT….

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 6:46 am

Market pricing of housing has unintended consequences, therefore we must abandon market pricing of housing.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 10:48 am

market pricing of housing is the worst method, except for all the rest.

What is even more clear is exactly what The Commish noted i.e. the law of unintended consequences applies to few things more than the over-regulation of land and buildings.

On an aggregate level, any form of price control leads to less supply and therefore higher rents for anyone looking for a home. While on an individual level, it creates adversarial relationships between landlords and tenants, and leads to both of those groups engaging in ever more bizarre behavior patterns to try and game the system.

If SF's housing policies are a success, then I'd rather have failure.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 11:18 am

The small time landlords are a vanishing breed. Unless they can make some money on their rental unit, they are going to sell to some TIC converter. And hence more affordable units gone. Face it, some landlord collecting an average of $3,500 a month per unit on rent in his 3 unit building is happy as heck. But another landlord with a comparable 3 unit building but with long term rent controlled tenants paying an average of $1,000 per unit has nothing to look forward to. Just like tenants, the rich landlords get richer and the poor landlords get poorer. So tax the landlord (or tenant) paying $3,500 a month in rent, and give the money to the poor landlord to subsidize the rent controlled tenant. The poor landlord keeps the building and continues renting to the long term tenant. A win win situation.

Posted by average renter on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 11:53 pm

It only works if you are a tenant who never moves for decades or a landlord who gets turnover.

Where is the logic or fairness in that?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 7:04 am

Heck! I used to own two units with long term protected tenants paying less than $1,000 a month in rents. A different "relative" moved in all the time. Finally sold the place and bought a single family house to rent out. New owners probably did an owner move in or Ellis Act on my old place.
No rent control with single family houses. I'm collecting 3 times the rent on my rental house compared to my old apartment house. Unless our City Leaders promote policies to keep the small landlords happy, we're all going to sell our multi units and buy single family houses to rent out.

Posted by Happy Ex Apartment landlord on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 12:08 am

dealing with rent control.

I raised the rent 50% one year. One tenant paid it and the other one moved out, to be replaced by someone else willing to pay the same.

The market is quite normal outside of rent control.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 7:03 am

"Tony Robles... expressed his frustration with the surge of evictions taking place in the booming economic climate."

I wish some people would speak more accurately. There is no "booming economic climate" other than for some of "the haves," so can some people stop saying that propaganda/lie? In my area of the city, when one storefront opens (after the location has been closed for months), another store closes in the area. They cancel each other out. Ask the store owners, "how's business?" Response: Uh not good. Only small stuff is being sold, if that. Even with the new luxury condo building near me, the retail space is still available "For Lease" after months now.

I suppose it's a "booming economic climate" for crane rental businesses and operators building luxury condos for "the haves." Right next to the "have nots."

If there were a "booming economic climate," there would be no reason for this article to have been written.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

the money is there. The fact that you don't have any of it, nor others whom you know, doesn't change that.

A lot of people are doing very, very well right now, or rents and home prices in SF would not be so high.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

From the article: "Once the advocates and the organizers and the people who care are gone, who will be left in our city?"

Just the "Pigs In Need"(TM) of more $$$$$. They're never satisfied. It's the way of doing things now: Take from the poor and give to the rich and make SF a playground for the drunk wealthy.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 1:09 am

Spoken like a true VAMPIRE rent controlled tenant, who has their fangs in the poor landlords neck….

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 6:30 am

Tenants work. Tenants contribute to the economy. The rentier class that makes their money not from working, but merely owning, and sucking wages from the working class -these are the true vampires.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 9:28 am

the funds from in the first place? In most cases, from working for most of a lifetime.

Are you seriously suggesting that I should buy a property, and take all that risk and hassle, to make zero return on my capital?

Would you work for free?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 9:50 am

There's a compromise between zero return and unlimited return. The tenants who work their asses off so that you can sit on yours deserve to be treated fairly.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 10:12 am

both to the landlords who get stuck with low-rent tenants, and to people newly arriving in SF who find vacancies low and rents high.

For that matter, it creates a very unfair dichotomy between tenants in RC units and tenants in SFH's, condo's and post-79 buildings who pay market rents.

(BTW, article in the Chron today about one such couple whose rent just doubled.)

What would be fairer would be extending the scope of RC in return for relaxing the limts on rent increases. At least then all tenants would get the same deal

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 10:27 am

There's no doubt that vacancy control and extending RC to post-1979 units would make it run more efficiently and fairly. But you'd be the first to howl. We take what we can get and try to preserve and extend it. Retreat is never a winning strategy.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 18, 2013 @ 10:48 pm

Suppose you were given 100% power to set SF housing policy with one catch - you can only enact something that I would agree with.

This would compel you to offer something every time you want to take something, i.e. compromize and consensus - something often missing in Sf politics where beach side goes for 100% victory.

So, I might agree to your demand that RC be extended to all rental, as that would at least be fair to tenants who currently are subject to a lottery. But in return, you'd have to relax the rules about annual rent increases.

Likewise, I might even consider vacancy control (a State issue, but leave thata side for now) in return for a greater ability for a LL to exit the building.

Your one-sided ambition to "preserve and extend" is partisan politics - not building a coalition and ensuring that everyone gets something.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:42 am

Extending rent control in exchange for eviscerating it? How would that be fair?

Rent increases are already allowed at a level that's more than fair to the landlord. The landlord's mortgage, the lion's share of their costs, remains the same in perpetuity. Only incidental costs increase, and the increases allowed under rent control more than cover that. If the costs don't pencil out, don't buy the property. If they do, then it should only get better for the landlord as time goes on. The tenant works to pay the landlord's mortgage and the landlord gets 100% of the appreciation. All the landlord has to do in order to make a tidy profit is sit on their ass and wait. In time, the landlord not only gets appreciation, but also a steady income. What more do you want?

Posted by Greg on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 8:40 am

How is it fair that:

1) Two landlords with two identical properties get vastly different returns?

2) Two tenants have vastly different rents and outcomes dependent on when their unit was built or whether it has gone condo or not?

3) Landlords get either lucky or unlucky depending on whether they have turnover?

4) Tenants get lucky or unlucky depending on whether they lsoe their home and have to re-rent?

5) At the border of SF and Daly City, the homes on one side of the street have rent control, and on the other side, do not?

I could go on but the point is clear - there is nothing "fair" about the current system. Rather it creates winners and losers according to arbitrary factors over which most of us have no control.

But my real point wasn't even that but rather your total inability to see the other side, or entertain any form of compromize. Extending rent control in return for making it viable would make the system fairer and greatly reduce the risk to the unlucky LL's and TT's. but you'd reject that because you don't want a compromize - you want total victory for your side.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 9:09 am

"Subjective" means disagreeing with you, "Objective" means agreeing with you.

it is not all about you.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 9:39 am

He is using his own personally preferred definition of "fair" even though I gave various examples of where rents are anything but fair. In fact, the rent a tenant pays is capricious, random, arbitrary and dependent entirely on the vagueries of the building type, age and zoning.

A truly "fair" and objective rent would have a genuine relationship to the capital committed, the ROI of comparable units, the ability of a tenant to pay, or some other consistent objective rationale you wish to use.

It wouldn't depend on pure luck.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 9:50 am

The rent a tenant pays is an amount that's set by the landlord. In some cases there may be negotiation involved but that normally concludes with a number that both parties agree upon. Your assertion that it's a figure entirely dependent on building type, age, and zoning is simply incorrect. Sure, those factors influence the price and use of the property but in the end, it's up to the landlord to decide what rent they wish to ask for. If they're in good financial shape and have done their homework on the building they own and the neighborhood it's located in, they'll probably figure out an appropriate price to charge. Otherwise, they have the option of failing.

There's really nothing unpredictable about a building's age. It's either 50 years old or it's not. I suppose there are cases where it's revealed that a building may be older than initially thought but these scenarios aren't the norm. It's use can change over time but that's usually part of a directed process and not something most would consider erratic.

In an ideal world, we would all consistently receive excellent returns on our investments and get the most out of capital we commit. However, we don't live in a world like that. Pure luck is a part of any business venture, I don't see that ever changing.

Posted by Yo on Nov. 20, 2013 @ 12:34 am

I am a poor renter, before you get all worked up. Sure tenant's contribute to the economy, but are you suggesting landlords don't? The taxes they must pay, especially in SF, are they not a contribution? My yearly income is around 40k, and a friend commented to me last year that he payed that much in taxes. I think he makes 120k or something like that, working for a family business. So we all contribute, landlord or tenant, whatever.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

"Once the advocates and the organizers and the people who care are gone, who will be left in our city?"

Uhh, No whinny deadbeats who think they are so special just the fact that they have parked their asses in a property for way too many years, gives them ownership rights?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 6:27 am

She appealed for legislators to take action for the sake of the city's future, asking, "Once the advocates and the organizers and the people who care are gone, who will be left in our city?"

Not much. Just cold, uncaring, unfeeling, materialistic, shallow, greedy people without a soul. Nobody I would want to know. I like people who are the opposite of all that.

Posted by Nicolás en el distrito de la Misión on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

The advocates and organizers most all have decamped to Oakland because they've lost the land use and affordability battles. Of course, the 99% of folks whoa re not advocates and organizers, the ones who sacrifice greatly to remain in the City will be left. Maybe once the hired hacks are out of the picture, we can move from San Franciscans being REpresented to San Franciscans PRESENTING their own political agenda. The only ones who will notice the middle-muddlers being cut out are themselves and the corporate interests who thrive on cutting deals with the organizers and advocates to sell out their alleged communities. Maybe we should have elections for advocates and organizers as well as cops?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 18, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

And let those whom we elect have the power instead of those who insert themselves into the process with their own agendas?

I do not trust activists any more than I trust corporate financiers. They are both trying to skew the process.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 18, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

The voters have proven that the electeds get it wrong all too often.

I do not trust elected officials or the technocrats they appoint.

They all need constant hand holding if they're going to come close to enacting policies that have public support and there need to be formal structures to being San Francisco residents to the table to have a collective say in the projects that effect us.

Cut out the organizers and advocates, bring in the San Franciscans to keep the electeds and appointees within the channel of public support.

Prop B and C clearly show that elections every 4 years ain't cutting it.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 6:01 am

Ed Lee clearly had majority support and stood on a pro-jobs, pro-growth platform. And he has fulfilled that agenda. The fact that you personally don't like that doesn't make it wrong. Those who thought that wrong didn't vote for him, and lost.

B/C was a very specific high-profile project. You cannot infer from that the people do not want new homes built. they do.

I trust elected politicians more than unelected "hand holders", because those hand-holders are the same activists and advocates whose bias means I do not trust them.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 7:37 am

More people opposed 8 Washington, a project that was supported by Planning Staff, approved by the Planning Commission, upheld by the Board of Supervisors and for which Newsom and Ed Lie pimped incessantly, than voted for Ed Lie in the first round.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 9:18 am

That doesn't mean that the voters will agree with every single decision he makes. But it does mean that they will agree with him more of the time than they would have done with any of the other defeated candidates.

More generally, you cannot perform city planning by referendum. While it might be appropriate for the odd high-profile and controversial project, it would be a disaster to vote for every single development. I want to extend my kitchen - shall we vote on it?

Most of the time it is best to let our elected officials and appointed experts make the decisions, as they have access to knowledge and information that the average voter is clueless about.

And if you don't like the decisions being made, then try and get Avalos elected as Mayor, then your dream fantasy of nothing ever being built would come to fruition. Good luck with that.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 9:30 am

Parkmerced, Parkmerced, Parkmerced

3% profit margin not 23%

An build it in 4 locations in sf other than the existing Parkmerced

Posted by Guest on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 11:42 pm

and as to the rentier class ;

annhilation

Posted by Guestforthekillingofwhitemales on Nov. 18, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

Envy and ideology can carry people to improbably lengths when unchecked.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 18, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

has never led anywhere other than genocide.

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Posted by Mariam baurice on Nov. 18, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

Stop comparing San Francisco to Manhattan, yes people live in other places beside Manhattan, they have whole transit system to handle the need of someone living in Long Island. Also remember they build housing in other places like New Jersey, you can buy a new house, nice house for a lot cheaper then buy a 1 bedroom condo.

Places that are hard to build: Marin, Sonoma, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties. Counties that grow but have limits on growth; Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, not to mention all the cities.

With NIMBY, the fear of becoming Manhattan is the reason why we see high rents and these evictions due to the fact people want to buy a home. We are trying to cling to a way of live but yet our home prices and rents are becoming Manhattan like.

Posted by Garrett on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

corridor to the south. So there really is no excuse for people to demand cheap housing in the "Manhattan of the Bay Area) when folks can simply live a few miles and minutes away in one of the eight other counties, and dozens of cities, that comprise the Bay Area.

Think of the city being the Bay Area rather than just San Francisco, and our so-called housing problem goes away. People are just being selfish and greedy in demanding a home in a place they know they cannot afford.

We can't all afford to live in Aspen, and yet that city still works great.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

Rent controlled apartments are like an occupied taxi, if someone else is in it, it is NOT available. If no one ever exists the taxi's in this town, and stays in the taxis, insisting they now have a right to occupy that taxi, till they die. Then you can't get a taxi to save your life and if there is one available, it will cost $500.00 to go from downtown to the mission. Rent control has come to it's ugly destination, anyone with an once of economic education could see this coming..

Posted by Guest on Nov. 20, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

The dirty little secret is that I know quite a few landlords who actually love rent control. Why? Because it drives up rents far more than all the alleged conspiracies that Eric drones on about.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 20, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

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