January 6, 2009
Reader Reports: 1286-1298 Treat Avenue Goes Up In Flames. Thrice.
A plugged-in tipster reports (and we edit):
I heard whispers but haven't seen it in the press yet that there was another fire in those treat avenue buildings over the weekend--there are three side-by-side buildings that are selling--the little birdie said it was the same one that was burned twice already. Word on the street is that they caught the arsonist and reports, albeit as of yet unconfirmed, are that it was one of the tenants who was fighting the ellis act eviction.
As always, we hope nobody got hurt and that's the last of the flames.
First Published: January 6, 2009 2:30 PM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
It would be nice if they caught the arsonist. It would be interesting to find out motive.
Posted by: Dede at January 6, 2009 3:01 PM
...and the post about the building goes up twice.
[Editor's Note: Touche, since corrected, and an editor's nine lives are down to eight.]
Posted by: missionite at January 6, 2009 3:39 PM
If it was a tenant who burnt down the building, the tenant should be put in prison for a long time. Sympathies to the landlord.
Rent control is evil and flawed and results in incidents like this. If a society wants to support a particular class, then society as a whole should be taxed, not random landowners.
Posted by: mortgage analyst at January 6, 2009 3:47 PM
Angry broker that didn't get the listing perhaps? Tough times these days... we're like vultures these days. But then, I sell commercial so I couldn't possibly be a suspect ;)
Posted by: SFer at January 6, 2009 4:24 PM
I think arson is allowed under SF Rent Board guidelines, along with whatever else the tenant wishes in this city.
Posted by: gh at January 6, 2009 4:59 PM
empty lots, thriced-burned flats. It's um, going to be a s l o w year for real estate news.
Posted by: invented at January 6, 2009 5:40 PM
Whaddya wanna bet that the Rent Board requires the landlord to pay the tenant the $4500 per person fee for moving expenses, as a result of the tenant's displacement after setting fire to the building.
Posted by: Dave at January 6, 2009 5:44 PM
I am not defending rent control, but if there was no rent control, and we could evict tenants quicker and much easier, your saying this would reduce the number of crazed evictees that torch the building they had lived in.
I think this is less the fault of rent control than the old adage that if the USA was a dining table and you picked up one end, everything loose would end up in San Francisco
Posted by: redseca2 at January 6, 2009 5:46 PM
If there was no rent control -
Everyone would pay market rent. Getting evicted would be not be as big of a deal because one would just get another market rate apartment. Instead, tenants cling to their rent controlled apartment because they can not afford to get another apartment in the area in which they live.
Posted by: mortgage analyst at January 6, 2009 6:29 PM
Where is Foolio with his sarcastic rent control post? We're all waiting...
Posted by: Brutus at January 6, 2009 6:32 PM
Most of the free market SS guys at least think that rent control is b.s. They'll take advantage of it in a heartbeat. But intellectually? They all know it's been corrupted.
Posted by: fluj at January 6, 2009 6:56 PM
Rent control should be illegal-period. If government wants controlled rents, then let them buy properties and rent them for what they want. It's a form of price control, which never works for other elements of our market.
Of course I also believe that Prop 13 is a form of control that is balantly unfair, as it also widens the gap between the tax burden of property that is similarily valued.
Posted by: MoneyMan at January 6, 2009 8:02 PM
"Getting evicted would not be a big deal".
Let's just say that one together until it sounds plausible.
Posted by: DavidQ at January 6, 2009 8:16 PM
DavidQ, nobody said that. M.A. said, "getting evicted would be not be *as* big of a deal" and he's pretty much right. Without rent control, if you get evicted, you just rent another apartment down the street or a few blocks away.
With rent control, if you get evicted, your life is pretty much over. You'll have to move across the bay, get a new job, all new friends, etc. It's a HUGE deal.
When you take quotes out of context you just make yourself look bad.
Posted by: Sb at January 6, 2009 10:03 PM
Get rid of rent control, and market rents will drop significantly (I'm guessing 30% or more) as rent-controlled units slowly come up and the market rate units come down. The market would reach an equilibrium somewhere, and the increased supply of units would result in lower prices. Renters wouldn't be prisoners in their units, unable to move to something better because of the huge increase in rent they would pay.
All the SF slumlords would be forced to start maintaining and even improving their properties (imagine that!) because suddenly they'd have to compete for tenants.
And by taking units out of rent control only when they are vacated, existing rent control tenants could stay where they are (under rent control) if they want or need to.
The whole city would win. Well, except for all the so-called tenant advocates who make their living selling the perpetual lie about the benefits of rent control.
Posted by: Dave at January 7, 2009 12:34 AM
now that this building has been on fire three times, I think it should be designated a historic landmark.
historic "fire lane" or something. It can stay like this for 25 years.
I agree... rent control's gotta go. it's been utterly corrupted. I also think a phase out would be appropriate. but then again, that's essentially what happened when the city designated rent control only for buildings built prior to a certain year.
now they need to take it one step further.
Posted by: ex SF-er at January 7, 2009 4:16 AM
A) I am not sure the advantage of burning down the the building in which you live as a way to fight an eviction. Seems like either way you are out of a home, of course if the person is convicted they will have free rent in the CA penal system.
B) You can end rent control when you end Prop 13. Prop 13 has the exact same effect on CA property STATEWIDE as rent control has on the SF apartment market.
Posted by: badlydrawnbear at January 7, 2009 5:30 AM
Get rid of rent control, and market rents will drop significantly (I'm guessing 30% or more)
I completely agree. Not sure about 30% decline precisely, but I think that would be a good ballpark figure.
Prop 13 has the exact same effect on CA property STATEWIDE as rent control has on the SF apartment market.
Not totally IMO, because there are not the same supply constraints on home building in all parts of the state as there are in SF. However, I have no doubt that removal of prop 13 would cause SFH prices to fall in SF (perhaps as much as 20-30% additional to whatever they are going to fall). Prop 13 is a huge distortion in very resource constrained areas like SF because of the disincentive to sell/restriction of supply/apparent value of the insurance of Prop 13.
However, like all distortions, the valuation "bubble" ultimately gets washed out. This one has been building in SF for almost two generations (as well as in parts of the West Side of LA, older, nicer suburbs in Southern Marin, etc.). We won't be posting on this blog then, but I'd bet anything that in 30 years from now when they are trying to figure out why SF property prices have done so poorly in comparison to so many other cities/locales, the washing out of the "Prop 13 effect" will be identified as one of the factors.
Posted by: LMRiM at January 7, 2009 6:40 AM
If rent control really would drop market rents "by 30%", why is EVERY landlord anxious to get rid of rent control? 30% is a BIG number, and having market rents inflated by that much lets you have several below market renters and still come out ahead.
It's always been my opinion that rents are higher here more because of the land use policies, extra fees and add-ons (like BMR), and difficulty in aquiring permits, rather than primarily RC. Even with regard to RC, the eviction controls and SRO controls seem to be a bigger problem than the actual price controls.
Posted by: anon at January 7, 2009 7:41 AM
Anon, it's obvious: because rent control costs more for everybody. Even landlords. You think it's easy to shuffle rents so the newer tenants fully subsidize the older ones, all improvements get made, and the building stays cashflow positive?
Being a landlord in our fair city is far harder than it should be.
Posted by: Sb at January 7, 2009 8:38 AM
Sb - I'm not saying it's easy, and I'm not saying that I support rent control. But...as with everything, I'm cautious to believe something when it's only one side that is unanimous about its detrimental effect to the other side.
Posted by: anon at January 7, 2009 8:44 AM
Rent control sucks, but it is important to remember why it came about. Easing building restrictions or simply bringing some sanity to the planning process would likely increase the available inventory of housing units in the city. Just because rent control is the wrong answer does not mean that there are no other ways of improving the situation.
Posted by: Mole Man at January 7, 2009 8:46 AM
Sb: you're right, I missed the "as". Otherwise, you're wrong. Being forced to move on short notice is only not a big deal if you have no problem identifying a suitable new apartment on one month's notice regardless of what is going on in your life. You're so quick to condemn rent control (which, incidentally, is a position I agree with) that you defend a silly statement about evictions.
Being wealthy would make things easy; one just flips through listings and calls the movers to have them take care of the rest. Or perhaps one has one's people take care of the details. I've moved my family across town and across the country several times in the last few years, and it's never easy.
You're also forgetting that not everyone in a rent-controlled building is poor or paying 1/4 the market rate. In an economy like this one, new tenants come in at close to market rents and eat all of the disadvantages of rent control with no real price advantage.
Posted by: DavidQ at January 7, 2009 9:13 AM
Can we please end this tedious discussion? Any casual observer can see that when it comes to living in SF (or CA in general), the deck is stacked squarely against newcomers to the benefit of longterm residents.
And who voted for that?
Posted by: Jimmy (Bitter Renter) at January 7, 2009 11:52 AM
I am always amused by the people who link rent control and prop 13 and say that you have to get rid of both at the same time. There is no logical reason why that has to be the case. I suspect that people who say that are people who live in rent-controlled apartments and want to make sure that their scam never ends.
@anon, if rent control was ended, market rate rents would drop significantly because there would be a substantial increase in supply of market rate apartments as currently way below market apartments became available at market rates. Landlords are in favor of this change because the aggregate amount paid by all tennants would increase. The only people who are opposed to it are tennants who currently enjoy way-below market rates and feel that they are entitled to continue to have their housing subsidized.
Posted by: NoeNeighbor at January 7, 2009 4:55 PM
There is no logical reason why that has to be the case.
Of course it doesn't have to be the case, but there is a "logical" reason why it would be the case - prop 13 uses new landlords to subsidize old landlords, and rent control uses new tenants to subsidize old tenants. To say that one is a "scam" and the other isn't is really odd.
NoeNeighbor - you're supposing that landlords themselves are subsidizing tenants. While that may be the case for some smaller buildings, I find that hard to believe in larger buildings with decent turnover. In those buildings, it's just like prop 13 - new tenants are subsidizing old tenants by paying much higher rent. I've still not seen any stats to show that any place that has gotten rid of rent control now has lower market rates overall.
The assumption that this would be true is a valid one, but it fails to take into account the places that usually have rent control. If rent control were eliminated here, we can assume that massive levels of gentrification would occur in certain areas (T-Loin for one) and apartments would be remodeled and fancied up, so to speak. This drive to improve the quality of apartments would be good, but it would also raise the level of market rents, likely counteracting any push to put more units currently not used onto the market. This is what happened in Boston, no reason to assume it won't happen here.
As I said before, I would prefer to get rid of rent control, but let's not kid ourselves into beleiving that getting rid of rent control would mean lower rents.
Posted by: anon at January 7, 2009 5:53 PM
Rents would drop 30% if rent control were abolished? I call shenanigans. The only thing that will cause rents to drop that much is continued and worsened economic conditions in the (greater) Bay area.
Did rents drop 30% in Boston when they abolished rent control? No, they did not. In fact, over the 10 years or so following it, the rents rose just a very small amount over inflation (less than 1% per year over).
So tell me, why would rents go down? "Just cuz" doesn't really work. The closest thing I could see happening to that is SF getting rid of the artificial rent prices, but not the tenant protection side of things - which would lead to no great short-term increase in market rate units.
Posted by: Brian at January 7, 2009 6:48 PM
We had rent control in London, they were called "council flats", or what you call "projects" here. Not good for the neighborhood but worse yet for those who cling to cheap rent to live in a city they can't afford when they could easily live a better life in a different city.
Move to where you can find work to support the rent... end of story.
Posted by: Jimmy C at January 7, 2009 10:13 PM
No one said eviction was easy but all other things being equal, if when one is evicted, the new rents offered a tenant are equal to the existing rent offered a tenant, moving is not as big of a deal.
Also, no rent control does not mean that leases do not exist. Somehow no rent control has been equated to every rental is month to month. To the folks that have had to move with a month's notice in non-rent controlled locations, if you don't want to face to the option of having to move in a month, sign a lease. Otherwise deal with the fair market agreement you and your landlord have struck and quit whining.
Posted by: mortgage analyst at January 8, 2009 2:33 AM
I also don't see where the 30% fal in market rents would come from if RC was abolished. Yet to see a good argument for why would be the case on this thread.
As for eviction, its a strong word, but its no big deal. If you don;t own the building I don't see how you can claim any rights to go on living there indefinitely.
I remember back in the Uk I had to move with a months notice after only 6 months in a place as the owner was selling. No need for Ellis/OMI or anything. Did I feel like I had been wronged? no, of course not - I saw it as the owners right.
Posted by: REpornaddict at January 8, 2009 3:55 PM
Word has it the arsonist was caught on film (hidden camera). He is a tenant down the street.
Posted by: Scoop at January 9, 2009 1:10 PM
I wonder how this event affects the tenant mental health market in the area. I don't want to go out on a limb but clearly this indicates deterioration. Does anybody have a link to a tenant mental health chart handy?
Posted by: fluj at January 9, 2009 1:23 PM
There's more than a few mentally unbalanced renters out there in SF-land.
What about that guy burning porta-potties? Some kind of bizarre copro-flammaphilia complex spreading in Pac. Heights???
Posted by: Jimmy (Bitter Renter) at January 9, 2009 1:51 PM
The majority of the population in The City rents. Rent control will be with us for a very long time.
If rent control was the only reason for high rental prices in SF, rents should be considerably cheaper in non-rent controlled areas such as the peninsula or the Santa Clara Valley.
That's obviously not the case.
Also, rent control in SF should have no impact on new rental construction as post 1979 construction is exempt from price controls.
Humans look after their own interests. Home owners certainly do, why shouldn't renters. Pretty simple.
Posted by: ColinSF at January 10, 2009 10:55 PM
"I also don't see where the 30% fal in market rents would come from if RC was abolished. Yet to see a good argument for why would be the case on this thread."
sf apt. assoc members tally of over 10,000 apts. voluntarily left vacant rather than lost to renters who they cannot remove is a start. another 20,000-30,000 apartments rented at substantially lower that market rates would also come to market.
new buildings (post '79) would also not fear eviction control if they were able to adjust rents as desired.
one only has to remember what happened to rents during the dot.com aftermath to understand what a large supply of units flooding the market would do to rents (hint-it has to do with supply and demand)
Posted by: paco at January 11, 2009 8:56 AM
"sf apt. assoc members tally of over 10,000 apts. voluntarily left vacant rather than lost to renters who they cannot remove is a start. another 20,000-30,000 apartments rented at substantially lower that market rates would also come to market."
Again, this assumes that people would immediately be evicted - which they certainly wouldn't be. Yes, there's an inventory of apartments that are being kept vacant, but adding inventory that would make up 3-4% of the city's total population - how exactly is that going to drop prices by 30%?
There is still an influx of people (as in, SF is growing). Prices possibly could drop, then again, they might just stagnate for a few quarters as that inventory is filled up. I get that there are situations that are different than other cities, but looking at other cities that had rent control, and abolished it (in not the best of economic times, such as Boston) is our best guide to have a feel for what would happen here.
30% drop in prices just is not supported by history or the local quirks of this market.
Posted by: Brian at January 11, 2009 10:08 AM
Apartments were left unrented because the owners thought it was not worth the hassle to rent them out. With recent declines on all asset prices, could some of these unrented apartments return to the market? Apart from selling the unit outright, it's the best way to turn cash in this economy. Stocks and US Government bonds certainly aren't providing much of it.
Posted by: anon1 at January 11, 2009 2:14 PM
Everytime a building is Ellis Acted
An Angel gets its wings...!
Posted by: glennzz at January 11, 2009 11:12 PM