February 24, 2014

State Bill Targeting Speculative Evictions In SF Introduced, Again

As expected, Senator Mark Leno has introduced Senate Bill No. 1439, designed to prohibit speculators from buying tenant occupied buildings in San Francisco, evicting the tenants by way of the Ellis Act, and then selling the individual units as a Tenancy in Common (TIC) or together as de facto single-family homes.

Existing law, commonly known as the Ellis Act, generally prohibits public entities from adopting any statute, ordinance, or regulation, or taking any administrative action, to compel the owner of residential real property to offer or to continue to offer accommodations, as defined, in the property for rent or lease.
This bill would authorize the County of San Francisco to prohibit an owner of accommodations from withdrawing accommodations or prosecuting an action to recover possession of accommodations, or threatening to do so, if not all the owners of the accommodations have been owners of record for 5 continuous years or more or with respect to property that the owner acquired after providing notice of an intent to withdraw accommodations at a different property. Among other things, the bill would also permit the county to require an owner of accommodations notifying the county of an intention to withdraw accommodations from rent or lease to identify each person or entity with an ownership interest in the accommodations and to identify all persons or entities with an ownership interest in an entity, which information would be available for public inspection.

As we noted last month, a state bill to amend the Ellis Act so that only property owners who had owned a property for at least 5 years would be able to invoke the Ellis Act to evict tenants was also proposed back in 2007 but died on the Senate floor.

First Published: February 24, 2014 7:00 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Weird to target a bill only at SF. Also seems easy to bypass. Won't this just make people Ellis before a sale (assuming they had owned it for at least five years) instead of after?

Posted by: anon at February 24, 2014 4:09 PM

If Ed Lee can get the state government to change it's own rules, then more power to him. I expect him to fail. Where else on earth would you try and legislate people INTO business against their will!!

While they're at it why don't they also legislate the homeless and welfare recipients INTO JOBS against their will!!

Posted by: Jimmy The House Flipper at February 24, 2014 4:42 PM

I generally like Mark Leno, and this was clearly engineered for his next election - either as Mayor or as Nancy Pelosi's replacement. It will never pass. He can tell the tenants "I tried but it's this stupid state law" while he can whisper to the businesses "Look, I watered this down and made it as unlikely to pass as possible - and it worked as it did not pass."

Posted by: anon at February 24, 2014 5:29 PM

anon,

Maybe, but these 1/2 baked attempts have very undesirable side-effects:

- No matter what last rule was actually enacted, it failed to achieve the desirable result, which gives fuel to both sides - Team A: gentrification just keeps coming since we have to go back to the drawing board, Team B: they keep punishing team B to benefit team A, why should we have one ounce of compassion?

- Every politician wants his name on a proposal, upping one another and of course going to the extreme. These extremes do not help the current stalemate / animosity. Every idea has to be more generous to tenants and less viable, raising the expectations of tenants at every new proposal.

- This is a waste of valuable human potential in the sense that instead of trying to address the effects of the problem, they could focus on the causes. No politician wants to look at the reality of SF's rent control system since the solution would be self-evident (a means-tested system, with government funding).

I am convinced these supes are extremely intelligent, but have been dealt a pretty bad hand. They have to make do with a massive entitlement that touches 1/2 of their electorate, and an irrational activist mentality from people who are being angry at anything that will affect their cushy situation.

But beware of stoking a fire that you think you have under control. Encouraging extremism never ends well.

Posted by: lol at February 24, 2014 6:30 PM

Would this bill prevent the children of a deceased owner from Ellis acting an apartment building so they can move in and live there?

More than one child moving in to a building, so owner move-in is not an acceptable way of dealing with it.


Posted by: gribble at February 24, 2014 9:11 PM

Going back to the dangers of giving fuel to class hatred, a woman was verbally assaulted and then robbed just for appearing as working in tech.

It's progressive hate which looks and smells the same as right wing hate.

Can't these idiot supervisors see they are starting something that's getting out of control?

Posted by: lol at February 24, 2014 10:07 PM

I can't wait to save up enough to quit being a landlord. I hate these political jerkoffs. With the help of these idiots we have a really good chance of completely gentrifying this city. It will only be for the rich! Stupid tenants think the laws help them but really it only ends in them all being gone.

Posted by: Hitman at February 24, 2014 11:14 PM

All of you might be interested in knowing (and noting) that this also has the backing of SF.citi which is a group of 800 tech companies, so this has some chance

Posted by: sfjohn at February 25, 2014 8:10 AM

Here is how that came about:

SF.citi: But this is a terrible idea.

Lee: You want me to keep handing you everything you ask for of substance? Then come out "in favor" of this bill. It will never pass anyway.

SF.citi: Okay. We are in favor of this bill.

Posted by: anon at February 25, 2014 8:14 AM

^ to add to that, SF.citi = zero visibility. Sounds like a straw man org erected solely to placate SF left wing kooks.

Posted by: poor.ass.millionaire at February 25, 2014 11:04 AM

terrible bill. i would never vote for this guy. Building OWNERs should be able to do whatever they want. They OWN the building. tenants can move to other rentals, and if they cant afford in SF, there is Daly City, South SF, Marin City, Oakland all nearby and much cheaper.

Posted by: jill at February 25, 2014 11:27 AM

Agree completely with jill:

You can't afford to live in SF, then stop whining and move to somewhere within your means.

Posted by: Futurist at February 25, 2014 11:37 AM

The amazing thing is that the number of Ellis Act evictions is absolutely trivial relative to the number of renters and rental units. Why all the outrage over a statistically rare event?

Posted by: zzzzzzzzz at February 25, 2014 12:28 PM

There are more articles about Ellis evictions than actual evictions. Sfgate is financially a slow-moving train wreck, which makes them eager to boost readership through fear mongering. But that's not all...

This mass hysteria does take in the psyche of tenants for a good reason: The uneasiness one can feel when he sees he is getting a really nice deal at someone else's expense.

Rent controlled tenants who are paying less than 1/3 of newcomers know they're being given a free ride. They know it's not morally defensible in the real world. And they sure want it to last for as long as possible. This uneasiness is proportional to the fear of losing this entitlement.

It's a bit like cult followers expecting the rapture to come at any time and who will focus on the tiniest things finding the proof of upcoming doom. The sky is falling!

Posted by: lol at February 25, 2014 12:40 PM

agree for the most part with lol except I don't think the rent-controlled gang feel nearly uneasy enough because they assume there will be a new pointless patch which will allow their entitlement to continue

Posted by: MorganDriver at February 25, 2014 12:58 PM

I disagree with lol's analysis. To be clear, I don't agree with these proposed laws, but I don’t think they are due to political capriciousness or newspaper sensationalism. These types of laws and things like the de Blasio victory in NYC are indicative of a pronounced rise in the political appeal of populism.

Politicians may not be good at writing laws, but they are good at getting elected. And you get elected by having your finger on the pulse of the electorate. These actions by Leno , Lee, Chu and Campos are no accident.

Posted by: anon2 at February 25, 2014 1:12 PM

anon2,

Never underestimate the power of the press.

Current sensationalism about Ellis evictions, gentrification, controversy around the Google Buses are nothing short of a attempts at showing your rag is listening to the little guy.

Hearst and Pulitzer in their time did a nice job at dumbing down their readers. They blew up controversies out of proportion, and when they couldn't find any to begin with, they simply created controversies out of thin air. One such example of a blown-up controversy that reached epic proportions is the spanish-american war.

Not that we're even close to this level of manipulation, but do not think that articles that depict the struggles of the little guy are always about the little guy himself...

Posted by: lol at February 25, 2014 1:45 PM

There's plenty of national economic data showing that the recovery has been very unevenly spread across the population.

The idea that a local train wreck of a paper is the tail wagging the populist dog doesn't really have much support.

Posted by: anon2 at February 25, 2014 2:00 PM

That's your opinion. SF unemployment is under 5%, median wage is up, average wage is up. It's a typical and very healthy recovery.

BUT, I agree there are huge differences in comes and wealth

Now, why do we have so many discrepancies? That's a very interesting process actually. I would say its an unexpected twist to the frog-in-boiling-water story:

In the famed story the frog is supposedly staying and boiling to its death. This is simply not true. When pain starts to kick in the frog will jump.

The twist with SF is that the frog (the lower-middle class) has been insulated from the hotter and hotter surroundings by a bubble (rent control and in some measure, by prop 13). The frog should have jumped long ago, but now we cannot pop the bubble otherwise the frog will be scorched.

My point: yes there are huge discrepancies in SF, but they are not only the result of a recent phenomenon but mainly a side-effect of a policy that artificially maintained people in homes they cannot really afford.

Now that's a tail wagging the dog.

Posted by: lol at February 25, 2014 2:33 PM

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