Tenant activists scored a victory with the passage of a controversial package of rental laws aimed at easing the plight of San Francisco’s 525,000 rentpaying residents (and making life hell for landlords, if you listen to landlords).
But efforts to override an almost-certain Newsom veto by securing an additional vote from an historically tenant-friendly landlord/Supervisor might end up hurting the causes of tenant activists more than it helps them.
The landlord in question is Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who owns six units of rental housing in her district. Throughout the committee process, Maxwell has recused herself from all potential votes she could have cast on the Renters Economic Relief Package, citing a conflict of interest (her vote could affect her property-owning bottom line, of course).
Crying foul was Supervisor Chris Daly, the author of the laws, whose reading of the state’s conflict of interest laws lead him to believe there is no conflict, as Maxwell won’t receive any special treatment if the laws are passed.
A scene ensued when the laws were in committee, culminating in a fuming Maxwell storming out on an insistent Daly. The case has been forwarded to the Fair Political Practices Commission, who is expected to issue a final ruling on Maxwell’s conflict of interest sometime after July 8.
If Maxwell votes, the rent laws have “about a 10 percent chance” of surviving a promised veto from Mayor Gavin Newsom, according to San Francisco Tenants Union executive director Ted Guillicksen. (The Board needs eight votes to override a veto; the rent laws would need Maxwell’s vote and a change of mind from Supervisor Bevan Dufty, one of four supervisors who cast a nay). “If she can’t vote, then the chance is absolutely zero.”
Opponents of the legislation say that it will have “unintended consequences” that will only hurt the low-income renters it aims to aid. And it could have exactly that — and could hurt condo-conversion opponents and other progressive stances on a host of land use issues until January 2011.
Part of the progressive class of 2000, Maxwell has often been a friendly vote on hot-button land use issues ranging from Ellis Act evictions to SRO issues to condominium conversions. If the FPPC rules that Maxwell can’t vote on this or any other law involving land use issues, her friendly vote could be lost for the remaining 18 months of her term.
Gone would be any hope of overriding a mayoral veto, but gone also would be a voice who’s often friendly even in the committee stages — and one who wields the gavel on the Board’s Land Use Committee.