I want to note that I’ve been writing “Tenant Troubles” for one year. My first column was entitled “Wet, Cold and Moldy,” appeared on October 14, 2009. The last year has been a blast. Thank you, S.F. Appeal readers, for your interest and loyalty. I hope I have served you well. (Remember, you can send questions for me to answer at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
So, on my first anniversary I get to editorialize a bit, because I never get to express my personal opinion in my usual weekly articles. );
Many of my political positions are informed by a single premise: If it ain’t good for tenants, it ain’t good for San Francisco. If you want to accuse me of being simplistic, do the math.
65% of the residents of San Francisco are tenants. I am a tenant. I vote in my own interest. When I vote for candidates who want to expand my rights as a tenant I get added value. They’re the same candidates who envision economic justice, public power and peace. They’re willing to stand up for the little guy rather than just pander to him.
Rafael Mandelman is that is that kind of candidate. He is supported by the San Francisco Tenants Union, The San Francisco Bay Guardian and all of the progressive supervisors in San Francisco.
The Bay Guardian said of Mr. Mandelman’s candidacy: “This is by far the clearest and most obvious choice on the local ballot. And it’s a critical one, a chance for progressives to reclaim the seat that once belonged to Harvey Milk and Harry Britt.”
Here is just one of many reasons to vote for Mr. Mandelman if you are a tenant. He thinks San Francisco should be at least as progressive as New Jersey. Say what? I can imagine some San Franciscans shaking their heads, “New Jersey isn’t even New York!” Let me explain.
On Monday, I was ranting about banks illegally evicting tenants in Crow & Rose’s blog, “Evict This!” I concluded that the only viable way to make it stop was to enact statewide “just cause” eviction control. In fact, enacting statewide “just cause” eviction control is kind of a no-brainer. It is just the humane thing to do. If a tenant is paying her rent on time and minding her own business, the landlord should not be able to kick her out on a whim. That makes sense doesn’t it?
We already have “just cause” rent control, you say, what’s the beef? Yes, many of us do, except those living in buildings built after 1979. Earlier this year the Board of Supervisors approved a bill by a vote of 7-3 to extend “just cause” to all residential tenants. The legislation was passed mostly based on fears of wholesale foreclosure evictions.
It was vetoed by Mayor Newsom. But the Board did not have enough votes to override the veto. The Board later watered down the proposal to give tenants in buildings built after 1979 added protection against foreclosure eviction. However, excluding foreclosure, landlords can still evict those tenants on a whim.
I emailed the three frontrunners in the District 8 race and asked them if they would support an unqualified extension of the just cause provisions of the rent ordinance to all residential tenants.
Scott Wiener said, “I do not support extending just cause to new construction, because doing so will provide a disincentive for construction of much-needed new rental housing.”
What disincentive? Economic disincentive?
Mr. Newsom vetoed Mr. Avalos’ legislation because it “would have a chilling effect on the financing of new housing development.” There is absolutely no proof of that. Developers build units because they want to make money. They project their income from a project based on the projected rent they can charge. Just cause protections have nothing to do with price control. State law provides that landlords can set and raise rents at will. The ability of a landlord to arbitrarily evict tenants has absolutely no bearing on profit and loss. The only chilling effect would be an arbitrary one.
No, the disincentive Mr. Wiener speaks of is old as monarchy itself. Landlords still cling to a notion, “It’s my property and I can do what I want.” It’s the disincentive of democracy chipping away power from those would be dictators. It’s no wonder Mr. Wiener cow-tows to “incentives” for landlords. He is supported by every major landlord association in town. He has the endorsement of the Small Property Owners Association, the San Francisco equivalent of the Tea Party.
Candidate Rebecca Prozan told me, “I did not support Avalos’ legislation to extend the just cause eviction provisions of the rent ordinance because I am concerned that new developments would come to a halt if this legislation passed. However, I remain open to discussing legislation that will protect tenants who live in post 1979 units.”
Better than Mr. Wiener, but not good enough. There would be no justification to halt new developments other than just plain obstinance.
To her credit, Ms. Prozan claims on her website, “As a condo owner, I will advocate for the repeal of the Ellis Act.” Yet she also advocates for a one-time condo lottery exception to allow TIC owners to convert to condominiums. Does she think those TICs magically appeared? No, most of them were created by evicting tenants using the Ellis Act. Nice try.
Rafael Mandelman’s answer to my question was strightforward, “I support extending just cause eviction protections to tenants living in units built after 1979.”
About 60% of the residents of District 8 are tenants. Yet judging by their statements to the Tenants Union, their websites and public positions, Mr. Wiener and Ms. Prozan aren’t very interested in expanding rent ordinance protections for tenants. In effect Mr. Wiener and Ms. Prozan are thumbing their noses at 60% of their potential constituency.
Mr. Mandelman is the only candidate who is willing to represent his district as they are. He isn’t sucking up to money and power simply to become a member of the political class.
What does this have to do with New Jersey?. New Jersey has statewide just cause eviction protection for tenants. The protections have been in place for years and, surprise, they still build apartment buldings in New Jersey.
District 8 tenants, make San Francisco as progressive as New Jersey. Vote for Rafael Mandelman for District 8 Supervisor.
Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.