Pro­posal would put long pause on many S.F. evic­tions

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY ARENA -


Evic­tions for other rea­sons, like a breach of a rental agree­ment, “com­mit­ting a nui­sance” and the El­lis Act — a state law that is gen­er­ally used by land­lords to change the use of the build­ing — were far more com­mon, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. Peo­ple may still be evicted if they vi­o­late the health and safety of oth­ers in the build­ing, or through the El­lis Act.

Still, Pre­ston said it’s im­por­tant to keep as many peo­ple in their homes as pos­si­ble dur­ing the pan­demic. But crit­ics say it is yet an­other at­tack on land­lords, par­tic­u­larly small ones, who al­ready might be miss­ing in­come from rent pay­ments due to city and state laws that pro­tect ten­ants who can­not pay due to the pan­demic.

An­drew Zacks, a land­lord at­tor­ney in San Fran­cisco, said Pre­ston is be­hav­ing as if “prop­erty own­ers are not even his con­stituents.” He added that ten­ants are “fully pro­tected un­der state law, and prop­erty own­ers are be­ing com­pletely ig­nored and their rights are be­ing tram­pled.”

Janan New, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the San Fran­cisco Apart­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, said this leg­is­la­tion would put a par­tic­u­lar hard­ship on land­lords who want to ei­ther move into their prop­er­ties them­selves or al­low rel­a­tives to live there. She said many renters who are no longer teth­ered to the city be­cause of their jobs are leav­ing, and San Fran­cisco cur­rently has a 20% va­cancy rate.

“A 20% va­cancy rate doesn’t war­rant this type of leg­is­la­tion,” she said. “If you want to help the rental mar­ket, you should try to get more jobs into the city.”

Pre­ston’s pro­posal is the lat­est in a string of leg­is­la­tion that at­tempts to pro­tect ten­ants as the pan­demic causes record un­em­ploy­ment and pushes more peo­ple to­ward poverty. Mayor Lon­don Breed, who sup­ports pro­tect­ing renters against no­fault evic­tions, first is­sued an evic­tion mora­to­rium based on non­pay­ment of rent in April. That or­der, which elim­i­nated late fees and in­ter­est and gave ten­ants more time to pay back their rent, is in ef­fect un­til Sept. 30.

On the state level, Gov. Gavin New­som re­cently signed a law writ­ten by Assem­bly­man David Chiu, D­san Fran­cisco, that gives ten­ants a tem­po­rary re­prieve on missed rent if they lost in­come due to the pan­demic. If Pre­ston’s leg­is­la­tion passes, it would close a loop­hole in the state law, which does not cover those fac­ing no­fault evic­tions.

“Other cities in Cal­i­for­nia can look to this pro­posal as an ex­am­ple of how to give renters greater pro­tec­tions in ac­cor­dance with state law,” Chiu said.

Un­der the state law, ten­ants are ex­pected to pay a quar­ter of their to­tal rent be­tween Septem­ber and Jan­uary, with the rest be­com­ing civil debt — un­less there was a lo­cal or­di­nance with greater pro­tec­tions. For ex­am­ple, an ex­ist­ing or­di­nance in San Fran­cisco cov­ers renters un­til at least Oc­to­ber.

If they can­not pay at least a quar­ter of the rent for those five months by Jan. 31, their land­lords would be al­lowed to file to evict them start­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

While ten­ants’­rights ac­tivists are pleased with the help, many worry the bevy of tem­po­rary so­lu­tions will not help peo­ple long term. The assem­bly­man said he wanted his law to be much broader and also cover no­fault evic­tions, but he said it was ex­tremely wa­tered down from its orig­i­nal ver­sion.

“There was so much more that I wanted to see in that bill ... but we weren’t able to get it in,” he said.

Mean­while, Pre­ston also passed a law this sum­mer that per­ma­nently bars San Fran­cisco land­lords from evict­ing ten­ants if they could not pay rent due to coro­n­avirus­re­lated is­sues be­tween April and Septem­ber.

That leg­is­la­tion was chal­lenged in San Fran­cisco Supreme Court by Zacks, the land­lord lawyer, on be­half of a group of real es­tate trade or­ga­ni­za­tions. The mea­sure was up­held in Au­gust. An ap­peal is pend­ing.

Zacks is also ques­tion­ing the le­gal­ity of Pre­ston’s new­est pro­posal based on lan­guage in the state law around whether new lo­cal or­di­nances can be en­acted be­fore Feb. 2021.

But Pre­ston’s of­fice is con­fi­dent that they are in the clear. The or­di­nance is co­spon­sored by Su­per­vi­sors Aaron Pe­skin, Matt Haney, Shamann Wal­ton, Hil­lary Ro­nen and Rafael Man­del­man.

“Tak­ing Ìno fault’ evic­tions like these off the ta­ble is cru­cial to mak­ing sure ten­ants have se­cure and sta­ble homes through­out and af­ter the pan­demic,” Brad Hirn, a ten­ant or­ga­nizer with the Hous­ing Rights Com­mit­tee, said in a state­ment.

Stephen Lam / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Su­per­vi­sor ean .re­ston wants to ban all noŽfault evic­tions in San Fran­cisco un­til March 2021. Land­lord groups arenít happy about that.

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