In the news
Housing Rights Committee and other tenants groups held a "Happy Holidays, now get the hell out!" press conference and rally on December 19, 2012 in front of the giant Xmas tree at 18th & Castro to denounce the recent rise in Ellis Act evictions and call on state legislators to repeal the law. A state law, Ellis allows a landlord to circumvent rent control protects and evict all of the tenants in a building.
Ted Gullicksen dies
Sadly, Ted Gullicksen, who for nearly 30 years headed up the SF Tenants Union, was found dead in his bed on October 14, 2014. Cause of death is unknown. He leaves behind an incredible legacy of activism and organizing on behalf of tenants in SF. It's not an exaggeration to say that he saved thousands of tenants from eviction over the years through his work on the legislative and activist fronts.
Ted spearheaded efforts to strengthen tenant protections in the owner move-in law, fought back attempts to water down or repeal rent control, helped limit the annual allowable rent increase to 4% and below, helped bring two- and four-unit buildings under rent control, and much more.
He was greatly loved. Hundreds filled the auditorium of Mission High School on November 16 to remember him and his good work. The list of those who took to the stage to pay tribute to one of San Francisco's best known tenant advocates included poets Tony Robles and Alejandro Murguia (who is the city's poet laureate); activists Sara Short, Randy Shaw, Mara Raider and Norman Fong; Ted's sister Sandra Gullicksen Roby; and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (on video). State Senator Mark Leno, who couldn't be there, sent a resolution he introduced in Ted's honor.
He is sorely missed.
buyouts & Airbnb regs pass SF board
The buyout legislation requires that landlords advise tenants of their rights and register any buyout offers they make with the SF Rent Board. The building address of the buyout would then be published on the Rent Board's website. Tenants would have 45 days to back out of any buyout agreement they sign. A building that has a buyout cannot condo convert. The purpose of the legislation is to document buyouts and also discourage them.
The Airbnb legislation is very complicated, but basically allows tenants and landlord to do short term rentals with some restrictions and limits on the number of days they can be done.
Both laws go into effect next year. We will post more details on the new laws on this site as soon as we have them.
Ellis relocation money struck downThe bad news is that Supervisor David Campos' law, which increased Ellis Act relocation money to greater of either the old reloation amount or the rent differential between what one is paying now and what current market value is multiplied by 24 months, has been struck down by the court on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
The good news that the city attorney's office is planning to appeal the decision, so hopefully the higher court will reinstate the law. At this moment, though, the law is not in effect. The old relocation amount of $5,265.10 per adult and an additional $3,510.06 for eldery or disabled continues to be in effect. The maximum per holdhold of $15,795.27 does not include the additional amount for elderly or disabled tenants.
Campos' law tried to give tenants who are evicted by Ellis a fighting chance to remain in the city. It requires landlords to pay the difference between what the tenant is paying and what s/he will pay for a comparable apartment times 24 months. Updates will be provided as we get them.
photo from poor news network
Stories from the past
"Happy Holidays, now get the hell out!"
A lot of tenants attended who are currently being evicted by the Ellis Act by landlords or speculators who will no doubt be turning their places into tenancies in common (see item above). Tenants were from various neighborhoods -- including the Mission, Castro, Chinatown/North Beach, Richmond, Sunset, and Haight. Tenant speakers spoke of the hardship of being evicted during the holidays. Many were disabled persons, people with AIDS, seniors, immigrants or single mothers with children.
Press coverage was generally positive, including a report on channel 5 and stories in the SF Chronicle, the Bay Guardian and the Mission Local.
One of the tenants being evicted, Jeremy, who lives in the Castro and has AIDS, has set up a website: Ellishurtsseniors.org.
Come and tell the supervisors that in San Francisco we need more affordable housing. The land use committee of the board of supervisors is holding a hearing into housing for low-income people on Monday, April 9, 2012 at 2pm in the second floor supervisors chamber. Your voice is urgently needed. The supervisors need to hear from all of us that the greatest need in the city right now is for more housing for working-class and low-income people.
The reality is that the city is not building enough affordable housing. A new report shows that 61% of new construction should be for people who need affordable housing. But it's not. The majority of what's currently being built shuts out most of us. Please come to the hearing and tell the supervisors that we need affordable housing, not market rate condos!
Join us for the housing and tenant actions as part of Occupy Wall St. West this Friday, January 20, 2012 to protest big corporate landlords and the role the big banks play in evicting tenants.
Our main SFTU action will be to Occupy Fortress Investments—the landlord of Parkmerced—at 4:00 PM at 1 Market St. Fortress is an example of predatory equity scams where landlords and banks buy apartment buildings with the intent of removing units from rent control or evicting rent controlled tenants and replacing them with market rent tenants. In this case, Fortress is demolishing over 1,500 rent controlled apartments at Parkmerced and has evicted hundreds of Parkmerced tenants in recent months.
From there, we’ll join the Mass March & Rally scheduled for 5 PM at Justin Herman Plaza (across the street from 1 Market St), which will wind up the day’s actions.
Here’s the schedule for the day:
9 AM Occupy Citi Bank 1 Sansome Street
We will bring our foreclosed home's furniture to our new home: right in front of Citigroup's SF headquarters at 1 Sansome. We will hold a housewarming party, red cups, (nonalcoholic) punch, and music. The action will be low-risk and we will disperse upon police order, when our police liaison says it's time. We may possibly relocate to another bank location with our moving truck and furniture.
12 Noon Occupy Fannie Mae 50 California St.
We’ll protest the role Fannie Mae played in luring homeowners into predatory loans and then foreclosing on them, as well as the thousands of empty homes Fannie Mae is sitting on—homes which could be turned into affordable rentals.
4 PM Occupy Fortress Investments 1 Market St.
We’ll demand that Fortress stop the demolition of rent controlled apartments at Parkmerced and we’ll demand that Fortress stop evicting tenants at Parkmerced. We’ll try to occupy their office and give them a demand letter (this will also be a low risk action, leaving after we give the demand letter) and if we can’t get in we’ll try to demolish Fortress with some props.
Then join the Mass March and Rally at 5 PM at Justin Herman with Occupy SF, labor groups and community groups. For all Occupy Wall Street West actions see www.occupywallstwest.org.
Tenants groups to occupy SF
Together with Occupy SF, tenants and homowners will take to the streets on December 3 for a full day of actions against banks and realtors for "evictions and foreclosures for profit."
As an information leaflet describes it: "From the subprime mortgage crisis that began our current recession, to bank bailouts, the rising rates of homelessness and policies like the Ellis Act that prioritize profit over people, housing has been central to the occupy movement in San Francisco, and around the country."
The reason for the actions: "We gather and rally in four neighborhoods in San Francisco which have experienced high rates of evictions for profit, and highlight the local struggles of the 99% against banks, and greedy real-estate speculators."
The day will begin with four actions in the four neighborhoods -- the Bayview at 11am (meet at 3rd and Palou), the Castro at noon (meet at Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro and Market), the Mission at 1pm (meet at 24th and Mission) and the Tenderloin at 2pm (meet at the Civic Center). At 3pm, tenants and homeowners will come together with Occupy SF at its encampment at the Embarcadero and then march to a bank and the site of tenant resistance to evictions.
Here's the link to the two facebook pages for this action: the one for the overall events, click here; for the one for the Castro, click here; for the TL page, click here. We will be posting more info as we receive it.
Parkmerced evicting lots of tenants
Parkmerced, one of San Francisco's largest apartment complexes, has issued 197 three-day notices to renters, many of them low-income Section 8 tenants, alleging that they owe money for utilities, according to a report in the SF Examiner.
But some of the residents, among them Sheila Jackson, a Section 8 tenant, were unaware that they were supposed to pay the money and ignored letters which looked like junk mail. Instead of collecting on the debts right away, the apartment complex let them pile up for a while.
Which strikes tenant advocates as highly suspect, since the same complex is preparing a $1.2 billion development project (see article below) that was approved by the Board of Supervisors with the understanding that tenants not be displaced.
“It may very well be legal for them to simply not demand anyone pay rent, let it pile up, then suddenly come after tenants for huge sums of back rent,” said Sara Shortt, director of the Housing Rights Committee of SF. “But it doesn’t seem fair.”
Board member John Avalos, who voted against the development project, said, “They could be making families homeless, and if they’re making families homeless, The City has a responsibility to try to stop that from happening.”
PJ Johnston, a spokesperson for Parkmerced, is denying that the landlord is trying to move low-income people out in preparation for the demolition project.
Miguel Wooding dies in accident
A giant of tenants rights here in San Francisco, Miguel Wooding, 46, died last weekend in a snorkeling accident while on vacation visiting his family in Mexico.
According to a letter from Miguel's sister that has been circulating around, he may have been run over by jet skis operated by life guards. She is asking that people write to the U.S Consulate and ask for an investigation into Miguel's death. The email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director and founder of the Eviction Defense Collaborative and a longtime advisory board member of the Tenants Union as well as a tireless fighter for tenants rights, Miguel was a friend to all of us. He fought hard to keep tenants in their homes and to strengthen the rights we all enjoy. It's impossible to imagine the tenants movement without him.
Testimonials about his life and work are just beginning to appear on the internet. Click here for the article in beyondchron. Click here for a blog piece about Miguel by staffer Tommi Avicolli Mecca.
Parkmerced demolition heads for ballot
The question of whether Parkmerced will get to tear down 1,500 rent-controlled apartments to build replacement units plus thousands of other new ones could end up on the ballot this November, along with a measure to outlaw the demolition of buildings with 50 units or more.
The Tenants Union is circulating petitions for a referendum on the ordinance the Board of Supervisors passed weeks ago approving the destruction of the rent-controlled units. Though Parkmerced has agreed to voluntarily keep the replacement units under rent control, tenant activists are dubious that the agreement will hold up under a legal challenge, due to a state law called Costa Hawkins, which prohibits rent control on units built after 79.
Board President David Chiu added a bunch of amendments designed to strengthen the rent control protections, but, again, there is no guarantee that if there is a legal challenge, these amendments will stand or be struck down by the court.
The referendum puts the voters of San Francisco on record protesting the passage of the Parkmerced demolition ordinance and asking that the Board "reconsider and repeal said ordinance, or, if not entirely repealed, then to submit (it) to a vote of the electors."
The second ballot measure was submitted by the five supervisors (Jane Kim, John Avalos, Eric Mar, Ross Mirkarimi and David Campos) who opposed the Board legislation. It would make it illegal to demolish buildings with 50 units or more.
Ammiano: 14-day to replace 3-day notice
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF) has introduced legislation to change the notice that landlords are required to give tenants when they owe rent from three to 14-days. That would give tenants more time to get together the money so that they won't get evicted. Right now, after the three days, a landlord can file an unlawful detainer against the tenant to start the legal process of removing them from their unit.
Ammiano told the San Deigo Union-Tribune: "Many of these people have nowhere to go and have no other resources. It's simply an extension."
Dean Preston, director of Tenants Together, the statewide California tenants rights organization, noted that in other states, tenants get more time to come up with the money to pay the rent when they're behind. "We believe it's reasonable to expect, particularly in this current economy," said Preston, "that tenants who can't come current within three days should have to vacate their homes."
Landlord groups are, of course, opposed to the measure.
New law helps tenants in fires
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee recently signed into law legislation from Supervisor Scott Wiener that allows a landlord to be a "Good Samaritan" and rent to a tenant who is forced out of his or her apartment because of a fire or a public health or safety problem.
Under the law, which is an amendment to the rent ordinance, the landlord can charge the displaced tenant the same rent he or she was paying in the apartment from which he was forced to move, but only for an agreed upon period, not to exceed a year. A one-year extension can be granted to that agreement. After that period, the landlord can raise the rent up to market.
The purpose of the law is to give tenants an affordable place while their old apartment is being repaired or brought up to code. A city official must verify that the tenant was displaced due to a fire or public health or safety problem.
Said Wiener: "This legislation makes it much easier for property owners to provide affordable temporary housing to tenants who have been displaced. I’m proud to have worked with both tenant and landlord groups to make this law a reality.”
Citi Apartments case settled
City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced the settlement of a four-and-a-half-year legal battle with CitiApartments and its complex web of corporate and individual affiliates with an unprecedented injunction to protect tenants, and penalties that could reach as high as $10 million over the next five years, depending on the defendants' financial condition. SF Superior Court Judge John E. Munter approved the injunction, which is part of the 88-page settlement agreement.
Herrera sued the once rental property giant in Aug. 2006 for an array of unlawful business and tenant harassment practices, which often harrowingly dispossessed long-term residents of their rent-controlled apartments. The coerced vacancies freed the landlord to make significant -- and almost uniformly unpermitted -- renovations to units, and then re-rent them to new tenants at dramatically increased market rates. The illegal business model appears to have enabled CitiApartments, Skyline Realty and other entities under the sway of real estate family patriarch Frank Lembi to aggressively outbid competitors for residential properties throughout San Francisco for several years -- before lawsuits and a sharp economic downturn forced the aspiring empire into bankruptcies, foreclosures and receiverships.
"After a years-long legal battle over shocking anti-tenant and anti-competitive practices, we've secured the toughest, most detailed injunction to protect tenants in San Francisco history," said Herrera. "This injunction allows us to aggressively police CitiApartments and its affiliates, now and in the future. It financially punishes the offenders to the extent their assets allow, while assuring additional penalties against their future income.
"But the success of this case doesn't belong to the City Attorney's Office alone," continued Herrera. "It belongs, too, to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection and the Building Inspection Commission. Perhaps most important, it belongs to all the tenants, activists and journalists who helped provide us with the ammunition necessary to take on the Lembi real estate empire from the start. I'm especially grateful to all the community advocates from 'CitiStop' for their tireless efforts."
Herrera's litigation included extensive evidence gathered through the City Attorney's Office's own investigation as well as from the nearly 300 tenants and witnesses who contacted Herrera's office in the weeks after he filed suit. The case was also aided by tenants and witnesses identified in an award-winning investigative series that the Bay Guardian published in March 2006, and by the aggressive community outreach efforts of a coalition called "CitiStop." That coalition included the SF Tenants Union, the Housing Rights Committee, the San Francisco Labor Council, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the San Francisco Peoples Organization, SEIU Local 790 and Causa Justa.
The fight against evictions continues every day in San Francisco, as rents keep on rising and displacement is a constant threat for every tenant, especially seniors, disabled people and low-income folks. It's more important than ever for tenants to fight back in any way they can. A lot of legislative fixes are being offered by politicians, both here and in Sacramento, hopefully offering us some relief from what's happening.
One group that is helping tenants fight back against eviction is Eviction Free San Francisco, which meets the first and third Wednesday of the month at our office, 417 South Van Ness/15th, 6-8pm.