Will San Francisco OK Further Limits on Evictions? Board of Supervisors to Decide

Demonstrators marched down Mission Street in January 2014 to protest a rise in evictions.  ((Deborah Svoboda/KQED))

A proposal to limit evictions in San Francisco, which would expand just-cause requirements to all rental units in the city, was approved by a Board of Supervisors committee on Monday.

Housing advocates said the measure goes further than a new state law, AB 1482, which requires landlords to give just cause, or a legitimate reason as defined by law, for evicting renters. AB 1482 applies only to housing built in the last 15 years.

San Francisco’s measure would apply to all rental units in the city — which number 35,000, including single room occupancies (or SROs) — regardless of when they were built. Today in San Francisco, only landlords with apartments built before 1979 must provide just cause for evicting tenants.

The measure limits the reasons for terminating a residential tenancy, offers more relocation funds and provides additional tenant protections. It’s the latest effort to limit evictions in the last few years amid a growing affordable housing crisis, Supervisor Matt Haney and housing advocates say.

“Now is the time to correct this inequity and treat all units the same. This legislation will provide protections that will ensure that nobody is under threat of an arbitrary eviction in San Francisco,” said Haney, who drafted the legislation. “This is something activists have been fighting for.”

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Haney said the ordinance would not affect Ellis Act evictions, which occur when landlords evict tenants if they want to leave the rental business.

Most cities in California don’t require landlords to give just cause before evicting tenants, according to Tenants Together, a statewide coalition of local tenant organizations.

“In San Francisco, you see all these protests because tenants have some rights here. In most of the state, the landlord can evict you for any reason at any time,” said Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.

Fifteen percent of renters were threatened with eviction over a five-year period, according to a 2018 survey by the San Francisco Planning Commission.

Several homeless and housing advocates spoke Monday before the Rules Committee of the Board of Supervisors in support of the measure.

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“Whether or not someone stays in their home should not depend on when that home is built,” said Cynthia Fong, a community organizer at the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.  “Every single interaction in our tenant counseling clinic begins with: ‘What year was your home built?’ And that should not be the way that it is.”

Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment Association, said she questions whether the ordinance would hold up to legal scrutiny and thought the measure would likely make it more difficult for landlords to manage their properties.

Landlord groups have said the state measure to curb evictions has made it more difficult for building owners to maintain and renovate their buildings.

The full Board of Supervisors will vote on the measure on Dec. 10. If it passes and Mayor London Breed signs it into law, it is expected to go into effect 30 days later.

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