The largest tenant rights bill in decades rests in voters’ hands this November, bringing with a real possibility of overturning a real 23-year-old law that blocks local governments from instituting their own rent control laws. In a city with more than 60 percent of the residents renting their homes, support from San Francisco should be a no-brainer, but a recent Board of Supervisors vote on whether or not to endorse the bill failed.
In the dissent was Supervisor Ahsha Safai, who was the target of a creative protest Monday afternoon. Tenants rights advocates — including representatives from the San Francisco Tenants Union, PODER, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Housing Rights Committee — gathered in Safai’s office to gift him golden flip-flops, claiming he broke promises made during his campaign.
Safai refused to appear, so activists were left speaking to his aide, Suhagey Sandoval.
Excelsior resident Gilbert Williams pointed out that he’d had a year to read the text. “He came out against it, and we’re asking him to come out in favor. Very simple. He doesn’t have to have a meeting, he just has to do the right thing,” he said. “The right thing in San Francisco, when we have the world’s most expensive rent and families are suffering all over our neighborhood, where I was born and raised — that’s not acceptable, I’m sorry. He needs to change his vote to yes.”
“Safaí can return these flip flops when he decides which side he is on — tenants and community advocates fighting for our homes and neighborhoods, or the Wall Street landlords,” says Varma. She says he won his election by a slim 400 votes, after promising to fight for tenants during his campaign. On his campaign page, which is still live, Safai promises to mandate that private developers offer housing for those making between 55 and 120 percent of the Area Median Income, which in 2016 was $41,450 to $90,500 a year.
Safai also voted yes on a resolution to support State Bill 1506 in 2017 to repeal Costa-Hawkins, which ultimately died in Assembly.
As the Chronicle previously pointed out, Supervisor Malia Cohen has also flip-flopped on Prop. 10. In her race for the Board of Equalization, she filled out questionnaires for the National Union of Healthcare Workers and the S.F. Latino Democratic Club that expressed her support for a repeal of Costa-Hawkins.
The group of activists hinted that they’d return later in the week — to serve a second set of golden flip-flops to someone else.