S.F. Takes Another Stab at Expanding Eviction Protections

Were it not for former Mayor Gavin Newsom's veto, tenants in newer buildings would be afforded just cause eviction protections and relocation subsidies.

Before the onslaught of displacement, San Francisco nearly expanded eviction protections to most buildings. A narrow defeat at the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom and 10 years later, supervisors are considering similar legislation.

Tenants living in homes built before June 13, 1979 are afforded protections like limited annual rent increases, just cause eviction protections, and relocation bonuses. Under legislation brought forward by Supervisor Matt Haney, those controls — minus rent increase limitations — would apply to people in newer buildings as well.

“It’s hugely consequential for the 35,000 plus residents who will be covered and don’t have to live in fear of arbitrary eviction,” Haney tells SF Weekly. “These sort of protections are something that, as a resident, you don’t know that you need until you do.”

That legislation is expected to land before the full Board of Supervisors on Dec. 10 after a breezy run through the Rules Committee on Monday. It has the support of Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Sandra Lee Fewer, and Shamann Walton as cosponsors.

In 2010, San Francisco supervisors approved similar legislation that would have expanded rent control to homes built after 1979. But supervisors were one vote shy of a veto-proof approval and Newsom, then San Francisco mayor, killed it.

“Would it have prevented or slowed the gentrification or displacement were seeing? Maybe,” says Cynthia Fong, an organizer with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco focused on the Richmond District. “Now there is a way for renters who can access a lawyer, affirmatively, to fight rent increases that might be above local or state laws.”

Nearly a decade later as California governor, Newsom approved similar, though what some called watered down, statewide eviction protections and anti-rent gouging in the form of Assembly Bill 1482 authored by San Francisco’s Assemblymember David Chiu. It protects tenants who fall outside just cause evictions, which accounts for behavior like nonpayment, breaches in the lease, and criminal activity.

AB 1482, however, does not account for buildings established after 2004 nor cover tenants living in eligible buildings for less than a year. Haney’s closes those loopholes in San Francisco and brings the changes under the jurisdiction of the local Rent Board, an entity many cities don’t have.

The proposed 2018 repeal of Costa Hawkins, a state law that locked San Francisco into that 1979 limitation, would have paved the way to also expand rent control limitations but was crushed at the ballot box. Further, enforcement of these protections, barriers to tenant counsel, and vacancy control still loom large among tenant advocates like Fong. Several public commenters at Monday’s meeting called the legislation an overdue, common-sense change.

“It starts this series of events that’s catastrophic for some people,” said Jennifer Freidenbach, Coalition on Homelessness director, about the challenge of recovering from an eviction. “We have to go upstream and take these measures if we want to address homelessness.”

Haney noted that Newsom’s change in attitude and AB 1482 shows the extent of the problem and progress made by tenant groups at the state level. Lack of opposition during the Rules Committee hearing and unanimous vote to move to the full Board also marked a significant shift for Ronen, who worked as a legislative aide to predecessor David Campos.

“I’ve been involved in countless amounts of tenant legislation and it’s never felt this easy before,” Ronen said at Monday’s meeting, commending continued work of tenant rights advocates. “What a difference a board makes, right?”

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