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Monday, September 23, 2013

And speaking of evictions ...

You have to wonder how bad it has to get before the mayor of San Francisco says something -- anything -- about the epidemic that is ravaging this city.

Take this Ellis Act tragedy near Chinatown. As the Examiner notes, a Chinese couple in their 70s, who live with their disabled daughter who is 48, are getting thrown out of the house where they've lived since 1979:

Speaking in Cantonese, Gum Gee Lee, 73, said, "We raised our family here and we paid rent for more than 30 years. This new landlord knew we lived here when he bought the building. But he did not plan to keep us. He started to evict all of the tenants right away."

The Lee family's case is among the most egregious examples in The City of a rising number of evictions using the Ellis Act, a state law adopted in 1985 that allows a landlord to evict tenants in order to get out of the residential rental market.
The new owner, Matthew Miller, most likely will do what he's done with another property: Clear out all the tenants and sell it as TICs, turning a tidy profit in the process. It's all perfectly legal. The state has taken away from California cities the right to protect rental housing from backdoor condo conversions.

Would any of this stop if the mayor spoke out? Would Miller listen if Ed Lee called and told him to spare this home and these vulnerable tenants? I don't know. And none of us will know unless he tries it.

To be fair, the mayor didn't create the Ellis Act, and it's not his fault that so much of the state Legislature is in the pocket of the landlord lobby. San Francisco doesn't have the legal tools to prevent this type of eviction.

But there are only two ways that will change: If every big-city mayor gets organized and demands that Sacramento return to local governments the right to regulate housing -- and if the community and City Hall make it so unpleasant for evictors that they decide it's not worth the price. 

I send Lee's press person, Christine Falvey, an email today and asked if the mayor was aware of this particular eviction, and if he would be making a statement about it. Haven't heard back. 

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