This article was posted on Thursday, Dec 01, 2016

In what must have been one of the low points of her day, a young woman recently knocked on my door to tell me that she was from the San Francisco Tenants Union and wanted to invite me to a “Town Hall” to listen to Dean Preston, a supervisorial candidate talk to tenants about how unfairly they are being treated and how they should demand their rights.

I immediately identified myself and told her that her organization and others aligned with it were part of the cause of the shortages in the rental properties.  I told her how, in my own case, there is no logical reason for us to rent out our lower flat when it becomes vacant as my husband and I might need it if we become unable to climb the stairs to the upper flat where now live.

She politely tried to exit the conversation by backing down our front stairs and saying that she knew that opinions differed, but that she would try to talk to some of our neighbors.  I saw her heading across the street to knock on a door of a house whose owner had recently completed an Ellis Act eviction so he could live in safety and be rid of a tenant who was subletting his unit illegally.  She could have gone next door where the owner recently completed a relative move-in (RMI) eviction so that her grown son could occupy the unit; or possibly the neighbor on the other side would have told her why they were trying to get the noisy tenants downstairs to leave – or two houses in either direction where the places are now condos or are preparing to be sold as TICs.  Wow, I thought, this used to be a lower-to-middle income neighborhood of primarily renters and now it’s one of the owners, many of whom had paid over $1 million for a flat!

Simple Changes Would Encourage Units Back Onto the Rental Market

Our board of Supervisors agonizes and wrings its politicized hands over what to do about the city’s housing crisis.  Yet, all its supposed solutions involve government funding, either direct or in the form of tax incentives; or government supervision of private developers, mandating how they may construct their buildings and to whom they may sell or rent. Virtually all its plans require more tax dollars to be spent on still more city workers, more commissions, more inspectors and more bureaucratic paperwork.

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Have our supervisors ever considered enacting some simple changes to the onerous Rent Ordinance that would actually encourage units currently sitting vacant by choice or being diverted to alternative uses back onto the rental market?

In a recent “Question of the Month”, SPOSFI members consistently identified two measures which they felt would be the most likely to encourage them to rent out their hard-earned assets again:

  • Allow annual increases to (at least) equal the rate of inflation (100% of the CPI rather than the current 60%) and
  • Ease the onerous regulations that prevent us small property owners from recovering units when we need them.

Politicians Without Backbone

Not one of our Supervisors has shown the political courage to do the right thing for renters and owners.  Not one! They all voted for “Kim 2.0” – an ordinance passed earlier this year that allows way too many people to live in a unit, regardless of what the signed lease says.  They also voted unanimously for the bizarre ordinance that allows no-fault evictions only during summer for any unit occupied by an employee of any school.  What?  You’re without heat in November?  Okay, just wait until spring so your landlord can legally ask you to move temporarily.  Yes, they vote for this nonsense and yes, we do have a housing crisis.


The article was written by Noni Richen, President of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute.  Reprinted with permission of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI) News.  For more information on becoming a member of SPOSFI or to send a tax-deductible donation, please visit their website at or call (415) 647-2419.