City Hall showdown intensifies over possible veto of tenant protections

Tenants' rights groups, like this one pictured at City Hall in June, will be on the steps of City Hall today encouraging Mayor Ed Lee to sign a bill that protects against evictions. (Gabriele Lurie/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The deadline is fast approaching for Mayor Ed Lee to decide whether to veto new sweeping eviction protections for San Francisco’s tenants, approved by the Board of Supervisors last week.

The mayor convened an hourlong Monday meeting at City Hall with those on both sides of the issue. On Wednesday, Josephine Zhao, who sits on the board of the Small Properties Owners of San Francisco Institute, emailed a report to members of San Francisco media explaining five concerns with the legislation just days before the deadline for the mayor to veto the legislation, which is 5 p.m. Friday.

In the email, Zhao notes she’s “holding breath to see the outcome” while claiming the legislation “may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and kicks off a domino effect that aggravates the current housing shortage.”

Meanwhile, today, tenants’ rights groups are gathering on the steps of City Hall to urge the mayor not to veto the legislation after spending days emailing and calling the mayor.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who introduced the legislation, has argued the protections are necessary in today’s hot real estate market to protect tenants against the landlords who are looking for any reason to evict tenants in rent control units, only to re-rent units at market rates. Median rents for a one bedroom unit increased during the past year by 13.9 percent to $3,530.

Kim’s legislative aide Ivy Lee said she has personally responded to about 250 emails from small property owners regarding the legislation since July. “It’s really clear there’s a ton of misinformation they are operating under,” Ivy Lee said. She said a mayoral veto would be “shocking.”

In general, the legislation allows tenants to bring in roommates in excess of their lease terms but tied to city building codes. In addition, eviction notices must include contacts for legal assistance and tenants must have a chance to cure minor offenses and proof must be provided with any nuisance eviction.

If a landlord evicts a renter for an owner move-in, condo conversion or capital repairs, they wouldn’t be able to re-rent it at market rate within a five year period, but only at the rent the evicted tenant was paying at the time of the eviction.

Zhao attended the Monday meeting with the mayor and Kim, among others, to object to the legislation for a variety of reasons. Among them, opponents say the roommate provision is unenforceable and will sock landlords and other tenants with expenses of added occupants. They also argue not being able to intervene promptly in tenant disruptions and nuisances could jeopardize safety.

The mayoral veto could be overridden by the board with eight votes. The board did approve the legislation in a 11-0 vote — after approving the roommate provision in the legislation in a 7-4 vote.

Votes could change.

Should the mayor veto, it would be the latest victory for the Small Properties Owners against the Board of Supervisors. Just this week, the group prevailed in a lawsuit over legislation approved by the board that increased payments to those evicted under the Ellis Act, a state law allowing evictions if the landlord gets out of the rental business.

The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

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