The fur may be about to fly again, as animal activists revive the fight against building owners who won’t allow animals in rental units.
The Animal Control and Welfare Commission initiated discussion at City Hall on Thursday night about ways to increase the number of apartments in San Francisco that allow pets, including measures forbidding landlords from discriminating against responsible pet owners when looking for tenants.
It’s a contentious issue that led to a shake-up in City Hall a few years ago.
In 2006, the same commission tried to enact a mandate allowing landlords to charge tenants with pets more, an incentive they hoped would motivate more building owners to allow animals.
However, members of the Board of Supervisors — notably then-President Aaron Peskin — perceived the move as an attack on The City’s rent-control policies. The next year, several members of the commission were not reappointed by the board.
Rent hikes are not on the table in the latest discussion, but the commission is anxious to find ways to stop the killing of stray animals, according to Director Sally Stephens.
Last year, 87 percent of The City’s sheltered animals found homes — a rate that is one of the highest in the nation for a major city. One factor preventing that rate from improving even further is that only about 50 percent of San Francisco rental units allow pets, commission members said at the public hearing Thursday night.
“The demand for apartments in San Francisco is so high, landlords know they can ban pets and still find tenants,” said Joe Augusten, a San Francisco renter and the owner of 5-year-old border collie mix Zoe.
Several groups representing landlords appeared at the hearing to oppose any proposed mandate.
Marina Franco, a member of the San Francisco Apartment Association, said the group encourages owners to allow pets and would be open to incentives — such as rent increases — to encourage more, but she said a mandate “is not the way to go” because some pets can be dangerous, cause damage to an apartment, trigger allergic reactions for some people and create conflicts between tenants.
Commissioner Angela Padilla said it was a mandate that first required landlords to rent to black people, unmarried couples and people with children.
“Often it is a mandate that was required to make change on all these issues. Landlords groups were on the wrong side of all these issues,” she said. “My feeling is we’re at the vanguard of another issue of inclusion.”
Shelters and other animal agencies in The City have a high success rate of finding homes for stray pets.
85 percent Live release rate of pets at Animal Care and Control (city agency) in 2008
97 percent Live release rate of pets at the San Francisco SPCA (nonprofit) in 2008
87 percent Live release rate of pets in San Francisco animal shelters in 2008
Sources: Animal Care and Control, SPCA, city animal shelters