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SF officially supports statewide measure allowing expansion of rent control

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San Francisco is one place that has the will to expand rent control. (Jessica Christian/2017 S.F. Examiner)

After voting down a provision to exempt single-family homes from rent control, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a resolution supporting Proposition 10, a statewide measure on the November ballot that would allow cities to expand regulations on rents.

The resolution, introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, puts San Francisco on record in support of Prop. 10, the repeal of the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act. It initially failed when it first came before the board last month.

Supervisors Katy Tang and Catherine Stefani were the only ones who opposed Tuesday’s resolution, which was adopted by a 9-2 vote.

The board also voted to scrap a provision that would have exempt single family homes from any possible rent control expansion. That provision was added during the board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee’s Sept. 24 hearing by Tang and Ahsha Safai, two moderate supervisors.

Both Tang and Safai represent districts with a high concentration of single family homes and said they sought the exemption in response to their constituents.

But Supervisor Vallie Brown said “from a process perspective, I think this type of carve out is wrong, especially so preemptively.”

Brown added that Prop. 10 would “untie our hands in San Francisco” to better address the affordability crisis.

Should Prop. 10 pass, the board or voters could change existing rent control laws, such as applying it to new construction and to units when they become vacant. Currently, rent control applies only to buildings built before June 1979.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said it was the wrong time to begin debating who would be impacted by a potential rent control expansion. “It’s not appropriate for us to be trying to have that fight about single family homes right now,” Mandelman said.

There are 125,000 single family homes in San Francisco. “Everything should be on the table in the middle of the housing crisis we find ourselves in,” Peskin said.

Tenant advocates protested in Safai’s office after he voted against the resolution last month.

After Tuesday’s vote, Safai said in a text message to the San Francisco Examiner that “I think we had a healthy debate here at the board” and said that he thought single family homes and new construction “deserved to be considered and part of the conversation.”

Stefani declined to comment on her vote. But she previously said in a recent Examiner editorial board meeting that she had concerns that the repeal could slow down construction and that “people won’t build.”

“I truly firmly believe that one of the best ways out of our housing crisis … and the high rents is to build more housing,” Stefani said. “It is a supply and demand issue.”

The resolution says that repealing Costa Hawkins would “allow cities to have more flexibility in governing affordable housing needs in their communities, to ensure that existing vacant rent-controlled housing stock is made available to residential tenants, and to strengthen rent stabilization measures.”

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