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Source: Mayor Lee considering veto of ‘Tenant Protections 2.0’

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A proposal that was approved by the Board of Supervisors that grants tenants broad protections may be vetoed by Mayor Ed Lee. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

On Guard column header Joe
It’s no secret that San Francisco is a hard town for both tenants and small-time landlords, politically: Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

But now, it seems tenants may do both.

Last week the Board of Supervisors passed a package of much-heralded tenants’ rights protections known as “Tenant Protections 2.0” (because everything these days has to be tech-related, right?).

On Guard has learned that small property owners are lobbying Mayor Ed Lee to veto the legislation. They want the supervisors to take another vote, and strip out a provision allowing renters to bring in additional roommates.

“We are asking for a veto,” said Josephine Zhao, leader of BetterHousingPolicies.org, a group of small property owners. She said members sent in “hundreds of emails.”

Sources who asked not to be named told us the mayor is considering a veto in response to that pressure, and may pull the trigger to kill the legislation. He has until the end of next week to veto it.

Maria Zamudio, an organizer with Causa Justa, Just Cause, highlighted Lee’s tenants protection track record.

“It would be a huge blow to the mayor, who has not vetoed a single piece of tenant legislation in his six years in office,” she said.

The former tenants rights lawyer, and now mayor, is on a warpath to build as many housing units in San Francisco as he can, and is now championing a $310 million housing bond on the November ballot.

“I’ve been called a lot of names, but I do enjoy being called the housing mayor,” Lee was quoted as saying in an article by Examiner staff writer Joshua Sabatini.

The tenant protections were numerous: It bars rent increases or evictions based solely on the addition of roommates, makes it tougher for landlords to evict tenants for minor violations, and increases tenant notification requirements. It also limited landlords’ ability to raise the rent on units after no-fault evictions.

More controversially, it also changed how tenants can bring in new roommates.
Before, landlords could limit roommates as they wished. The new law would require tenants lobbying for new roommates to receive a written refusal from a landlord that is a “reasonable refusal” if the request is denied.

That provision was purposefully made broad, activists tell us, to give landlords leeway.

But the small property owners seem to be working off of a lot of misinformation, advocates tell me – and when I spoke to Zhao, that seemed to be the case.
“It’s very problematic that the tenants could move in someone without our preapproval. They’ll move in strangers in some cases, who knows, pedophiles,” she told me.

The heat on the mayor is rising. A request for comment from his office was not returned, but Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee told us, “He may be feeling pressure, and I’m sure he’s thinking about his options.”

Eight votes are a veto proof majority, and the legislation passed unanimously with 11 votes. But that presumes the board votes similarly on a veto override – but they can change their vote.

When Supervisor Scott Wiener attempted to amend the housing protection legislation to remove the roommate provision, three other supervisors voted against it: Katy Tang, Mark Farrell, and Norman Yee.

If those four supervisors banded together to withhold their votes to nullify Lee’s veto, they could pressure the other seven supervisors to strip out the roommate provision.

Wiener’s aide Jeff Cretan said that Wiener supports everything in the proposal but opposes only the roommate provision, and “would try to remove the [roommate] provision if possible.”

In a town with limited housing options, and limited hope, that would be disastrous, Zamudio said.

“In this moment in San Francisco,” she said, “a half win is not enough.”

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