Campos hopes to salvage increased eviction payouts law; Yee seeks to silence tour bus drivers

A law that boosts relocation payments for those evicted under the Ellis Act was shot down in federal court last year, but amendments proposed to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday could salvage it. Meanwhile, one supervisor wants to make it illegal for tour bus operators to talk to passengers while showing them around idyllic San Francisco.

In October, a city employee became one of 18 pedestrians to die during the year when hit by a vehicle, in this case by a tour bus operator in a well-marked crosswalk outside of City Hall.

As The City strives to eliminate all pedestrian deaths by 2024, Supervisor Norman Yee said it was important to ensure tour bus operators are not distracted and has proposed to ban direct communication with passengers when driving.

“This should be a common-sense practice. When you are operating a vehicle, you should be focused on driving, not speaking on a cell phone or guiding a city tour,” Yee said in a statement. “This was a senseless death that could have been prevented. I hope that our legislation sends a message to all motorists that distracted driving will not be tolerated in this city.”

Supervisor David Campos successfully passed last year in a 9-2 vote legislation that significantly boosts relocation payments to those evicted under the Ellis Act, a state law that permits building owners to evict tenants if they get out of the rental business. But in October, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer struck down the ordinance calling it unconstitutional and the city attorney appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit.

Campos, however, introduced amendments Tuesday that he said addresses the ruling and “essentially makes the federal case moot.” The proposal caps payout at $50,000, requires that the money go toward housing relocation costs, such as moving expenses, and changes the formula for setting the payout. The previous law had no cap on payouts, based on the difference between the tenant's current rent and two years of rent at a comparable unit in San Francisco. There were also no restrictions on how an evicted tenant could use the money. Prior to Campos' law, those evicted under the Ellis Act were paid up to $4,500.

“I have tried to strike a balance to address the court's concerns while continuing to provide meaningful assistance to displaced residents,” Campos said.

The lawsuit was brought by the San Francisco Apartment Association, which lobbies on behalf of The City's property owners, and other landlord advocates. Among the plaintiffs in the case, Daniel and Maria Levin, bought in 2008 a two-unit building on Lombard Street in North Beach where they lived on the top floor and wanted to evict the tenant to take over the lower unit, which would cost them $117,958 under Campos' initial law.

According to Breyer's ruling, “The City has crossed the constitutional line between permissible government regulation of land and an impermissible monetary exaction that lacks an essential nexus.”

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