Controversial Ellis Act lawyer to hold fundraiser for David Chiu's Assembly campaign

A San Francisco attorney who is on housing activists’ blacklist for representing landlords in controversial Ellis Act evictions is hosting a fundraiser for David Chiu’s Assembly race Thursday evening, according to an email invitation.
Attorney Steven A. MacDonald was an early Chiu supporter, according to campaign finance records. MacDonald gave Chiu $500 in October.

He also handled at least three evictions that used the controversial Ellis Act, according to a list maintained at

Chiu's campiagn said it was unaware of MacDonald's Ellis Act activities.

“Neither Supervisor Chiu nor our campaign knew what type of law Steven practices,” said Chiu campaign consultant Nicole Derse. “David knows Steven as a fellow advocate against domestic violence and he is a law school classmate and friend of Chiu's wife.”

Derse added that MacDonald is also representing tenants — including domestic violence advocate Beverly Upton — in Ellis Act struggles.

“If we had known about Steven's actions against tenants, we would not have allowed him to host a fundraiser,” Derse said. “We will not take any of his money nor any money from those who profit against Ellis Act evictions.”

The campaign said it will return MacDonald's check from October, but that the Thursday fundraiser will go on as planned.

San Francisco’s ongoing landlord-tenant struggles are expected to be a key issue in the contest between Chiu and fellow Board of Supervisors member David Campos as they vie to succeed termed-out Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Predictably, Chiu's opponents pounced, calling the fundraiser “the same split personality behavior that we're used to seeing.”

“We're shocked but not surprised,” said Nate Allbee, Campos's campaign manager. “Chiu claims to be for tenants one day, and is raising money from attorneys who specialize in Ellis acting San Franciscans the next.”

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