Debate over rent control measure highlights concern for single family home owners

Two supervisors sought to protect single family homeowners from a rent control expansion during a hearing Monday on whether to support November’s Proposition 10, which would repeal California’s restrictions on how cities can regulate rents.

Both Supervisor Ahsha Safai and Katy Tang had previously voted against a resolution by Supervisor Aaron Peskin that would put The City on record backing Proposition 10, the repeal of Costa-Hawkins.

On Monday, however, they voted to support it, but only after amending it to exempt small property owners from any potential rent control expansion.

The push by Tang and Safai for the exemption during Monday’s Land Use and Transportation Committee hearing came as tenant advocates rallied outside City Hall in support of Peskin’s resolution. If Prop. 10 passes, The City could expand rent control regulations.

SEE RELATED: Tenant activists call out Safai for vote on rent control measure

“Mass displacement, homelessness, evictions, speculation — Costa-Hawkins is the enabler of all of these,” said Lorraine Petty, of Senior Disability Action. “Property owners are guaranteed the right to fair and reasonable profit. Renters deserve fair and reasonable housing. Without Costa-Hawkins we can strike a fair and reasonable balance.”

Opponents of the amendment said that the board should wait to see what happens with Prop. 10 before determining who should be exempted. The full board will vote on the resolution next week.

Meanwhile, Mayor London Breed is supporting Prop. 10, mayoral spokesman Jeff Cretan confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner for the first time Monday.

Peskin’s resolution failed at the full Board of Supervisors on Sept. 4 when four board members opposed it — Supervisors Ahsha Safai, Katy Tang, Catherine Stefani and board president Malia Cohen.

SEE RELATED: Supes reject Peskin resolution supporting statewide repeal of rent control limits

Since a board committee hadn’t held a hearing on the resolution before the full board vote, it required eight votes to pass. It failed 7-4 and was referred to Monday’s hearing before the board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee.

Tang and Safai said they both represent districts with a high concentration of single family homes and were addressing their concerns.

Tang said single family homeowners “are very concerned” about the repeal and what “that might do to their situation.”

Their amendment to the resolution was adopted in a 2-1 vote, with Supervisor Jane Kim opposing it.

“I cannot yet support … that we would definitively exclude single family homes from the rent control ordinance,” Kim said. She added, “I would want to better understand the policy reasons.”

Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who was not a voting member of the committee, criticized the amendment. “The idea of repealing Costa Hawkins is that we can actually have a discussion on what should be exempted and what shouldn’t be exempted,” Fewer said.

Peskin suggested the board has the votes to strike the exemption from the resolution when it’s before the full board next week, when it would take at least six votes to amend and approve.

“Out of San Francisco’s built housing stock there’s approximately 125,000 single family homes,” Peskin told the San Francisco Examiner after the vote. “Rent control does not impact a single family homeowner who lives in their home. But insofar as there are 125,000 homes and people have bought up homes for the purpose of renting them out, I think that we should have a conversation about whether or not or how rent control should apply to single family homes.”

“I don’t want to predetermine that,” Peskin added.

Those backing Prop. 10 see it as a clear case of either supporting tenants or developers.

Sarah “Fred” Sherburn-Zimmer, executive director of Housing Rights Committee of SF, said, “There are only two sides on this.”

“You can’t pretend to be for tenants and against evictions and not vote for this,” Sherburn-Zimmer said.

Ken Tray, a retired high school teacher representing United Educators of San Francisco, emphasized how teachers cannot afford to live in The City and that there are about 2,500 homeless students. Tray said expanded rent control was neccessary.

“We’ve gone from a city — when I first moved here in ‘71 — a working class city, to a city of haves and have nots,” Tray said. “Those who say let the market forces prevail in housing and that somehow trickle down housing will allow teachers and our students’ families to afford to live here are badly mistaken.”

Kim agreed The City couldn’t build itself out of the housing crisis. “We can build as much market rate and luxury housing as possible, but I don’t believe that that will ever bring down the price of rent if we don’t have some form of regulation,” Kim said.

If Prop. 10 passes, the board could adopt a rent control expansion. Voters could as well.

Peskin said that The City was recently able to agree on how to increase affordable housing requirements for developers and could do the same with rent control expansion.

“We can find that sweet spot,” Peskin said.

Fewer agreed, “We can come together and have a real discussion about what is equitable and how property owners can get a fair return on their investment, while also serving the people of San Francisco that are so severely needed in order to run this city.”

Supporters of Proposition 10 and Proposition C march to City Hall before a Board of Supervisor committee meeting to urge their support on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
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