Preston announces plan to extend rent control to Fillmore’s 139-unit Midtown complex

Supervisor Dean Preston took the first step Tuesday toward extending the protections of rent control to tenants living in a 139-unit city-owned complex in the Fillmore called Midtown Park Apartments.

Tenants in the complex have lived under uncertainty for years as city officials have proposed various plans for its future, including rent increases, non-profit managers and redevelopment.

The San Francisco Examiner has previously reported on these concerns of tenants, including in a Jan. 5, 2014 article. At that time, longtime resident Mary Watkins told the Examiner that “You couldn’t ask for a better place to live” but that “every day I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Preston asked the City Attorney Tuesday to draft legislation that would extend rent control protections to residents of the complex, something tenants have asked for in past years. In San Francisco, those living in units constructed before June 1979 receive limited rent increases under the Rent Control Ordinance.

The tenants, primarily long-time African American and immigrant residents, had thought for years that they had rent control protections in the building, which dates back to 1968. Their rents didn’t increase beyond rent control limits, but then in 2013 the Mayor’s Office of Housing, which oversees the site, began to change course.

“Many Midtown tenants received huge rent increases, including some as high as 300 percent of what they were previously paying,” Preston said. “The tenants challenged the rent increases, but the Rent Board ruled the San Francisco city’s rent control law does not extend to Midtown because the property is owned by the city.”

Now Preston wants to pass a law to fix that.

He acknowledged that there remain other issues to resolve at the housing site.

“There are many issues to be resolved at Midtown, including working out a longer term plan regarding the ownership and operation of Midtown,” Preston said. “I look forward to working with all stakeholders to arrive at a long term plan that is supported by the residents, but in the meantime it’s simply unacceptable for any residents of Midtown to be asked to pay rent increases in publicly-owned housing higher than rent increases that they would have faced if they lived across the street in privately-owned housing.”

Preston expects to introduce the legislation in about a month.

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