SF boosts compensation for Ellis Act evictees

San Francisco lawmakers took another step Tuesday toward blunting the impacts of evictions by making it much more expensive to oust tenants under a state law.

While San Francisco has become a hotbed for job creation that has boosted the local economy over the past few years, namely in the tech sector, the cost of living and housing has increased dramatically as well. Anti-displacement activists have seized on the Ellis Act, which allows building owners to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business.

Tenants evicted under the Ellis Act were already entitled to a certain amount of compensation from their landlords, but now they will be able to receive tens of thousands of dollars more in relocation payments than they do under the existing law.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 to approve legislation that requires property owners in such eviction situations to pay the difference between the tenant’s current rent and what the tenant would have to pay for a similar apartment under current market conditions for two years.

“This provides working and middle-income people in San Francisco a fighting chance to be able to afford to stay here if they are evicted,” said Supervisor David Campos, who introduced the legislation.


For instance, tenants who moved into a $1,460-per–month, two-bedroom apartment in the Sunset district in 1995 would require a relocation payment of $47,088 under the approved law, according to a City Controller’s Office analysis. And for a tenant who moved into a two-bedroom apartment in the Mission district in 1987 at a monthly rent of $909, a relocation payment of $44,832 would be required.

Landlords are currently required to pay relocation assistance amounts of approximately $5,261 per tenant.

Supervisors Mark Farrell and Katy Tang opposed the increase in compensation.

“If I have a sick aunt and I have owned for 30 years a set of flats in our city it would cost me $50,000 to move my aunt into the building because she is sick and she needs to be cared for,” Farrell said. “To me that is simply inappropriate.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener noted that while Ellis Act evictions make up a small number of overall evictions, and fewer today than during the tech boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, he said it is still “having a huge impact on people’s lives.”

“It seems hardly a week goes by where I don’t learn about another Ellis Act eviction in my district,” said Wiener, who represents the Castro district.

Tuesday’s local action came as a state Senate committee debated changes to the Ellis Act that would address what’s called speculation, when someone evicts tenants under the law in a hot market after having owned the property for a short time. The bill was authored by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and would only apply to The City.

Campos said it was important to act locally and not wait for Sacramento.

“By the time those changes happen there will be thousands of San Franciscans who will no longer be living in this city,” he said.

A recent Rent Board report said that between March 1, 2013, and Feb. 28 of this year, landlords filed 1,977 eviction notices. That was the most since 2001-02, when 2,101 were filed. </p>

Ellis Act evictions in the past year rose from 116 to 216, about 11 percent of all evictions.

Correction: This story was updated April 9 to clarify that 1,977 total eviction notices were filed between March 1, 2013, and Feb. 28 of this year.

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