SF tenants could soon gain expanded eviction protections

Sweeping legislation that would protect San Francisco tenants from no-fault evictions through March 2021 moved forward on Monday.

Sweeping legislation that would protect San Francisco tenants from no-fault evictions through March 2021 moved forward on Monday.

The Land Use and Transportation Committee voted to send legislation from Supervisor Dean Preston to the full Board of Supervisors that would prohibit all no-fault evictions until March, regardless of whether tenants were financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Preston introduced the legislation in September, seeking to turn emergency orders into long-term protections from no-fault evictions to owner move-ins, capital improvement, and demolition while continuing to allow landlords to remove tenants due to violence or safety concerns.

“The time has come for us to remove the monthly uncertainty for tenants during this pandemic,” Preston said. “We are in a prolonged crisis. Evictions must continue to be off the table.”

In response to the widespread unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor London Breed issued directives in April to prohibit evictions due to nonpayment of rent and some no-fault evictions. That order has been extended on a monthly basis and is now set to end at the end of November.

Then in June, Preston put forward legislation creating a permanent ban on evictions due to nonpayment of rent caused by coronavirus impacts.

Hours before an initial set of protections were due to expire in September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3088 to set new rules around evictions. Under that legislation, tenants affected financially by coronavirus must pay 25 percent of their rent by Jan. 31 while regularly attesting to financial impacts. The remaining 75 percent of the rent, as well as missed payments between March 1 and Aug. 31, would not be cause for eviction but would remain civil debt that landlords could pursue in court.

The complicated bill, which largely sunsets in February, set off a “know-your-rights crisis” for tenants and organizers scrambling to understand the extent of protection.

However, San Francisco’s existing protections were grandfathered in, and The City is not restricted from passing legislation related to other tenant protections not covered by the bill.

The legislation by Preston now being considered would prevent no-fault evictions due to owner move-ins or capital improvements. Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney, Shamann Walton and Rafael Mandelman are co-sponsors.

“We have been fighting to protect tenants against evictions from unnecessary repairs from corporate landlords like Veritas Investments,” said Brad Hirn, a tenant organizer with the Housing Rights Committee, when the legislation was introduced. “Taking ‘no fault’ evictions like these off the table is crucial to making sure tenants have secure and stable homes throughout and after the pandemic.”

Preston also made the case Monday to the Land Use and Transportation Committee for separate legislation to establish funds for social housing and rent relief, which would be financed by Proposition I on the November ballot. The social housing fund, also dubbed the housing stability fund, seeks to set some criteria around acquisition, development, or rehabilitation of affordable housing while pushing strategies like resident-controlled housing through the San Francisco Community Land Trust.

The legislation was amended Monday, including the establishment of a 15-member oversight board with a seat reserved for the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and tenant organizers, as well income limits set to 80 percent Area Median Income by neighborhood.

The rent relief fund would provide small landlords with up to 50 percent of rent voluntarily waived, up to $3,000 per month, and up to 65 percent of rent waived past $3,000 per month for those facing financial hardship. Landlords that own up to 10 units are eligible.

Whether either fund has any money in the bank depends on whether voters approve Proposition I, which Preston brought to the November ballot. The measure would raise the transfer tax on homes sold that cost more than $10 million, and even more for homes more than $25 million.

It would bring in an annual average increase of $196 million, but the Controller’s Office said exact revenue is hard to predict due to economic volatility and noted that the measure could negatively impact development.

Legislation for both funds was continued to Oct. 19. The Board of Supervisors will hear the tenant protections on Tuesday.

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