Nearly a year after a series of protests outside a Polk Gulch apartment complex, Gum Gee Lee, an elderly San Francisco woman who had faced eviction along with her husband and disabled daughter, stood again outside her former home, accompanied by about 50 other tenants and housing rights advocates.
The group gathered in front of the eight-unit building at Jackson and Larkin streets to rally support for Proposition G, which if approved by voters in November would impose a graduated real estate transfer tax on short-term property flips of multi-unit buildings when a profit is made from the sale.
“Even though what happened here is in the past,” Lee said in Cantonese, referring to her family's Ellis Act eviction, “I came back to contribute what little I can to stop the speculation.”
The anti-speculation tax — which would be 24 percent of the sale price if resold within the first year of purchase and drop to 14 percent if resold within five years — was the among the final pieces of legislation that Supervisor Harvey Milk pushed before he was assassinated in 1978.
“If it had been put in place in the '70s, '80s or '90s, the Lee family would still be in their home,” said Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, one of the organizations backing Prop. G.
The Yes on G campaign comes almost two months after San Francisco-specific legislation from state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, died in the Assembly when it did not receive enough votes to pass a committee. The bill sought to limit evictions by requiring new property owners to wait five years before using the state Ellis Act to leave the rental business.
Leno announced his endorsement for Prop. G on Monday, joining politicians including state Sen. Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, and supervisors David Campos and David Chiu.
Proponents stressed that Prop. G targets speculators specifically and not long-term homeowners and tenants. Passing the proposition will be a “tough fight,” acknowledged Norman Fong, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center.
“I hope this does not happen, but the opponents have a lot of money to pay for ads and fear mongering,” Fong said. “Sometimes people might not tell the whole truth and spread false rumors about Prop. G.”
Yes on G has raised about $50,000 since last week and at least $150,000 is needed to help achieve victory, campaign manager Quintin Mecke said.
A campaign against Prop. G is still forming, said Jay Cheng, spokesman for the San Francisco Association of Realtors, which represents the vast majority of real estate agents in The City.
“This is a real grass-roots movement,” said Cheng, adding his organization received calls from middle-class homeowners and homebuyers and tenants who one day want to own their own home.
Correction: This story was updated Aug. 21 to specify that state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, did not abandon Ellis Act reform specific to The City earlier this year. The bill died in the Assembly in June after not receiving enough votes to pass a committee.