Editorial: Prop. B won’t stop evictions in S.F.

The latest salvo in the seemingly never-ending war over housing in San Francisco comes in the form of Proposition B on the June 6 ballot, which, under the umbrella of “disclosure,” would change the rules regarding notification of whether tenants had been evicted from a multi-unit building that is for sale.

In fact, Prop. B — which was placed on the ballot by five members of the Board of Supervisors after a similar bill was vetoed by the mayor — would needlessly add to an already existing notification process and seems aimed more at punishing property owners.

The measure would require sellers of buildings with two or more units to disclose to all potential buyers the specific legal grounds for any evictions that resulted in vacancies at the time of sale, and whether elderly or disabled tenants were evicted.

Because “all potential buyers” must receive notification under Prop. B, that would mean information on prior evictions would have to be included on the marketing fliers during real estate open houses and handed to all visitors to the house.

But Prop. B is redundant, since city law already requires that sellers inform buyers prior to entering into a contract of the legal grounds for recent evictions. That notification, like other real estate disclosures, is made in a structured way, with buyers required to acknowledge the document by reading and signing it.

Slapping such a disclosure on a sales leaflet — potentially in truncated and less-accurate form— and passing it out to dozens of people wandering into an open house creates a haphazard approach to what should be an important legal document.

Supporters of the measure accuse opponents of “having something to hide” — as though opposition to bad public policy can only be mounted by the guilty. But such has been the tenor of the debate over housing, which at times seems less about finding affordable ways for San Franciscans — renters and owners alike — to live in this city than about demonizing the opposition.

Prop. B advocates — some of whom in the past regularly picketed open houses with the goal of scaring off potential buyers — are aiming at bigger game with their measure, hoping to turn every open house into a referendum on city housing policy with the intention of disrupting the fair business relationship between buyer and seller. Socially conscious buyers, they say, would reject units with prior evictions, thus driving down the price, reducing the profit motive for property owners and leading to fewer evictions.

But the way to reduce evictions in San Francisco is not by creating redundant laws and branding buildings with a scarlet “E” — it’s by building more housing, creating more entry-level home ownership opportunities and putting an end to City Hall legislation aimed at punishing property owners.

The mayor had it right when he vetoed the precursor to this measure. Vote no on Prop. B.

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