Controversial tenants rights ordinance
moves to Board of Supervisors
By Aldrich M. Tan
April 27, 2006
The home of Carole Fanning, 47, is going to be converted into
a condominium but she is not going to moving without a legal fight.
Fanning, a disabled copywriter, has been evicted from her apartment
on 369 Church Street and has until May 15 to leave her two bedroom
apartment. But she does not intend to share the fate of former
tenant Lisa Holden, 33, who moved out of the apartment last December.
"My landlord only gave me half of what she was supposed
to give me for moving out early," said Holden, a local immigration
paralegal. "I'm now living in Oakland and I pay twice as
much as I used to because I have to commute into the city daily."
A new ordinance sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin may protect
future tenants, especially seniors and people with disabilities,
from similar evictions. The Land Use and Economic Development
Committee passed the ordinance at its Wednesday meeting.
"I get so many phone calls to my office from tenants who
are being evicted," Peskin said. "I don't want to tell
them that there is nothing that they can anymore."
Supervisor Aaron Peskin
The ordinance prohibits the Department of Public Works from authorizing
the condominium conversion of buildings that have had more than
two evictions on and after 1999 or evictions of seniors and disabled
Both Holden and Fanning are among over 650 local tenants who
were evicted last year through the Ellis Act, a state law that
gives landlords unconditional rights to evict all of their tenants
to change the use of the building, said Ted Gulickson, manager
of the San Francisco Tenants Union.
A growing number of local landlords use such evictions to convert
their rental units into affordable condominiums, known as tenancy-in-common,
said Randy Brasche, spokesperson of the San Francisco tenancy-in-common
Through tenancy-in-common's, former renter families, ranging
from two or more, live on the same property in separate housing
units but share the mortgage, Brasche said. Owning their own property
gives the homeowners equity so they can eventually be able to
buy their own homes.
"It's the American dream for someone to be able to afford
their own home," Brasche said. "These homeowners just
want to be able to have a permanent investment in the city that
Converting their properties into tenancy-in-common's is appealing
because many local property owners themselves cannot afford the
high costs of maintenance on their properties, landlord Gary Chew
said. Chew owns five properties in the Sunset and Richmond districts
and in Chinatown.
"Landlords can't afford to maintain the growing costs of
housing with the low rent prices mandated by the rent board,"
Chew said. "It's so expensive to own property in San Francisco
that they just give up."
Tenancy-in-common's benefit locals who are interested in finally
being able to afford their own homes in an expensive city, said
Ryan Chamberlain of SF SOS, a non-partisan, grassroots organization
Chamberlain said he is a tenant and shares a three-bedroom flat
in Russian Hill with three roommates.
"As a renter, I constantly struggle over if I can afford
to live here in ten years," Chamberlain said.
Not all tenants have the option of ever becoming homeowners,
said Jerry Berbriar, 51, who is being evicted from his apartment
at 943 Stanyan Street.
Berbriar said his only source of money is social security disability
with the help of an AIDS rent subsidy that is only available in
"These people are not in the danger of being homeless and
can eventually afford houses in any other city," Berbriar
said. "All I'm trying to do is still have a roof over my
The evictions are uprooting people who have invested their lives
in San Francisco, senior Marti Sousanis said. Sousanis received
her notcee in early January to leave her apartment of 19 years
in the Sunset district.
"This is the economic cleansing of San Francisco,"
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said the ordinance protects the city's
"We need to work at having a diverse city or we're going
to be diverse only in food," Maxwell said.
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said he used to be a tenancy-in-common
"We know the folks who benefit from the TICs but what about
the folks who hurt?" McGoldrick said. "Our job isn't
to protect those who are feeling comfortable. We're here to protect
those who aren't feeling comfortable."
Supervisor Geraldo Sandoval said he wants to advocate for homeownership,
as a homeowner himself, but not at the expense of people who are
disabled and poor.
"I think that if you want to buy a building, then you should
offer the tenants a fair amount that gives them the ability to
move somewhere else," Sandoval said. "This legislation
will make sure that happens."
Peskin said the legislation is a work in progess and is open
to amending the legislation that applys to condo conversions since
"I'm open to negotiating that part," Peskin said.
Opposers of the ordinance asked how much Peskin's own home cost.
Peskin said he owns both a house costing $800,000 and a condominium.
"I'm a condo owner and I can still protect the rights of
the disadvantaged," Peskin said.