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Controversial tenants rights ordinance passes on first reading

Retroactive clause amended to May 1, 2005

By Aldrich M. Tan

May 10, 2006

The Board of Supervisors passed an amended version of an ordinance that prohibits condominium conversions for buildings that have evicted tenants after May 1, 2005, on first reading at Tuesday's meeting.

Sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the original 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 specifically of seniors and disabled people. The revised ordinance will affects buildings that have had evictions after May 1, 2005, deputy city attorney John Malamut said.

The approved amended version of the ordinance will affect 3/4s of 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 large number of evictions occurred after "Pieri v. the City and County of San Francisco" which ruled on April 25, 2005 that expanding relocation payments to all tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, rather than solely elderly and disabled people, violated the Act itself, Gulickson said.

"This measure is going to have an immediate impact on ongoing evictions," Gulickson said. "We will see a reduction of the Ellis Act and even the withdrawals of certain evictions from last year."

Over 650 local tenants were evicted last year through the Ellis Act, Gulickson said

The ordinance initially failed with 5 to 5 vote. Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Tom Ammiano, Chris Daly, Fiona Ma, Sean Elsbernd voted against the legislation. Peskin then motioned to rescind the vote.

Elsbernd said he has specific problems with the amended legislation, specifically the last two sections of the revised legislation. Buildings that issued eviction notices not specifically to seniors, disabled or catastrophically ill are eligible for conversion ten years after the last eviction from the building.

"I thought the point of this legislation was to serve as a stick and not as a carrot," Elsbernd said.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty said he supports the amended legislation.

"The reality of the city's market is that we have to take a step to encourage good behavior and show that Ellis evictions are not the best way to establish homeownership," Dufty said. "I advocate for home ownership, but not homeownership at any cost."

Supervisors Ammiano, Daly and Sophie Maxwell requested to be listed as co-sponsors of the revised legislation before the re-vote. The legislation itself passed 8 to 2 and the legislation as amended passed 7 to 2. Elsbernd supported the original legislation and joined Ma and Alioto-Pier against the amended legislation.

Wade Crowfoot, Mayor's Liaison to the Board of Supervisors, said legislation's the retroactivity clause of 1999 was the mayor's major concern.

"Those concerns have been ameliorated through this amendment and we are comfortable with supporting it," Crowfoot said.




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