Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

In-law, Ellis Act fixes OK;
Leno bill advances


Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday, April 8 to pass legislation related to the city's lack of affordable housing.

One proposal, which passed unanimously, would permit in-law units in the Castro in an effort to provide more affordable housing in the largely gay neighborhood. Another proposal, which passed by a vote of 9-2, would help people evicted under the Ellis Act.

Gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose District 8 includes the Castro, introduced the in-law legislation last fall. The board still needs to vote on the proposal a second time, but it's likely to pass.

The proposal will allow property owners to create in-law units in garages, basements, and similar unused spaces.

"Addressing our housing affordability crisis requires a variety of approaches and adding to our supply of in-law units is a step forward," Wiener said in a news release Tuesday. "... We'll also be creating new rent-controlled units for the first time in over 30 years."

For buildings that have 10 units or less, one in-law unit could be added. If a building has more than 10 units, up to two in-law spaces could be added. Units in rent-controlled buildings also would be rent-controlled.

The units have to be built within the existing building envelope, among other provisions.

Gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos introduced legislation related to the Ellis Act earlier this year.

Campos's proposal would increase the payments made by landlords to city tenants facing an Ellis Act eviction. Like Wiener's legislation, Campos's ordinance passed on its first reading and will likely pass the second vote, as well.

"With the passage of my legislation, tenants who are evicted under the Ellis Act now have a fighting chance to continue living in this great city," Campos said in a statement Tuesday.

Supervisors Mark Farrell and Katy Tang voted against the measure.

The Ellis Act is a state law that allows landlords to evict tenants in order to get out of the rental business.

The ordinance would require landlords who evict using the Ellis Act to pay the difference between the tenant's rental rate prior to eviction and what would have been the market rate for that unit for two years. Relocation payments are already required under the Ellis Act but Campos's law would significantly increase them.

State movement

At the state level, gay Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) saw his bill that would close an Ellis Act loophole pass out of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Tuesday on a 6-4 vote. Senate Bill 1429 now heads to the judiciary panel.

The bill authorizes San Francisco to prohibit new property owners from invoking the Ellis Act to evict tenants for five years after the acquisition of a property, ensures that landlords can only activate their Ellis Act rights once, and creates penalties for violations of those provisions.

Leno said that while the Ellis Act was "specifically designed to allow legitimate landlords a way out of the rental business," in San Francisco the state law "is being abused by speculators who never intend to be landlords."


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