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SF supes pass eviction legislation

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Ronald Gouron, left, and his husband, Charles Richmond,<br>moved to Portland, Oregon after what Richmond said was a fraudulent eviction<br>from their San Francisco home. Photo: Courtesy Charles Richmond
Ronald Gouron, left, and his husband, Charles Richmond,
moved to Portland, Oregon after what Richmond said was a fraudulent eviction
from their San Francisco home. Photo: Courtesy Charles Richmond  

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously for legislation meant to protect tenants from fraudulent owner move-in evictions.

The city's current rent ordinance, which applies to most rental housing built before June 1979, allows an owner or their immediate family member to move in and evict the current tenant. The owner is then supposed to keep the unit out of the rental market for at least three years.

Under the new law, authored by District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, owners would have to swear under oath to follow eviction law and prove that they're continuing to live in the unit.

"My eviction reforms approved today put people over profits," Farrell said in a news release Tuesday, June 27, after the board's vote. "These reforms provide the strongest possible reporting and enforcement requirements to make bad actors think twice before going through with an eviction."

According to Farrell's office, there have been 1,500 owner move-in evictions since 2013. The supervisor's staff pointed to a recent report by NBC Channel 11 that found up to one out of four tenants the station surveyed "had been wrongfully evicted."

Under Farrell's legislation, owners would have to sign declarations under penalty of perjury that they'd follow existing eviction laws and file documents with the city's Rent Board proving that they or their relatives are living in the residence, among other provisions.

The law would also levy fines for owners who don't file a Statement of Occupancy with the Rent Board.

Additionally, it would create a "third party right of action" allowing San Francisco tenants' rights nonprofits to sue owners who evict people fraudulently.

Charles Richmond, 70, said Farrell's bill would have helped him and his husband, Ronald Gouron, 76.

"I only wish the legislation could be retroactive," Richmond said in an email.

They were evicted from the home they'd lived in for 25 years after what Richmond said was a fraudulent owner move-in.

Richmond said that when he and Gouron moved to Portland, Oregon last May, "the costs of the move easily exceeded the 'relocation money'" that San Francisco's rent ordinance mandates.

"Because we signed away (with a virtual gun pointed at us) our right to sue for damages, we are stuck in an apartment we can barely afford, and up here in Portland we have no rent-control protections," said Richmond.

Longtime queer activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who works for San Francisco's Housing Rights Committee, said the protections are especially important for District 8, which includes the largely gay Castro district. He pointed to a report from the city's planning department that says from January 2007 to December 2016, District 8 had more owner move-ins than any other district, with 331.

"This bill protects tenants in our community," he said in an email.

Avicolli Mecca was critical of Farrell, however.

"The legislation was the result of tenant activists working with [District 3] Supervisor Aaron Peskin's office," he said. "Although Supervisor Mark Farrell takes credit for it, a large percentage of what's in it comes from Peskin and tenant advocates, especially the private right to action, which Farrell originally opposed. At least the version that passed has some teeth in it."

In a statement to the Bay Area Reporter, Farrell said, "Leadership means listening to all sides and crafting sound policy. I am proud to have helped lead the effort at the Board of Supervisors to unanimously approve my bill that provides some of the strongest reforms for owner move-in evictions in our city's history. During the legislative process, my office had multiple meetings and calls with tenant's rights advocates and other interested stakeholders to listen to their perspective and suggested amendments. The Land Use Committee and board accepted many of their suggestions, but not all. It is our duty as policymakers to implement the best policy and not just cave to all the demands from particular organizations, individuals, or interests."

Peskin said in a statement, "The bottom line is: it takes a village. I'm lucky that my village includes advocates like the Housing Rights Committee and the SF Tenants Union. Without their support, I never would have been able to pass such strong eviction enforcement."

Gay District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, and District 5 Supervisor London Breed, the board's president, co-sponsored Farrell's legislation, which Mayor Ed Lee is expected to sign.

A second and final vote on the bill will be July 10.

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