SF Apartment : March 2016


Ballot Box Moves

Supervisor Jane Kim and Mayor Ed Lee are each standing behind a competing affordable housing measure on the June ballot. Kim’s measure is a proposed charter amendment that would give the San Francisco Board of Supervisors the authority to increase the minimum percentage of below-market-rate units that must be included in new development projects to 25%.

Lee’s measure also says that supervisors can set a new percentage, but adds that the city controller and planning department should figure out the best percentage and then forward legislation to the board of supervisors based on that analysis, perhaps on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Despite the warring measures, there is still room for negotiations between the two sides, and either could also pull its measure by March 4, thereby removing it from the ballot.

Also possibly on the June ballot, Supervisor Scott Wiener sponsored a measure that would make projects that are 100% affordable exempt from the “conditional use” approval process. Developments are subject to a conditional use vetting to show that they are necessary and desirable. Since most everyone would already agree that affordable housing is desirable, Wiener says that part of the process could be eliminated, speeding up the creation of 100% affordable developments by three to six months.

Wiener first attempted to pass his legislation at the board. But it only got through the planning commission on a 3-3 vote, in part because of concern that it would shortcut the public’s right to comment, and Wiener became concerned that it would stall at the board. By putting the measure on the June ballot, he’s saying the board should pass the ordinance or rule against a popular measure that voters are likely to pass.

Wiener more or less said that putting the measure on the June ballot is just part of the political game. “My strong preference is to pass it at the Board of Supervisors,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

School Workers Could Be Protected from Eviction Under Proposed Law

Supervisor David Campos has introduced new legislation that would halt evictions during the academic year for those who work in San Francisco’s schools.

Campos wants to expand on unanimously passed 2010 legislation by Supervisor Eric Mar that banned landlords from using owner move-in evictions on tenants with children except during the summer break. The additional protections are designed to ensure that any employee, from the principal to the administrative staff, who works at a day care, preschool, elementary school, middle school or high school also not face an eviction during the school year. The legislation would cover public, private and parochial schools.

He wants the law to include all no-fault evictions except for mandated seismic repair and the Ellis Act. No-fault evictions could still be used during the summer break, as defined by the San Francisco Unified School District’s calendar, and teachers could still be evicted any time for failure to pay rent or other issues of their own creation.

Property rights groups that oppose the legislation say that the problem of teacher retention should be a communitywide task, and not fall on the backs of property owners who just want to be able to move into or renovate their own properties. Also, there’s the question of whether or not the expanded regulations would even be legal because the state sets the notice period for evictions, not the city. 
In October, Mayor Ed Lee and the school district announced they will build a 100-unit housing complex for public school teachers and spend up to $44 million to help teachers buy homes. Campos said he supports those long-range plans, but that more immediate eviction protection is needed too.

Midtown Park Residents Demand Rent Control

Residents of the Midtown Park Apartments in Western Addition filed a legal challenge to a recent ruling by the San Francisco Rent Board, which said that Midtown does not qualify for rent control. They also picketed the offices of Mercy Housing, which currently holds the lease to manage the city-owned Midtown.

The city has increased rents for many units far more than what would be legal under rent control, saying that Midtown’s residents—who had been managing before Mercy was given the contract by the Mayor’s Office of Housing—had let the development fall into disrepair. It further claimed that the development can’t keep up with necessary building repairs without the increase. Residents responded that Midtown should fall under rent control, and that the rent increases are illegal.

But on appeal, the rent board agreed with the city that because the 139-unit development is city owned it does not fall under the rent board’s jurisdiction, and is therefore exempt from rent control. (More information about the rent board’s ruling can be found in this month’s “Rent Board Redux” on page 42.)

Now, 140 Midtown families are suing the city to win permanent rent control. Last year, a smaller group of families also began a rent strike, with about 25 withholding the increased amounts. The rent strike escalated a “Save Midtown” campaign that has included street protests and Board of Supervisors speak-outs.

Airbnb to Try Harder to Make SF Hosts Register

Airbnb will start trying harder to get San Francisco hosts to register with the city and report on their rental activity each quarter, according to letters from executives that were attained by Bloomberg News. The moves here, which aim to show that the company is willing to work with the city, could be a hint of what’s to come in other cities around the U.S.

Twice a month, Airbnb will send emails and letters to hosts’ homes in San Francisco urging them to register, according to a letter by Patrick Hannan, Airbnb’s new public policy manager. The company will also run advertisements to encourage hosts to register, Hannan wrote. He also wrote that a local organization affiliated with Airbnb, Home Sharers of San Francisco, would host monthly registration information sessions.

In another letter, Airbnb Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky wrote that he’s registering his own home before bringing in guests this year. He also said Airbnb will help hosts register with the city. The company will continue not to verify that they’ve registered, however.

Both letters were sent in advance of a city committee meeting, which discussed whether to set aside more money to enforce the registration rules.

$2 Billion for Homeless Housing Proposed

State senators have proposed spending $2 billion to build or rehabilitate permanent housing for homeless mentally ill people. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León also called for $200 million over four years for temporary rent subsidies to bridge the gap until the new housing is completed.

The senators’ proposal calls for the state to issue $2 billion in bonds, which would be repaid over 20 to 30 years with money provided under Proposition 63, the “millionaires’ tax” for mental health services that voters approved in 2004. The additional $200 million would come from the state’s general fund.

Officials estimated the construction funds, combined with federal and local money, could generate 10,000 to 14,000 units for California’s 116,000 homeless people, more than 60% of whom live outdoors. The funding proposal is the most sweeping from the state in a generation, officials said.

The new units would operate on a “housing first” model, taking in homeless people with mental illnesses and drug and alcohol problems even if they refuse psychiatric or substance abuse treatment. The senators also proposed additional financial support for families on welfare facing or in danger of homelessness, and an increase in the state’s supplemental security income payments to 1.3 million elderly, blind and disabled poor people who cannot work. The additional programs would cost $100 million or more, an official said.

The plan will now be debated in both houses throughout the spring. Both Governor Jerry Brown and Assembly Democrats said they welcomed De León’s focus on homelessness, but stopped short of embracing the plan.

Seattle Landlord Offers Free Apartment in Essay Contest

With rents in Seattle soaring, one landlord is offering a free apartment for a year to the winner of an essay contest. The benevolent landlord wished to remain anonymous, but is offering a one-bedroom in the popular Ballard or Queen Anne neighborhoods that would normally go for about $1,500 a month. It has hardwood floors and laundry in the building.

Entrants have 350 words to explain how having a free apartment for one year would help them reach their 10-year goals. Seattle-based Walls Property Management is facilitating the contest. For more information visit essayforfreeapartment.com.

This is the second year of the contest. Last year it only attracted 90 entries 
because people didn’t seem to believe it was real. The winner was a single mother who is working and attending Seattle Pacific University.