SF Apartment : August 2017


Compromise and Conquer

by Eric Andresen

I’ve been greatly disappointed over the past couple of years by what I see as “the Great Divide” that has fragmented our society. The moronic division in Washington, DC between Republicans and Democrats has trickled down to what seems to be almost every community in our country. It’s the “mine is better than yours” approach that has, in my opinion, led to a very dangerous time in our country’s history. I can only hope that we’ve begun to reach a turning point, a time when the pendulum inevitably starts to swing in the other direction, because I don’t think we can continue on the track we’re on for much longer.

History has proven, time and again, that we can achieve great things when we come together, when we listen to each other and respect our differences, and when we work together to incorporate everyone’s concerns into a common solution. The basic term for this is compromise, but I’m afraid that our society has forgotten just how invaluable compromise can be in making us stronger and better.

Communication is also important to achieve our goals, to reach consensus, to make things better for all of us. But appropriate communication, like compromise, is easily lost and very difficult to re-establish. Once communication breaks down, we inevitably have to wait for someone with guts to make that first attempt, to stick their neck out and say something in spite of the fear of reprisal or condemnation. With so much divisiveness in our society right now, taking that all-important leap of faith is not an easy task.

Here in California—more specifically, San Francisco—we’ve certainly experienced our fair share of the “Hatfields versus McCoys.” Our battles over Airbnb legislation and rent control are just a small sample of how we’ve struggled with coming together for the common good. One of the most prominent examples is “NIMBYism,” the not-in-my-backyard mentality that has been so incredibly damaging to our ability to meet our society’s needs. NIMBYism has virtually gridlocked our efforts to make effective and meaningful change.

I hope we’re beginning to see a change in that tide, that at least here on the West Coast we’ve hit the apex of the pendulum swing and that we’re beginning to come back to reality. Perhaps it’s just the eternal optimist in me, but I’m convinced that we’re beginning to come together, that various divergent groups are beginning to work together, and I hope that this sea-change of compromise will spread beyond our borders while also allowing us to make meaningful and significant changes that will benefit all of us right here at home, and eventually across the nation.

Perhaps it is the fact that we, as Californians, find ourselves pitted against potential changes from Washington that none of us, no matter what side of the aisle we’re on, can tolerate. From Governor Brown on down, we’ve heard how important it is for Californians to stick together, to hold our ground and lead by example. Or maybe it’s because we’re tired of nothing getting done, and we realize we have to do things differently.

In San Francisco, we are in the midst of the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love, a celebration of a time when many gathered together in the hopes of creating change. This summer began with an incredible month of Pride in June, bringing us together, and culminating in what has become one of the most amazing community-wide events in town—the Pride Parade. The timing couldn’t have been better as we’re faced with challenges that we must face together, where we must communicate and compromise, where we have to draw from our mutual strength and resolve for the public good.

One of the more serious issues we face here in the city is homelessness. For decades, we’ve made numerous attempts to solve the crisis, but we’ve never really all come together in a meaningful way to create permanent change. But I’m hoping, with the mayor’s efforts and a significant budgetary contribution, that we can find it in our hearts to come together in support of programs and facilities that will make a significant difference for the homeless population of San Francisco.

Rent control is another major issue that has divided our great city. It has electrified the division between tenants and landlords, and is fed by the political climate, which has resulted in a massive disconnect of opinion over what we need to do to improve the housing crisis in our town. Even more disturbing is the divide it has created within our own industry.

There are a significant number of rental property owners in San Francisco who will settle for nothing less than a complete repeal of rent control—period, end of sentence. A lofty demand, for sure, but in a city where almost 70% of the voters are tenants, it’s virtually an impossible dream. Don’t get me wrong, repeal of rent control is at the heart of every discussion and decision of your association leadership. But we have also adopted a more realistic approach, recognizing that we have to be prepared to compromise to make any improvement.

For many years, we were virtually dismissed from every discussion regarding rent control at City Hall. We were seen as the unreasonably demanding landlords who refused to talk about anything unless it included a full and total repeal of rent control. The result was an onslaught of additional regulation, and an all-out social condemnation of landlords. We weren’t even given a chance to discuss the real issues of housing; we were fighting a battle that, at times, seemed insurmountable.

And it didn’t help that a whole faction of our industry took every opportunity to vocalize their total and complete opposition. It’s no wonder that legislators in town turned their backs—why wouldn’t they when they really only need to satisfy the city’s tenant-voters to get re-elected? The result was a decades-long fight to at least be invited to the table, something we still have to work to protect every day.

But I have to admit: I remember being a part of that vocal crowd. At the time, with us being so blatantly ignored, making demands seemed like the only way we could make our case. Fortunately, we are no longer faced with that isolation. Because of years of hard work, compromise, and dedication to the ideals that we still hold true—to provide safe and affordable housing to the residents of San Francisco—our voice is respected.

Your SFAA leadership, in particular the efforts of your Executive Director, Janan New, have brought us back to the table. We are now included in almost every housing-related discussion at City Hall, at DBI, and in the courts. We have a long way to go, not only as rental-property owners, but as members of a society that is struggling to deal with far more than just housing problems. We’re a minority voice—that’s not going to change while the electorate is so off balance—but at least we are recognized and our opinion is considered and included. I, for one, am tremendously grateful that we have that opportunity.

Eric Andresen is the current president of the SFAA. He owns both West Coast Property Management and West Coast Property Maintenance Company. He can be reached at eric@wcpm.com