SF Apartment : October 2016


Political Pundits

by Charley Goss

SFAA’s Government Affairs team has been actively working on your behalf at City Hall and in the community all year long. Here’s a rundown of their recent accomplishments.

Legislative Work
In June, SFAA helped pass a stronger short-term rental law that regulates Airbnb and similar platforms more stringently and makes it more difficult for tenants to illegally sublet their apartment on short-term rental platforms. The legislation incorporates some of the provisions from last November’s Prop F, and holds the rental platforms themselves accountable for putting up listings that are illegal or that have not registered with the city.

In July, the Board of Supervisors passed innovative new legislation to allow for the construction of new apartment units in existing apartment buildings. The Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation was voted into law unanimously and represents a unique way for building owners to improve their revenue stream while also addressing the city’s housing shortage. An apartment unit can be added to buildings of fewer than four units, while up to ten apartments can be added in larger buildings. All newly added apartments are subject to the rent-control ordinance if the original building is subject to the rent control ordinance. ADUs can also be added during the seismic retrofit process and represent a way for property owners to leverage their costs associated with the seismic strengthening work.

After a series of fires in the Mission District, city leaders called for a convening of city departments and stakeholders for a Fire Safety Task Force. The task force met over a number of months and issued a series of legislative and departmental recommendations. As part of a renewed commitment to improve fire safety in a way that is financially feasible for property owners, SFAA worked with both Supervisor Campos’s office and Supervisor Tang’s office on two proposals to update certain fire safety features in older buildings, and to improve fire safety education for new residents. SFAA will be issuing a worksheet to help members comply with new fire safety requirements in October of 2016.

Community Work
SFAA’s Good Samaritan program creates incentives for landlords to offer temporary tenancies to fire-displaced residents at or within 10 percent of their current monthly rental rate. In exchange for a lower monthly rate, the tenancy is exempted from rent-increase limitations or just-cause protections once the term ends or the resident can return to the building.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of our members, SFAA was able to house all of the displaced residents from this summer’s tragic fire in Bernal Heights.

All residents were housed in new buildings at or within 10 percent of their previous rental rate while the burned buildings are being repaired. These members worked alongside our office and Supervisor Campos’s office and deserve 
a big thank you for coming forward to help our neighbors in need.

Lawsuit Filed and Won
Along with the Small Property Owners Institute of San Francisco, in June, the SFAA filed suit against the City and County of San Francisco for its recently passed Teacher Protection Ordinance. While the SFAA understands the crucial role teachers play in our community, the law was so far-reaching and restrictive that it infringed on the rights of local property owners by threatening to prevent the eviction of any part-time school employee or contractor except during the months of June, July, and August. The matter was heard in San Francisco Superior Court and SFAA learned it won the lawsuit and the Court struck down the ordinance just before this magazine hit the presses. The favorable ruling will be appealed, but should serve as a reminder to the City and Board of Supervisors to stop writing local legislation in direct conflict with state law.

As an aside, the SFAA is still looking for damaged parties from last November’s Eviction Protection Law. The law passed at the Board of Supervisors despite much opposition and outcry from local landlords, and it effectively overrides “no-subletting” clauses in rent-controlled lease agreements and allows tenants to move in any number of local roommates, up until what the local building code allows. If you have been particularly hurt by increased occupancy under this law, or your Costa Hawkins rights were infringed upon after a tenant was moved in under the law, please contact the SFAA office.

Ongoing Political and Legal Efforts
SFAA prides itself on its success as a politically active advocacy group. We prefer to work collaboratively with city legislators in order to support policies and laws that are good for property owners, and to fight or amend laws and policies that negatively impact property owners.

But we operate in a difficult political reality, where two thirds of city residents (and voting constituents) are renters and where high rents and evictions make the papers daily. As such, it can be difficult to secure the majority votes to strike down laws that negatively impact our members and encourage divestment in San Francisco properties.

When we cannot defeat illegal legislation at the Board of Supervisors, we must rely on our legal fund to take the issue to the courts and allow an apolitical body to decide whether a law is legitimate, is a taking, or is unconstitutional.

When it comes time for you to renew your membership, you may find a line item that allows you to voluntarily contribute to our legal fund. Currently only 30% of members are donating to either our political action committee or legal fund. If you are able, please consider donating an additional $20 to our legal fund and $20 to our PAC. The legal fund is tax-deductible and will go a long way toward fighting for your rights in the court of law, while the PAC is not tax-deductible but is crucial in helping support candidates, campaigns, and ballot measures that are supportive of property owners’ rights or candidates whom SFAA leadership believes we can work closely with in the future.

The last way to contribute, especially if you’re all tapped out this year, is by donating your time. We need grassroots help, both at City Hall and in our campaign efforts. During the year, if you get a “Call to Action” to come speak out at City Hall, please consider attending or writing your Supervisor. But while we are in a legislative recess for summer, the SFAA PAC has made early endorsements for several positions on the Board of Supervisors and for State Senate.

Volunteering helps, and means more than you know. If you can walk a precinct for SFAA’s endorsed candidates, phone bank an hour a week, host a house party in your neighborhood, or put up a sign in your building—every bit helps to secure a friendlier environment for our Association and is greatly appreciated. SFAA’s early endorsement list for California State Senate is Scott Wiener, and for the SF Board of Supervisors includes Marjan Philhour to represent the Richmond District, Aaron Peskin in North Beach, London Breed in the Western Addition/Haight, and Ahsha Safai in the Excelsior. Any help you can give hosting a party, walking a neighborhood, or putting up a building sign for any of these candidates would be greatly appreciated.

Charley Goss is the government and community affairs coordinator for the San Francisco Apartment Association. He can be reached at 415-255-2288, ex. 14.