Incentives for eviction

A new law would reward landlords for tossing out tenants

A new battle line has been drawn in the war between landlords and tenant activists in San Francisco.

Sups. Michela Alioto-Pier and Bevan Dufty are proposing legislation that would allow owners of multi-unit "tenancies in common" (TICs) to bypass tenant protections and convert their properties to individually owned condominiums in 2006.

In the text of the bill, Alioto-Pier and Dufty maintain that the measure will have no direct negative effect on renters, since it will apply only to buildings that are 100 percent owner occupied. The San Francisco Tenants Union disagrees, predicting that if the legislation passes, it will increase evictions, weaken recently won protections for seniors and the disabled, and, ultimately, undermine rent control.

San Francisco law currently limits condo conversions to 200 buildings a year, selected through an annual lottery. Competition is stiff, and because of a restriction introduced by Sup. Chris Daly last November, it's extremely difficult for a TIC to win the lottery if it was created through the eviction of a senior, a disabled person, or someone who is catastrophically ill. The new legislation would allow all owner-occupied TICs created before January of this year to bypass the 2006 lottery and go straight to conversion.

Calls to Alioto-Pier and Dufty were not returned, but Tenants Union representative Ted Gullicksen says the strategy is "a huge giveaway" to TIC owners. Not only do condo conversions bump up housing prices and take units off the rental market, he said - they also provide an incentive to evict entire buildings full of people.

Rent control makes it hard for landlords to get rid of individual low-rent tenants, but under the state Ellis Act it's legal to evict all the residents in a building in order to take it off the rental market. "The way condos happen is, someone buys a building, Ellises it, sells the units as a TIC, and the new owners get in line to convert to condos," Gullicksen explained. Under state law, condos are exempt from rent control.

Although the legislation is written as a one-time exception, Gullicksen maintains that it will have a lasting impact. "The word will get out that it's going to be easy to convert TICs into condos, and it will create an expectation among buyers that will result in a huge increase in evictions and conversions," he said. Without the restrictions and disincentives provided by the lottery system, "we'll be rewarding landlords for evicting people."

The Board of Supervisors' Land Use Committee will hold a hearing on the legislation March 30, 1 p.m., City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl., Room 263, S.F. (415) 554-4442.

  • Housing