SF Examiner: "Eviction City"

Despite protection granted to San Francisco renters by city officials, trend is nearing levels not seen since the first dot.com boom.

By Joshua Sabatini, March 29, 2016

As real estate prices have soared amid San Francisco’s technology boom in the past six years, so have evictions.

Despite efforts by city officials to protect tenants from losing their homes — including lobbying for reform of the state Ellis Act that allows landlords to evict tenants to take units off the rental market, regulating tenant buyouts and strengthening nuisance eviction protections — overall evictions continued to increase.

The latest annual eviction report released this month by the San Francisco Rent Board shows evictions continued to climb each year since a 13-year low in 2010, when evictions totaled just 1,269. That’s far below the 2,878 evictions during the height of the first dot.com boom at the turn of the 21st century.

San Francisco has yet to reach that peak year in terms of evictions, but each year since 2010, The City has gotten closer.

“The housing crisis continues,” said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, director of counseling programs for the Human Rights Committee, a tenant advocate group. “It’s still with us. There’s still this speculating going on. I don’t see things changing.”

There were 2,376 evictions filed with the Rent Board between March 2015 and February 2016, according to the March 8 annual eviction report. The total is actually 2,134, because 242 evictions were for one day of asbestos abatement in a single apartment complex, the report said. Still, that’s an increase from last year’s 2,120 evictions.

Evictions filed using the Ellis Act increased from 113 to 154 between the March 2014 to February 2015 and March 2015 to February 2016 period. Other significant increases include owner move-in evictions, which rose from 343 last year to 417.

San Francisco rents remain among the highest in the U.S., with one bedroom apartments renting for $3,096 a month on average and two bedroom apartment rents averaging $4,126, according to RentJungle.com, a real estate data website.

City leaders previously attempted to change the Ellis Act state law but failed to gain traction. Locally, efforts like increasing relocation fees for tenants evicted under the Ellis Acts were attempted.

Another anti-speculation effort, brought to voters in 2014 and known as Proposition G, failed as real estate interests spent more than $1.8 million against the measure. It would have imposed a tax on buildings that were purchased and sold within five years.

Mecca said one local law seemingly has had success in curbing some evictions. Supervisor Jane Kim’s eviction protection legislation, approved by the board last year, took aim at evictions for minor offenses. Nuisance evictions decreased from 401 in last year’s report to 348, and breach of rental agreement evictions from 738 to 620.

San Francisco has also begun tracking tenant buyouts for the first time, which some tenant advocates view as another type of eviction. A buyout is when a tenant agrees to vacate a unit for an agreed upon sum from the landlord.

Between March 2015 and December 2015, there were 195 buyout agreements filed with the Rent Board and 506 intentions to enter buyout agreements. The neighborhoods where most buyouts occurred include the Mission at 32, followed by Eureka Valley and Western Addition at 20. There were 15 buyouts recorded in Haight-Ashbury and 13 in the Tenderloin.