Supes, mayor agree on new tenant protections

SF Public Press
 — Mar 10 2010 - 12:45am

The Board of Supervisors today passed new protections for renters who face eviction from foreclosing buildings — and Mayor Gavin Newsom says he plans to support the measure.

Currently, San Francisco landlords who own properties built after 1979 can evict tenants without “just cause” — meaning even those who pay their rent in full and on time can get evicted. Under the new policy, if owners can’t make their payments and buildings are foreclosed, tenants will have the same legal protections as those who occupy pre-1979 units.

The new rights extended to tenants living in foreclosed buildings will apply until the end of their existing leases. The board voted unanimously in favor of the proposal, including three supervisors — Bevan Dufty, Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd — who along with Mayor Newsom had previously opposed a broader tenant protection bill. Michela Alioto-Pier missed the vote but also supports the measure.

Similar policy made its way to the mayor last month, but he rejected it because of the broad number of rights it would have given tenants, said Tony Winnicker, the mayor’s communications director.

“This measure targets what we believe is a problem. The other was a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

The old proposal “went beyond tenants and foreclosed properties,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty. “If people have to go through some sort of ‘just cause’ process [to evict tenants], it would add potentially thousands of dollars to their decision,” which may lead landlords to keep units unoccupied and off the market, he added.

Despite not having universal support for a broader policy on tenant rights, Supervisor John Avalos — the chief sponsor of the proposal — still advocates for increased eviction protection for tenants.

“I wanted to have a legislation that was broader, that would offer protection to all tenants living in all apartment rental property, to protect them from arbitrary evictions,” he said. “The people who were opposed to the other proposal, I think this is one they can live with.”