A challenge to San Francisco’s eviction moratorium lost in court Monday. The San Francisco Apartment Association and three co-plaintiffs sued the City and County of San Francisco in June to overturn legislation that took eviction permanently off the table for unpaid rents due during the pandemic. They argued that it was an unconstitutional taking of property and pre-empted state law. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charles Haines heard arguments in the case Friday before ruling in favor of the city. “This is a resounding victory for vulnerable tenants in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, the legislation’s author, on Twitter.
San Francisco’s housing and homelessness service providers worry that City Hall’s budget decisions will leave them unprepared to face an expected wave of housing displacement. Interviews with staffers at a dozen nonprofits found that calls for assistance have increased by at least 30% and at some organizations by as much as 200% since March when the pandemic forced San Francisco residents to shelter in place amid a recession characterized by widespread income loss. Many providers are concerned expected city budget cuts will hobble their ability to provide vital aid like rental assistance, legal representation in eviction cases, food and emergency shelter, just when clients need help the most. One likely outcome of expected cutbacks they predicted: a worsening of the city’s already daunting homelessness crisis. “We’re all bracing ourselves for a huge growth in the numbers of those who are living on the streets, no question,” said Sara Shortt, director of public policy and community outreach at the Community Housing Partnership, a supportive housing nonprofit.
Tenants would gain a potential pathway into permanently affordable housing — to weather the COVID-19 pandemic — under a bill making its way through the state Legislature. Assembly Bill 1703 would require most owners looking to sell residential rental property to give the property’s tenants, as well as designated groups like nonprofits, the opportunity to make the first offer to purchase. If any of those outside groups bought the building, rents would be capped to help protect low-income tenants from displacement — a major threat as the state faces a recession and widespread job loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill’s sponsors are trying to guard against a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis’ fallout. “If you mapped where most homes were lost, and who lost them, they were Black and brown communities,” said Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, one of more than 40 groups that sponsored the bill and brought the concept to the state Capitol, where Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) wrote and introduced it.
Real estate groups Monday sued the City and County of San Francisco to overturn an eviction ban designed to help renters weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs argue that the city ordinance “violates constitutional and state law” empowering landlords to evict, and conflicts with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Executive Orders, which have allowed local governments to issue temporary bans on evictions — not permanent ones. The San Francisco Apartment Association, the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute, the San Francisco Association of Realtors and Coalition for Better Housing jointly filed the suit in San Francisco Superior Court. The groups are also seeking a temporary restraining order to suspend the law, said Noni Richen, president of the small property owners group. The legislation, signed into law June 26, outlaws eviction for nonpayment of rents that were due from March 16 through July 29 — a time period tied to Newsom’s executive order.
A landlords’ group plans to sue San Francisco over tenant protections established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the organization’s executive director. The Board of Supervisors this month approved a permanent ban on evictions for rents unpaid from mid-March through July. An earlier local eviction moratorium would have allowed landlords to start pursuing evictions of tenants for any remaining unpaid rents — even those due during the emergency — by the end of December. The end date of the eviction ban is based on an executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who could extend the time period. The switch to a permanent ban galvanized the San Francisco Apartment Association, a property owners group with thousands of members, to threaten legal action.
Construction sites are coming back to life throughout San Francisco, but the surge in activity may not last long. Builders pulled 334 permits last week, up from zero 10 weeks earlier as the coronavirus shutdown took effect. That puts construction activity at about 58% of normal. In the year leading up to Mayor London Breed’s mid-March order for construction to cease, City Hall received about 580 permit applications a week. The number of permits has been on a slow climb since hitting zero, and began to accelerate on May 4, when Breed allowed construction to fully resume.
Rubin Perkins, a 21-year-old black man, joined a crowd of thousands at Mission High School on Wednesday with a sign proclaiming his demands. “I want to live beyond 25. I want to raise a family, and I want to live,” he said, echoing his hand-lettered cardboard sign. “I don’t feel like that’s asking too much.”
Over the last 10 days, marchers thronging the streets of San Francisco to protest the police killings of black men like George Floyd and other people of color have hammered at a central theme: Their fight against racism and police brutality is a matter of survival. In conversation with the Public Press over the last week, they shared their hopes that this moment will cause lasting change, their fears that it will not and concerns about how the COVID-19 pandemic raises the stakes for speaking up in the first place.
“Civic” interviewed marchers in San Francisco to find out why they were there, and how this watershed moment might push society to change for the better.
Public Press reporters were in the thick of Sunday’s march over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
San Francisco has approved temporary encampments to slow the spread of COVID-19. But in Seattle, a half-decade experiment with regulated sites has proved so much more successful at getting people off the streets than other solutions that officials recently voted to expand it fourfold.