Ed Lee's State of the City: What evictions? What displacement?

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Mayor Ed Lee punctuated his State of the City speech with a nice little quip: "Every San Franciscan deserves a clean, safe place to call home." I agree.

So why, in a speech lasting more than an hour, did the mayor not once mention that thousands of San Franciscans are facing the loss of their homes -- and will be forced out of the city -- because of the same policies that he's proudly promoting?

These things are always self-congratualtory and full of the requisite bullshit. But Lee's description of the State of the City was nothing more than a fantasy to the two-thirds of San Franciscans who live in rental housing, many of whom are living with an unacceptable level of insecurity. Much of the city's rental stock -- and the effectiveness of rent control -- is at risk at speculators are buying up properties, tossing the tenants out with the Ellis Act, and converting them to tenancies in common. This is a massive civic crisis, brought on in part by the boom in tech jobs and the consequent boom in high-paid young people who want to live in a city that has virtually no vacant housing.

We saw this before, under Mayor Willie Brown; we called it the Economic Cleansing of San Francisco. It was awful, and it's happening again.

But you wouldn't know that to hear the mayor completely ignore the issue.

Oh, Lee gave it a toss-off line; gee, the rent is too high, but we can't ignore the laws of supply and demand. Gee, we're going to build 45,000 new housing units, and that will fix everything.

But Lee, of all people, ought to know that housing in San Francisco has never followed the laws of supply and demand. This is a highly irregular market, because demand is essentially unlimited. Housing fills us as fast as you build it. And none of the new housing that's currently under construction or in the pipeline will be affordable to current SF residents who live in rent-controlled units and are at risk for eviction.

When you're evicted under the Ellis Act in San Francisco today, to make room for someone with more money, you wind up having to leave the city. That's the bottom line. And everywhere you turn, tenants are facing that ugly prospect.

The mayor spent much of his time talking about jobs. That's fine; he's proud that the unemployment rate in the city has fallen to 6.5 percent, but he insists he won't rest until everyone has a job. Actually, most economists would say that's impossible; capitalism, by its nature, exists with a structural unemployment rate that rarely falls below 4 percent. In fact, 4 percent is generally considered "full employment."

More important, the overall rate is 6.5 percent, but it's way higher for people without college degrees, for youth, and for African Americans. (It's above 50 percent for transgender people.) The tech boom isn't providing jobs for all of the unemployed current San Francisco residents; a lot of the jobs are going to people who don't live here and are moving here for employment. They are putting pressure on the existing housing stock. That always leads to displacement.

None of this is to say that tech jobs are bad or that we shouldn't have companies that pay high wages locate in San Francisco. What it means is that the city first has to protect its existing vulnerable populations -- and that's not happening.

I would encourage Mayor Lee to talk to the Housing Rights Committee, or the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, or any of the other tenant lawyers who are fighting desperately every day to state off evictions. He'd get a very different picture of the state of the city.

Comments

He does not have to care: he is in Rose Pak's back pocket and could give a damn about those of us who are actually working to build the City.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 28, 2013 @ 2:19 pm

nobody can reasonably object if that is now his focus.

You might not like that or agree with it, but you cannot reasonably claim that Lee has no mandate for his priorities, since he so convincingly beat the candidate who presumably would have been much more sympathetic to your lost cause.

SF needs housing for the new generation of knowledge workers. Not everyone currently in SF fits that model and many of those might actually be happier some place else.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 28, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

of you to assume that those of us who can't afford the current rents would be happier some place else and that we aren't your so-called knowledge worker. A lot of non-profit workers I know have masters degrees and make less than 50K. I went to UC Berkeley 25 years ago and have lived in the Bay Area ever since. I have a god job, but my salary isn't enough to cover the kind of rents we see today, so if I lost my current spot due to Ellis, I'd be out. In terms of the tech industry (my field), only someone who is a software engineer or at a middle management level can afford the current rents in SF. And even at that, it isn't always so ideal for them to be paying 25-30K in rent a year, either. I love this city and it is my chosen home. I stayed here after college not because the job market was so great (it really sucked in the early 90s), but because I wanted to live in a beautiful and progressive city. I volunteer and participate in living here on multiple levels. How dare you assume I'd be happier someplace else!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 11:44 am

Bravo!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

45K new housing units? Excellent start.

The current system of privately funded rent control has proved ineffective and self defeating. Can we develop a needs based, city-wide system similar to Section 8?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 28, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

but it will be a significant help for those at the margin.

Some migration of low-income SF'ers from SF to Oakland ir probably natural, helpful and desirable.

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 28, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

That is... EXCEPT when it is your turn to be forced out of the place you have contributed to and called your home for 20, 40 or 60 years. Then you will probably leave out that last word and maybe the term "helpful" as well. Then you will know that every word that the author just wrote is DEAD ON TARGET. If you think there is a problem with what the author is saying, i would bet anyone $100 that you have not lived in SF for more than 10 years and more likely only around 1-4 years. YOU are the displacers! Dont you see? Do you feel any empathy to what pain you are causing good people that are losing their livelyhoods because you are here now and are working in a new field that many reg. SF residents are not professionals in. Anyone over 40 was not born and raised with ANY computer until maybe like age 20! How on earth could anyone in the older sector ever compete with the youth generation. Where is any empathy or remorse with the people that are taking over SF? It seems like they like to argue for their new SF but dont acknowledge any part that they may play in the negative aspects. Pass the responsibility to the poor victims that they are creating... that seems to be the general attitude i have observed with this new influx. There is not a lot of respect. And NO acceptance for diversity! That is what this town is made from. It is a really sad day. I thank you author for summing up my daily thoughts perfectly. The ones that dont, will probably never get it....

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:30 am

long? That would make me a real loser.

Rentals are where you live when youung for a few years while saving up the deposit on a home purchase. Rentals aren't designed to be permanent domiciles.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 7:24 am

Classist troll.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 10:05 am

a couple of really nasty rentals in a bad neighborhood just because of rent control. How is that good for anyone?

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

If they don't like the rules, they can always sell as the DOM is only 3.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

I suspect that had a condo not dropped into your lap, you might very well have bought a TIC.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

Like I said, we played home buying more conservative than the tea party, no TIC's for me.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

Condo buyers and TIC owners both enter into a shared-ownership partnership with others to buy and have the right to live in a unit.

You're trying to forge a massive moral distinction between the two but, in practice, the differences are largely subtle and resolvable.

You're pissed that someone else is getting something for nothing and you did not. Well, big deal. How many years or decades of subsidized rent did you enjoy because of rent control? Overall, you've done way better than I suspect you could ever reasonably have expected. So now let someone else catch a break. And don't be a self-absorbed asswipe.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

So, you believe that people whom live in a City where only approximately 13% of the population can afford to own, are losers? And where are you from? Some small Podunk town that is so cheap everyone can own? Are you yet another transient looking to live in the famous SF for a few years do that your resume will look good for when you crawl back to whatever hole you came from?
You, all on your own have decided that the majority of San Frasiscans, who by the way made SF what it is without you, are losers? The teachers, professors, the store clerks, police officers, firemen and women, the students, the vets... The list is endless. To have a City filled with people like you would be a city worth burning to the ground.
Go back to whatever ghetto you came from and leave our wonderful, diverse, tollorant city to those of us that helped create it. THE CITY. A world renowned place to visit and live... And Not because of you or anyone similar to you. You do not deserve to live in my home town.
Get the fuck out!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

AMEN!!

Posted by bluepearlgirl on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 8:49 am

WORD!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

I see you got yours, so screw anyone else. Yes, you people are saints who deserve subsidised rents, not greedy squatters who want valuable real estate for far below it's market rate....

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

Even the ones that call themselves "progressive".

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

That is... EXCEPT when it is your turn to be forced out of the place you have contributed to and called your home for 20, 40 or 60 years. Then you will probably leave out that last word and maybe the term "helpful" as well. Then you will know that every word that the author just wrote is DEAD ON TARGET. If you think there is a problem with what the author is saying, i would bet anyone $100 that you have not lived in SF for more than 10 years and more likely only around 1-4 years. YOU are the displacers! Dont you see? Do you feel any empathy to what pain you are causing good people that are losing their livelyhoods because you are here now and are working in a new field that many reg. SF residents are not professionals in. Anyone over 40 was not born and raised with ANY computer until maybe like age 20! How on earth could anyone in the older sector ever compete with the youth generation. Where is any empathy or remorse with the people that are taking over SF? It seems like they like to argue for their new SF but dont acknowledge any part that they may play in the negative aspects. Pass the responsibility to the poor victims that they are creating... that seems to be the general attitude i have observed with this new influx. There is not a lot of respect. And NO acceptance for diversity! That is what this town is made from. It is a really sad day. I thank you author for summing up my daily thoughts perfectly. The ones that dont, will probably never get it....

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:38 am

But you think we should subsidize your housing because you want to live in an expensive city but cannot afford to?

Parasite.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 7:32 am

How can you call someone a parasite for living in their community for a long time. That makes NO sense. They have been paying rent on a place by working for a wage that does not equal a $3000 a month rent and they are a parasite? Maybe we should be asking why these people who ARE WORKING FULL TIME to pay their bills have not had their wage keep up with the cost of living. Rent is one of our costs of living. It is not their fault that they moved into a place they could afford with a wage that could afford that to then have wages triple but not in their industry. How on earth can you justify someone wanting to stay in a home and neighborhood that they have invested years in somehow now morph into a parasite. If anything, the old residents should be OUTRAGED at the heartless greed of those wanting what they have already created. If this town is so awesome... How did it get that way? It got that way from the work and community that these same residents created. Not you. You now come in and say i like that. I want that. I am taking that because your industry does not allow you to afford it because greed it the main motivator for life these days. Maybe one day you will see that community is not built by money but by people. Your attitude is selfish and disgusting.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 10:31 am

in order to maintain their current living situation should acknowledge that they are not independent. They may feel some "entitlement" to live in a place that they cannot afford but nobody can reasonably expect others to subsidize their lifestyle.

SF has gotten more expensive and that means that not everyone here can afford to be here nor should be here. Property owners can tolerate a certain amount of suboptimal ROI's but eventually the decision to convert from renting to owner occupance becomes a fiscal imperative.

SF needs to house the new generation of knowledge workers, and not the old generation of starry-eyed hippies. That process may be painful for some but is in the best interests of this city's prosperity.

Posted by anon on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 10:42 am

Shit... I guess that i am glad that they are taking the rentals off the market all together through the Ellis Act so at least YOU cant live here EITHER!! This town is beautiful and has a great community right? WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK CREATED THIS DESIRABLE PLACE YOU ALL NOW WANT TO LIVE IN?? I have never in my life heard such arrogance towards people that they are trying to steal others homes and neighborhoods. SF's cool is due to so much more than money. You all will see when you get the active community out and you replace it with all of your over paid super plastic lived asses. You will be saying to yourself... Gosh... Sf used to be such a cool place. Now it sucks. It has no soul and it is totally controlled by corporations and government. By then, you will not be making enough money to be able to afford to stay here either. I cant wait to hear you whine then! If all of you are being paid SO MUCH MONEY>>> Why dont YOU buy and leave the rental community alone Mr/Mrs. Big bucks???? Afterall, there are a lot of properties being Ellis Acted after all. Right??

BUT... If you are going to force the old community out, do so with a little bit of dignity and respect and ditch that stuck up snotty ass attitude!! It is bad enough what you are doing, the least you could do while doing it is be somewhat gracious. Or is that not taught to people that earn a 6 figure income these days? With the attitude problem of the new migration is going to make me WANT to leave so i dont have to sit and listen to one more delusional asshole think their shit dont stink because they have seemed to have landed a job that pays you more than others. You are going to give SF a bad reputation soon if you dont check yourselves!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

I have no problem with rent control as long as it applies to everything else that we buy too. That would be fair. But why should these people be special and shielded from economic forces that everyone else mus t deal with? That is real greed.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

And will still be a fine place when rent control is repealed or when the last rental building has been Ellis'ed.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

...Lets educate you shall we? The reason that rent control was won back in the late 70's and monetary awards given into the early 80's was due to landlords wanting to charge anything that they wanted and the condition and upkeep of lots of units just slumped into disrepair. If you lose rent control, you will lose many tenants rights and then you become the sucker you are calling out the former residents as. Before you all open your big fighting back mouths about abolishing rent control, do yourself, our town, history in general and the memory of all of those that died a favor and do some reading up. Knowledge is power and clearly, you missed this chapter...

http://foundsf.org/index.php?title=Slumlords_and_Terror

http://foundsf.org/index.php?title=The_GARTLAND_FIRE!

Posted by bluepearlgirl on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 1:47 am

Spoken like a greedy tenant troll

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 2:59 pm
Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

But even if it were true, why do you care? The whole basis of your world-view is greed is good.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

However, the idea is that profit should accrue to those who take risks and work hard, not just try and claim subsidies and something for nothing.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

that is completely subsidized by bailouts and the Federal Reserve. When their risky investments collapsed, they should have failed a la Adam Smith. I'm sure counting money is "hard work"; not too many workplace injuries in that industry.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

and I would have supported letting GM go under too.

You cannot let the entire banking system fail.

Posted by anon on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

of the "free market" that you claim. Socialism for the rich is a more accurate description of your ideology.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 30, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

Then you might try reading him. He was very suspicious of capital as speculation - the ultimate subsidy for doing nothing.

Posted by Guestest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

"But you think we should subsidize your housing because you want to live in an expensive city but cannot afford to?

Parasite."

Hmm. Actually one who gives thousands and thousands of their hard-earned dollars, year after year, to a landlord is pretty much the exact opposite of a parasite.

The isn't meant to be rude (some of my best friends are landlords) but in practical terms it's obvious that there is essentially no one earth more parasitic than a landlord.

Whatever amount of rent someone paid when they first moved into the apartment, how ever long ago, was and continues to be enough to cover the mortgage and then some. Rent control doesn't prevent anyone from making money, it merely regulates the amount of wealth someone can make in exchange for the public good.

Posted by BNE on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

Your continual residence critically depends on that, and it is what you agree to when you take the place. even under rent control, eviction for non-payment of rent is fast and sure. In fact, many RC LL's love it when their tenants are late with the rent as it provides an easy way of getting them out.

Other than that, how much profit your LL makes if any is none of your beeswax.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

except for the fact that it is your money that he is profiting off of. If all of you dont like the Rent Control laws and think landlords have life so hard, WHY ARE YOU NOT THEN BUYING A PLACE?? This argument seems so silly because you are arguing about WHO gets to be the one paying the landlord. The LL gets paid regardless! And i agree with the above poster about if it (rent) was enough when rented to afford property taxes and mortgage, then the argument is that the LL can not profit from HUGE inflation of said rent. This city has never been cheap, but the people who can not afford $3000 per mo. for rent are NOT POOR PARASITES!! They are just working class people. From the sounds of all of the chatter i have been reading for the last bunch of months, the only thing that i am hearing is an attitude of total elitists. That is NOT WHAT SAN FRANCISCO HAS EVER BEEN ABOUT! Who the heck are you coming in here with that bad bad attitude towards your (planning for) future community?? What a bunce of asshole shitty neighbors you all would be no matter how much money you chose to waste on rent! You are the epitimy of the word SNOB! BOOO. And that has nothing to do with rent control or housing or income. It has to do with attitude. And a bunch of yours SUCKS! You should be ashamed of yourselves!!!

Posted by bluepearlgirl on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 8:44 am

find a city where the economy better suits your fiscal power and ability?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 01, 2013 @ 9:06 am

cannot do anything about evictions under the Ellis Act.

But then of course the real cause of Ellis Act evictions is the fact that rent control confiscates so much of the returns from rental housing that they make Ellis Act evictions an economic necessity.

There are no Ellis Act evictions in 99% of California because LL's are allowed to get a reasonable ROI.

Any tenant can easily be safe from an Ellis eviction, by simply paying a reasonable rent.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 28, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

have good employment skills? Well, gee, who'd have thunk it?

But at least you admit that tech jobs "are not bad" and that it's OK to have some jobs that pay "high wages". That's real progress and I'm delighted to see you breaking free of the kind of kneejerk class warfare that is often seen on these pages.

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 28, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

Sorry Tim but your argument about housing costs/supply and demand is wrong. Depsite the city's efforts to keep prices down via rent stability it actually increases the market rental rate. I'm not critizing the policies, but once people are locked in at a rate, the landlord will want to make up that loss by increasing the rent on other unites once they open up. Thus the newest SF residents actually bear the burden of subsidizing renters whose rent has been stabalized. So you should actually be thanking the new tech employees because they are paying the extremely high market rates and subsidizing other residents.

Of course this problem could be solved with new housing. SF actually does follow the laws of supply and demand. If demand were literally unlimited, then the price would be infinate, but its not. It's extremely expensive and unaffordable for most people; not everybody has 1 mill laying on their dresser to drop on a new 1 bedroom condo. But people not of the 5% make trade offs and move outside the city to other areas where housing is less expensive. The reason most the growth in the Bay Area occurs in exburbs and not SF is because hardly any new housing units are built.

The REAL reason new housing is all luxury units and unaffordable is because SF's Byzantine-like building process a de facto regulatory quota on new housing. Why would any developer go to the trouble of buying property, spending years on planning and lobbing to get a housing built, complying with all laws and regulations (which includes height and denisity limitations on the total number of units) and then build middle class homes? Of course they wont. If the city only allows a developer to build a few units, they are going to maximize their profits and only build the most profitable ones--luxury condos.

I mean, if you truely want to see housing costs come down, then release the regualtory dam and let property owners build housing as they please.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 28, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

land use regulations - that is a trend that is global in nature. The only way to create affordable homes in SF is to build high-rise residential towers.

This is a classic example of how different splinter groups of "progressives" harm each other in SF. The NIMBY'ist don't want new build which offends the affordable housing guys who want to see more homes.

SF tries to micro-manage everything and then wonders why homes don't get built and rents and RE prices are skyhigh.

But in the end, the Redmond's, Welch's, Hestor's etc. all do just fine because of course they all own property in SF, and can afford to hide behind their policies while directly and personally profiting from them.

If you want expensive real estate, it's hard to think of a better way of achieving that than by building nothing and implementing rent control.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 28, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

will bear for vacant units. They don't set their price based on other occupied rent control units in the same building. That argument about rent control forcing landlords to charge higher rents for vacant apartments is bogus and disingenuous. They charge whatever they can get.

There's a boom of new residential construction now in San Francisco. How can you say that developers aren't building housing? Are you high, stupid, or in denial?

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 12:08 am

The construction boom is mostly for luxury units.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:05 am

no housing is being built.

Here's an example to illustrate the fallacy of the rent control makes the rent of vacant units higher to make up for occupied rent controlled units with lower rent:

In our building, new tenants recently rented a vacant apartment for $900 more per month than we pay for virtually the same apartment in which we have lived for seven years ($1000 more than our original rent.) Under your fantasy scenario, without rent control, their rent would be $450 lower and ours $450 higher. To which I say, no fucking way. Without rent control, their rent would be the same and ours would be $900 higher. Maybe even higher, because without rent control, there would be no long-term low income minority tenants in the building, whose presence might reduce the market rent. No matter what, the landlord is making a killing.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:30 am

A different "Guest" is pointing out that (mostly) only luxury units are being built.

The current approach to affordable housing is producing contradictory results. It needs a major overhaul. Is there an example - anywhere in history - where price controls haven't created shortages?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 1:52 am

are mostly exempt from rent control. All new build is exempt, of course, but that rule could change.

You are correct that rent control increases rent - the Cato Institute proved that years ago in an article you can find online

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2013 @ 7:31 am

Cato "proved" nothing. They published an opinion paper. Proof is very hard to find definitively in economics. It is especially hard when ignoring counterexamples to "prove" that self-interest is a philosophy.

Posted by Guestest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

refutation for the many points and correlations that the Cato Institute came up with. If rent control really worked, there would not be $2,000 a month studio's and $3,000 a month 1BR's.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2013 @ 1:15 pm