Tenant evictions in San Francisco have been the center of debate for quite some time, with some people blaming the tech industry for what has become a housing crisis in the city.
But some tech companies — 75 of them, at the time of this writing — are showing support to reform one of the main laws that landlords evoke when evicting tenants, called the Ellis Act.
The Ellis Act is a provision in California created in 1986 that enables landlords to evict tenants in order to “go out of business.” Most often it’s used to convert apartments into condos. But one of the problems with the Ellis Act, reform supporters say, is that as the law stands now, there’s no limit to the number of times a building owner can “go out of business.” In fact, some of the properties are showing up on Airbnb as rental vacation homes.
SB 1439, which was drafted by San Francisco-based Sen. Mark Leno, would create a five-year holding period before property owners can invoke the Ellis Act and evict tenants. Some previous attempts to amend the Ellis Act, including a similar bill, have failed in the legislature. But it’s reached a new level, supporters say.
“We in San Francisco are at the peak of a housing crisis that is years in the making,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement to SFGate. “Reform will open up new opportunities to build housing so our residents and our families can stay in the city. We must take these steps now, and in the coming weeks in Sacramento, to keep residents in their homes and protect them predatory evictions by real-estate speculators.”
As BeyondChron points out, opponents of the reform measures say that regulation of property ownership is “anti-business.” Support from tech companies would prove the opposite:
Governor Brown vetoed AB 1229 (the inclusionary housing bill) last fall because he felt it made it more difficult to “attract development to low and middle income communities.” With the California Apartment Association and California Chamber of Commerce opposing SB 1439, tech support completely refutes claims that stopping speculator evictions is “anti-business.”
Ron Conway, a prominent angel investor who is the chairman of the nonprofit organisation San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation (sf.citi), led the charge in getting the 75 companies to sign the letter.
The companies include Box, Jawbone, Yelp and Salesforce. To get them to sign the letter, he just “emailed them the letter and asked them to sign,” he told Business Insider.
“Part of the tech backlash occurring in SF right now is due to evictions by real estate speculators,” sf.citi writes on its petition page. “Please help stop evictions in SF by having your Company sign on to the below letter for Senator Leno.”
Conway said he thinks businesses have an obligation to look out for the city. One way to do that is to support Ellis Act reform. “We need to stop real estate speculators from evicting folks from homes in San Francisco,” he said.
The bill heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 6.
Here is the letter that the 75 companies signed:
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