WHOA TO THE ELLIS ACT POLITICAL STAMPEDE

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Posticker Sig revisedThere’s a “race” to address Ellis Act evictions. San Francisco leaders are expending considerable political capital on 284 evictions, or a measly average of 71 over four years ending Feb. 2013. Civic laser pointers target Ellis and its accelerating 2013 eviction rate. Shadowed by Ellis, a paradox of pent up housing demand drives SF rents up while landlords hold back a supply of tens of thousands vacancies (35,000 just four years ago). Insistently, tenant advocates have passionately argued this tiny number of Ellis evictions take affordable and rent controlled units off the market as landlords retreat from the rental business to sell their buildings or convert vacated units into tenancies-in-common or condos…
PANIC BUTTON: In response, city leaders are drafting local and state changes to slow or stop Ellis evictions (Chronicle, 11/14/13)…Mayor Ed Lee is looking to discourage such evictions by making them pricey. Board President and District 3 Supervisor (Chinatown/North Beach) David Chiu and Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Phil Ting of 19th District (western SF) collaborate to give Ellis-ousted tenants higher priority for subsidized local housing. District 9 (Mission) Supervisor David Campos and 17th District (eastern SF) Assemblyman Tom Ammiano conspire on a state bill allowing for Ellis eviction moratoriums and local declarations of emergency on evictions. State Senator Mark Leno contemplates state allowing municipalities to slam brakes on Ellis evictions…
SPECULATION OR SPECULATORS: But these conceptual proposals only address the needle in the SF housing haystack. Data answering a Supervisor Campos “tenant displacement” report by a SF Board of Supervisors Policy Analyst showed Ellis evictions were NOT citywide. Instead nearly two-thirds of 2009-13 evictions fell into only 7 of 26 neighborhoods/zip codes, including four heavily APA areas of Russian Hill/Polk Gulch, Inner and Outer Richmond and North Beach. Oct. 30 report speculated about speculation, for one, that rising real estate prices are driving up eviction rates.…
ELLIS EVICTION DECLINE: Also in the Campos-inspired report, Ellis Act evictions only accounted for 116 out of the 1716 total “no fault” and “for cause” 2012-13 evictions tallied by the SF Rent Board. The report analyst claimed Ellis evictions were undercounted, given landlord-tenant settled with a cash sinecure. Although such evictions have recently trended upwards in 2013, there were only 284 total Ellis evictions in the last four years. The Rent Board tallied 2893 Ellis evictions between 1998 and 2013. The 284 or 71 evictions annually were nowhere near the heights of such evictions during the dot-com era – 384 in 2000 and 314 evictions in 2001…
LOCKE FOR PRESIDENT?: With the portfolio of Ambassador to China (stepping down early 2014), Governor of Washington State and US Secretary of Commerce, parental duty calls for Gary Locke and former TV reporter wife Mona to raise three kids in the USA. Meanwhile, Washington State’s US Senators seem secure, likely leaving Locke out of the running. Democrat Patty Murray is up in 2016 while junior Democrat Maria Cantwell is up in 2018. Although Murray won re-election by only four percent in 2010…Locke’s portfolio is similar to Jon Huntsman, the former President Barack Obama-appointed Ambassador to China, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Utah Governor. The wealthy Redwood City-born Republican ran but didn’t make the cut for President in 2012. With Obama terming out in 2016 and a gerontocracy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and VP Joe Biden as White House possibilities, Democrats might test drive Locke, age 66 in 2016 for President or VP run. Keep an eye for any Locke speaking tours of presidential caucus state Iowa and primary state New Hampshire between now and 2016…
 

Gary Locke

Gary Locke for president?

CANARY IN THE COAL MINE: All this Art Agnos talk (he’s not running according to the Chronicle last Sunday) of a third run for mayor speaks to vacuum of progressive candidates. Mayor Lee has beaten the progressive field – suspending and nearly knocking out Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi on a domestic violence charge in 2012, defeating City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Supervisors John Avalos and David Chiu and independent and sometimes progressive State Senator Leland Yee (arguably he was the favorite if Lee had not entered the race) for mayor in 2011…And the Agnos for Mayor narrative could follow Jerry Brown’s resurrection for governor in 2010 after he lost a US Senate run in 1982 and then disappeared from the state scene for 18 years. Agnos has been out of office for 22 years after narrowly losing re-election for mayor in 1991…
IT’S SUPPLY, STUPID: Putting the Ellis Act eviction stats in perspective, the Campos legislative analyst report cited nearly 248,000 buildings with two or more units according to the SF Planning Department’s 2011 Housing Inventory (In these buildings, 171,600 units built before 1979 fall under rent control). Given that Ellis evicted units are a pinprick in the market, they shouldn’t affect city housing costs. More likely to dent costs are bringing thousands more units into the market like re-incentivizing some of the 35,000 vacant units (as of 2010, according to SF Magazine, 9/2013).  In a city of rent controlled units strangled with 1.9% increases in 2013 – slightly above bank CD savings rates, it seems highly unusual for so many units to be vacant in what should be a highly attractive market (over $2,200 monthly for studios and $3,500 for one bedroom). The same phenomena occurred when thousands of units were vacant during the rent run up to the dot-com recession of 2000-01…On the supply side, legalizing 40,000 in-law units under Board President Chiu’s legislation could impact the rental market while Mayor Lee’s Housing Trust Fund will have a long-term effect as $1.5 billion of housing oozes thru over 30 years…
SEND IN THE CLONES: A unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon inside house of former party chair Jane Morrison backing SF Democratic Party internships honoring the late Supervisor Sue Bierman …Topic of discourse – unwitting pols and nosy reporters confusing this cabal: campaign webmaster Thomas Li for deputy mayoral press guy Francis TsangSF Association of Realtors government affairs deputy Jay Cheng for mayoral aide Jason Chan and current SF Democratic Party chair Mary Jung for ChinaSF’s director Darlene Chiu-Bryant…While tied to the Mayor, some of this gang helped First Lady Anita Lee stump for her husband in 2011 outside traditional Chinatown spheres of influence…
Watching county committee inauguration, former SF Democratic Party Chair and "Grande Dame" and nonagenarian Jane Morrison leaves county committee after 14 years.

Former SF Democratic Party Chair Jane Morrison 

BEYOND ELLIS – GRIDLOCK: Rent control is a third rail of politics. Given emotional drawstrings tugged by tiny pool of Ellis evictions, city leaders score points for 2014 election year (e.g. Campos vs. Chiu for the Ammiano seat) while easily bashing or promising legislation against vilified Ellis Act eviction landlords. For example, highly publicized Chinatown Ellis eviction of Chinese American senior and disabled family drew Mayor and former Asian Law Caucus tenant lawyer Ed Lee’s intervention. But more comprehensive legislation affecting thousands not faces difficult road given gridlock between protesting tenants like SF Tenants UnionChinatown Tenants Association with Norman Fongof Chinatown Community Development Center facing off real estate and apartment interests like board members Jeff WooJohn Lee and Eugene Pak and Government Affairs director Mary Jung of the SF Association of Realtors, director Janan New of SF Apartment Association and Small Property Owners of SF with Josephine Zhao who’s on Chinese talk radio…
HORSE EATS FISH: Favorite card game Taboo served with Turducken this Thanksgiving for the Ma Family. The only exception –AsianWeek.com “Buzz” columnist Fiona Ma fasting on fish while cradling her terrier mix Nicco. Although horsey Ma is former Speaker Assembly pro Tempore, she wasn’t running the household. Instead her “Speaker of the House” dad, William, arranged seating and pecking order with son-in-law Jason Hodge next to Fiona at head of the table…
YOU DON’T KNOW JEFF: Wishing Public Defender Jeff Adachi finds time to make another flick – after his docs on Barney Miller NYC detective regular Jack Soo and critique on Hollywood’s slanted portrayals of APA men. He’s happy to advise…which could inspire a defendant looking to rehab by filming or inmates screening “You Don’t Know Jack (Soo)” in the SF county jail…
Public Defender Jeff Adachi

Public Defender Jeff Adachi

R.I.P. POTSTICKERS: Favorite gyoza columnist takeout, closed last Saturday, Nov. 30. Glen Park’s Hong Sing gone to potsticker heaven for its hot, thin skinned, juicy and gingery fried dumplings (like a few people in this column). Anyone recommend a new potsticker place to partake in with this columnist to nosh on?
MISS ME?: Email Samson Wong at potsticker@prodigy.net and  follow him at Twitter @SFPotstickers
 
 

About the Author

Veteran columnist has appeared in up to 450,000 households weekly in the SF Independent, Examiner (2000-04) and AsianWeek since 1996. As Editor-in-Chief (2003-07), AsianWeek and Samson received wide recognition from the California Legislature, New American Media, League of Women Voters, GLAAD, Organization of Chinese Americans, SPUR and APA civic groups. Thru the SF Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, SF Elections Task Force and Chinese American Voters Education Committee, Wong helped boost APA influence from 25,000 in the 1980s to over 50,000 voters by the early 1990s.