Protests and a public forum in which community members voiced their concerns about San Francisco’s “eviction epidemic” were on the agenda during a housing displacement hearing called by Supervisor David Campos on Nov. 14.
During the hearing, activists and city leaders were brought together to discuss what could be done about the rampant increase of evictions that has been labeled a crisis and that parallels the rising prices in the city’s real estate market.
“You can’t really come up with a solution to the problem unless you understand the magnitude of the problem,” said Campos, addressing Ellis Act evictions within the city. “The point of this hearing is to not only get a better grasp of the data but to also put a human face to what happened.”
“We want Ellis stopped,” said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, a local activist. “We want everyone housed.”
When asked if he would work with Mayor Ed Lee and the city supervisors to mend the city’s housing problem, Avicolli Mecca responded: “I’ll work with anyone that wants to work with repealing the Ellis Act.”
“I do believe we have a crisis,” Campos said. “We have neighborhoods like Bayview and Visitacion Valley where residents are spending up to 60 percent of their income on housing.”
The rent median is up and the vacancy rate is down as evictions are steadily on the rise. Since 2010, there has been a 169.8 percent increase in Ellis Act evictions, with the inner Mission being the heaviest hit, according to Frank Russo, a data analyst for the city.
These numbers did not include all of the residents forced out of their homes by either harassment or other types of evictions and buyouts, which is when the landlord gives the tenant the option of either taking the compensation the landlord offers and leaving their residence before threatening with an Ellis Act eviction.
During the hearing Campos mentioned three pieces of legislation that he is currently working on to a cheering audience. The first would create a mechanism at the rent board that will allow tenants to file complaints if they feel that they are being harassed by their landlord and are pressured into an eviction.
Campos further proposes to double the amount of relocation assistance that landlords must provide to Ellis Act evictees, which he said should be enacted soon. Another piece of legislation would regulate buyouts, requiring the landlord to register them, so that the city can keep track of how many displacements are occurring due to buyouts, as well as prohibiting charging market rate rental prices after the tenant has been bought out.
With every Ellis Act eviction in the city, there are thought to be three buyouts, according to Ted Gullicksen from the San Francisco Tenant’s Union.
“For every eviction, for every person, for every displacement number, there is a human being behind that number,” said Campos. “Are we a city that will allow working class citizens to work and live in the same city?”
“There’s a fear in people’s faces,” Supervisor Eric Mar said. “That fear is real and it’s based on facts now.”
While the scheduled agenda of the meeting lasted only about an hour, the public comment section spanned another two. Residents of every age and of almost every district of the city spoke at the hearing.
“We have been overlooked,” said San Francisco resident John Robles. “It’s almost as if we’re an afterthought and it breaks my heart.”
Supervisors Campos, Mar and Norman Yee were in attendance. They have set an agreement to hold another hearing in front of a larger board next month.
“Who will be left when the artists, organizers and those who care are gone,” said Beverly Upton, long-time resident of the city. “Who will be left in San Francisco.”