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    Mitigating the Impacts of Evictions

    1-PHOTO-David Campos-USE THIS ONE-_mg_5338_highres_copy(Editor’s Note: We are honored to present a new column for the Bay Times, authored by Supervisor David Campos. We have long admired his work and his efforts to champion the rights of individuals, small businesses and families, often when no others appeared to care or listen. While some politicians rule from on high, distancing themselves from numerous others, Campos rolls up his sleeves and interacts directly with his constituency and additional San Francisco residents, respecting their voices. It seems fitting that his column should launch in an issue featuring Harvey Milk on the cover, because this column for the Bay Times was inspired by Milk’s efforts to build a coalition of what Milk termed “us’es,” meaning communities that value diversity and attempt to leave no one behind.)

    In September of 2012, when Jeremy Mykaels learned from his landlord that he was being evicted from his Castro apartment under the Ellis Act, he was devastated. Not only would he lose his apartment of more than 17 years, but he was also terrified that he would be forced to move out of his beloved San Francisco, his home since the early 1970s. The landlord, who had recently purchased the building, was only obliged to give him $7,500 dollars—$3,000 more than an average tenant because of his senior and disability status—but not nearly enough to help him find another place to live in San Francisco, where the median price of a one bedroom apartment is now $2,500 a month.

    After hearing from dozens of tenants like Jeremy, I spent the last 6 months working closely with the tenant rights movement to develop policy ideas that could help tenants dealing with eviction. One of the pieces of legislation we developed is an ordinance to greatly increase the amount of money that landlords must pay tenants whom they are evicting under the
    Ellis Act. This legislation gives tenants like Jeremy a fighting chance to stay in San Francisco, as well as discourages speculation.

    Known as the Relocation Assistance Ordinance, this legislation, which was passed by the Board of Supervisors on April 22, 2014, requires landlords who evict using the Ellis Act to pay the difference between the tenant’s rental rate before eviction and the market rate for that unit to the evicted tenant for two years. This ensures that relocation payments adequately represent true market costs and allow displaced tenants who would face dramatically higher rent costs the opportunity to stay in San Francisco.

    Landlords may have the right under the Ellis Act to evict people, but I believe San Francisco has not only a right, but also an obligation, to mitigate the impacts of those evictions. This is an immediate, local solution that will assist San Franciscans who are being displaced today.

    Ellis Act evictions are coming at the expense of people in our community who embody the spirit of San Francisco and are fighting to continue to call it home. Speculators are cannibalizing the rent controlled housing stock in San Francisco by using the Ellis Act to evict long-term tenants and reap enormous profits. Current relocation assistance rates are barely enough to allow someone to afford three months of rent in San Francisco and, as a result, most evicted tenants are leaving San Francisco—the city they have called home for decades.

    My legislation is one tool we can use in this struggle for the soul of San Francisco. In the coming months, I invite you to join me to protect the rights of tenants and address the affordability crisis impacting San Francisco. To paraphrase Harvey Milk, we need to build a coalition of “us-es.”

    David Campos is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 9. For more information about Supervisor Campos and his work, please visit www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=2117