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    New Leadership for the SF LGBT Community Center, Reining in OMI Evictions

    By Rafael Mandelman

    City College Transitions

    City College is in a moment of transition. The end of June also marked the end of Susan Lamb’s term as Interim Chancellor. Susan, formerly the College’s Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, had stepped up two years ago to lead the College at an incredibly challenging time. As President of the Board of Trustees, I worked closely with her to stabilize the institution and to resolve its accreditation and financial issues. Her two years as the College’s chief executive were not easy ones, but Susan saw us through to the successful resolution of the accreditation crisis and leaves the College well-positioned for the future. City College will be forever in her debt.  

    The College’s new permanent Chancellor, Mark Rocha, started July 1, and has been doing a bit of a listening tour with the various College constituencies. Rocha steps into what is surely one of the hardest jobs in the entire California Community College system, and we will all be working to ensure his success. One happy bit of news that may make his path a little easier: after five years of declining enrollment, early registration numbers suggest City College is headed for double digit enrollment growth this fall. This turnaround is at least partly thanks to the enthusiasm generated by the Free City College program. Whatever the cause, the reversal of the College’s long enrollment slide is giving folks at the College renewed hope after so many difficult years. 

    Honoring Marcy Adelman

    Among the many worthy honorees at this year’s Pride festivities, it gave me particular joy to see Marcy Adelman recognized as the Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal. I have known Marcy for nearly two decades, and during that entire time she has been obsessively devoted to the twin causes of housing our LGBT seniors and ensuring that LGBT seniors, wherever they live, have the services they need to thrive. Marcy, who founded Openhouse with her late partner Jeanette Gurevitch, was the relentless, driving force behind the affordable senior housing development at 55 Laguna.   When completed, that development will include 110 permanently affordable senior units in a part of the City that is losing affordable rental housing at an alarmingly rapid clip. And without Marcy, it wouldn’t have happened. 

    Reining in OMI Evictions

    Openhouse’s project at 55 Laguna is the first significant development of new affordable housing in District 8 in two decades. The recent fight at City Hall over regulating fraudulent Owner Move-In (OMI) evictions highlighted the heavy impact of such evictions throughout the City, but particularly in District 8. For me, it also underscored the pressing need for more projects like Openhouse’s. 

    The neighborhoods of District 8 (e.g., Castro, Noe Valley, Duboce Triangle, Glen Park) have been the most heavily impacted by OMI evictions, with over 331 such evictions between 2007 and 2016. That’s in addition to the 262 Ellis Act evictions in District 8 during the same period. And those totals do not include the many more “negotiated” buy outs under threat of eviction. 

    Estimates are that 25% of OMI evictions are fraudulent efforts to force out long-term tenants. Thirty-nine percent of affected tenants had lived in their homes for ten years or more. When a tenant who has lived in a rent-controlled apartment for decades is evicted, we all know that the odds are slim of that tenant finding a unit on the market he or she can afford to rent. The displacement of those long-term residents from the neighborhoods they helped re-create and re-vitalize is among the saddest and most troubling realities of contemporary San Francisco.

    Thanks to the organizing efforts of tenant groups and the leadership of Supervisors Kim and Peskin on the Board, the provisions of the OMI eviction legislation were strengthened significantly over what Supervisor Farrell had originally introduced with the backing of the Apartment Association. But even with the new protections from City Hall, it is clear that the displacement of long-term renters will continue, albeit (we hope) at a slower pace. If we are to have any hope of keeping those folks in San Francisco, we are going to need a lot more permanently affordable senior housing units.  Marcy Adelman and Openhouse have shown us it can be done; now we need to do a lot more of it.  

    Susan Lamb and Mark Rocha 

    New Leadership for the LGBT Center Board

    After four and a half years leading the Board of the LGBT Community Center, I stepped down as of the end of June (two and a half years later than I had originally intended). Sally Jesmonth, who co-chaired this year’s Soiree, has stepped up to lead the Board, and she will be joined by a male co-chair before the end of the summer.

    It has been an incredible honor to be able to help lead such an important community institution through our recent building renovation, and it is incredibly satisfying to be able to pass our Board leadership into such capable hands.  Having laid the foundation for the Center’s ongoing financial stability, the Board will be thinking hard over the next months about how the Center can best meet the community’s needs in the years ahead. It should be an exciting conversation.

    Rafael Mandelman is a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Oakland. He has served as a member of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees since 2013, and was a longtime Chair of the Board of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.