Lee Family Ellis Act Eviction

25 09 2013

Today’s rally to protest the Lee Family Ellis Act Eviction, with CCHO members CCDC, HRC, and allies in the tenant, community, and labor movement.

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From the San Francisco Tenant’s Union:
San Franciscans are facing a spiraling threat of speculation, evictions, and astronomical housing cost increases. Evictions, even of the elderly and disabled, are becoming routine throughout the city. And as vacated apartments are sold or rented at higher levels the speculative pressure on remaining rent controlled housing grows sharper. The intensifying cycle of speculation is radically transforming neighborhoods and threatening the City’s diverse character and its social values.

The impending eviction of one family in Polk Gulch is representative of these trends and threats. But the outcome of the Lee family’s fight against their eviction may also help the movement to help tame our present overheated market.

Like thousands of other working class San Franciscans, Mr. and Ms. Lee worked for decades in the city. Now elderly and caring for their disabled adult daughter, they are facing eviction by a real estate investor who bought their eight-unit apartment building in the once blue-collar Polk Gulch neighborhood. The investor has admitted that from the start, his business plan was to evict all the tenants and sell off the apartments. He has almost succeeded. All the other families have moved out and the Lees have also desperately tried to move. But as seniors on a fixed income with a disabled family member they faced a costly and doubly discriminatory rental market. They have applied to dozens of apartments without success. Yet their investor landlord has rejected their requests for help finding alternative housing and has asked the sheriff to force the family into the streets.

The Lee family’s story might be like thousands of others who have been quietly moved without public awareness. But overcoming their initial fears, Mr. and Ms. Lee have decided to take a stand: they are staying in their apartment and publicly protesting their eviction by the sheriff. With the support of the Tenants Union and others, they hope their fight will result in increased protections for all tenants and help for evicted tenants like themselves who need housing in the City.
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Celebrating our Victories (1): Rent Control!

11 09 2013

This Thursday September 12 at 6pm at the Women’s Building, join the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, the San Francisco Tenants Union, Causa Justa::Just Cause, the Council of Community Housing Organizations and our members Chinatown Community Development Center and Senior and Disability Action, and many others who took part in this campaign to save San Francisco’s rent controlled housing stock from speculators. And then don’t forget to head on over to SOMARTS to celebrate with our friends at the Coalition on Homelessness with their Art Auction ’13: Transforming Art into Action!

For a longer story of the struggles leading up to this latest tenant victory in San Francisco, read the previous post, Renters Rising, by Fernando Marti (CCHO) and Sara Shortt (HRC)…


Renters Rising!

11 09 2013

How San Francisco’s housing movement turned an assault on renters into a victory

By Fernando Martí and Sara Shortt

A version of this story appeared on Shelterforce Magazine, http://www.shelterforce.org/article/3263/renters_rising/.


wewontgoyOn June 11, San Francisco’s united tenant and affordable housing advocates defeated the latest assault on San Francisco renters, turning potentially grievous legislation into an actual net gain for protecting the city’s limited rent-controlled housing stock.

The ordinance, as originally proposed by San Francisco supervisors Mark Farrell and Scott Wiener, would have allowed over 2,000 rent-controlled units to automatically become condominium units, bypassing the city’s annual 200-unit cap (which are awarded by lottery) by paying a fee of between $4,000 and $20,000 per unit. Not only would this have meant over 10 years worth of rent controlled stock being lost in one fell swoop, but the legislation would have set a precedent for doing away with the condo conversion cap altogether, further incentivizing evictions and buyouts of tenants now protected under San Francisco’s rent control laws.

Instead of just fighting the bill, housing advocates took a nuanced approach, proposing amendments that turned the effects of the original bill on its head, while still creating an opening for some apartment owners seeking to convert their units into condos.

The history of the renters’ battles in San Francisco helps explain how this fight came about, and how it was won.

Looking Back

Like many major U.S. cities, San Francisco has a 64.2 percent renter majority, falling in line with New York (69 percent), Los Angeles (63 percent), and Chicago, Houston, and Dallas (all about 55 percent). In the 1970s, after decades of relatively low rents—the result of post-war disinvestment, redlining, and white flight—San Francisco began to experience rising rents and home demolitions. A combination of regional planning efforts to re-envision San Francisco as a Pacific Rim finance capital, the intentional return of capital investment to the inner city after years of disinvestment, rising gas prices, and a new hipness to urban living spurred the beginning of San Francisco’s long curve of gentrification.

At the same time, a growing progressive political alliance was developing in San Francisco, convening in a Community Congress in 1975, with the central pieces of its platform being the election of the local legislative body by district rather than city-wide and a control on rents.

In 1978, California’s Proposition 13 capped property taxes in the state, and there was a resultant expectation that rents too would be limited. Proposition 13 limited property taxes to 1 percent of assessed value and limited increases in assessed value to 2 percent per year. A move by large apartment owners to raise rents despite their recent windfall on property taxes led to a renters’ revolt, which brought about San Francisco’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance, passed in 1979, and later strengthened through voter initiative. The law, locally called “rent control,” applies to most rental units built before 1979, and limits rent increases to a formula tied to the Consumer Price Index, about 1.5 percent per year. Approximately 145,000 units, or 70 percent of the city’s rental stock, are protected by rent control.

However, there are significant limits to this protection. San Francisco’s rent stabilization does not have vacancy control, so when a tenant moves, rent can be increased immediately to whatever “the market will bear,” after which, rent increases are again limited to the rent stabilization formula. A statewide law passed in 1996, the Costa-Hawkins Act, made it illegal to apply rent control to condominium units. This means that once a rental unit is converted to a condominium, it is no longer subject to rent control, even if it is maintained as a rental. Every condo-converted housing unit is one rent-controlled unit that the city will never get back.

San Francisco is by far one of the country’s most unaffordable rental markets. The National Low Income Housing Coalition ranked the city as having the second most expensive rental housing market, behind only Honolulu. One would have to earn $34.52 an hour, roughly $70,000 annually, to afford the average two-bedroom fair market rent.  Further, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “sizzling” rents steeply inclined in the last year, with one firm estimating an average of $3,437, up 21 percent from a year ago. People are forced to live with overcrowding, in shabby conditions in unsafe neighborhoods, and pay a huge percentage of their salary for rent in exchange for living in this city.

At the same time, rates of evictions are on the rise. The San Francisco Rent Board’s annual report on evictions, released in March, shows that no-fault evictions increased by 26 percent this year, with a total of 1,680 evictions.  The highest increase was in “Ellis Act” evictions, which means the owner intends to take the unit off the market. 

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 1979, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a Condominium Conversion Ordinance with the intent of balancing the goals of preserving the city’s limited stock of rental housing and allowing the occupants of rental buildings to become condominium owners. Following amendments in 1984, any two-unit building could be converted to condominiums, but only 200 three- to six-unit buildings could be converted per year, chosen through a lottery system. While the intent was to help tenants become owners of their units, only a third of the units in each building must be occupied by the owners at the time of the conversion. Larger apartment buildings cannot be converted into condominiums, though they may still be bought by groups of tenants and investors with a joint mortgage.

A new market has developed of these type of owners (called a “tenancy-in-common” or TIC), who buy a rental building collectively, move in, and apply for the condominium conversion lottery. While it’s hard to verify the exact correlation between sales of TICs and the waves of tenant evictions, it’s clear that there is a steep monetary incentive for real estate speculators to clear out buildings and sell to a group of TIC buyers who have bought in to the expectation that within a few years they will be able to convert and sell at a steep profit.

Moreover, somewhere around 40 percent of the total rent-controlled stock in the city is in the two- to six-unit buildings that are vulnerable to being converted and thus losing their rent-controlled status. Since 2000, about 516 rental apartment buildings become condominiums each year, never again to be rented out under rent control as the result of the 200 conversions per year of three- to six-unit buildings restricted by the lottery, plus over 300 conversions per year of two-unit buildings.

A third proposed ordinance from the 1970s bears mentioning, because it would have had an enormous impact on the real estate speculation-fueled gentrification that was to come in the decades to follow. In 1977 tenant advocates developed an anti-speculation ordinance that would have mandated a graduated increase in the City’s transfer fees, taxing 80% of the profit of a resale made in less than a year, tapering down to zero for properties held for ten or more years. The ordinance was introduced by Harvey Milk and supported by Mayor Moscone. It was pending before a Board vote when Moscone and Milk were assassinated in November 1978. New Mayor Feinstein later got the Board to table the proposal.

Since the original rent control and condo conversion laws were enacted, there have been numerous attempts to modify them. Attempts by landlords to tamper with the condo conversion ordinance lost repeatedly on the ballot, each time by an almost two-thirds margin. These attacks are rightly seen by voters as a backhanded way at weakening the city’s rent control law, with the ultimate goal of eventually doing away with it.

Building Consensus

Affordable housing advocates were successful in convincing the city’s Board of Supervisors and Mayor Edwin Lee to hold this latest threat, the condo conversion bypass fee legislation, until after last year’s November ballot, as it otherwise threatened to undermine the success of the Housing Trust Fund proposition on the ballot, which passed. But it was on the agenda at the first hearing of the city’s board in January, and dozens of tenants and TIC owners spoke.

While it would be easy to make fun of the entitlement exhibited by some of the TIC owners at the hearing (one complained of the value he lost on his $1.5 million home, another complained of the difficulty of converting either her three-unit or her six-unit TIC, apparently indicating that she was a “tenant” in two different buildings), it became clear that TIC owners were facing some relative hardship as well. While in fact there were no foreclosures or defaults among the TIC owners (unlike many single-family homeowners in the city’s primarily people of color communities), the banking system had changed the rules of the game for TIC owners since the 2008 financial crisis.

The only financing available to most TIC owners had been three-, five-, and seven-year adjustable rate mortgages that needed to be refinanced within a few years. But after 2008, banks tightened their requirements, demanding higher credit scores and higher downpayments, which made refinancing much more difficult. These TIC owners wanted an exit strategy by being allowed to convert their properties to condos right away, thus making it easier to either refinance their loans or simply to cash in on the windfall of a condominium sale.

As they were questioned by one supervisor, however, it became apparent that many other supporters of the proposal at the hearing were not “real” TIC owners, but real estate lobbyists and property owners.  

Meanwhile, tenant activists had organized to stop the legislation, pulling together a broad coalition of tenant advocates, affordable housing advocates, community organizations from renter districts, environmentalists, labor organizations and advocates for low-income populations. The campaign was led by the broad spectrum of the city’s housing justice organizations, including the San Francisco Tenants’ Union, Housing Rights Committee, Chinatown Community Development Center, AIDS Housing Alliance, Affordable Housing Alliance, the Council of Community Housing Organizations, Tenderloin Housing Clinic, Tenants Together, Eviction Defense Collaborative, Senior and Disability Action, and Causa Justa :: Just Cause.

The activists sat down with allies on the board of supervisors to amend the original condo conversion bypass proposal after realizing that there would not be enough support to kill it outright. The goal was make it hard to vote against by those who claimed to want to meet the purported intent of the proposal, which was to allow the current pool of TIC owners “clogging up” the system to convert quicker and easier than the lottery would allow.

The amendments contain critical tenant protection safeguards to stop the bypass from resulting in a spike in evictions: while they leave the expedited process for those stuck in the pool wanting to convert in place, they requires a suspension of all future conversions after that for a minimum of 10 years.

Under the amendments, after the initial backlog of 2,400 units are allowed to become condominiums, all future conversions will be suspended for at least the next decade, creating a cooling off period in the speculator-fueled condo conversion market. A supervisor from a moderate district suggested that length of the suspension should be linked to the city’s performance in building new affordable housing units to replace the lost rent controlled units. Affordable housing and tenant advocates jumped on his amendment. Every unit converted must be replaced with a new affordable unit and until that number is reached, the suspension continues.  Also, the number must be above and beyond what is already anticipated by the city’s housing office.

When conversions are allowed to resume, they will be limited to four-unit buildings and smaller, and will require a majority of owner-occupancy tenants, emphasizing the idea that the conversions are really about creating pathways for tenants to become owners and not about real estate speculation.

The compromise was actually a hard pill to swallow for many housing and tenant advocates involved in the larger campaign. Campaign steering committee members bristled at the very idea of negotiating and worried that there would be no way to truly protect tenants from evictions and guard against spurring real estate speculation. This was also true of some of the progressive city supervisors. One announced at a press conference detailing the new legislation that he would vote against it if it were watered down by even a degree. 

The steering committee worked hard to assure the more moderate supervisors that the amendments would meet the needs of the constituents pushing for the original legislation. At the same time, they had to go back to their own base repeatedly to make the case that the new added tenant protections would help limit evictions. While eventually all partners agreed to support the compromise, anxiety persisted about whether the 10-year minimum and lifetime lease requirements would adequately protect against possible heightened market activity from real estate agents chomping at the bit to take advantage of the new ability to convert. There were also repeated discussions about whether to change course and revert back to a strategy to “kill” the legislation altogether, but political analysis consistently led to the conclusion that this was simply too risky. If we didn’t try to make it our own, it could be passed in its worst form and devastating to tenants. 

From day one, the new version of the bypass proposal was framed as a “compromise” by the tenants to build public perception that pushing conversions through more rapidly was a huge concession for tenants so that the robust tenant protections and anti-speculation component would viewed as a more than fair trade off from the other side.

Tenant advocates performed an incredible feat of jujitsu by turning the original proposed legislation against itself. Now, the amended version will strengthen protections for renters and curb speculative practices in the real estate industry.

After six months of wrangling, negotiations, reversals and hand-wringing, the amended proposal was approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by a veto-proof 8-3 vote, bringing even moderate supervisors on board, and demonstrating that (with a lot of hard work) a winning Center-Left majority can still be put together in San Francisco. Driving home the tenant advocates’ position that the intent of the original legislation was never actually meant to help the TIC owners, but instead to help the real estate lobby’s lucrative condo market, the two original sponsoring supervisors actually voted against the amended proposal, even though it did what they claimed to have to have wanted to do.

A New Wave

The passion and mobilization of housing advocates seen in this fight bodes well for a reinvigorated housing movement. The issue has the potential to spark a new renters’ revolt with motivated organization, strategy, and tenants at the center of the fight. With skyrocketing rents and ever-increasing evictions, this legislation has reignited a new wave of progressive tenant mobilization, like that seen in 1979 and again in 2000 at the height of the first dot-com boom. There’s increasing talk of new ballot initiatives to define the housing justice movement for the next decade.

Activists looking to the 2014 election season are sketching the rough outlines of a tenant platform, including requiring registration of “buyouts” under threat of Ellis evictions, which speculators use to clear out buildings; a parcel tax on buildings left vacant by landlords; a law giving existing tenants a right of first refusal; a six-month exclusive negotiating period when a building is put up for sale (similar to Washington D.C.’s TOPA law); and a steeply graduated tax on rental income to put a disincentive on rent increases after an eviction or buyout. Talk of a San Francisco Tenants Convention is in the air. It’s time to get organizing!


Fernando Martí is co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, a coalition of affordable housing and community economic development advocates in San Francisco. Sara Shortt is director of the Housing Rights Committee. Artwork by Melissa Klein. 

Housing and Planning quote of the week: The ideological mystique of planning…

9 09 2013

“Despite an ideological mystique which stresses a liberal point of view and selfless service to a broad public interest, planning practice actually is cautious and conservative. Most planners, I began to think, were ordinary bureaucrats seeking a secure career, some status, and regular increases in salary. They rarely took unpopular public positions since these might prejudice their chances to achieve these modest objectives. The average planner came out of a middle-class background and was not likely to be upset with social conditions or matter bearing on who-gets-what issues in society to the point where substantial, radical change would seem a legitimate objective. Many planners absorbed the values and philosophy of business which has helped their status, income, and security… The activities of traditional planning agencies may succeed in slightly altering the physical environment, but they are largely irrelevant to the needs of the people in cities such as Cleveland where the problems are largely economic, social, and political. As a profession planning has been too timid. This criticism is pointed less toward the rank-and-file staff of most agencies than at their directors. They are the individuals confronted with the challenge and opportunity to create an activist role for their organizations…”

~ Norman Krumholz, former Cleveland Planning Director, in “A Retrospective View of Equity Planning”

Equity Planning

CCHO Op Ed: Plan Bay Area better, but it still gentrifies

13 08 2013

San Francisco Bay Guardian, July 30, 2013

By Peter Cohen and Fernando Martí


OPINION On July 18, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) adopted the region’s first so-called “sustainable communities strategy,” as required under new state environmental laws. Plan Bay Area will direct the largest share of the region’s growth to the region’s urban cores — two-thirds of the region’s overall housing production is directed to 15 specific cities.

The vision is what environmentalists refer to as “smart growth” — shrinking the footprint of the region’s future development as a more environmentally friendly and geographically efficient pattern to absorb ever-increasing population. San Francisco alone has a very tall order: Our city will absorb 25 percent of new urban development, which equates to 92,000 new housing units and a pace of housing construction averaging around 3,100 units annually (a rate that has been reached only twice over the last 50 years since the era of 1960s urban renewal development).

The question that framed debates through the three-year process in drafting and finally adopting the plan is how that amount of new growth can be “done right;” that is, without gentrifying working class and poor communities and ensuring that infrastructure, including affordable housing and transit service, will keep up with that pace of growth. Tim Redmond’s feature article in the June 4 issue of the Guardian (“Planning for displacement”) and a June 12 forum sponsored by the Guardian, CCHO, and UrbanIDEA very thoroughly laid out the issues and critiques of the Plan Bay Area draft that was released by MTC/ABAG earlier this spring.

With such fundamental flaws when the draft plan was released in April, how did the July 18 adopted final Plan Bay Area fare? First, there is no question this regional “smart growth” plan will make combating gentrification at ground-level harder. But second, the plan could have been worse if not for a tremendous final pushback by progressive advocates from San Francisco and throughout the region loosely united in a “Six Wins for Social Equity” coalition and the committed leadership of a small core of progressive regional leaders — including two of San Francisco’s representatives, David Campos (MTC) and Eric Mar (ABAG) — who championed some final amendments.

Those “wins” (in reality, concessions by MTC/ABAG) achieved in this final push include: adding a public process to develop priorities for the Bay Area’s $3.1 billion share of state cap and trade funding, such as to affordable housing and local transit operations; strengthening the $14 billion transportation block-grant funds program (“OBAG”) to link it directly to local cities’ affordable housing production and displacement-prevention policies; and adding a requirement for MTC to develop a comprehensive strategy to prioritize funding of local transit service and transit maintenance.

Though the details of those amendments are fairly squishy and do not alter the development trajectory of the plan, they are potentially valuable handholds to work with going forward as Plan Bay Area gets implemented (and updated in four years).

That said, San Francisco’s front line working class neighborhoods and communities of color still stand to take the brunt of potential negative impacts from this regional “smart growth” plan. Theoretically they could receive the potential benefits of public infrastructure investments and stimulated economic activity. But while the risks are real, the potential benefits are still illusory.

We must become more engaged if we are to move Plan Bay Area beyond policy statements and promises of future “best-practices” to make sure vulnerable people are not displaced from their neighborhoods in the tide of infill real estate development and are guaranteed a real share of the fruits from “equitable” smart growth.

Plan Bay Area: “strategy will put tens of thousands of families and seniors of modest means at greater risk of displacement”

13 08 2013


Gen Fujioka, of CCHO member organization Chinatown Community Development Center, responds to Plan Bay Area. Full story here.


“…Many PDAs [Priority Development Areas] include existing mostly working class neighborhoods with high concentrations of renters. …the PDA strategy will put tens of thousands of families and seniors of modest means at greater risk of displacement, including most of the eastern third of San Francisco where a majority of lower income minority residents live and where many also work. Some of the locations considered to be the best targets for smart growth today are those urban neighborhoods with transit reliant communities that persevered through decades of disinvestment from middle class suburban flight.”

CEQA circus swirls to a close

28 07 2013

By Thomas K. Pendergast, July 24, 2013

Full story at SFBay, here.

Citizens appealing City decisions about any large building project now have a clear set of rules for filing the paperwork, thanks to a unanimous vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Fernando Marti of the Council of Community Housing Organizations… said as affordable housing developers, his organization has had threats of people appealing those projects, neighbors who don’t like an affordable housing development in their neighborhood, but generally his organization has been able to work with them to address those concerns:

“In fact it’s the up-front length of environmental review and uncertainty in figuring out what the direction is that’s been more problematic.”

He echoed Campos’ emphasis on keeping appeal decisions with the full board instead of a subcommittee:

 “In these kinds of things where there is a developer who has a lot of ‘juice’ in some ways, and where it’s very important for the city as a whole to have a successful outcome … being able to have that conversation with a very broad set of stakeholders … who can represent multiple points of view on the topic is very important. So to have it heard only at the Land Use Committee, where there are generally three voices, is very different from having it heard at the Board of Supervisors. … We think it creates a much more democratic avenue for discussions on the myriad impacts that those large developments have.”

Whose Future? A Forum on Plan Bay Area

24 07 2013

Whose Future? What Does The Regional “Plan Bay Area” Really Mean for San Francisco?

On June 12, 2013, CCHO and urbanIDEA co-sponsored a community forum with the San Francisco Bay Guardian, on the draft “Plan Bay Area.”   This plan is newly mandated by state law (SB 375) as a way to push more “smart growth” development patterns in the region.  There are, however, some challenges to getting it right: this recent issue of SFBG has its lead article on the topic, and frames the critique and needed re-thinking of Plan Bay Area.

San Francisco Communities of ConcernSan Francisco’s “Communities of Concern,” areas identified by ABAG and MTC as having a high percentage of minority and/or low-income residents. Source: MTC, February 1, 2012.

The forum was moderated by Tim Redmond (Bay Guardian), with panelists Gen Fujioka (Chinatown Community Development Center), Mike Casey (Unite HERE Local 2), Maria Zamudio (Causa Justa/Just Cause), Cindy Wu (Planning Commissioner), Bob Allen (Urban Habitat), Peter Cohen (Council of Community Housing Organizations), and Rachel Brahinsky (University of San Francisco).

This was the inaugural public event of urbanIDEA, an evolving independent think tank that was an outgrowth of CCHO’s work on the 2010 Community Congress. urbanIDEA is a progressive think tank focusing on multiple issues confronting municipal and regional governments. The initiative will incubate new ideas and approaches to urban and regional development from a left-progressive perspective bringing together researchers, professional practitioners and policymakers. urbanIDEA seeks to fill the gap as a forum linking progressive scholarship and theory-driven analysis with community-based organizations and grassroots movements in issues of land use, housing, economic development, and environmental justice to promote fundamental change in our political and economic systems.

 To event was recorded by the USF’s Leo T. McCarthy Center, and can be found here.

The event program can be found here: Whose Future – evetn program


In memory, Jazzie Collins!

24 07 2013

In memory: Jazzie Collins, a fearless, compassionate, inspiring, strong woman, a tireless fighter for affordable housing, for the senior, trans, and LGBT communities. Jazzie was a fighter who loved to laugh, who was irreverent and she spoke her mind, whether or not you wanted to hear it. CCHO staff had the privilege to work with Jazzie, first through MAC’s organizing work in SROs, and later through many campaigns for tenant’s rights and affordable housing. A memorial for Jazzie will be held Thursday, August 1, 2013, from 5-8 pm, at Mission High School.

Jazzie Prop C

Plan Bay Area: MTC/ABAG final hearing – this Thurs 7/18!

17 07 2013

     On Thursday evening, July 18, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) will hold a final public hearing on Plan Bay Area, the region’s thirty year plan for growth.   This plan would direct the largest share of the region’s growth to the region’s urban core—two-thirds of the region’s overall housing production is directed to 15 specific cities.   San Francisco alone has a very tall order: our city will absorb 25% of that urban development (and 16% of the total growth throughout the region), which equates to 92,000 new housing units and parking and transport for more than 190,000 new workers.   San Francisco’s population will be expected to grow from 850,000 in 2010 to over 1,080,000 in 2040.  The question is how that amount of new growth can be “done right.”

     Over the past several weeks, MTC/ABAG agencies’ staff and committees have issued proposed revisions to the draft plan and also responses to comments received for the Final Environmental Impact Report.   Despite objections and hundreds of comments from a broad constellation of equity advocates urging more significant changes particularly around issues of displacement-prevention, affordable housing funding, and local transit services funding, the final proposal being present to MTC/ABAG commissioners for approval this coming Thursday maintains the essential design and flaws of the original draft (see CCHO’s comment letter and Tim Redmond’s last Bay Guardian article).  The proposed Plan Bay Area continues to fail to identify resources to provide for either sufficient transit operations or the affordable housing to accommodate the rates of growth being assigned to communities.  And the plan’s characterization of its potential threat of resident displacement as a result of increased development pressure on so-called “Communities of Concern” in urban neighborhoods is weak, and in the EIR response is downright dismissive as simply a “localized” issue (Plan Bay Area_Displacement resp FEIR_3_1_Master_Responses).

     Perhaps the greatest concern of CCHO and our local and regional allies (many of whom are coordinated through the regional Six Wins for Equity coalition) is the plan’s Equity Analysis finding that the proposed Plan Bay Area growth scenario is projected to create the greatest risk of displacement for disadvantaged communities of any of the alternative approaches studied (including the ‘no project’ option)—the plan readily acknowledges that the potential for “community disruption” from resident displacement will increase by 71% (from an already-problematic 21% displacement potential increasing to 36% within Communities of Concern).  Despite this elevated risk of displacement and the exacerbated shortfall of affordable housing, MTC and ABAG have rejected or watered down concrete proposals to ease gentrification and displacement risks.   Instead, there has been an effort to gloss over those risks in Plan Bay Area.

     An alternative scenario was presented to the regional agencies—the “Equity, Environment and Jobs” (EEJ) alternative—that Plan Bay Area’s own analysis indicates would do a better job addressing climate change, increasing access to opportunity and lead to a more sustainable and healthy Bay Area for all of the region. The version of the plan that MTC/ABAG have instead stayed with and which is now being considered at this Thursday’s vote fails to include many of the core elements from the EEJ alternative.

     We suggest that SF advocates reinforce the Six Wins coalition’s ask to MTC/ABAG commissioners to direct staff to develop a clear and firm timeframe, including a commitment to engage community stakeholders, in developing priorities for the Bay Area’s share of cap and trade funding, strengthening the transportation block-grant funds program (“OBAG”) to link it more directly to affordable housing and displacement-prevention policies, and developing a regional youth bus program.

     San Francisco’s front line working class neighborhoods and communities of color stand to take the brunt of potential negative impacts from this regional “smart growth” plan, and at least theoretically they could be situated to receive the potential benefits of public infrastructure investments and stimulated economic activity.  But while the risks are real—we don’t need a plan to know that the struggle against gentrification in our neighborhoods and the plague of evictions is not just a theoretical possibility—the potential benefits are illusory.  It requires more than feel-good policy statements and promises of future “best-practices” to protect vulnerable people from being displaced out their neighborhoods in the tide of infill real estate development and to be guaranteed a real share of the fruits from “equitable” smart growth.      

To express your concerns in advance of Thursday’s MTC/ABAG hearing, contact our SF reps:

David Campos (MTC) (415) 554-5144David.Campos@sfgov.org

Scott Wiener (MTC) – (415) 554-6968, Scott.Wiener@sfgov.org

Eric Mar (ABAG) – (415) 554-7410, Eric.L.Mar@sfgov.org

Jane Kim (ABAG) – (415) 554-7970, Jane.Kim@sfgov.org


The 2nd Annual CCHO Party!

29 05 2013

Thank you all who came to our party this May! The grassroots support of the many “Friends of CCHO” makes our work possible. And congratulations to our CCHO Housing Award honorees this year, Sophie Maxwell and Lou Giraudo!


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Can the tech boom solve our housing crisis? No, but it can make it worse

28 05 2013

From the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Steve Jones: CCHO offers a dose of reality…


San Francisco Housing Action Coalition and San Francisco Magazine posed an intriguing question at a forum they sponsored last night in the W Hotel: “San Francisco’s Housing Crisis: Can the Tech Boom Help Us?” Unfortunately, it wasn’t a question they ever really addressed at an event of, by, and for developers and their most ardent supporters.

Instead, the event was mostly just pro-development boosterism supporting HAC’s goal of building 100,000 new homes in SF over the next 20 years, and the discussion seems to show that the tech boom will exacerbate the housing crisis without ever addressing it, particularly given the local tax breaks and subsidies Mayor Ed Lee keeps giving the industry.

“San Francisco must radically increase its anemic housing production,” HAC Executive Director Tim Colen said during the introduction.

The pro-development cheerleading was slightly offset by the dose of reality offered by panelist Peter Cohen of the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations, who noted that market rate developers aren’t building for today’s San Franciscans, 61 percent of whom make less than 120 percent of the Area Median Income.

“We don’t believe the market will ever touch the 120 and lower,” Cohen said, later offering, “How do we build for the kind of San Francisco we have now?”

San Francisco Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jon Steinberg, who moderated the panel, said this event grew out of an important and widely acclaimed story that David Talbot wrote for the magazine last fall, “How Much Tech Can One City Take?” that raised critical questions about the wisdom of the big bet that San Francisco has placed on an industry driven by speculative bubbles.

“We got more responses from readers than anything we published in our history,” Steinberg said of the article, before shamefully expressing second thoughts on publishing it. “I felt the writer had been a little hard on our friends in the tech industry.”

He introduced UC Berkeley Economics Professor Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book “The New Geography of Jobs” argues for reducing regulations that hinder housing production in cities, by saying that if he’d read it before publishing Talbot’s excellent article, “I think it would have had a little different tenor.”

Yet Moretti’s presentation was an overly simplistic Economics 101 argument that housing prices go up when demand is strong and supply is weak. “It doesn’t take a degree in economics to know those workers will bid up the price of housing,” Moretti said after noting San Francisco added 21,500 job but just 2,548 new housing units last year.

That’s the basic line we hear a lot these days, that only a massive housing construction boom will keep housing prices down and prevent mass displacement. “The only answer is to radically increase the supply,” said SPUR Executive Director Gabriel Metcalf, noting that means tossing out many of the city’s historic preservation and height and density restrictions. “All we have to do is get out of the way and allow housing to increase to make it normal again.”

Metcalf confidently predicted that housing prices and rents would drop if the city pursued that kind of unfettered housing boom, offering to buy Cohen a beer if he was wrong. Yet even Moretti’s research shows that Metcalf would probably lose that bet.

Moretti compared San Francisco to Seattle, which is also experiencing a comparable high-tech job boom that exacerbated a housing supply shortage, which Seattle responded to by following the prescription of HAC and building thousands of new condos in the downtown core.

The result was that rents in Seattle have increased 31 percent less than San Francisco’s, which he called significant, despite the fact that rents are still on the rise there even with a massive influx of new people and condos and all the infrastructure challenges that presents (it’s widely accepted that new development in San Francisco doesn’t pay for the full cost of infrastructure needed to serve it, which is a huge issue in the transportation sector alone).

Nobody had a good answer to Cohen’s point that building tons of market rate housing won’t actually do much to prevent the displacement of a majority of current city residents. As he put it, “What’s missing is who is that housing for, who is it actually serving?”

Metcalf welcomes the wholesale transformation of San Francisco – “It will be a change, a total change, and guess what? That could be great.” – but even he argues for the importance of policies that protect those on the bottom half of the economic scale, from rent control to more government-subsidized affordable housing production.

As Metcalf, one of the biggest market rate development cheerleaders in city, said, “If it were not for rent control, I would have been forced out of the city by now.”

Supervisors’ Proposal Escalates Renter-Owner Tensions

30 01 2013



20130128_CondoConversionRallyAndHearingSF_OperationLIfeboat388QueenStW_Smooke_Joseph_-15-590x392Leaders from Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC) and Community Tenants Association (CTA)

“It’s shameful that this ordinance pits San Franciscans against each other when they are all saying that they want to stay here,” said a Community Organizer for Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), Hatty Lee. The City Controller estimates that close to 1,900 units would convert from apartments to condos under this one-time bypass, roughly equivalent to 10 years of annual conversions through the lottery process. The proposed increase of allowable condo conversions would result in an accelerated loss of rent controlled units.

HRSFs Director Sara Shortt said the proposed legislation creates an “incentive for more evictions in the City.” When units are converted into condos they are worth roughly 15 percent more according to the City Controller. If they are sold empty, they are worth even more. “There’s hundreds of thousands of dollars to be made from selling a condo after it was previously a TIC. It raises the property value tremendously. No one can tell me that isn’t part of the incentive in wanting to change this law,” Shortt said.

While many renters empathized with the concerns of TIC owners, they criticized the legislation for targeting them and not the banks. “If you are serious about helping TIC owners who are facing financial or mortgage issues, you would address those directly through those owners and the banks,” said Co-Director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO), Fernando Marti. Because the proposed legislation attempts to address the financial hardships of TIC owners by effectively reducing available rental units without any replacement, this ordinance could not help but pit residents against each other.

Supervisor Jane Kim said in her closing remarks, “TIC home ownership is absolutely something we do not want our City to encourage. One thing we can not get enough of is rent control units. That is a depleting stock.” Kim proposed that the legislation could be amended to have a ban on the sale of the units for 5 or 10 years after conversion to ensure that any TIC converted would be lived in by the owner and not flipped for a profit.


Stop the Attack on Rent Control!

25 01 2013

Please join Housing Rights Committee of SF, the San Francisco Tenants Union, CCHO, and many others this Monday, January 28 to fight off legislation which is an assault on rent control and which will increase evictions of tenants for condominiums. Join us for a rally at Noon on the City Hall steps (Civic Center side) and them come to the hearing at 1 PM.

wewontgoySups. Wiener and Farrell have introduced legislation which will repeal rent control from thousands  of landlord-occupied apartment buildings. Their plan will let these buildings become condominiums automatically, bypassing the condo conversions lottery and tenant protections in the city’s condo conversion law. Under state law, condominiums are exempt from rent control. The legislation is a huge gift to property owners: they will be able to rent out non rent controlled apartments and the condominium form of ownership will increase the value of their property by well over 20%. This gift to landlords comes at a time when tenants are facing record high rents–and landlords are getting record profits and seeing the value of their buildings soar.

At its general membership meeting the Council of Community Housing Organizations unanimously reaffirmed its opposition to amending the Subdivision Code allowing for any expansion of condo conversions of existing TIC units.  The CCHO membership has three reasons for its opposition.

  • First, there is no justification for further increasing condominium conversions as there are well in excess of 500 conversions on average a year currently (not just 200 annual conversions as stated in the media).
  • Second, as the primary developers of permanently affordable housing in San Francisco, CCHO organizations reject the assertion that a “lottery bypass fee” charged for condo conversions would be either desirable or an effective source of funds for affordable housing development.
  • Third, condominium conversions do not address the City’s General Plan Housing Element needs for housing production at all levels of household affordability; the proposal is instead extremely divisive and would simply pit one set of San Franciscans against another without increasing affordable housing opportunities for all.

No Need for More Condominium Conversions

Proponents of the lottery bypass ordinance argue that the nearly 30 year old annual limit on condo conversions is too strict and needs to be raised.  But the facts tell a different story about the volume of conversions.  According to the City Planning Department’s annual “Housing Inventory” report, 5,956 condo conversions were allowed between 2001 and 2011, or an average of 541 condominium conversions a year already under the City’s current system.  Moreover, this is a dramatic increase in the number that occurred in the previous decade of 1990-2000, during which a total of 2,863 condominium conversions occurred.  In other words there has already been a 100% increase in the number of allowable condo conversions over the last two decades. Given these trends, there is no justification for further increasing the number of annual condominium conversions, especially when the City is only able to facilitate construction of perhaps 200-300 units of new affordable housing annually that might arguably “offset” the loss of these converted units. Only if and when the actual production of new affordable housing units was to catch up to replace the loss of existing rent-controlled units (in the past and in the ongoing yearly conversions), could one imagine that this discussion should be re-opened.

Proposal Actually Undercuts Affordable Housing Funding

Sponsors of the condo conversion lottery bypass ordinance have claimed that as much as “$25 million” could be raised for “affordable housing” if the legislation was passed.  Yet, the actual details of the proposal undercut that assertion as the realistic fees are nominal.  Indeed, the passage of the legislation could well reduce overall support and funding of affordable housing.

First, the conversion fee is set at an outlandishly low $20,000 a unit.  By contrast, new condo construction affordable housing “in-lieu” fees are set based upon the actual cost of making a unit affordable to a moderate income household. By creating such an astoundingly low “affordable housing fee” the TIC condo conversion legislation essentially proposes competition with the existing affordable housing in-lieu fee, with the potential of actually creating a cheaper way for developers to do condominium production through conversions than the current emphasis on new construction. It is unclear what public policy is achieved with this requirement—which is in effect a city subsidy for losing condo lottery entrants.  Clearly, little funds would be actually created.  Worse, the legislation sets a fee at a level that takes no account of the actual loss of the previously affordable rental stock that the conversion represents and makes no real attempt to replace that loss.

Condo Conversion Does Not Meet General Plan Housing Element Production Needs, and Divisively Pits San Franciscan Against San Franciscan

For nearly 30 years a limit on condo conversions of existing rental apartments has been in place in San Francisco.  It ensures that the City’s loss of rental housing is at least paced so as to allow development of new affordable rental housing a reasonable attempt to keep up.  Proposals to change that policy by real estate interests were defeated at the ballot and at the Board of Supervisors. The proposed legislation to allow TICs to be transformed to condos simply ignores the City’s General Plan Housing Element policies and is inconsistent with them.  The major emphasis of the 2009 Housing Element has been to address the City’s housing affordability challenge.  An important part of meeting that challenge is the preservation of the “affordability of the existing housing stock.”  Throughout the Housing Element emphasis is placed on preserving rental housing opportunities as a key strategy in meeting the City’s ongoing affordability challenge.  And while the Housing Element does recognize condominiums as a housing opportunity type in San Francisco it places emphasis on limited equity ownership as the best way to preserve affordability if rental homes are allowed to be converted to ownership. The ordinance sponsors claim that “This is creating an opportunity to assist TIC owners who are in dire financial straits, to help them keep their homes…”.  But this narrow objective for a small group of owners fails to recognize that all Tenancies-in-Common were once the homes of tenants in those buildings, displaced to create the TIC in the first place with nothing being done to “help keep” those existing residents in their homes.  This is the fundamental flaw in an approach to “homeownership opportunities” that simply replaces one set of San Franciscans’ housing (existing renters) for another set of San Franciscans (TIC buyers) while not increasing the City’s housing supply by a single unit. And if the proposed legislation was indeed focused on assisting TIC homeowners, it could have provided disincentives toward speculation by for example prohibiting any receivers of the condo lottery bypass from re-selling within a minimum number of years after conversion to a condominium. Current policy regarding condo conversions is being applied very rationally to TIC owners, allowing them to eventually convert years after the actual TIC formation, and thus ensures a patient pace in this process of converting rental housing stock (even though the pace of new affordable housing production has yet to catch up to this loss).  This condo conversion lottery bypass proposal undermines the city’s production goals by cannibalizing one kind of housing (rent controlled affordable housing) for another, rather than incentivizing production of new housing.

Towards Economic Inclusion!

31 12 2012

As we look back on 2012, our accomplishments and challenges, we’d like to share with you a new publication on San Francisco affordable housing policy, 35 years of history of a movement towards economic inclusion, to which CCHO has been central. Thanks to the Poverty & Race Research Council and the National Housing Law Project. Happy New Year!

PDF here: SanFranAffHsing

From Urban Renewal and Displacement to Economic Inclusion: San Francisco Affordable Housing Policy 1978-2012, by Marcia Rosen and Wendy Sullivan (November 2012)



2012 CCHO Retreat

19 12 2012

Working out our action-packed agenda for the coming year, with 45 staff and tenants from CCHO member organizations! 12.12.12



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Affordable Housing Day – or Giants Day???

11 12 2012

Competing with Giants Day, San Francisco housing director Olson Lee presents CCHO staff and TNDC’s Mara Blitzer with a Certificate of Honor commending us for San Francisco’s first Affordable Housing Day!

Prop C Press Release – first funding announced!

10 12 2012


Investment Result of Voter-Approved Housing Trust Fund, Proposition C

San Francisco, CA—Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced the first funding commitments for affordable housing and down payment assistance funded through the Housing Trust Fund, passed by San Francisco voters in November. The Housing Trust Fund provides a permanent source of revenue to fund the creation of affordable housing for low and middle income households for the next 30 years.

“A growing and vibrant economy requires a diverse supply of new housing,” said Mayor Lee. “San Francisco voters know that creating a permanent source of revenue to fund housing production will allow San Francisco to remain a viable place to live and work for people at all levels of the economic spectrum. And, a down payment assistance program will help keep families in our City and support a diverse workforce.”

The first affordable housing project funded from the Housing Trust Fund is the long-stalled 55 Laguna Senior Housing project located on the former University of California Berkeley Extension campus in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. The project is funded by the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH) at $6.1 million and is a joint-venture of Mercy Housing California and Openhouse. It will create 110 units of affordable housing for low income seniors. The project has been on hold for eight years due to the downturn in the economy and a lack of local resources.

“We are very excited that the City has been able to commit the funding to this important project to allow us to move toward start of construction in the summer,” said Mercy Housing California President Douglas Shoemaker. “It’s an honor to be the first affordable housing project funded with revenue from the Housing Trust Fund.”

This announcement comes on the heels of a number of important affordable housing milestones, including:

  • Soon to be completed Kelly Cullen Community – 172 new SRO units of housing for the formerly homeless in the historic Central YMCA building at 220 Golden Gate Avenue, that will also house a new Integrated Health and Homeless Clinic run by the Department of Public Health;
  • Soon to be completed Veterans Commons at 150 Otis – 76 new SRO units in a historic City-landmarked building that will serve homeless U.S. veterans with support services including case management, mental health counseling, drug dependency, and employment programs will be provided by the City’s Human Services Agency, the Veterans Administration, and Swords to Plowshares; and
  • Bond closing for Candlestick Heights – located in the Bayview, Candlestick Heights, the project will provide 196 units of affordable housing, constructed entirely without City subsidy.

Additionally, Mayor Lee announced an increase to assistance limits under the City’s Downpayment Assistance Loan Program (DALP). DALP provides financial assistance to qualifying first-time homebuyers through deferred payment loans that are repaid to the City. Earlier this year, the maximum amount of the loan was reduced to $70,000 per household due to lack of funding. With the passage of Proposition C, the limits have been returned to their original levels of $100,000 per household.

The Housing Trust Fund begins with a general fund revenue capture in year one of $20 million and increase to $50 million over time. It is estimated that $1.5 billion will be invested in affordable housing production and housing programs over the next 30 years. The Housing Trust Fund will:

  • Develop more than 9,000 units of permanently affordable housing for residents whose average median income (AMI) is 60 percent or below;
  • Create incentives for onsite below market rate housing and make housing more accessible for moderate income families;
  • Invest at least $15 million over the first five years to expand the City’s down payment assistance program (DALP) which provides interest-free loans to moderate income homebuyers who are looking to purchase their first home in San Francisco. DALP will also include a new program to assist the City’s first responders in the purchase of a home in San Francisco;
  • Create a Housing Stabilization Program to help distressed low and moderate income residents remain in their homes; and
  • Create a Complete Neighborhoods Infrastructure Grant program to fund public realm improvements such as “pocket” parks and child care facilities for growing neighborhoods.

The Housing Trust Fund will capture revenue from former Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Tax Increment, a small portion of Hotel Tax that has been appropriated yearly for affordable housing, plus an additional $13 million in new General Fund revenue from an increase in business license fees. The consensus business tax reform measure, Proposition E, which also passed on the November ballot, will generate $28.5 million in the first year – $13 million of which will go to fund affordable and workforce housing.


Text message art to highlight SF housing issues

7 12 2012

From Bay City News, full article HERE

“I’m worried about how the community’s fabric of San Francisco is changing, and wanting to do more than just voice concerns about it,” [Anthony Williams] said. “I want to get people really thinking of what type of community they want to live in.”

“I wish San Francisco ___”

6 12 2012



Join us this Friday!

Get connected, get smart and start up a sustainable community!

“Text-A-City: Start Ups for Sustainable Communities” is a night of interactive art and lively conversation designed to raise awareness about affordable housing solutions in San Francisco.

The interactive art will invite the public to send text messages expressing their wishes for sustainable living to be projected onto the outdoor wall of A Temporary Offering (ATO) at Market and & 7th Streets in San Francisco’s MidMarket neighborhood. Featured artist: Paul Notzold, TXTual Healing.

Inside ATO, short panel discussions on a variety of affordable housing opportunities and innovations will promote entrepreneurship, advocacy and community-building in regard to providing affordable housing for all people in our diverse and vibrant city. Topics will include urban sustainability, mixed-income housing and collective entrepreneurship. Moderator: Kevin O’Malley, Tech Talk / Studio, and the Business and Leadership Forum of the Commonwealth Club. Panelists (list in formation): Peter Cohen, San Francisco, Council of Community Housing Organizations; Carla Mays, Social Innovators and Investors Resource; Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, Public Advocates; Tracy Parent, San Francisco Community Land Trust. Invited Participants: Jenna Sampson, Twitter; Oscar Grande, PODER; Majora Carter, Majora Carter Group; Raines Cohen, Co-Housing California; Dan Murphy, Urban Green DevCo; David Baker Architects; SPUR.

“Text-A-City” happens December 7th, from 7:00 to 10:00 pm at A Temporary Offering, 1106 Market Street @ 7th Street in San Francisco.

This is a flash mob benefit for the San Francisco Council on Community Housing Organizations. Donations are sliding scale $5 to $15, with no one turned away for lack of funds.

Live music + cash bar + popup food on hand!

RSVP @ http://text-a-city.eventbrite.com.

This event is presented by swap/meet in association with artists Anthony Julius Williams and Dan Bouthot.