Commentary – Housing Rights Committee

West Side Tenants at Risk

Even though construction cranes might not be visible around the Richmond and Sunset

districts, that doesn’t mean that our foggy neighborhoods are safe from

property speculation.


San Francisco’s rents are the highest in the nation, leading many landlords to

become speculators, anxious to use their properties for greater profits

from high market prices.


Speculation typically involves evicting long-term tenants to get

higher paying tenants, or evicting in order to develop the property and gain more

profits that way. This profiteering has destabilized neighborhoods across

San Francisco, displacing seniors, families and immigrants.


The largest housing development in the City is gearing up to

start construction in its far southwestern corner. Parkmerced, next to

SF State University, involves removing and replacing 1,538 rent-controlled units within

Parkmerced. An additional 5,679 units will be added to the site over the

next three decades, for a project total of 8,900 units (up from today’s 3,200 unit



Under California’s Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, rent control cannot be applied

to these newly-constructed units, although the developer has agreed to “replace”

all of the rent-controlled units they will be demolishing with price controls

that match the current rent controlled units. After the project is completed, however,

Parkmerced will be transformed from a 100-percent rent-controlled community to being

a two-tiered housing neighborhood.


This speculation-driven development has already sparked a crisis.

If you walk through the areas that are scheduled to be demolished in

Parkmerced’s phase-one construction plan, you can see 40

percent of the units are vacant.”

Per the Costa-Hawkins Act, these vacant units can be re-rented at market rates, which

currently range from $2,575 to $5,475, depending on the unit. This means tenants

with middle or low incomes will be replaced by tenants with much higher incomes.


The gentrification triggered by the Parkmerced project is inevitable. More low-income

families, students and artists will be forced out of the neighborhood they

call home to make way for higher paying tenants so the developer can justify the

hundreds of millions of dollars in financing they will need to secure in order to fund the

new development. Parkmerced is a unique development scenario, but, unfortunately,

evictions due to speculation are common.


Tenants across the west side are experiencing a variety of displacement

threats, including harassment, illegal evictions, owner-move-ins (OMI) and

Ellis Acts (when a landlord “goes out of the rental business” and evicts tenants to

sell them as tenancies-in-common (TICs).


Many local tenants who come to the Housing Rights Committee for counseling

have received bogus eviction notices, with the cause for eviction being that tenants don’t

pay enough rent. These tenants live in rent-controlled units, which means the

rent ordinance limits annual rent increases, but many tenants feel intimidated by

notices like these and start to look for another place to live.  Of course, moving out of a

rent controlled apartment most of the time means moving out of San Francisco.


If you’re a tenant and have questions, come to the Housing Rights Committee for

free tenant counseling at 4301 Geary Blvd., 9 a.m. to noon, on Mondays, Wednesdays,

Thursdays and Fridays.


To learn more about real estate speculation, how it impacts tenants and

what an individual can do to get involved, attend the Richmond/Sunset Tenant

Convention, which will be held on May 18, from 6 to 8:30 p.m.,

at the Richmond Recreation Center (251 18th Ave.).

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