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
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.
Currently, 40 percent of the units at Parkmerced 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.).