letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Commentary Misleading About Prop. M

Editor:

I just read the December 2022 issue of the Richmond Reviewand was interested in the commentary by Julie Pitta about the Nov. 8 election, particularly her words about Proposition M, the (not so) Empty Homes Tax. 

It is very misleading to state that the purpose of the measure is to tax corporate owners, when it includes any building over two units.  The measure can be changed by a 2/3 vote of the Board of Supervisors. And, as several other publications and organizations suggested a “no” vote because the measure excludes single-family and duplex homes, we can logically expect that the measure will soon cover these homes as well; a presenter at one of the discussions of the measure stated as much. In addition, the measure clearly states that family members of the owner and previous owner living in a building are NOT considered to be legitimate tenants. 

Small property owners may keep units vacant so that family members, out-of-town guests, and health aides, for example, can have a place to stay.  They keep the units vacant for future needs because the so-called tenant protections make it nearly impossible and always very expensive to remove a tenant when the owner needs the unit. 

The tax will not provide more rentals, but will force some owners to sell properties to developers who will create TICs. One very compelling example is a retired woman who owns a 300-square-foot condominium in San Francisco and a similarly sized condominium in Boston.  She divides her time between the two in order to be near family on both coasts.  She will be subject to the tax if she cannot prove that she spends 183 days each year in San Francisco. In my own case, my son lived in one of the apartments in our four-unit building first with roommates, later with his wife and child and paid rent for the unit.  He would not be considered a “real” tenant and would be subject to the exorbitant tax.

It seems that a columnist with the journalistic background Ms. Pitta claims would have the professional integrity to at least read the legislation and base her comments on the truth rather than shilling for Supervisor Preston, who has led his co-Regressives on the Board of Supervisors in blocking hundreds of units on vacant lots. 

Noni Richen, President. SPOSF/SPOSFI

www.smallprop.org

4 replies »

  1. Ms. Richen is absolutely right on all points. This measure M was classic over-reach by the out of control 12% approval rating BOS faction of Dean Preston, et. al.

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  2. Thanks Noni, we were also dismayed by the misinformation in Julie Pitta’s post!
    There are many of us small property owners in SF , and many of us with family members in adjacent apartments. Our own small fourplex was built as a single family home and was cut up into small apartments during the Great Depression. Already the city has made it impossible to reconstruct our building into the home it once was, and now Preston has singled out “relatives of owners “ as some sort of illegitimate residential use?!?

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  3. Thank you for the above letter, which addresses the misconception that the purpose of vacancy tax is to tax corporate owners. For the sake of total accuracy, a minor correction to your letter (as you maybe misunderstood me when we talked): I am that retired woman who owns a 350 sq ft microcondo in Boston (my primary residence), and a 300 sq ft second microcondo in San Francisco, but the reason is not to be close to the family. I am single, quite solitary, and do not have close family. I had worked in multiple places per year for many years, including in San Francisco, so Boston and San Francisco are anchors in my travels (which travels I continue as a retiree, since that has been my way of life for a few decades). In any case, my tiny condos have been for my private use, for the solitary, traveling way of life that is meaningful to me – I am most certainly not a corporate owner. I am subject to the new vacancy tax because I have no way of using my San Francisco condo in the ways dictated by Prop M to a small property owner who wants to avoid the exorbitant tax. Since my total annual San Francisco real estate tax, including vacancy tax, would reach almost 5% of my condo’s value in 2026, I will be forced to sell my San Francisco condo.

    Again, thank you very much for your ongoing fair representation of small property owners’ modest interests in this city.

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    • This policy of disallowing family to inhabit units of a 2 of 4 flex building makes absolutely no sense. It provides housing to someone who needs it. Isn’t this the point, to provide housing? And so what if someone wants a small pied a terre, like the lady who now has to sell her micro-condo? Why is the State insisting on intruding into private ownership?
      Perhaps if SF did not have such biased and overreaching tenants rights policies so that tenants who are living hell deadbeats cannot be evicted, maybe SF would have more rental stock on the market.

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