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Here Are the Hard Numbers Behind the Eviction Epidemic in San Francisco

March 7, 2016

by Keith Spencer : thebolditalic – excerpt

You hear about evictions and displacement all the time in San Francisco. In fact, it’s one of the most dominant international news stories about our foggy city: the real estate “explosion,” the housing crisis, the Googlization of San Francisco—or whatever you want to call it.

As the real estate and rental markets continue to go crazy, San Francisco has been undergoing huge demographic shifts. Right now it’s in the middle of a great whitening, and I’m not talking about cosmetic dentistry. Our city is the “only Bay Area county where ethnic and racial diversity will actually decrease,” according to a USC study. Likewise, we seem to have hit a new normal of permanently rising rental and home prices, to the effect that the median single-family home price is now way more than one million.

So that leads to another question: are more people getting displaced and evicted now than ever before, or—given that we’ve been in a bullish real estate market for decades—is it about the same? It’s true that evictions often occur for non-scummy-landlord reasons; sometimes renters just trash a place or turn it into a meth lab.

I looked at how evictions varied over the past 15 years in San Francisco to gain some insight into what’s really going on. Here are the takeaways…

1. Over 8,500 tenants received eviction notices during the past five years...

2. To break it down more, eviction notices went up by 50%, from 1,400 in fiscal year 2010–2011 to 2,100 in 2014–2015…

3. Eviction notices go up and down with the housing market…

4. Evictions due to “breach of lease” rose the fastest from 2012 to 2015…

5. Ellis Act evictions went way down for a few months when landlords were threatened by communities organizing against evictions…

hough it wasn’t the law’s original intent, the Ellis Act is a state statute that has been wrangled by landowners to mean “we can evict everyone in the building unconditionally and then renovate and rent it to new people for more money.” Interestingly, when the Ellis Act was drafted, its intent was actually to stop unscrupulous landlords from wronging evicted tenants by providing compensation to low-income tenants who were evicted when landlords went under. Now, with the Ellis Act, they have to change what the function of the building is in order to evict—even if that change is superficial, such as changing it from rental apartments to condos.

Ellis Act evictions shot up between June 2011 and February 2014, from 50 a month to over 400. What happened in February 2014? That was when community organizers and activists started blowing the whistle, putting pressure on city council to do something. Then Proposition G, a proposed tax on speculation, went on the ballot, and landlords and big developers got scared.

Hence, Ellis Act evictions plummeted to February 2011 levels, in the sub-50 range, and remained there until—and here’s the kicker—immediately after the November 2014 election, when Proposition G was defeated. They’ve been rising steadily since; by April 2015, they’d peaked at 250 again.

The moral here? Activism and community organizing work. Obviously, it helps to win at the ballot box, but in the short term, simply the fear of tenants fighting back was enough to scare landlords away from using the Ellis Act to flip rentals… (more)

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 7, 2016 3:09 am

    I am not surprised at the numbers. It is amazing at how much SF has changed.


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