Tenant News and Events

October 2013

EVENTS



Also Check BeyondChron.com For Excellent Tenant & Housing News Coverage

 

NEWS

Hassle Free Housing Hits A Roadblock As Sups. Wiener & Cohen Vote To Support Harassment of Tenants and Get Legislation Indefinitely Tabled

The campaign by Causa Justa::Just Cause and the SF Tenants Union to put a damper on harassment of tenants by landlords was surprisingly delayed at the Land Use Committee on December 3 when Sups. Wiener & Cohen outvoted Sup. Eric Mar and got the legislation delayed indefinitely. Wiener and Cohen were unmoved by dozens of renters telling their horror stories of bullying and intimidation by landlords looking to drive out seniors and others with affordable rents so they can raise the rents to today's outrageous levels. Cohen made the motion to continue it indefinitely and she rejected an attempy by Mar to get it voted on again at the next meeting. At best, the legislation will be voted on by the new, landlord-friendly Board which takes office in January, 2013.

The ordinance would apply to landlords, banks, real estate speculators and real estate agents and enables the Rent Board to investigate and hold hearings on Harassment as a wrongful eviction attempt. It builds upon Prop. M, approved by the voters in 2008. Prop M defined and prohibited tenant harassment and gave tenants two remedies of recourse. The main remedy it gave tenants — requesting a rent decrease at the Rent Board — was struck down by the state Court of Appeals in 2009 after heavy lobbying by landlord and real estate groups.

Contact Sups. Wiener and Cohen. Tell them to stop supporting tenant harassment!

District 8 (Castro and Noe Valley)
Sup. Scott Wiener
(415) 554-6968 - voice
(415) 554-6909 - fax
Scott.Wiener@sfgov.org

District 10 (Bayview and Potrero Hill)
Sup. Malia Cohen
(415) 554-7670 - voice
(415) 554-7674 - fax
Malia.Cohen@sfgov.org

 

Just Say No to Tasers

 

Starting next Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. at the Hamilton Recreation Center, 1900 Geary (at Steiner) Greg Suhr, San Francisco chief of police will be holding a series of three (3) community meetings to hear public comment on whether San Francisco Police should carry TASERS.

 

Other dates are February 4th and February 11th cf below for details.

 

Here's the link to their website and announcements

 

http://sf-police.org/index.aspx?page=2572

 

Please spread the word and come and give public testimony on this important public issue.


Tenant Hero Miguel Wooding Dies in Accident

Parkmerced Referendum Signatures Fall Short

City Attorney Settles Lawsuit Against Citi Apartments

Over 50 Tenants Protest Evil Landlord

Court of Appeals Throws Out Much of Prop M, the 2008 Anti-Harassment Measure

OMI Evictions of Children During School Year Passes & Becomes Law

Just Cause Eviction Protections Extended To All Buildings Facing Foreclosure

Supervisors Approve Renters Economic Relief Package But Newsom Vetoes All 3 Measures

Court Upholds Prop M

CitiApartments Losing Buildings To Foreclosure, Selling Others At A Loss

Tenants Union, City Attorney File Lawsuit Against US Post Office

Just Cause Eviction Laws Upheld

Rent Board Adopts Regulations Easing PG & E Passthroughs

Supervisors Defeat Water Rates Rent Hike


NEWS & LEGISLATION

 

Tenant Hero Miguel Wooding Dies In Tragic Accident

Miguel Wooding, a longtime Tenants Union leader & volunteer and the founder and Director of the Eviction Defense Collaborative passed away Sunday, July 24, in a snorkeling accident while vacationing in Mexico. He was 46.

Miguel began volunteering at the Tenants Union in 1991 and soon became a core volunteer active in all aspects of the organization. Besides counseling tenants, Miguel oversaw the transformation of the Tenants Rights Handbook into a "real" book, making it double the size and oversaw the annual updates and rewrites until he became Director of the EDC. And beyond that he was crucial in every legislative effort by the Tenants Union in the past 20 years, helping draft every ballot measure and then organizing tenants to collect signatures and walk the streets with literature. (just a few weeks ago Miguel was out there collecting signatures for the Parkmerced referendum). And beyond that he was a founding member of Homes Not Jails, the squatting group, and an HNJ leader throughout the 90s (he was our 2nd story man--if you could only get into a vacant building via an upper floor, we sent Miguel up) and was arrested dozens of times fighting to get housing for people who were homeless. Those are just some highlights: Miguel did everything from finances to data entry to office work and on and on.

But his real achievement was founding the Eviction Defense Collaborative, which helps tenants fight evictions when the evictions go to court.In 1995, Tenderloin Housing Clinic was the agency responsible for helping tenants fight their evictions in court, a very specialized service which no other tenant counseling group was able to do. Due to funding, THC had to stop this service and tenant attorneys, the BAR Association and the Tenants Union—lead by Miguel–began operating a patchwork system. Under Miguel's leadership the SFTU began providing this service 2 days a week using our volunteers. Not satisfied with that patchwork system Miguel pulled together donations and volunteers and formed the Eviction Defense Collaborative in 1996. He turned the EDC from its tiny start to an agency with 14 staff, dozens of volunteers and a budget of about $500,000.

These are just some highlights of what he's done...he has saved the homes of thousands of people, found homes for hundreds of people living on the streets and the rent you're paying today would be much more if it weren't for Miguel. He is missed here and all over the city.

Parkmerced Referendum Signatures Fall Short: 13,000 Valid But 14,000 Needed

Collecting 14,000 valid signatures in 3 weeks was known to be a challenge when the SFTU, Affordable Housing Alliance & Tenants Together set out to pet the demolition of 1,500 rent controlled apartments at Parkmerced on the ballot. But letting these demolitions happen without a challenge was unthinkable. Unfortunately, the valiant efforts of many fell short. On July 29, the Department of Elections finished validating signatures and found that just 13,000 were valid which was over a thousand short of the needed number. The remaining challenge to Parkmerced is the lawsuit challenging the environmental impact statement, which the attorneys involved are optimistic about so not all may be lost.

 

City Attorney Gets $2-10 Million From Citi Apartments Plus Order That They Stop Harassing Tenants

The City Attorney's comprehensive lawsuit against Citi Apartments and Citi Apartments' business model of trying to force tenants out through harassment, intimidation and buyouts has settled with an agreement that Citi Apartments pays the City $2 million plus up to another $8 million (San Francisco will get paid every time Citi Apartments sells a building. The order also contains injunctive relief and orders Citi Apartments to stop harassing tenants via a range of methods it commonly used. The Superior Court Judge and the City Attorney will monitor the injunctive relief and any violations will mean Citi Apartments is in contempt of court.

Though Citi APartments will always need watching and has risen from near dead before, this settlement essentially is an end chapter in that landlord's latest saga. Fueled with Wall Street money under what's come to be called a predatory equity scheme, Citi Apartments embarked on huge buying spree of apartment buildings from about 2005 into 2008. Investors bought into a business model in which Citi Apartments said it would be able to drive out 80% of the rent controlled tenants in the buildings it bought and replace them with new tenants paying much higher rents. Tenants fought back, though, and formed the CitiSTOP coalition and while Citi APartments was able to drive out many tenants, many tenants resisted their tactics. City Attorney Dennis Herrera stepped in, too and filed a comprehensive lawsuit against Citi Apartments, which helped put a brake on their tactics (especially the over-the-top ones, like sending armed men in swat-type uniforms to tenants doors). In 2009, the tenant resistance, the City's lawsuit and the drying up of Wall St. money brought Citi APartments to its knees and they lost to foreclosure nearly every building they had bought and today remain barely alive and trying to re brand themselves as "First Apartments." But, beware: they almost collapsed in the 1980s when they got caught in the Savings & Loan scandal and they came back meaner and bigger than ever and it probably remains wise advice to think twice before renting from First.

Click Here For Settlement Agreement and City Attorney Press Release

 

Dozens of Tenants Protest Evil Landlord Peter Iskander

Beyond Chron Article on Picket

Tenants picketed the home of landlord and real estate speculator Peter Iskander. Iskander is the latest of a number of real estate speculators who have targeted North Beach residents in recent years, evicting tenants in order to sell their empty units as Tenancies In Common (TICs).

Iskander is currently evicting all tenants from a 6 unit building at 525 Greenwich. Four of the units at Greenwich are occupied by seniors who have lived in their apartments for decades. Iskander has been buying up apartment buildings in North Beach and then evicting the tenants and selling the units as TICs—for huge profits.  Sandi Bishop, a tenant at the Greenwich St. building said: “I can't find a place to live because I don't have money and I am low income and there’s a wait of up to 4 years for senior housing. I can't leave my apartment—where do I go?”

The tenants’ eviction notices have expired and Iskander is now taking them to court in order to force them to leave.

The tenants at Greenwich Street:
Sandi is 70 and has been fighting cancer for the past year; she’s lived there for 10 years.
Deloris is 80 and has lived there 10 years.
Elmore  has lived there for 10 years; He is over 65.
Carlo, is in his 70's and is disabled.  He has lived here about 40 years.

Tenants feel Iskander needs a house call. Besides evicting the 4 seniors from their Greenwich home, he is evicting—or has evicted—tenants from seven other apartment buildings in San Francisco at:
526 Vallejo St.
1460 Montgomery St.
2900 Pierce St.
1264 Bush St.
450-54 Vallejo St.
850 Bay St.
473 So. Van Ness Ave.

 

 

Court of Appeals Says Harassment of Tenants Is Mostly Legal

The California Court of Appeals threw out much of the 2008 ballot measure, Prop M, which defined and prohibited harassment of tenants.Prop M defined and prohibited harassment of tenants and gave tenants three remedies: the right to have their rent reduced when being harassed, the right to attorneys fees whenever an eviction action was successfully fought in court, and the right to receive treble damages for harassment (when tenants successfully sue).

The court threw out a tenant's right to get rent decreased due to harassment and threw out the right to collect attorneys' fees when successfully fighting an eviction. It let stand the treble damages for harassment.

Unfortunately, the rent reduction and lawsuit attorneys' fees were the 2 most important parts of the measure. Being able to received a rent reduction for harassment at the Rent Board was simple procedure which most tenants could accomplish without an attorney and without having to show actual damages. Getting attorneys' fees when successfully fighting an eviction was an important provision to deal with one of the most common forms of harassment, a landlord serially issuing eviction notices based on untruths which tenants would have to fight in court. The treble damages for harassment is an improvement but still leaves a tenant having to sue in court and show actual damages (e.g. doctors' bills from the stress).

The ruling is the latest in a series of anti-tenant rulings by California judges who seem to believe renters are second class citizens.

 

Supervisors Approve Legislation Banning OMI Evictions of Households With Children During School Year

Legislation prohibiting the evictions of households with children during the school year (roughly September until the end of June) for the purposes of a landlord or relative moving in to the apartment was approved by the Board of Supervisors on January 26 by a 10-0 vote, assuring it will become law as of February 26.. The legislation was adopted by a unanimous vote after Mayor Newsom said he would sign the legislation into law. Originally, the legislation would have banned OMI evictions of children, just as landlords cannot do OMI evictions on tenants who are senior, disabled or terminally ill. While a majority of the Supervisors would have passed that legislation, the Mayor promised to veto it and the votes to override the veto weren't there. The legislation is similar to legislation former Sup. Jake McGoldrick was unable to get adopted: he proposed banning all no-fault evictions of children during the school year (a common practice in Europe). OMI evictions make up over 75% of all no-fault evictions in San Francisco so Mar's legislation comes close to what McGoldrick had tried to do.

 

Legislation Extending Just Cause Eviction Protections To All Tenants In Buildings Facing Foreclosure Is Passed by Board of Supervisors

Legislation extending just cause eviction protections to tenants in buildings which are facing foreclosure was passed by the Board of Supervisors by a 10-0 vote, assuring it will become law. Currently, rental units in buildings built after 1979 do not have any just cause eviction protections as banks foreclosing on property were evicting any tenants living there. Now these tenants will have the same rights as other tenants and banks will not be able to evict them after a foreclosure.

 

Supervisors Approve Renters Economic Relief Package But Newsom Vetoes All 3 Measures

Late on Friday, July 10, Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoed the Renters Economic Relief Package passed by the full Board of Supervisors on June 23. The Board had adopted some significant amendments to the package, in hopes of averting a Mayoral veto but Newsom was determined to veto the measures from the beginning. These amendments limited the rent increase protections to tenants who have lost jobs, had wages cut significantly or who are dependent on government benefits but not receiving any cost of living increase. The Newsom veto means he isn't willing to help those individuals very directly affected by the recession. His allies on the Board (Michaela Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, Bevan Dufty, & Sean Elsbernd) all voted against the measure, indicating they, too, are not interested in helping those hit hard by the recession. Sup. Sophie Maxwell was recused from voting because of her ownership of rental property but the City Attorney asked for a ruling on her conflict by the Fair Political Practices Commission. The FPPC has ruled, however, that Maxwell does have a conflict of interest and can not vote. That makes a veto override impossible as we would need to get 2 of the 4 Supervisors who voted against the measure to change their votes and 3 of them (Alioto-Pier, Carmen Chu, & Sean Elsbernd) have never voted for pro-tenant legislation before, .

Court Reverses Itself–Upholds Prop M!

Prop M was upheld almost in its entirety at the May 19 hearing before Judge Charlotte Woolard in a sharp reversal of an initial decision which struck down Prop M and specifically upheld a landlord's right to threaten tenants with physical harm. The definitions and prohibitions against harassment of tenants by landlords are now in effect, as is the right to go to the Rent Board and have rents reduced when harassment occurs. The bad news is that the Judge struck down the provision providing for attorneys fees for tenants whenever they prevail in any eviction case .Landlords will almost certainly appeal the ruling. Click here for the judge's ruling.

Summary & Text of Prop M

Tenants Union, City Attorney File Lawsuit Against Post Office

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, along with the SF Tenants Union, has filed a lawsuit against the US Post Office to force the Post Office to deliver mail individually to tenants in residential hotels. Click here for press release.

CitiApartments Puts A Dozen Buildings on Market At A Loss In Addition Over 100 Buildings Lost to Foreclosures

The Lembi real estate empire seems to be crumbling fast as CitiApartments is starting to dump buildings, putting 12 properties on the market this month for prices far below what they paid for them. The properties include 2185 Bay St., 1305 Lombard St., 2050 Powell St., & 646 Corbett St.,

In addition, the Lembis are losing many properties to foreclosures. Wells Fargo Bank filed court action on March 23 to foreclose on 8 CitiApartments properties. This follows UBS (United Bank of Switzerland) foreclosing on over 50 buildings in February and another lender, CIM (a real estate investment company), filing for foreclosure on 23 buildings earlier in March. The, notoriously bad landlord CitiApartments seems to be in deep financial trouble. The CitiApartments business model was based on forcing out long-term tenants paying affordable rents and replacing them with market-rent paying tenants. This strategy failed as tenants organized and refused to be intimidated from their homes. Their main strategy was tenant harassment coupled with buyout offers. Tenants should be aware that CitiApartments has now reneged on numerous such buyouts, refusing to pay after tenants had moved.

To see if your building is one of the foreclosed properties:
Click here for the properties which UBS foreclosed on. These are final and UBS is now the landlord. CitiApartments had been managing these properties but on April 1 UBS named a new manager for the properties, Laramar Properties, a Chicago based property management company. Click here for SF Business Times article.
Click here for addresses of the 31 buildings which CIM or Wells Fargo is foreclosing on. These buildings are still in the process of being foreclosed and CitiApartments remains the owner but the 2 banks have asked that receivers be appointed to begin managing the properties.If you want to track the process you can click here to access court cases by number. The case number for buildings which CIM is foreclosing on is 485708. The case number for buildings which Wells Fargo is foreclosing on is 486494.

CitiApartments Loses 51 Buildings To Foreclosures & More Expected To Follow; Lembi Strategy of Harassing Tenants Out Fails In Wake of Tenant Resistance & Failing Economy

CitiApartments lost 51 buildings this month to one of their financers, UBS (a Swiss based investment bank). Over the last seven years CitiApartments aggressively bought apartment buildings in San Francisco with the strategy of then forcing low rent paying tenants out and replacing them with high rent paying tenants. Tenants fought back, though, organizing CitiSTOP a coalition of CitiApartment tenants, tenant organizations and labor unions. Ultimately, the strategy seems to have failed and more CitiApartment foreclosures are likely in coming weeks or months. Now the Wall St. Journal reports that dozens of more buildings may be foreclosed on and Citi Apartment's days may be numbered. Click here for article.

Click Here For A List of the Foreclosed CitiApartment Properties

Click Here For Information on Tenants Rights In Foreclosures

Court Upholds Just Cause for Eviction Law

In a major victory for tenants, the California Court of Appeal has upheld Oakland's Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance against a landlord challenge.  The landlord zealots who brought the case claimed that the ordinance should be struck down as preempted under state law. 

The ruling was strongly pro-tenant puts to rest many of the arguments that landlords have been using for years to attack local eviction protection laws.  Now it is clearer than ever: California cities have the right to protect tenants from unfair evictions by enacting "just cause" ordinances. The ruling should also help fight off the landlords' lawsuit against Prop M, the 2008 anti-harassment law passed by the voters. For the text of the Court's decision, click here.

Rent Board Adopts Regulations Easing PG & E Passthroughs

Tenants whose landlords pay for PG & E will get some relief from automatic PG & E passthroughs allowed under the rent control law as the Rent Board has adopted new regulations governing how these passthroughs get calculated. The new regulations provide that the "base year" for calculating the increases can be no more than 5 years ago. Landlords had been using base years dating back to the tenant's original move in date, often 20 or 30 years ago, without any form of indexing to account for inflation over these years. Long term tenants will see the most significant impact of the new regulations.The new regulations do not address the inherent unfairness of these passthroughs which is that tenants already pay for increased PG & E costs via the annual rent increase (which is calculated on the annual Consumer Price Index; PG & E costs significantly impact how much the CPI rises or falls and when PG & E costs go up, tenants pay a higher annual rent increase) and the automatic Passthroughs means tenants pay PG & E increases twice .

Supervisors Finally Defeat Water Rent Hike

Sup. Alioto-Pier's legislation to give tenants hefty rent increases to pay for water & sewer costs was finally defeated by a 7-4 vote (Alioto-Pier, Chu, Dufty, & Elsbernd, supporting the rent increase) after numerous delays. Tenants already pay for water & sewer cost increases in the annual rent increase and landlords can petition the Rent Board if those costs increase beyond that. Alioto-Pier wanted tenants to pay these costs twice (or three times in some cases).

 


GET ACTIVE!

   The SFTU asks all tenants to help lobby when legislation is before the Board of Supervisors. We only have rent control because tenants have gotten involved. If you want to be on our legislative alert list, contact us. We'll tell you when we need tenants to call, e-mail, fax and write Supervisors. Come to the hearings! See Get Active for Supervisors' names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

    Get Active! Contact Supervisors!