Monday a wide coalition of 200 activists from the Castro and nearly every City neighborhood gathered on the eastside steps of SF City Hall to voice their outrage over Supervisors Scott Wiener (Dist. 8) and Mark Farrel’s (Dist. 2) proposed legislation altering how Tenancy-in-Common (TIC) properties convert into non-rent controlled condos.
The protest proceeded a rancorous, five-hour long meeting where all sides on the issue vented their frustration and fears about: dwindling, affordable rental units, the ass backward current condo/TIC lottery system, the unchecked Citywide epidemic of evictions, the inability to make a profit from one’s own property, the lack of vision from City leadership in stewarding the issue and outrage over the proposed change in the TIC law.
The law, authored by Wiener and Farrell, simply described as a, ‘condo conversion impact fee’, would’ve allowed as many as 2,000 TIC units to be immediately converted to condos for a fee, allowing owners to bypass a housing lottery system disliked by property owners that places an annual cap on conversions.
Outside the protest was lively. Multiple speakers from different organizations spoke and several citizens who’d been evicted under the Ellis Act.
“Will this law change stop evictions Mr. Weiner?” one recently evicted, angry, LGBT Senior Castro resident yelled. “That should be your priority-stopping evictions not helping them.”
Mr. Wiener under mounting public pressure posted an explanation of the law on his website writing in part, “Contrary to unfounded claims by some opponents of the legislation, it does not repeal rent control, it won’t result in evictions, and it won’t lead to future Ellis Act evictions.”
“Not true.” countered Brian Basinger, Exec. Director of SF AIDS Housing Alliance, as he addressed the rally. “I was evicted from my home when it was condo converted after it was deemed by the City to never, ever happen-yet it did.” He cited a DPW report showing how TIC’s like the one he lived in, which shouldn’t be eligible for conversion, are illegally converted none the less. “If land speculators can bypass current laws why now can’t they bypass this new one?”
Inside chambers Sup. Mark Farrel was visibly irritated by the anger thrown his way and replied in terse and barely disguised disdain. The eviction argument is moot in his eyes since the law included a provision guaranteeing lifetime leases for existing tenants in units that qualified for condo conversion under the program.
Sup. Jane Kim wasn’t so sure about that wondering how it could possibly be tracked or enforced. Second term, BOS Pres., David Chiu, also had concerns and in the end proposed tabling the issue until Feb. 25th saying, “I do not support the legislation in its current form,” he said. If the current generation of TIC owners were allowed to convert this time, he explained, the next generation’s frustrations with the housing lottery would only “lead us back to an identical debate in a short period of time.”
Meanwhile, back in the Castro, local LGBT icon, David Weissman, film director of ‘The Cockettes‘ and the much heralded, ‘We Were Here‘, posted an open letter calling out Sup. Scott Wiener on his continued focus on the needs of those who can buy or own property over those who rent or will never be able to afford to buy.
Mr. Weissman, a longtime personal friend, had sent me the letter in advance to posting and minced little words in his appraisal of the current state of life in the Castro and SF under Mr. Weiner’s tutteledge. The letter went viral and has been reposted hundreds of times.
One such repost occurred on the Facebook wall of SF AIDS/social activist, Rajat Dutta, an associate shared by both Mr. Weissman and Mr. Wiener.
Mr. Wiener used that exchange as an opportunity to respond to Mr. Weissman directly. His comments have also gone viral especially amongst Mr. Weiner’s many admirers. Either side one finds themselves on this topic the result has been a firestorm of dialogue regarding renters rights vs. landlords at the Castro’s neighborhood bars and cafes.
Heres both Mr. Weissman’s letter and the Supervisors response in full: