Saturday, September 09, 2006

More Ellis Act Spin

Distict 5 Supervisor Russ Mirkarimi featured this item in his recent newsletter:
"San Francisco's limited stock of rental housing is being threatened by yet another speculator-driven set of Ellis Act evictions. 1530 McAllister Street is a seven-unit building, and the current tenants reflect the diversity of the City: the building is home to singles, couples, babies, children, disabled seniors, and transgendered folks. Tenants include an 89-year-old African-American woman, a 68-year-old retiree who has lived in building for 25 years, and a family with a five-week-old baby. On July 27th Supervisor Mirkarimi joined tenants, activists, the Senior Action Network, the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, and others in a demonstration and protest at the offices of the realtors in question."

Like any civilized person, I do not feel like cheering when I am handed an image that depicts 90-year-old women and five-week-old babies being thrown helplessly to the curb.

Still, I find this kind of rhetoric specious and self-serving. It implies there is a cause and effect relationship between the Ellis Act and inhumane treatment of the weak and elderly in San Francisco. It also suggests the inverse - get rid of the Ellis Act and our babies and grandmothers will be safe in their homes. It uses these false presumptions to present our District 5 Supervisor in a heroic light.

I would rather see our Supervisor make the connection between home ownership and security, and advocate to increase home ownership opportunities for all classes of people in the City.

I would prefer he make it clear that if the people of San Francisco believe it is right and humane to provide affordable housing for certain classes of people, like the elderly and the economically disenfranchised, then all residents of the city should be willing to bear the cost. No property owner (even one with speculative tendencies) should be obligated to provide shelter to anyone, including a grandmother or a baby or a person with AIDS, throughout their entire lives. Owning rental property is a business, not a philanthropy.

As Judge Janice Rogers Brown, in her dissenting opinion in the San Remo Hotel case wrote:
" might be perfectly legitimate for the City to help the low-income residents of San Francisco, but it may not do so at the expense of some small class of persons simply by legislating a transfer of property rights. Of course, providing assistance to low-income residents of the community incrementally benefits all members of the community both by removing the blight of homelessness and by representing a general moral good, but here the burden of this common benefit falls disproportionately on 500 business owners in a city of 776,700 residents."


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