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South City EyesRenterProtections
Officials Consider Safeguards for Tenants in Face of Concerns From Local Landlords
  • By Austin Walsh Daily Journal staff
  • Jan 14, 2019 Updated Jan 14, 2019
South San Francisco officials eyeing policies designed to protect renters from predatory landlords faced pushback from those who claimed the initiatives would violate their private property rights.

The South San Francisco City Council explored establishing a variety of potential renter protections such as requiring relocation assistance, one-year lease minimums and delayed rent increases during a study session Wednesday, Jan. 9.

Citing the recent rise in tenant displacement frequently stemming from sudden, large rent hikes, Councilman Mark Addiego pushed for approving some of the policies in an effort to establish safeguards for residents.

“We want to prevent that,” said Addiego, referencing a couple of instances in which a company purchased a large residential building and suddenly pushed rents to unreasonable rates, effectively evicting dozens of tenants.

Vice Mayor Rich Garbarino agreed officials should work to prevent such behavior.

“Just gouging like that is unacceptable,” he said.

No decision was made at the meeting and the issue will return for further discussion, but officials suggested they were interested in more information regarding mandated one-year minimum leases, limited forms of relocation assistance and required delays before large rent increases go into effect.

Also, to prevent the mass evictions caused by sudden, large rent spikes, Community Development Director Alex Greenwood suggested officials consider requiring relocation assistance in instances when four units or more are simultaneously vacated.

The exact policies which could be effective in stopping landlords from abusing their renters are yet to be determined, as officials maintain diverging opinions on the issue.

Local landlords were unanimous in their opposition of the initiative though, as a variety of property owners spoke against councilmembers approving renter protections.

“Property is a private asset, it is not a public utility and the local government is not entitled to dictate how I control that property,” said Jeremy Rushton, a Realtor and South San Francisco resident.

Moreover, Rushton, who rents a room in his South San Francisco house, said he is tired of the vilification of good-intentioned landlords.

“The negative stereotype about landlords is quite hyperbolic,” he said.

A variety of other local landlords joined a similar chorus, claiming they are being misrepresented since a majority of property owners set fair rates and treat their tenants with respect.

For his part, landlord Lee Ginsburg suggested officials should focus more on facilitating additional housing construction in an effort to combat the local affordability crisis, rather than consider private property restrictions.

“I worked very hard for my properties and I should not be forced to handle a regional problem on my own shoulders,” he said.

For the part of officials, most agreed the landlords who act responsibly and legally should not fear the policies designed to confront bad actors.

“I want to look out for the moms and pops, because I understand this is a majority of their income,” said Councilman Mark Nagales.

And councilmembers were unanimous in their unwillingness to establish rent control.

“I don’t believe in rent control because one of the biggest issues we have is affordable housing and I don’t think that will help,” said Councilwoman Flor Nicolas. “So what we have to find is a sensible solution to this.”

City Manager Mike Futrell said he expected the renter protection discussion to return for one more study session before any recommendation for approval arrives before officials.

Seemingly dismayed by the limited progress made on the matter, Addiego suggested he felt his colleagues may be moving too cautiously on an issue which he considered urgent.

“This is a case of taking baby steps, I take it,” he said.

austin@smdailyjournal.com