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SF City Hall committee endorses California rent control expansion

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But anxiety about the fate of single-family homeowners lingers

Photo by Alexander Demyanenko/Shutterstock

On Monday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Land Use Committee voted to move ahead with an endorsement of Proposition 10, the November ballot initiative that would repeal the state’s 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act and allow SF and other cities to potentially expand rent control for the first time in decades.

An attempt to get the full board to endorse Proposition 10 faltered at the beginning of September. Although the proposal carried a majority of votes 7-4, for technical reasons it needed eight votes to pass.

Monday’s committee vote included affirmatives from both Supervisor Katy Tang and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who has previously voted against the endorsement.

While this seems to bode well for the proposal’s chances when it comes back for a full board vote again, city lawmakers don’t yet seem to agree about the question of single-family homes.

Under Costa-Hawkins, single-family homes are exempt from rent control. If Proposition 10 passes, SF and other cities might explore rent control options for these as well.

Tang proposed amending the city’s endorsement on Monday with a promise not to place rent control on single-family homes, arguing that “there are differences between small property owners [and corporate landlords] and so we want to at least insert that provision in here” to quell homeowner anxiety.

But Supervisor Jane Kim objected, saying that, while she might support exempting single-family homes in the future, she didn’t want to make such a decision before Proposition 10 passes.

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer (who does not sit on the Land Use Committee but sat in on the meeting) also objected, arguing that it flies in the face of the legislative process to make specific policy decisions in advance without debate or analysis.

Peskin, who has campaigned for rent control in the city for decades, is trying to marshal other board members on Proposition 10.
Photo by Associated Press/Wikicommons

Despite objections, the single-family home exemption amendment passed on a 2-1 vote. Another amendment, promising not to impose rent control on new construction without economic analysis, also passed 3-0

So at least nine supervisors appear to back some form of Proposition 10 endorsement—more than enough to pass the resolution. Whether or not they can all agree on the specific language of an endorsement, particularly with respect to single-family homes, remains to be seen.

Of course, whether the city backs Proposition 10 or not has little material effect on its outcome.

But as Supervisor Aaron Peskin said Monday, “If any city in the state should be supporting Prop 10 it should be SF,” and there may be political implications if city lawmakers cannot agree on rent control.

Despite the disagreement on fine details, City Hall appears to be in a pro-rent control mood overall. Before the vote, Supervisor Kim declared, “We can build as much market and luxury rate housing as possible, but I don’t believe that will ever bring down the price of rent.”

Supervisor Fewer noted that she’s a landlord herself but became openly emotional when discussing the housing crisis, and highlighted anecdotes of seniors in her district facing eviction after rent hikes.

“They have lived all their lives in the Richmond District,” said Fewer, adding, “What is your answer to them?”