City Attorney Dennis Herrera Sues Landlords for Illegal Airbnb Conversions

City Attorney Dennis Herrera
City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed separate lawsuits against two rapacious landlords today, each a perfect allegory of tech despoiling the city.

In both cases, the defendants evicted long-term residents from their property under the Ellis Act, a controversial state law that allows landlords to push out tenants in order to withdraw their property from the rental market. Herrera accuses these property owners of using the law as a ruse; rather than go out of business, they converted the property into commercial rentals for tourists, which they advertised on such platforms as Airbnb,, and

To make matters worse, two of the tenants are disabled.

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Here's Your Guide to Finding a Place to Rent in San Francisco Without Getting Screwed

Categories: FYI, Housing

Scot Hampton
Trying to find decent digs in San Francisco is seemingly harder than trying to land a decent-paying job. And since an estimated 32,307 new residents moved to San Francisco between 2010 and 2013 alone, it's safe to say: you have a better chance at finding a long-term relationship via Craigslist than a low-drama living situation.

That's because boomtowns like San Francisco tend to attract the entire spectrum of weird. And those fresh-faced twentysomethings looking for a place near a corporate shuttle stop might be educated, but Stanford University isn't going to teach them a damn thing about how not to get suckered by the next slum lord.

You're especially vulnerable in San Francisco where if you don't take care to learn local laws meant to protect tenants it can exacerbate all the confusion that goes along with the search for a new dwelling and the insecurity if anything goes wrong.

But because we're nice, we're going to help you navigate the rental market right now.

See Also: Confirmed Again: SF Rent Is Too High And Oakland Isn't Much Cheaper

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Confirmed Again: San Francisco Rent Is Too Damn High and Oakland Isn't Much Cheaper

Categories: FYI, Housing

Scot Hampton
Cozy studio apartment for rent -- only half your paycheck!
New data from an apartment search engine has uncovered a not-so surprising fact about the Bay Area rental market: It's miserable.

Apartment List, which released a Rentonomics Data Report that provides information on rental trends across the top 100 U.S. cities, has declared San Francisco the second least affordable city in the nation. We spend 46 percent of our income on rent, versus "normal" cities where residents shell out 25 percent of their paycheck for rent.

What's more, rents have increased 6.24 percent since January 2013, according to Apartment List. San Francisco's average rental rate for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,824.99 while Oakland's is $1,514.43 (remember when Oakland wasn't cool and a one-bedroom by the lake was $800?).

See Also: Photog captures satirical pics of rental market in S.F

Other irritating facts:

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Mission Bay Fire: Welding Equipment Likely Cause of Five-Alarm Blaze

Time lapse video via Jake Durrett/YouTube

Hot welding equipment, left to smolder in yesterday's hot sun, is the most-likely culprit behind the massive five-alarm fire yesterday which consumed a Mission Bay apartment complex under construction.

Fire crews were still dumping water on the (formerly) 176-unit mixed-use building south of AT&T Park as of 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, according to Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge.

Investigators could name the cause of the fire -- which began shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday on the "eighth or ninth" floor of the wood-frame building -- as soon as this evening, Talmadge said.

No major injuries were reported, despite this fire, the first five-alarm blaze in San Francisco since 2012, being notable for generating massive amounts of heat.

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Now Drones Will Deliver Your Pizza and Help You Buy a New Home

Categories: Housing, WTF?

Personal shopper
It seems everyday, drones are becoming more of a BFF/wingman than a foe to the average paranoid American.

Just this morning, we read some intriguing news that drones were now being used to help home buyers find their dream dwelling. CBS News reports that just yesterday, a real estate agent in the East Bay used a drone to help showcase a $1.5 million house for sale in Alamo.

Here's the logic:

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Ellis Act: So There Isn't an "Eviction Crisis." So What?

If you want to distinguish yourself and earn a bit of notoriety with a story about this city's "eviction crisis," there are two ready ways to proceed: A. Claim you're in favor of it, or; B. Claim it doesn't exist. 

Today, San Francisco Magazine took the latter tack. In a story titled "The Eviction Crisis That Wasn't," Scott Lucas argues, rather convincingly, that "carping about the Ellis Act won't solve San Francisco's housing problem." 

Well, that's certainly correct. In fact, this entire article is an example of how you can be "correct," without being "right." 

"The Ellis Act" is a 1985 state law pitched as a means for aging mom 'n' pop landlords to get out of the rental business by evicting all their tenants. A relocation fee Lucas deems "sizable" is mandated. 

Let it be known that the mandatory relocation fee is currently $5,000. 

Also, in a development lawmakers either didn't anticipate or didn't care to divulge 30 years back, the Ellis Act enables corporations to buy up buildings, empty out the long-term tenants, and profit handsomely by converting the units into ownership properties.  

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Home Collapse: House "Remodeled" From 854-Square-Feet to 5,139-Square-Feet Crumbles

Andrew J. Nilsen
In the midst of sextupling the size of a home at 125 Crown Terrace, it collapsed Monday -- angering opponents who predicted such an end.
Neighbors have, for years, argued that the definition of the term "remodel" was being stretched to the breaking point by a Twin Peaks home at 125 Crown Terrace: a "remodel" from 854-square-feet to 5,139-square-feet. 

It turns more was being strained than credulity and semantics.

At around 10:40 p.m. on Monday, portions of the "major alteration" job collapsed and tumbled down a steep hill from Crown Terrace onto Graystone Terrace below.  

This occurred on a temperate and dry evening. 

Jim Herd
The aftermath
The home -- owned by influential developer and former Building Inspection Commission President Mel Murphy, now a Port Commissioner -- was the subject of a December 2012 SF Weekly cover story. That article examined the loopholes city builders use to essentially demolish small, affordable residences and "remodel" them into monster homes for huge profits. 

Following countless legal missives, conferences, and hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals, the city determined that this sextupling of a structure was a code-conforming "remodel," and not a "demolition." Demolishing affordable family housing is essentially verboten in this city. But a "major alteration" into a massive structure in no way resembling its former iteration is, demonstrably, permitted.  

"Well, it's a demolition now!" cracked attorney Stephen Williams, who represented several of Murphy's neighbors in a protracted legal battle. "This is exactly what we said was going to happen." 

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Homeless Campers' Tents Confiscated During Freezing Weather

Jim Herd
One tent fewer in Golden Gate Park
Yes, we get it -- San Franciscans complaining about the recent chill in the air is a bit like a veteran of the Monaco armed forces fulminating about hard times in the corps. The mere act of water freezing during the winter is not a novelty in other parts of the world.

And yet, if you're wandering around underdressed and sleeping out of doors, it's plenty cold enough to do damage. There's a reason your tired, your poor, your huddled masses are huddled -- it's cold out there. Last week, four homeless people in Santa Clara County froze to death.

Sleeping in San Francisco parks has long been illegal -- and a recent Scott Wiener ordinance created a uniform citywide ban on visiting city parks between midnight and 5 a.m. (debate over that proposal veered into the ethereal realm of parsing the difference between sleeping in a park and being in a park while sleeping). But, despite the spate of weather-related homeless deaths -- and, in fact, just as it was happening -- San Francisco Park officials were confiscating homeless campers' tents.

The above scene was documented on Thursday, Dec. 5 by ace photographer Jim Herd in the shadow of the Conservatory of Flowers.

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29 Percent of San Francisco's Homeless Population Is LGBT


San Francisco is often touted as one of the most tolerant and progressive cities for LGBT people, but when it comes to the city's homeless population, that isn't often the case. According to the city's biennial homeless count, among the approximately 7,000 homeless residents, nearly 1 in 3 identified as LGBT, many of whom are kids.

As if being homeless for the holidays (and otherwise) wasn't bad enough, the stigma and abuse faced by homeless individuals who are also LGBT is far worse when compared to their straight counterparts. Brian Basinger, a co-founder of the AIDS Housing Alliance in San Francisco, said in a recent and sobering New York Times article that the harassment of gays is common in the city's shelters.

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SF Politicians Protest 8 Washington Development in New Video

Categories: Housing, Politics

After throwing $220,000 into a wildly unpopular "Open Up the Waterfront" campaign, the developers of 8 Washington project now face a bulwark of opposition from local politicians, housing activists, and environmentalists. Today a group of them released a video to protest the high-priced 134-unit condo complex, which, they say, suffers from serious design flaws, puts the San Francisco Bay at risk for raw sewage spills, and diverts taxpayer money to substidize luxury housing for the rich.

"8 Washington destroys precious community recreational space," argues Supervisor David Chiu, who just requested $250,000 from Zynga to build a Waterfront playground right by the prospective 8 Washington construction site.

"It's a giant step into turning San Francisco's waterfront into something that looks like Miami Beach," former city attorney Louise Renne chimes in.

Opponents of 8 Washington have roughly a month left before voters decide whether or not to approve Measures B and C, which would exempt the 8 Washington project from various zoning restrictions.

As of now, both sides are deploying class-war language to make their arguments. The 8 Washington proponents used an Occupy theme to promote their $5 million condos, urging voters to "Stop the 1 %" who don't want to release waterfront land for rapacious high-rise development. Meanwhile, their adversaries argue that the project is just another hand-out for the rich. A new cluster of luxury condos with no affordable housing would only raise rents for the rest of us.

Here's their appeal:

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