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Politics & Policy

SF supes in 4 mins: Mending amendments, extending eviction protections

A pedestrian walks by a building advertising an apartment for rent on September 01, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Getty Images)

Election Day didn’t stop San Francisco supervisors from tackling weighty issues, including final approval of charter amendments for the June ballot and an unprecedented strengthening of tenant protections. (If you’re looking for the full kit and caboodle, check out the meeting’s full agenda.)

Charter Amendments: The Survivors

Last December, the board floated six charter amendments for the June ballot. Now the list is down to two. How that happened reflects the balance of power and tensions between Mayor London Breed and the majority of supervisors over issues of the day. 

Measures supported by Mayor Breed—one by Supervisor Ahsha Safai, which would have provided for more workforce housing; and another by Supervisor Myrna Melgar, seeking to leverage better governance over the School Board—ended up dying in committee. 

Other measures were also withdrawn or watered down. One measure introduced by Supervisor Connie Chan would have reorganized the way commissioners are appointed and given more power to the city administrator—at the expense of the mayor. Chan moved to table the item in committee, saying “more civic education needed to be done” around the issues, implying the measure may come back in a different form. 

Supervisors addressed the remaining measures, including Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s “recall reform” measure to further constrain timelines for filing petitions. The proposal also bars any mayoral appointee to a recalled position from seeking election to the position. 

When the time came for a vote, some supervisors still had concerns about accountability, equity and other issues. Supervisors Myrna Melgar, Ahsha Safai, Rafael Mandelman and Catherine Stefani all opposed the measure in a losing 7-4 vote. The proposal will now be submitted to the Department of Elections for the June ballot. 

Additionally, Melgar’s charter amendment to reform the Building Inspection Commission passed with unanimous support. If approved by voters, it will reorganize appointments for commissioners, putting that process more in line with the Planning Commission.

Also Ballot Bound: the $400 million bond measure for Muni and street safety—but not without some tough talk from Chan, who continued to express concerns over agency commitments to underserved communities as well as the ability to deliver on capital projects. Nevertheless, she voted to submit the idea to voters along with everyone else.

Empowering Tenants

Pandemic-related rent debt has been a prime focus for the board, which wants to forestall a secondary epidemic of evictions. To that end, supervisors renewed the freeze on evictions for unpaid rent due to Covid-related hardships. They also passed new, unprecedented legislation that could become a national model for tenant protections.

Peskin’s “Union at Home” legislation would allow tenants of buildings with five or more units to organize tenant associations. Landlords would have to recognize and meet with them at least quarterly. 

Peskin cited increasing ownership of rental properties by private equity concerns and real estate investment trusts, such as Veritas, as a justification for the legislation, which passed unanimously.

Reactions from landlord groups have been cautious, and Peskin incorporated some of their feedback in amendments. 

Finally, Roll Call: 

Supervisor Mandelman’s new version of his four-plex ordinance, which proposes to create more “missing middle” housing in single-family-zoned lots, will now allow for “six-plexes” on corner lots. But it also wants to impose 30% rear-yard requirements to preserve open space.

Supervisor Gordon Mar requested a hearing on cannabis cultivation in the city, both licensed and illegal, citing both crime and fire hazards in neighborhoods.

Supervisor Hilary Ronen announced a letter of inquiry to San Francisco Police Chief Scott over reports of officers refusing to respond to incidents taking place in plain view. The theory is this inaction comes from work stoppages over the department’s issues with District Attorney Chesa Boudin. 

And Board President Shamann Walton—reacting to recent concerns over plans for an Amazon warehouse in his district—introduced new zoning controls for parcel delivery services.