Prop. 98 protesters gather in SF

May 7, 2008 5:04:34 PM PDT
Dozens of members of groups such as the American Association of Retired Persons, the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters gathered this afternoon near San Francisco City Hall to protest a proposition that would eliminate rent control in California.

"You know that when you see such a broad coalition of groups opposing the same thing, something is wrong," said No on 98 Yes on 99 campaign director Kathy Fairbanks.

She said the uproar is mostly apparent in San Francisco because it houses more than 179,000 rented units. The ballot will not affect current leaseholders but she said landlords would have an easier time evicting tenants, making it more plausible to raise rent as soon as the old tenant is forced to leave.

However the executive director of San Francisco Apartments Association Jana New said she is neutral on the proposition, especially because rent control is an antique plan and it does not benefit low-income residents.

It allows middle-income citizens to use rentals as weekend getaways for extended periods of time, which takes away from low-income residents that need that housing, New said.

She does not believe landlords will have extended rights to evicting tenants. She said the elimination of rent control would be on a voluntary move-out basis.

But Fairbanks believes landlords will still unjustifiably evict tenants.

"It jeopardizes tenant protections. If a landlord can just evict you without just cause, with those protections gone, the landlords will certainly get financial gain," she said.

San Francisco is among a small number of cities that still enforces rent control, but many cities have rent control specifically for mobile home parks. If the proposition were to pass, mobile home owners could face the same problems, she said.

However Business Owners and Managers Association Director of Government and Public Affairs Ken Cleaveland said rent control is an unfair practice that brings private property owners into an extension of California's public housing system.

"If you need assistance you should be getting some sort of financial assistance, from the government, not the private property owner," said Cleaveland.

He said he believes California would benefit from uniform renting and place financial obligations more on the government.

Fairbanks said Proposition 98 is embedded with other quirks such as undermining environmental protections but she has faith in the voters.

"Voters are very smart and we don't think they'll be fooled," she said.


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