Activists, tenants propose eviction-free zone in the San Francisco Mission

Friday, April 17, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO -- A group of residents and activists speaking out against displacement and gentrification in San Francisco's Mission District are proposing the city adopt an "eviction free zone."

Julien Ball, a community organizer at the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said he is trying to conduct outreach and raise awareness about no-fault evictions in San Francisco and hopes the announcement of an "eviction-free zone" in the Mission District will slow down evictions and displacements.

Ball participated in a march through the Mission Distinct Thursday afternoon with others who oppose the eviction of low-income San Franciscans.

He said the city must help residents get properties out of the hands of real estate speculators.

"What if we could create, for starters, just a small zone in our neighborhood?" Ball said, explaining that zone spans from Potrero Avenue to Treat Avenue and from 20th Street to Cesar Chavez Street.

Ball said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's announcement last of $3 million in funding for acquisition and rehabilitation financing for multi-family rental buildings with 5 to 25 units, through the Small Sites Program, "is not nearly enough."

The Small Sites Program issues the money to nonprofit organizations or for-profit corporations so that they can acquire, rehabilitate, own, and manage affordable housing in the city without uprooting current tenants. The tenants then pay rent to the nonprofit or for-profit entity.

Lee said last year that the funding would help stabilize buildings that are occupied by low to moderate-income tenants who are particularly susceptible to rising rents and evictions. He said additional funding is expected to be released during the program's first year, but Ball said he hasn't seen any new funds put into the program and would like to see the city step up and increase their commitment immediately.

Ball said he would also like to see renters be given an opportunity to purchase their own homes before opening their properties up for purchase by non-renters.

When Lee issued the first $3 million for the Small Sites Program in August 2014, he said it stems from a "need to stabilize our neighborhoods that are vulnerable to gentrification and expand the safety net for San Franciscans at risk of eviction and displacement."

Lee said, "The Small Sites Program offers a way to create certainty for our longtime San Francisco families and rent-controlled households, ensuring they have a safe, affordable place to live well into the future."

However, Ball points out that the $3 million earmarked for the program doesn't go far enough and can only purchase roughly a dozen units.