Judge hears arguments in case that challenges renters relocation law

Tuesday, October 7, 2014
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A federal judge heard arguments Monday in a case that challenges San Francisco's new renter relocation law.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A federal judge heard arguments Monday in an only-in-San Francisco case that pits landlords against tenants.

The dispute is over a law that dramatically increases the amount landlords have to pay renters if they want to evict them.

The attorney representing the property owners said he'll take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. But the city is confident of the constitutionality of the law that took effect in June.

In 2008, Daniel and Maria Levin bought a two unit building on Lombard Street and planned to use both for themselves and their family.

"We just want our property," Maria Levin said. "We want to be able to use our property as we would like to."

That would mean evicting the renter living downstairs and under San Francisco's new relocation law, property owners would have to pay the difference between the tenant's current rent and the cost of comparable housing for two full years. The Levins say they would have to shell out $117,000.

The author of the ordinance, supervisor David Campos, says it's part of the solution to the city's affordability crisis.

"The landlords will still make a lot of money even with this law," Campos said. "We're simply saying help tenants have a fighting chance to stay in this city."

But the Levins and other plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to decide the constitutionality.

"The Levins aren't causing the city's affordable housing crisis, they're not causing the rent control problem, or Google causing the rents to soar, so why are they being forced to solve this problem rather than the public as a whole," David Breemer of the Pacific Legal Foundation said.

The battle between property owners and tenants is heating up in San Francisco.

Claudia Tirado is a teacher who is facing eviction from her Mission District home.

"The relocation money would help us relocate maybe here in the city, but it will still be difficult to stay," Tirado said.

The Levins say had they known it would get to this they might not have bought in the city.

Judge Charles Breyer has given the city until Friday to provide more information about how the law was tailored, and the plaintiffs until next week to respond before he makes his ruling.