Year of Evictions

As tech heated up the market in 2013, affordable housing became the dominant political issue

Photos: Mike Koozmin, Keeny + Law, Anti-Eviction Mapping Project

This New Year's Eve we take a look back at a hard year for many San Franciscans, what many in the future may call our Year of Evictions. After reading our retrospective, check out our interactive timeline below, where we chronicle flashpoints in the year of evictions and San Francisco's tech culture war. Did we miss something? If you'd like to submit an event and date for the timeline, email

San Francisco's political dynamics shifted significantly in 2013 as concerns about affordable housing, gentrification, and displacement shot to the top of city's agenda, forcing elected officials to scramble for solutions.

The growing urgency of these issues can be tracked by the evolving statements and positions of Mayor Ed Lee over the course of the year, as well as the increasingly assertive actions of the progressive movement for housing justice, which caught fire and began to garner national headlines on a regular basis by the year's end.

It's true that affordable housing and cost-of-living issues were already a major concern a year ago, on the heels of voter approval of Proposition C and the creation of the city's Affordable Housing Fund in November 2012. That compromise measure was created by Lee and his downtown allies, working with Sup. John Avalos and progressive groups.

But early in 2013, it became clear that the measure wasn't enough to prevent rapid, escalating displacement of low and middle-income San Franciscans, and that the overheating real-estate market — driven by an influx of new employees at technology companies that Lee had courted and supported with big tax breaks — was rapidly changing the face of the city. Meanwhile, Lee's administration also faced a Housing Authority imbroglio as a former director parted ways amid allegations of corruption, while the agency's deep financial troubles left dilapidated public housing units in disrepair.

Lee and his allies at first tried to stay the course, giving only lip service to the affordability problem early on.

"Though some may wish otherwise, we cannot defy the law of supply of demand within our City limits," Lee said during his state of the city address on January 28. The tone of his speech was triumphant as Lee emphasized the growth of the tech sector.

"We have given renewed confidence to leading high technology companies like Salesforce, Yelp, Zynga, Twitter, Square, Autodesk, Riverbed, Airbnb and so many more to stay and grow in our City," Lee said during the speech. "We're even attracting growing companies ... to pull up stakes and move to the new gravitational center of Silicon Valley — San Francisco."

But by the time November rolled around, even the New York Times was noting that "As the center of the technology industry has moved north from Silicon Valley to San Francisco ...income disparities have widened sharply, housing prices have soared." ("Backlash by the Bay," NYT, 11/24/13).

It took almost an entire year, but the mayor's ardent embrace of tech is starting to give way to the realization that a growing movement for equitable housing was steadily gaining ground and that it was something the city's politicians would ignore at their peril.


such as non payment of rent, late payment of rent, having an unauthorized pet or sublettor, and so on.

Focusing on the relatively small number of tenants who are evicted in order to create affordable home ownership opportunities is totally missing the point.

If you really care about evictions, why not focus on tenant behavior rather than attacking those who take risks to provide housing?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 8:16 am

Prop C resulted in no net new investment in affordable housing, it just made up for the loss of Redevelopment funding in exchange for relieving developers of 1/4 of their obligation for onsite affordable. How could standing in place, taking a half step back, have solved an ongoing problem instead of knowing it would do nothing to make it less worse?

The nonprofits must feed themselves first, that is the prime directive, to keep funding the commuter progressive activist corps. In order to feed themselves, they will play ball with the power that funds them. And playing ball in this case means progressives supporting market solutions to the problems caused by the market.

It is not possible to regulate or build our way to housing affordability in San Francisco.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 8:44 am

down is up and up is down. SF is just too special to follow supply and demand.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 9:39 am

Housing supply is inelastic relative to demand in San Francisco.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 9:57 am

differences in price make no difference is a nonsense. The fact that SF'ers move to Oakland for cheaper housing proves that price matters. And if the price of SF housing could magically be halved, of course there would be more people who move there.

Price is what keeps supply and demand in balance.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 10:47 am

And there is no amount of housing that can be built in SF that will measurably lower or arrest the increase in price.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 11:42 am

which is completely illogical and untrue.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 11:55 am

perverse ideology. It's important for him to believe that new supply makes no difference so he can project his NIMBY'ism.

The facts do not support him.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

If we built enough housing for 5 or 10 million people, we'd probably satisfy current demand. And actually we'd satisfy it sooner, because some of that current demand would reconsider after the city starts turning into something different than what they wanted to move to in the first place. So it wouldn't really be that hard. All you'd have to do is totally ruin the city's environment, character, quality of life... basically turn it into an overbuilt, polluted, congested hellhole like some of the cities popping up in China, and presto! Demand will finally be satisfied.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 9:57 pm

Yep, the goal here is to turn San Francisco into an undesirable forest of steel, concrete and glass on which nothing but the cold ferment of boredom and obedience can flourish. We won't recognize our City once they get through with it and that will probably be for the better.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 6:34 am

I would not expect you to support building units that might reduce the value of your investment.

I often feel the same way. It's all about me and my $$$, right?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 7:42 am

We win no matter what, new housing or none, unless your speculator profiteers build the City out to the point that nobody wants to live here anymore.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 8:07 am

Glad your gentrification worked out for you. Screw the poor, right?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 8:25 am

affordable housing mob. The former want to change nothing and the latter want to build over everything.

Another reason why progressives fail. They fight with each other.

You can have charm or you can have cheap but you cannot have both. Aspen is cute and you cannot build anything there because the rich want it that way. Why do you support them?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 7:40 am

So renters can move to Oakland for cheaper rent? Thats the way the real world works…..

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

Cheaper for homebuyers as well, if they lack the fiscal power to buy in SF.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 7:42 am

Government meddling and interference.

The city caused are housing problem so why should we trust the city to fix it?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 10:48 am

Is to turn the city into Manhattan. The people who live here have repeatedly said they don't want that. But there's good news for you. If you want Manhattan, you can always move to... Manhattan.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 10:10 pm

Why is downtown full of them?

They are not suited to north Beach, maybe.

But work well in SOMA. those Rincom Hill towers do not look out of place at all.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 7:43 am

Yeah, the Bay Bridge and terrain to the east looks really good when you can't see it. You could be anywhere, and that is the goal.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 8:06 am

But a few wealthy folks might lose a little of their existing views. You care about the one percent?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 8:24 am

40 years ago Gays where maginaliized by the larger straight population and had to fight for their rights, today Landlords are the new marginalized, who's rights are being trampled by the larger renter population..FIGHT BACK ! It's your constitutional right to own property and to Ellis Act !

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 8:47 am

politics of envy writ large.

Rent control inevitably leads to Ellis evictions because the burden placed on landlords is intolerable unless they are lucky enough to get turnover.

TIC or AirBnB is the way to go.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 10:49 am

complain when they decide to pull the plug.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2014 @ 11:29 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 7:44 am

All investors need an exit strategy. When the time comes to sell a rental building, a landlord can get three or four times as much if the units are sold for conversion to TICs and condos.

With Ed Lee's push for more tech jobs in the city, the demand for both rental units and TIC/condo units is at an all-time high. These new workers have to go somewhere. If new housing isn't built, many of these workers are more than willing to buy a TIC unit.

Progressives like Sheriff Mirkirimi and uber-progressive marcos have set the path for the rest of the city's new transplants: Buy a former rent-controlled apartment. They're cheaper than an equivalent condo and you decrease the number of rent-controlled rental units, which makes rents go even higher in the city's remaining rental units. It's a win, win for the landlords and speculators.

Hopefully tenants will realize one day that Mayor Lee, and supervisors such as David Chiu, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar who helped elevate Mayor Lee, have put a giant bulls-eye on the back of every SF tenant. Most current long-term tenants who are not wealthy will be evicted from SF. It's just a question of when.

Any tenant who voted for Ed Lee, or votes for any of the supervisors who helped elevate him to office, deserve to be evicted from SF.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 8:29 am

Some towns are on the "up", like SF. And some are on the "down", like Detroit.

This implies mobility of human resources and America has always done a good job of allowing people the freedom to relocate to a new home which better suits their financial aspirations and abilities.

I see nothing wrong, new or different about such gradual migrations, and at least our town has a great economy to soften any inconvenience thereby caused.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 8:42 am

Current residents can be evicted with either a military victory, which can get a little messy and bloody at times, or by the use of white-gloved lawyers and politicians that use laws to get rid of the undesirables.

Mayor Lee and the BOS are doing a great service to rid San Francisco of low-income, low-wealth current residents and replacing them with high-income, high-wealth residents. Historians will look back at this time as a pivotal point in the city's history when many of the economic losers were flushed from the city and San Francisco finally joined the ranks of the other handful of dominant cities filled with very wealthy residents, such as Paris, London, Manhattan, Singapore and Shanghai.

In their day warriors and warlords were very effective at displacing residents from regions and cities they conquered. But it's a lot cleaner when politicians can use landlords and lawyers to accomplish the same goal. There may be a few broken windows along the way, or a few noisy protests, but those will pass with time. After the economic cleansing is mostly over in another 10-20 years, the city should consider installing gates and require pre-approved passes for anyone who wants to visit. This will help keep most of the low-income riff-raff out permanently.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 9:27 am

While homeowners never get evicted unless they default.

Blaming others because you cannot afford Monaco, Aruba, Andorra or Qatar seems a tad extreme.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 9:48 am

Cannot people see its already over? It is blatantly obvious the hordes of entitled rich people, Fed goons, NSA social media servers spy network w Google, Twitter all cozy up on Market St. next to the new Fed bunker (and it is a bunker w tanks underneath 7 stories under ground) w their families, along w developers and "our" whore mayor, Lee and his cronies pigging at the trough have torn the heart out of this city. Theyve cosmetically redone the city w a glistening, sugary, shellac finish over what was funk and character. The city looks like a Hollywood movie caricature of itself; and like a quaint atmospheric romp through a playground for the elite while their servants who commute into the city bcuz they cant afford to live here, serve them up their california nouvelle cuisine veggan BS pseudohipster non GMO cuisine and serve up their organic marijuana pot card brownies so they can get stoned. The city looks like an embalmed corpse with too much make up on it. I am disgusted. This city meant something and now it means almost nothing but the tide turning on the rotten gold filigree corruption and venality of govt. both city and federal, completely wedded to big business corporations and wealthy elites. Wow! Can you say corporo-fascist takeover? Anyone on this comment stream, who is not from here, and arrived within the last 5 yrs has no right to comment. You dont know this city at all. Those of us who have lived here our entire lives are entitled to live in our homes, apts and f%ckin tents, within our community AND to die here if we please. For what other than this, establishes one's right to habitate a place: I was here way the f%ck before you. Otherwise its invasion and an act of war. You dont get to come here and take my home whether I rent or own. And you would feel the same goddamn way if you were born and lived a place your entire life that was your home you never sought to leave because it was part of who and what you are from your collective life experience of schooling, college, family, career, marriage, friendship, govt, neighbors, political events marching in grief over Mayor Moscone and supervisor Milk in 1979 down Market St w 40,000 San Franciscans?! F%ck you! Whoever said sh%t about the city becoming some colonial retirement community! Have some f%cking respect a%sh%le for people who have seen so much more and have been here longer than two of your lifetimes. I have a right to remain here! The selling out of SF is a terrible tragedy you will never know or understand because you are arrogant and entitled. And you are a fool. Take your money and shove it up your %ss and move to Sunnyvale! You are a guest. Get out.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

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