Newsom Hides From Opposing Eviction Disclosure

by Paul Hogarth on March 22, 2006

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This week, Mayor Gavin Newsom met with the Chronicle’s Editorial Board to discuss his opposition to three local initiatives on the June ballot: Proposition A ($10 million for violence prevention), Proposition C (new appointments to the Transbay Authority) and Proposition D (new rules for Laguna Honda hospital.)

Noticeably absent, as the Chronicle pointed out, was his opposition to Proposition B – the Eviction Disclosure Ordinance – even though Newsom vetoed an identical piece of legislation.

Proposition B is a no-brainer. At a time when more tenants are getting evicted under the Ellis Act than during the dot-com boom, Prop B would require real estate brokers to disclose to potential buyers at an open house that there has been an Ellis eviction on the property. It will not cost the taxpayers a dime, does not affect the right to own property, and does not put any restrictions on property owners. Instead, it targets real estate speculators who have profited massively from this displacement as more tenants lose their homes, and the cost of homeownership has skyrocketed for buyers.

If Newsom hadn’t vetoed it, Proposition B would already be the law and there would be no need to place it on the ballot. Now that it’s on the ballot, Newsom is trying to have it both ways. He wants to assure the real estate speculators that he supports their extreme agenda, but doesn’t want to let his opposition hurt his “progressive” reputation with voters. Since becoming mayor, Newsom has taken liberal stands on high-profile issues like gay marriage and the hotel boycott that make him popular with San Franciscans. But he also knows that most voters don’t pay close attention to more local issues where he can get away with more conservative positions.

According to aides from the Mayor’s Office, Newsom opposes Proposition B – but he’s “not going to fight it.” Nowhere was that more obvious than at last week’s Democratic County Central Committee meeting, where members who often side with the Mayor voted 22-4 to endorse Prop B. Wade Crowfoot from the Mayor’s Office attended the meeting, but did not speak when public comment on Prop B reached the agenda. This left Ted Loewenberg of the S.F. Small Property Owners’ Association as the official public spokesperson against Proposition B.

Loewenberg’s speech to the DCCC showed how extreme one must be to oppose Proposition B. First, he analogized Eviction Disclosure with anti-choice activists who hold pictures of dead fetuses outside of abortion clinics. Second, he argued that real estate brokers should not have to disclose to all potential buyers that there had been an Ellis eviction on the property because “does Target have to tell every customer who walks into their store that some of the merchandise in the back has been contaminated with poison?” Needless to say, these points did not impress Committee members.

It is one thing to oppose progressive legislation, but it is another thing to shy away from it when it makes you look bad. Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoed Proposition B, and it’s his fault that it now has to be on the ballot for voters to decide. For Newsom to hide from his own record and avoid speaking out against it is pure dishonesty and rank hypocrisy.

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