Guest Editorial: An Open Letter to Leland Yee

by Rick Galbreath on May 7, 2007

Dear Senator Yee:

It was with great pleasure that I supported your candidacy for the California State Senate in my role as both a member of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club and Vice-Chair of the Sierra Club. Your election to that body was very gratifying.

When you addressed the Milk Club, I asked you specifically regarding your position on Mark Leno’s AB 781 regarding an extremely modest reform to the Ellis Act. The reform would require property owners to hold their rental property for five years before being eligible to invoke Ellis. You responded that you were willing to work with us, i.e. those interested in Ellis Act reform, on this issue.

Today, Senator Kuehl’s, again modest, Ellis Act reform bill, SB 464 (essentially AB 781 reintroduced) is working its way through the Senate and will soon come to the floor for a vote. In an attempt to mollify some of the most strident critics of Ellis Act reform, namely development and real estate interests, the bill sponsors have amended the bill to make its effective date prospective. Essentially, it will not affect anyone currently holding rental property.

Your support is essential to passage of this bill. As I recall, the interests lined up in opposition to this bill heavily favored your opponent, Mike Nevin. In my native Texas, we have a saying: “you gotta dance with who brung ‘ya!” Clearly, your outright win in both San Francisco and San Mateo Counties demonstrates that your base constituency is more in favor of the positions of those who actively supported you than that of those who did not. SB 464 deserves your support.

Personally, the Ellis Act, namely the threat of eviction thereunder, is constantly used by my landlord to exact concessions in the terms of my tenancy– the latest is removal of laundry facilities. I purposely do not purse action to enforce my rights before the Rent Board specifically because the Ellis Act exists. This particular reform would have no effect on my situation as the landlord is a long-term owner of the property. However, this does exemplify how the Ellis Act is bad public policy for the State of California. In legalese, it is tantamount to prior restraint. No-fault evictions should be against public policy and those allowed should have the have the highest standard of review and most compelling reason to contravene the public interest– i.e. keeping people housed. Reform, even this minor, is in order.

This very modest reform, endorsed by those who actively worked for your election, deserves your support.

Please vote in favor of SB 464 and use your position in the senate to work with us, as promised, to assure its passage.


Rick Galbreath

Filed under: Archive