“Readers Respond to Ma”

by on April 13, 2006

To the Editor

As a longtime working-class queer tenant activist, I resent Fiona Ma’s statement in defense of her so-called tenant’s rights position (“Read My Record on Renters,” April 12): “In one corner are tenant activists…These people oppose both “moderate” and “progressive” proposals to increase renter-to-owner conversions, such as establishing community land trusts and increasing the number of conversions.”

As a tenant activist I have ALWAYS supported land trusts. I’ve written articles about them, in the Bay Guardian and elsewhere. What has Ma done to support land trusts? Nothing!

Fiona Ma is doing what all politicians do: reinventing herself to suit her election campaign. Ma has been, at best, a lukewarm friend to renters. Sure, she showed up at the recent AIDS Housing Alliance benefit and she voted for No Fast Pass after it was watered down. But she did not support measures to restrict evictions for Ellis or TICs (the recent Daly bills, for instance). She continues to support homeownership (TICs) created on the backs of low-income and working-class tenants, seniors and people with AIDS.

The bottom line: Fiona Ma was NOT there when Trinity Plaza residents were threatened with eviction. She didn’t stand with the tenants being evicted for TICs in North Beach. She was nowhere to be seen when Grace Wells, an elderly black woman, was being pushed out of her home of 40 years in the Lower Haight. She isn’t there when Latino families are being pushed out of the Mission–usually for TICs. She wasn’t there to protest when people with AIDS and working-class queers were being evicted in the Castro for TICs. She has not been out there to support the Civic Center Hotel residents who are currently being threatened with demolition of their homes.

So, other than the AIDS Housing Alliance benefit, where has Ma been?

Tommi Avicolli Mecca
San Francisco

Letter to the Editor:

Ma’s reply illustrates why she will not be effective as CA State Assembly member.
“Record on Renters” aside, she lacks the very essence that District 12 needs.
Simply put, please be frank with your constituency Fiona! Because you have give such a contentious and laughable reply to BeyondChron, you’ve lost my vote!

You need to face the reality that what is needed is someone who will uphold and modify CA State Law as needed. We don’t need another stuffer who will use “loopholes” in CA State law, justifying it by saying it helps create homeownership.

Ells Act was created to allow Landlord’s to go out of business, not to create homeownership. It is easy to see that in San Francisco there are a lot of Landlord’s who need to go out of business, hence the stringent rent control laws we have. (Well, maybe…)

Why can’t you simply state that the Ellis Act is good because it helps people create wealth. It’s OK to be a captialist, and admitting it would most likely win you the votes you need!

Please face the reality, we need someone who will work to either maintain or modify CA State Law… That is what we need!

I know this friend of mine who’s daughter is out selling candy bars to support her school’s extracurricular activities… she has sold $1500 worth of chocolate. Sure, the candy maker will take a good portion of that. But even with their cut, that puts her right up on par with raising $2000 for AIDS Housing Alliance in an auction. Oh, and in case I forgot to say, she has AIDS, her father is a humble homeowner, and he did not use the Ellis Act to “create homeownership.”

Get Real Fiona! (there needs to be a T-shirt…)

Artis DeLucca


Fiona Ma’s defense of her record regarding the landlord/ tenant/ property rights/ Ellis Act / homeownership issue contains such a glaring illogicality that I really have to point it out.

Supervisor Ma states: “I also stated that I understand some property owners use the Ellis Act as their only path to homeownership.” This statement demonstrates her egregious and utter lack of understanding of the Ellis Act and its applicaton and, prima facia, contradicts itself. The cognitive dissonance is deafening.

Lets deconstruct what she said: “Property Owners”, by definition, own the property (i.e. the home or set of homes) from which the property owners are seeking to dislodge the current residents in order that those who already own the property can become owners of the property. Stunning. It reminds me of the old chestnut: “we had to destroy the village to save it.”

Let us be clear– the Ellis Act represents a heinous loophole that allows obscene profiteering at the expense of tenants. Here is the way it actually works: The property owner decides that s/he no longer wants to be in the business of renting the property, invokes the Ellis Act, empties the property and puts it on the market for sale by aggregating the new owners into a single property title known as as a Tenancy in Common (“TIC”) (however, if no one is watching, the property owner re-rents the vacant apartments at market rates) at an immense profit. A property owner has never invoked the Ellis Act to become a homeowner– well, maybe a second or third home, perhaps.

As one of the principal organizers of the AIDS Housing Alliance (“AHA”) fundraiser to which Supervisor Ma so generously contributed to the success of –many thanks–, I would expect her to appreciate the fact that a person with AIDS is five times more likely to die than the same person who remains stably housed.

I would hope Supervisor Ma, as a current and prospective policymaker, would be aware that 85% of the Ellis Act evictions of protected class tenants occur in two places in San Francisco: The Castro and Chinatown. Where do those displaced tenants go? In AHA’s experience, it has been into a Care not Cash SRO.

The Ellis Act does not create even a single unit of housing. Then, from a public policy perspective, why should the City prefer “affordable” (as TIC’s are often touted) homeownership over continuing rentership if making renters homeless places greater demand on already overburdened homeless programs? If Supervisor Ma truly understood these dynamics, she would wholeheartedly support Proposition B on June’s Ballot.

I agree with Supervisor Ma when she states: “the issues of rent control, the Ellis Act and condominium conversions have dominated the political discourse in San Francisco.” Count me among the tenant activists who believe that maintenance of rental stock is good public policy because it keeps people who are already housed, housed.

Rick Galbreath

At the end of American University Law Professor Jamie Raskin’s testimony before the Maryland State Senate regarding a constitutionnal amendment to ban same sex marriages, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: “Mr.Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?”

Raskin replied: “Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.”

— Baltimore Sun


I don’t understand what is so outrageous in Supervisor Ma’s comments regarding her position on the Ellis Act. Cleary it can provide opportunities for homeownership primarily through creating a more affordable price point via TIC ownership. A property owner should have the right to “go out of the rental business” if they choose to do so assuming they follow the appropriate legal procedures. A property owner may need to change the status of their property or sell due to relocation, divorce, retirement, etc. A renter cannot assume their unit to remain a rental in perpetuity as they do not hold title or ownership of the property. I don’t hold an anti-tenant agenda — I just don’t believe tenant rights should usurp property owner rights.

I keep reading about all these real estate speculators who evict tenants to flip buildings for profit and I’m sure they exist. But, what about the upwardly mobile individuals and couples looking for affordable entry into SF real estate? You sure aren’t going to find an affordable fixer upper in a brand new high rise condo building in SOMA.

You list recent statistics on Ellis Act filings in SF but can you provide the percentage of those which are legitimate in the sense that they were not triggered by speculators? This information would be extremely helpful to get a better understanding as not all Ellis Acts are for dubious reasons. It just seems as though the evil speculators are spotlighted in the media yet the stories of affordable home ownership opportunities are often overlooked. How about a story on a first time homebuyer(s) who is purchasing into a TIC where a protected tenant was not evicted?

I’m not going to pretend I know the answer to solve the complex housing/eviction issues facing San Francisco. One thing I do know, the only thing constant is change.

Steven Rutledge

You can submit letters to the editor by clicking on this link: rshaw@beyondchron.org
or by writing to:
Beyond Chron
126 Hyde Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
415-771-9850 (phone)
415-771-1287 (fax)

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