San Francisco considers banning school-year evictions

Amanda Maher
Amanda Maher | 4 min. read

Published on March 16, 2016

In San Francisco’s overheated rental market, many landlords are jumping at the opportunity to increase rents. Some are doing so by evicting tenants in rent-controlled apartments in order to bring those units up to market rate.

The unintended consequence: a growing number of local teachers are being displaced from their affordable housing units and have nowhere to go. Many have to quit their jobs and relocate elsewhere altogether.

Not only do teachers suffer, but so do their students. When a teacher leaves, it creates a mid-year disruption in the classroom. The school district has been struggling to back fill these positions with new teachers, creating even more classroom instability. San Francisco already faces a teacher shortage because so few can afford to live within city limits.

As of February 2016, the average 1-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was listed for $3,500 while a 2-bedroom apartment fetches more than $4,700 on the open market. Meanwhile, salaries for credentialed teachers start at less than $3,400 a month and paraprofessionals earn an average of just $2,083 per month.

“[Educators] are moderate wage earners,” says Sandra Lee Fewer, a commissioner for the Board of Education. “They cannot compete” in today’s real estate market.

That’s why a San Francisco city councilor has introduced municipal legislation that would make it harder for landlords to initiate no-fault evictions against educators at San Francisco schools or child care centers—many of whom rely on rent-controlled apartments—during the school year.

“We cannot legally stop landlords from evicting people. But what we are doing through this legislation is making sure that educators are not evicted from their homes during the school year, when it negatively impacts not just their lives, but the lives of their students and the entire school community,” says councilor David Campos, the sponsor of the bill.

The legislation is similar to that already in place to protect families with children from no-fault evictions during the school year. Campos’ bill would make an exception for Ellis Act evictions, in which the landlord evicts tenants with the intention of taking the property off the market altogether (e.g. for personal use).

The call for heightened teacher protections comes after the eviction of a San Francisco elementary school teacher last year.

Despite being an “ideal tenant” in the apartment she had rented for nearly a decade, Allison Leshefsky was bullied relentlessly by Anne Kihagi, a notorious Bay Area landlord who purchased Leshefsky’s apartment building two years ago. Leshefsky was forced to temporarily vacate her apartment while Kihagi made capital improvements—but the landlord has continued to find ways to prevent Leshefsky from moving back in, like cutting off her water and verbally threatening her.

Nowhere else to go, Leshefsky found herself couch surfing with friends. “I couldn’t sleep or eat. All my spare time was spent trying to find a place to live. I was unable to give [my students] the attention they needed,” she says. “If I didn’t have to go through this eviction during the school year, my time with my students would be much better served.”

Yet property owners are quick to acknowledge that few landlords are as ruthless as Anne Kihagi. By and large, the majority of landlords only evict tenants in accordance with the law. That’s why San Francisco landlords are up in arms about the proposed legislation.

A representative from the Small Property Owners of San Francisco (SPO SF) explains that no-fault evictions are already expensive for landlords because of all the protections in place. Long notice periods can last anywhere from 60 days to six months, depending on the circumstance, and extensions are routinely granted which delay the process even further. The new law would create a “protected class” instead of warranting a case-by-case review. What’s more, it could make finding an apartment even more difficult for teachers.

“Creating a blanket rule for all public school teachers is a strong incentive for owners to avoid renting to public school teachers altogether,” says Noni Richen, president of SPO SF.

At a minimum, landlords want to see the language in the legislation tightened.

“We have to make sure the language is such that it doesn’t open the door for a lot of other people to fall into the school teacher [category] that may really not need this assistance,” says Janan New of the San Francisco Apartment Association.

The legislation is still before the City Council for consideration. If passed, San Francisco would be the first city in the nation to ban the eviction of teachers from their homes during the school year.

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Amanda Maher

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a master's in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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