City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced late Wednesday that his office would be appealing a federal judge's ruling that struck down the recent San Francisco ordinance requiring large lump-sum payouts to tenants evicted under the Ellis Act. In a statement Herrera says, "There should be no doubt that when a landlord evicts a rent-controlled tenant, the immense rent increase the tenant faces is the direct result of the landlord's decision to evict."
The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer was stayed until Friday, leaving room for a possible appeal and the landlord-advocating plaintiffs in the case have vowed to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court.
Breyer wrote in his decision Tuesday that the payments to evicted tenants were "untethered in both nature and amount to the social harm actually caused by the property owner’s action." And he said, "A property owner did not cause the high market rent to which a tenant who chooses to stay in San Francisco might be exposed, nor cause the lower rent-controlled rate the tenant previously enjoyed." Tenant advocates and supporters of rent control are, of course, horrified.
Supervisor David Campos, who sponsored the legislation that took effect in June said in a statement, "In the face of this housing affordability crisis, nothing is more important than making sure tenants facing eviction have a fighting chance to stay in the city they love."
Herrera adds, "This [federal court] decision places a new and significant obstacle in front of cities defending development fees and other development approval conditions: they must now show not only that a property owner's actions cause social harm, but also that the owner's actions are the only cause of that harm. If this decision stands, the consequences could be dire for many laws that protect land use and our environment."
Technically, there are still 10 holdout tenants at the property of one of the plaintiffs in this case, Park Lane Associates, who are owed their payouts by tomorrow, October 24, amounting to about $150,000 each. It's unclear how the appeal process will impact them.