June 2018: Vote YES on Prop F to Provide Legal Representation for People Facing Eviction

San Francisco has seen steeply rising rates of evictions ever since the economic downturn; the numbers roughly doubled from 2007 to 2015, peaking at 2,400 eviction notices served in 2015, with somewhat lower numbers in 2016 and 2017. In a city where almost two-thirds of residents are renters, the threat of eviction is stressful and real. Plus, in a city like San Francisco, there are few other comparable options nearby; in San Francisco, people evicted from a rent-controlled apartment could have to move many miles away, or even out of the region, to find rent that they can afford. Despite this threat, fighting eviction is out of reach for many tenants, as attorneys who deal with evictions can cost $400/hour.

Proposition F would help. Prop F would require San Francisco to create and run a program that would provide (and pay for) legal representation for tenants facing eviction. This is similar to something we already do, providing a public defender for people facing trial. The SFLCV endorses Proportion F for several reasons:

  • Keeping residents in their homes in a safe environment, not on the streets, is critical to a thriving urban center, and a livable, sustainable city. In addition, rent-controlled buildings, which are often targeted for evictions, are some of the best affordable housing our city has, allowing lower-income people and older people to stay in a city that is pricing many people out.

  • Displacement pushes people to the fringes of the Bay Area, creating long commutes and increasing driving and pollution.

  • Evictions contribute to our homelessness crisis.

  • Legal representation gives people a tool to fight unfair evictions; it does not prevent people from being evicted for cause (for example, not paying rent, breaking the lease, etc.).

Unlike many ballot initiatives, Prop F leaves the implementation details to the city and simply outlines the required outcome. It also allows the Board of Supervisors to amend the initiative, while most ballot initiatives can only be amended via additional ballot measures. The program must be implemented within 12 months of becoming effective. Legal representation continues until the eviction proceeding is withdrawn, the case is dismissed, or judgment is made. All residents of the city are eligible, except those who reside in the same dwelling unit as the landlord or master tenant.

Some believe this program should have an income eligibility requirement. But people who can afford legal representation are likely to seek their own (just as people who can afford a lawyer in other matters get their own, while people who cannot are represented by public defenders). Nationally, only 10% of evicted tenants go into an eviction proceeding with legal representation, so clearly most tenants would benefit from representation.

A right to counsel will protect thousands of tenants from being unfairly evicted from their homes.

YES on F!