(Neither the Ellis Act nor rent-control laws limit the ability of a landlord to evict a tenant for “just cause,” such as failure to pay rent, conducting illegal activity on the premises or posing an imminent harm to other tenants.)
The bill, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, is the latest effort to limit the Ellis Act; almost all previous bills have failed in past years. It would allow local jurisdictions – counties for now, but likely upon amendment to include cities – to place moratoriums on Ellis Act evictions.
The bill also would eliminate the expedited legal process for Ellis Act evictions, instead placing the evictions on civil court calendars. After budget cuts earlier this decade, delays have increased in civil courts, with some cases taking up to two years to be heard.
Ammiano said he introduced the bill in an attempt to stem the rush of condo conversions taking place in his San Francisco district, where rent controls are in effect. Housing prices in that city have skyrocketed in recent years amid the Silicon Valley tech boom, prompting apartment landlords to rush to sell or convert the units to more lucrative condos; last year alone more than 300 rental properties were taken off the market. As a result, thousands of tenants have been forced out of their units, with hundreds facing formal Ellis Act eviction proceedings.
In a statement last week to the Business Journal, Ammiano said he sees the problem statewide, too.
“While Ellis Act evictions are rampant in my district, it’s clear that they are also hurting other California jurisdictions that have attempted to protect tenants’ rights with rent-control measures,” Ammiano said in the statement.
“Southern California activists have identified hundreds of Ellis evictions in recent years,” he said. “I want to make sure that all communities covered under the Ellis Act have a way to protect affordable housing and the tenants who live there.”
Larry Gross, executive director of L.A. tenant rights organization Coalition for Economic Survival, said that in the past three years, more than 1,000 rent-controlled units have been taken off the market in Los Angeles, with many of those going through the Ellis Act eviction process. He expects the pace of such evictions to increase as housing pressures mount, particularly on L.A.’s Westside.
“We have a tidal wave of Ellis Act evictions on the horizon,” Gross said. “What’s happening now in San Francisco will soon happen here, unless action is taken. We need this legislation now, not after the fact, because once we lose those rent-controlled units, we will never get them back.”