CAA chapter sues to protect property owner rights under Ellis Act


A chapter of the California Apartment Association and two other groups have sued the city of San Francisco, claiming it passed legislation that violates building owners’ rights under the state’s Ellis Act.

The legislation, approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Ed Lee, prohibits owners of multi-unit buildings from combining units in a building for 10 years following an Ellis Act eviction or for five years following an owner-move-in eviction.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, Jan. 28, says the state Ellis Act pre-empts the city legislation. The Ellis Act allows building owners to take a building off the rental market and convert those units to condominiums or single-family homes.

Under the law, building owners are already required to give occupants up to one-year advance notice and provide relocation fees of $5,105 per tenant, up to a maximum of $15,315, plus $3,403 additional for tenants who are senior or disabled.

Yet the San Francisco legislation targeted in the suit prevents families who own a building from creating a home that meets their needs.

For example, it keeps a family from combining two small units into a larger one to provide a home for a growing family. Couples with young children often find themselves in need of additional space they did not anticipate when they purchased a rental building, yet the legislation punishes them.

“Families are fleeing San Francisco due to a multitude of reasons that include a lack of adequate space for growing families that often include multiple generations,” said Janan New, Executive Director of the San Francisco Apartment Association, a chapter of CAA. “This legislation exacerbates that problem by punishing and limiting options for families who simply seek to create a home that meets the needs of their family.”

The other plaintiffs include the Coalition for Better Housing; and the San Francisco Association of REALTORS.