San Francisco lawmakers’ attempt to gut Ellis Act meets resistance


San Francisco lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills that would hamper a property owner’s ability to quit the rental housing business.

In the crosshairs of both pieces of legislation is the state’s Ellis Act.

Senate Bill 1439 by Mark Leno would bar property owners from using the Ellis Act until they’ve owned a property for at least five consecutive years. Moreover, it would prohibit a property owner from using the act on more than one property.

About 40 property owners, many chanting in Mandarin and some holding “Keep Ellis Unchanged”  signs, protested the legislation during a Leno press conference Monday in San Francisco.

Assembly Bill 2405 by Tom Ammiano would leave contested Ellis Act court filings stuck in the court system for years. It also would make Ellis Act records confidential and tie permission to invoke the act to local housing affordability.

The state Legislature enacted the Ellis Act in 1985, saying that no local government can force a rental property owner to continue offering their housing for rent. This law allows rental property owners to exit the business and escape financial hardships caused by rent control.

Sen. Mark Leno

Sen. Mark Leno

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano

“We believe that the true story of all of this is an over-regulated rental market in San Francisco,” Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment Association, said in this Los Angeles Times article.

“Owners choose to get out of the rental market business because they can no longer afford to subsidize their tenants,” said New, whose organization is a chapter of the California Apartment Association.

Property owners’ stories

Visit and find out why two longtime San Francisco property owners used the Ellis Act to address serious problems.