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June 5, 2018 — California Primary Election
Local

City of San Francisco
Proposition F Ordinance - Majority Approval Required

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Election Results

Passing

133,190 votes yes (55.74%)

105,774 votes no (44.26%)

City-Funded Legal Representation for Residential Tenants in Eviction Lawsuits
— undefined

Shall the City establish, fund and run a program to provide legal representation for all residential tenants in San Francisco facing eviction?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters San Francisco

The Question

Shall the City provide legal representation to all residential San Francisco tenants facing eviction?

Note: The Pros & Cons are also available in Spanish and Chinese.

The Situation

Currently, the City contracts with non-profit organizations to provide no-cost or low-cost basic legal services to some tenants facing eviction at an estimated cost to the City of $4.4 million and no-cost full legal representation at a cost of approximately $2 million. These services are based on income, age, and health status.

The Proposal

The City would provide legal representation for all residential San Franciscans facing eviction without criteria restrictions and would be required to establish, run and fully fund a program to administer this service.

Exceptions are made for tenants who reside in the same dwelling unit with the landlord. Tenants who are non-residential (i.e. subletting or living elsewhere) would not be eligible.

This proposal would be funded by allocations from the City’s General Fund and would vary annually based on budget allowances determined by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors. This measure does not bind future Mayors and Boards of Supervisors to provide funding.

 

A “YES” Vote Means: You want San Francisco to establish and run a program to provide legal representation to all residential tenants facing eviction, funded by allocations from the City budget determined annually by the Mayor and Board of Supervisors.

A “NO” Vote Means: You do not want to make these changes.

Supporters say

¡     Legal representation would be directly accessible for those unable to procure their own lawyer.

¡     Expenditures on homelessness due to unfair evictions would be reduced.

¡     This proposal slows gentrification and loss of cultural diversity. It would give non-English speakers a better chance to be represented.

¡     Landlords would be put on alert that they will have to defend unfair evictions in court.

Opponents say

¡     This measure increases bureaucracy and uses taxpayers’ money for legal defense of those who could afford to retain their own lawyer.

¡     Some services are already provided by charitable organizations.

¡     The cost to tax payers would be $4.2 – $5.6 million annually, and the Board of Supervisors would be allowed to increase funding without voter approval.

¡     Diverts taxpayer money from the General Fund, which is needed for other services.

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

YES vote means

A “YES” Vote Means: If you vote "yes," you want to require the City to establish, fund and run a program to provide legal representation for all residential tenants in San Francisco facing eviction.

NO vote means

A “NO” Vote Means: If you vote "no," you do not want to create this program.

Summary

Ballot Simplification Committee

The Way It Is Now: The City and County of San Francisco funds nonprofit organizations that provide free legal representation to some San Francisco residential tenants who face eviction.

To evict a residential tenant, the landlord must give the tenant a written notice of eviction. If a tenant does not move, the landlord may file a lawsuit asking a court to order eviction.

The Proposal: Proposition F would adopt a policy that San Francisco shall provide legal representation to all residential tenants facing eviction.

Proposition F would require the City to:

• Establish, fund and run a program to provide legal representation for all tenants in San Francisco facing eviction;

• Provide a lawyer for a tenant within 30 days after the tenant receives an eviction notice or immediately upon receipt of a lawsuit seeking eviction, whichever is sooner. The lawyer would provide legal representation to the tenant through all stages of the eviction process until resolved; and

• Implement this program within 12 months after this measure is adopted.

Proposition F would not require the City to provide legal representation to tenants who reside in the same dwelling unit with their landlord.

Financial effect

City Controller Ben Rosenfield

City Controller Ben Rosenfield has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition F:

The cost of the proposed ordinance, should it be approved by the voters, is dependent on decisions that the Mayor and Board of Supervisors make through the budget process, as an ordinance cannot bind future Mayors and Boards of Supervisors to provide funding for this or any other purpose. In my opinion, the cost of fully funding the program created in the proposed measure, should future policymakers do so, is likely to be significant.

The measure establishes a City program to provide full legal representation to residential tenants in eviction proceedings. Depending on the number of cases and other factors, the program would increase the City’s program costs by between approximately $4.2 million and approximately $5.6 million annually, and this amount would be likely to grow in future years.

The measure would require that the City establish a program to provide full legal representation for all residential tenants in San Francisco facing eviction. Currently, the City provides some services available to all tenants, including no-cost tenant counseling and tenant’s rights education, and no-cost or low-cost basic legal services. Annual City spending on tenant counseling, education, outreach and eviction-related basic legal services is approximately $4.4 million. The City also provides no-cost full legal representation in eviction proceedings for a limited number of eligible tenants under certain criteria including age, income and health status. Annual City spending on evictionrelated full legal representation is approximately $2.0 million.

Data from the San Francisco Superior Court and other local data sources show that approximately 3,500 tenants annually would be eligible for full legal representation under the program. However, not all tenants would use these services, and the extent of the legal representation required would vary from case to case. These and other factors result in a range of estimated annual program costs of between $4.2 million and $5.6 million.

Counseling, tenant education and eviction-related legal services are primarily provided through contracts between the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) and non-profit community-based organizations. In addition to the program costs above, MOHCD would require added staffing for implementation of the program, estimated at $200,000 annually.

Some studies suggest that there are also cost savings associated with universal access to civil legal services, including eviction defense. Services that keep tenants in their homes help reduce or prevent costs in other publicly-funded service systems, such as shelters and other homeless services.

As stated above, an ordinance cannot bind future Mayors and Boards of Supervisors to provide funding for this or any other purpose. Under the City Charter, the ultimate cost of this proposal depends on decisions made in the City’s annual budget process.

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

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