June 18, 1996
MINUTES OF THE REGULAR MEETING OF
THE SAN FRANCISCO RESIDENTIAL RENT
STABILIZATION & ARBITRATION BOARD,
Tuesday, June 18, 1996 at 6:00 p.m. at
25 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 70, Lower Level
I. Call to Order
President Becker called the meeting to order at 6:05 p.m.
II. Roll Call
Commissioners Present: Becker; Bierly; Gruber; Lightner; Marshall; Moore; Mosser; Murphy; Palma; Wasserman.
Staff Present: Grubb; Wolf.
III. Approval of the Minutes
MSC: To approve the Minutes of June 4, 1996.
IV. Consideration of Appeals
A. 478 Warren Dr. #715 Q001-56A
The tenant’s petition alleging substantial decreases in housing services was granted, in part, and the landlord was found liable to the tenant in the amount of $2,400.00 due to an extensive problem with pigeons landing, nesting and defecating on the balcony and deck of her unit. On appeal, the landlord alleges that a 25% per month reduction in rent for this problem is excessive and an abuse of the hearing officer’s discretion; that the landlord took reasonable steps to eliminate the problem but the tenant repeatedly impeded the landlord’s efforts; and that there are many factual errors in the decision.
MSC: To accept the appeal and remand the case to the hearing officer on the record to adjust the amount of the rent reduction for the months when the problem was ameliorated. (Marshall/Becker: 5-0)
B. 165 Jordan Ave. #4 Q001-57A
The tenant’s petition alleging an unlawful increase in rent was granted, and the hearing officer determined that the tenant was not liable to pay a noticed increase in the amount of $154.00 per month because the amount was excessive and the increase was the second within a 12-month period. The landlord attempted to impose the increase pursuant to Rules and Regulations Section 6.14 because the last of the original tenants had vacated the premises three years prior, but the hearing officer found that the new rental amount must be set at the time the last original tenant vacates and that the landlord had waited too long. On appeal, the landlord asserts that Section 6.14 simply says that when the last original tenant vacates a new tenancy is created for purposes of determining the rent, but does not specify when the new rental amount must be imposed.
MSC: To deny the appeal. (Palma/Marshall: 4-1; Gruber dissenting)
C. 1534 Chesnut St. Q001-58A & Q001-66R
The landlord’s petition for a rent increase based on comparables was granted. Although the hearing officer determined that the rent for the unit had not been increased for twenty years due to the friendship between the prior owner and the tenant, it was not proved that the initial rent had been set low for any reason. Pursuant to the Court’s decision in the case of Vega v. City of West Hollywood (1990) 223 Cal.App.3d 1343, the hearing officer granted a rent consistent with the amount that would have been allowed had the unit been under the Ordinance, resulting in an increase from $400.00 to $762.17. The landlord appeals the decision on the grounds that, even upon imposition of the increase allowed, the rent for the unit will still be less than half of the current market rent. The tenant also appeals the decision, claiming that: the hearing officer abused her discretion in applying an arbitrary method for determining the allowable amount of increase in that the landlord failed to meet his burden of proof; by allowing annual increase amounts prior to 1982, the hearing officer places the landlord in a better position than if the unit had been subject to the Ordinance; and the tenant faces a potential future hardship should her adult daughter vacate the unit.
MSC: To accept the appeals and remand the case on the issue of comparables. (Lightner/Gruber: 5-0)
V. Public Hearing
Proposed Amendments to Rules and Regulations Section 6.14 in Order to Conform that Section to the Requirements of the Costa-Hawkins Bill
A Public Hearing on amendments to Rules and Regulations Section 6.14 drafted by prior Commissioner Jonathan Hayden commenced at 7:10 p.m. and concluded at 8:20 p.m. Thirty-two individuals spoke; twenty-three landlords and nine tenants. Prior to the commencement of public testimony, Janan New of the S.F. Apartment Association voiced a concern regarding the neutrality of Commissioner Neli Palma, in that she was involved in lobbying efforts against passage of the Costa-Hawkins Bill. Commissioner Palma informed those in attendance that she had discussed this issue with the Office of the City Attorney, and was advised that there is no legal conflict.
The consensus sentiment of the landlords who testified was as follows: the proposed amendment does not comply with the provisions of the Costa-Hawkins Bill; if acceptance of rent does not constitute a waiver of a landlord’s right to enforce a covenant prohibiting subletting or assignment, some lesser action cannot be considered such a waiver; the burden of notification that there is a new occupant in a unit should be on the tenant, and the landlord should not be forced to "snoop around" to discern who is living in the unit, which also violates tenants’ privacy; a landlord cannot assure the security of the premises without control over who lives there; the proposal is an attempt to circumvent vacancy decontrol and continue the implementation of Section 6.14 as it is; and the re-draft is confusing, ambiguous, and should be simplified and clarified.
The tenants present expressed the following opinions: the proposed draft was authored by a previous neutral Commissioner and strikes a middle ground; ending the requirement for 6.14 notices would create more confusion; the Board’s purpose is the preservation of San Francisco’s rent control law and the dictates of State law should be followed in a manner that least impacts our Rules; there currently is an extremely low vacancy rate with resulting higher rents and incumbent homelessness - this economic climate should mitigate the need for additional rent increases; the proposed draft is still too complicated; many of the tenants affected by Section 6.14 are health caretakers and/or members of non-traditional families, whose continued presence in San Francisco is essential to protect the diversity for which the City is known; and the proposed definition of "original tenant" is consistent with the definition of "tenant" in the Ordinance and all that is required for compliance is to specify that acceptance of rent does not in and of itself constitute waiver.
After discussion, the Commissioners passed the following motion:
MSC: To have Commissioner Wasserman draft changes to the proposed revision of Rules and Regulations Section 6.14 which will be discussed at the meeting on July 2, 1996; and to postpone the Public Hearing on proposed changes to Rules and Regulations Section 10.10 regarding the issue of constructive notice, originally scheduled on July 2nd. (Lightner/Gruber: 5-0)
In addition to correspondence regarding appeals on the calendar and the proposed revision to Rules and Regulations Section 6.14, the Commissioners received the following communications:
A. The office workload statistics for the month of May, 1996.
B. A letter from the Executive Director of the Bernal Heights Housing Corporation in support of Commissioner Neli Palma’s appointment to the Rent Board.
C. A copy of proposed legislation amending the owner move-in sections of the Rent Ordinance introduced by Supervisor Yaki on Monday, June 17, 1996.
VII. Old Business
Amend Rules and Regulations Section 6.10 to Conform to the Order of the Court in the Case of Collier and Hislop v. S.F. Rent Board (Superior Court Case No. 972898)
In accordance with the Court’s Order Directing Issuance of Peremptory Writ of Mandate, which prohibited implementation of Rules Section 6.10(b)(4) as amended on June 6, 1995, the Commissioners passed the following motion:
MSC: To amend Rules and Regulations Section 6.10 in compliance with the Order of the Court in the case of Collier and Hislop v. S.F. Rent Board (Superior Court Case No. 972898), including deletion of any references to "Special Real Estate Taxes". Rules Section 6.10 will revert to the version in effect as of May 24, 1994, except for certain technical changes of a non-substantive nature which were included in the June 6, 1995 amendments, which shall remain. (Palma/Marshall: 5-0)
VIII. Remarks from the Public
Two landlords and one tenant offered some additional comments augmenting their testimony regarding the proposed amendments to Rules and Regulations Section 6.14, which were the subject of the earlier Public Hearing.
IX. New Business
A. Commissioner Marshall provided the Board members with a Memorandum from staff Capital Improvements Specialist Rod Wong showing the economic impact of extending the amortization schedules for seismic renovation work to 30 years. This issue will be discussed at the meeting on July 2, 1996.
B. Deputy Director Delene Wolf gave the Commissioners a Memorandum detailing some suggested "clean-up" amendments to the Rules and Regulations which are of a non-substantive nature. With the Board’s approval, these proposed changes could be put out for public comment at the time of the Public Hearing on proposed changes to Rules and Regulations Section 10.10 regarding the issue of constructive notice, which has been re-scheduled for August 6, 1996.
X. Calendar Items
June 25, 1996 - NO MEETING
July 2, 1996
3 appeal considerations
A. Rules and Regulations Section 6.14 (Costa-Hawkins)
B. Extended Amortization Schedules for Seismic Work
July 9 & 16, 1996 - NO MEETINGS
President Becker adjourned the meeting at 10:05 p.m.