Shall the City establish, fund and run a program to provide legal representation for all residential tenants in San Francisco facing eviction?
Digest by the 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.
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.
A “NO” Vote Means: If you vote "no," you do not want to create this program.
Controller’s Statement on “F”
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 eviction-related 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.
How “F” Got on the Ballot
On February 5, 2018, the Department of Elections certified that the initiative petition calling for Proposition F to be placed on the ballot had a sufficient number of valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.
9,485 signatures were required to place an initiative ordinance on the ballot. This number is equal to 5% of the total number of people who voted for Mayor in 2015. A random check of the signatures submitted by the proponents of the initiative petition prior to the February 5, 2018, submission deadline showed that the total number of valid signatures was greater than the number required.
This measure requires 50%+1 affirmative votes to pass.