Board of Supervisors turns eye to pedestrian safety, evictions 

In its first meeting of 2014, the Board of Supervisors addressed evictions and pedestrian fatalities, two issues that are expected to remain on the political forefront this year with both reaching historic highs in The City.

After pedestrian fatalities hit a six-year high in 2013 at 20, including deaths of a 6-year-old girl and an 86-year-old man in separate incidents on New Year’s Eve, members of the board expressed sadness and an urgency to address the problem.

Police announced Tuesday evening that another pedestrian was killed in a collision with a vehicle at Van Ness Avenue and Grove Street.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the Tenderloin, said the death toll “is a serious wakeup call to The City in terms of what is our commitment to making this city a safer place.”

Mayor Ed Lee has said he is committed to improve pedestrian safety. Among such efforts are calls for greater investment in The City’s pedestrian-safety strategy plan and for increased law enforcement.

“It’s remarkable how little traffic enforcement we have,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said. “I’ve never been in a place with less traffic enforcement than in this city.”

Some supervisors said San Francisco should follow the lead of New York City, where new Mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to eliminate all pedestrian deaths within 10 years.

Victims’ relatives and friends expressed grief over the recent fatalities during the meeting. But that wasn’t the only show of emotion from residents — some came to call for help with tenant evictions. On that front, the board unanimously approved a resolution with the support of the mayor calling on state legislators to amend the Ellis Act, a state law that allows property owners to evict tenants if they get out of the rental business. Instead, city officials would like the Ellis Act under local control.

With the turnaround in the local economy that’s been sped up by a technology boom, real estate prices are soaring, leading to high rents and evictions. Board President David Chiu said that there are “too many real estate speculators who are purchasing properties evicting our San Franciscan residents and flipping those properties for profit.” He acknowledged a state law change would be a “difficult task.”

The resolution noted that while in the past decade developers produced 1,476 new below-market-rate units, there were 1,763 Ellis Act-related evictions at the same time, a net loss in affordable rental housing.

Supervisor David Campos said it was “unprecedented” to have local consensus on this issue, but also said that The City should “not be afraid to push the envelope” with local laws aimed at protecting tenants.

Ideas on how to do so are likely coming soon. The San Francisco Anti Displacement Coalition, a group of tenant advocate groups, is hosting so-called neighborhood tenant conventions this month. A citywide convention is scheduled for Feb. 8 where proposals will be made, including a possible November ballot measure, according to Supervisor Eric Mar.

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