Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Category Of Tenants In SF - Educators

[02-14-2018 update: Court of appeals reversed the judgment today. We may now expect the "educators" ordinance to come back in force, unless a certiorari review will follow.]

[09-28-2016 update - this amendment to the Rent Ordinance (introducing the "educators" and other additional restrictions) - is currently enjoined from enforcement, per August 31, 2016, order in  SFAA v. City and County of San Francisco (CPF-16-515087). Another solid victory for SFAA and Andrew Zacks firm.]

The rules of equality never meant to apply equally to the rule-makers themselves. This had often been the case since the times immemorial, and so observed by many, including Oliver Wendell Holmes.*  And in the context of our times and our local legislature on the issue of housing, examples of unequal treatment of classes of individuals in California are aplenty. Yet at least, for most of the times, you can see a public policy behind the legislatively created exceptions. Not all the times, but often. For a counter-example, when the reasoning is not immediately apparent, see CC § 51.2 and related sections, where the series of statutes provided a right to create senior-only housing (technically, a discrimination by age, albeit for a laudable purpose). In most of those statutes, one county (Riverside) is expressly excluded from these rules, see §§ 51.2(c), 51.3(j), 51.4(c), 51.10(d). I am sure there was some valid reason for that, but I don't know what it is.

Our county of San Francisco has its own rich history of laws treating us differently from elsewhere, especially in the field of housing regulations. Discriminating or differentiating the application of laws to individuals based on their age, disability, or familial status were for many years recognized applications of public policy of supporting those groups, by offering them additional protections, including such protections from evictions. Until now, however, it was more or less applied with care, providing a right for these individuals to claim a "protected" status as a tenant, in the concept of owner- or relative-move-in evictions, and there was a counter-balance for similarly disadvantaged landlords, by recognizing that the moving-in person could be in a similar position of being old or having children.**

Yet now we have a new and unprecedented piece of legislation, discriminating individuals by the source of income: Ordinance 55-16 created a new category, an "Educator," and it will widely apply to almost all non-fault kinds of evictions. Not only it offers no counter-balancing exceptions, but it takes away the ones existed before. I have a feeling that this legislative gem will be soon tested in courts, but for now it is the law, coming into effect on May 23, 2016. I had a chance to speculate on it, when it was introduced, let's now look more closely at what's coming.