Response to recent open letter


As president of Small Property Owners of San Francisco, the organization that sponsored three busloads of rental property owners to a California Assembly hearing regarding AB 1506, I would like to respond to statements in the the recent open letter (“Open Letter on Rent Control Setback,” Jan. 25). They were inaccurate and, even worse, racist and xenophobic.

AB 1506 would have repealed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, the law that protects our rental housing from the most restrictive type of rent control. Costa-Hawkins prohibits vacancy control (under which owners cannot raise rents to market when a rental becomes vacant); it prohibits rent control on new construction and on single-family residences and condominiums. Allowing these extensions of rent controls would remove incentive to build new rental housing and to continue to rent out existing rentals.

The people on our buses were our members: owners, and parents of owners, of small rentals in San Francisco. Many are immigrants from China, but, to my knowledge, none are part of a “wave of investors from China.” Our Chinese-American members are folks who have bought a house with one or two rentals. 

Their employment is at jobs such as “hotel room cleaner,” “post office clerk,” “restaurant owner.” None of them “received two days off from work.” They met our buses at 4:30 a.m. and rode to the hearing. Each stood in line, as I did, for more than two hours to be allowed to state their name and that they opposed to the legislation. 

Yes, we did suggest some phrases in English for them to chant because their English is, in some cases, very limited. Yes, we did receive funds from real estate groups to supplement our member contributions for T-shirts, lunches and buses. The tenant groups had similar props, apparently funded by a union.

The strict forms of rent control desired by the backers of AB1506 and a pending ballot initiative are housing killers. Who would want to build new housing with perpetual rent control? What mom-and-pop owner could continue to rent out a unit that drains his resources? To paraphrase (Socialist) Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck, who was part of the Nobel Prize in Economics nominating body, “The only way to destroy a city more effectively than rent control is to use bombs.”


Noni Richen, President, Small Property Owners of San Francisco