How to Be a Landlord in San Francisco
A fact about Frisco living is that we deal with a predictable litany of questions when we encounter someone from outside our urban womb: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the gays?” Or: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the earthquakes?”
But nowadays, instead, I get: “You’re from San Francisco? How are the evictions?” Evictions are the new earthquakes.
These days, San Francisco’s gonzo housing market is international knowledge. And yet, an unspoken truth about San Francisco housing is that the easiest job in the world is to be a landlord here. On the list of easy jobs, it edges out press secretary for the Secret Service, where the only words you ever get to say are, “That’s classified.”
I would know what an easy job it is because I am a San Francisco landlord. That’s why I started Small Property Owners for Reasonable Control as a PAC of insignificant landlords. We are small landlords (we own four or fewer rental units), and we support tenant protections, rent control, and limits on evictions because, as landlords, we know we’ve got it way too good.
Ten years ago, I bought a house in North Bernal with an in-law unit using a down payment I inherited and a mortgage I shouldn’t have been allowed to get. You know the kind of mortgage that caused the housing bubble and wrecked the world economy? I had one. Then, through no acumen of my own, my neighborhood became the Hottest Real Estate Neighborhood in America™. I got out of my sketchy mortgage and into a low-rate 30-year fixed because my home value rode a wave of appreciation fueled by the relentless power of startup pixie dust and tech VC hot air.
Now, because it is so groovy and desirable and close to the Google (and Apple and Yahoo and Genentech and Facebook) buses, no one I know can afford to live in my neighborhood. So instead of having friends nearby, I get to charge obscenely high rent. I don’t want to charge obscenely high rent. I’d rather have friends.