By Bob Egelko
A state appeals court upheld a San Francisco ordinance Wednesday that protects teachers, other school staff and child care center employees from evictions during the school year, reversing a judge's ruling that struck down the law.
The measure, approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, took effect in April 2016. It prohibited most no-fault evictions against school employees during the academic year, requiring landlords to wait until summer. It also barred such evictions of families with children under 18, who were already protected by an ordinance passed in 2010.
Supporters of the law said most teachers and other school employees could no longer afford to live in the city.
in 2016 found that a teacher with an income of $65,240 a year, the school district average, would have to pay nearly two-thirds of his or her income for a one-bedroom apartment in the city at the median rent of $3,500 a month.
The ordinance was in effect less than five months before it was overturned by Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay, who said less-restrictive state laws on evictions and property rights prevented cities from passing their own limitations. The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco disagreed Wednesday and said the city had acted within its authority.
Cities can "limit the substantive grounds for eviction," the court said, quoting an earlier ruling. It said San Francisco had legally valid reasons for limiting teachers' and students' evictions during the school year.
"The purpose of the ordinance is to protect children from the disruptive impact of moving during the school year or losing a relationship with a school employee who moves during the school year," Justice Mark Simons said in the 3-0 ruling.
Because it gives certain groups of tenants protection from eviction during a specific period, he said, "the ordinance is a permissible limitation upon the landlord's property rights," rather than an invalid limitation on the overall right to evict under state law.
The ordinance was challenged by two real estate groups, the San Francisco Apartment Association and the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute. Their lawyer, Andrew Zacks, said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court. The ordinance will remain blocked while the appeal is pending.
"For property owners in San Francisco, what this ruling means, if upheld, is that if a property owner needs to access a piece of property to make repairs -- let's say a boiler breaks in November -- they won't have any way to get access until the summer months," Zacks said. "It's a problem that the city's created. We hope the Supreme Court will consider the importance of the issue."
City officials are "pleased the court upheld San Francisco's work to protect teachers and students from losing their homes through no fault of their own during the school year," said John Coté, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera. "Uprooting and displacing children or their teachers mid-year does nothing to benefit San Francisco, while, according to published studies, it can do plenty of harm to the students' learning process."
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