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Mayor backs foes of measure increasing eviction reimbursements

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A campaign to defeat a measure on the local Nov. 7 ballot that would more than quadruple the payment to some evicted tenants has picked up the endorsement of Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Tenants of buildings who are issued what are commonly referred to as no-fault evictions are entitled to $1,000 in relocation costs.

If passed by voters, Proposition H would require property owners to pay tenants $4,500 in relocation costs for those tenants issued no-fault evictions, which include evictions for owner or family move-ins or for capital improvement work.

It would also add $3,000 to that base fee if the tenant was 60 years of age or older or disabled, or if a child lived in the housing unit. The fees would be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. If approved, the new fees would be retroactive to Aug. 10.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi placed Prop. H on the ballot Aug. 9, the deadline to put measures on the ballot by obtaining the signatures of four supervisors.

"While the mayor is strongly in favor of increasing relocation benefits for tenants, he is opposed to the way this measure was put on the ballot at the last minute," said Eric Jaye, Newsom’s campaign strategist. "Issues like this should be handled at the board so it can be reviewed and so things can be easily changed or amended."

Mirkarimi said it’s proper for the measure to go on the ballot. "I think that it’s important for the voters to weigh in on these types of matters because of the crisis of evictions that are occurring," Mirkarimi said.

Between March 2005 and February 2006, there were 259 evictions for owner or family move-ins, 97 evictions for capital improvement work and 50 evictions for demolition, according to an annual report by The City’s Rent Board. There were 1,621 total evictions in that same period, and 1,446 the year before.

The Small Property Owners of San Francisco is spearheading the No on Prop. H campaign, and the group announced Thursday it secured Newsom’s endorsement.

David Fix, president of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco, said his group has just begun raising money to oppose the ballot measure and that Newsom’s endorsement is a boost.

Also on Thursday, a fundraiser in support of Prop. H, which was organized by Mirkarimi, took place at the headquarters of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.

"This is a just and fair rate in order to assist tenants who are forced to leave," Mirkarimi said. "In today’s economic terms I think it is consistent with the trials and tribulations of finding new housing in San Francisco."

Fix, however, said the amounts are excessive and that the relocation costs unfairly apply to tenants regardless of their income or how long they have lived in the building.

jsabatini@examiner.com