Pando, Ron Conway, the Mayor, "tech" moguls weigh in for the dispossessed and a bill makes it to state senate floor

By Dan Raile , written on May 7, 2014

From The News Desk

On Monday I did my muckraking best to make a California State Senate Judiciary Committee vote seem interesting to Pando readership. No word yet if I succeeded, which means I probably didn't.

Here's the lean version: a bill to make it make it more difficult for SF landlords to use the Ellis Act to evict tenants is opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and the homeowners and real estate lobbies. On the other hand, it's supported by tenants rights groups, organized labor, and the SF "tech" industry, under the shepherding instincts and guidance of Ron Conway, who faced a similar problem as I did this week. It's an honor to share an empathetic moment of comradery with a man of whom MC Hammer once tweeted:
I still remember how I felt that day during first grade when I heard the Adam's Family theme song – which, for those keeping score at home, totally blew Vanilla Ice's "Go Ninja GO!" from the The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of Ooze out of the water. Since that day it's been pretty clear to me that MC Hammer is the best, so if he says Ron Conway is the best, I'm listening. But I digress.

In one way or another Conway has reached out to or connected with some 75 tech executives to get them to sign on to a letter of support for the bill. It was a symbolic stand, pitting the scrappy and innovative "tech" sector in solidarity with the dispossessed against the evil "speculators."

One needn't mention that didn't bother to qualify that term as "real estate speculators" – doing so might remind anyone reading the letter that there are other types of speculators and some of them are both wildly successful and completely above-board. Some of them are even friends with lawmakers. Take Conway and Mayor Ed Lee, for example, who've made no secret of their fondness for one another and their shared belief in the disruptive innovation of wealthy older men corralling special interest groups to influence the procedures of government.

But was anybody paying attention?

The vote wasn't held until late in the afternoon, and by midnight only one story had emerged, a "two-pager" in the San Francisco Business Times, which is much more than you'll get here. You should expect more from a publication full of ads, right?

Yesterday that bill made it through committee and will hit the Senate floor next. The votes cleaved as follows: 5 Democrats for, 2 Republicans against and none abstaining. Classic Californian voting lines – Central Valley and San Diego vs. the Bay Area, LA, and the coast.

Whew. That was close guys.

Next, the bill will face the full senate of 28 Democrats and 12 Republicans, which has to happen before May 30. Maybe this time Conway could put together a video (recommended for the uninitiated) to draw attention to the cause of unwarranted evictions and the fact that the "tech" community vehemently opposes them, as we've always known in our hearts. If the bill passes the Senate, it will go to the Assembly where it will likely be subjected to a similar committee process and be voted on by August 31. That in turn will clear the way for legislation in San Francisco which, if it passes, would finally bring the proposed changes to bear on the Ellis Act. So we've got a ways to go, and will be staying tuned. is the child of a halcyon earlier age, namely 2011, when the tension between the "tech community" and the general San Francisco public (of whom, like all publics, it is never really possible to make generalities) had yet to turn malevolent and was still roasting peacefully below the surface of daily life, like a warm country hearth.

But Conway and the team seem to have learned some lessons since those tensions started spilling out. A month ago, they absorbed the vitriol of the packed chambers of the SF Board of Supervisors when they came out in support of the "Google Bus" pilot project. Though they were on the winning side of that battle, legislatively speaking, they also found themselves cast in the role of atavistic barons by an angry and unsubtle crowd.

These days the organization is making sure to broadcast which side it's on.“Many of our tech industry member companies support SB 1439 because it will allow the city to block the exploitation of the Ellis Act by speculators and help mitigate the impacts of mass evictions of low- and middle-income tenants,” Conway said yesterday. In a reprisal of last month's BoS meeting, tenants' rights concerns, the local SEIU 1021, and other San Francisco citizen groups flooded the public comment portion of the proceedings, lining up to decry the city's housing situation. The San Francisco Business Times article attests that many of members of those groups had arrived in Sacramento on buses from SF.

No word yet on whether Conway or Hammer led any sing alongs during the ride up.