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Related Categories: California | Health, Housing & Public Services
San Francisco Voters Pass Nation’s First Right to Counsel Ballot Measure
by Shanti Singh
Tuesday Jun 12th, 2018 11:52 AM
San Francisco voters have resoundingly approved Proposition F, a ballot measure to guarantee a universal right to legal counsel for tenants facing eviction, becoming the first city in California, and the second city in the nation, to establish a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction.
As ballots continue to be counted, it is now apparent that San Francisco voters have resoundingly approved Proposition F, a ballot measure to guarantee a universal right to legal counsel for tenants facing eviction. The measure leads by a margin of 55% - 45%.

“A right to counsel is about fairness,” said Dean Preston, the author and official proponent of the measure. “This measure will help thousands of San Franciscans stay in their homes and prevent homelessness.” Preston heads Tenants Together, California’s statewide tenants’ rights organization, which has long supported robust legal services for tenants.

With the passage of Proposition F, San Francisco becomes the first city in California, and the second city in the nation, to establish a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction. New York City passed a groundbreaking, but more limited, right to counsel law at the City Council in 2017. San Francisco’s law is universal, providing full scope legal representation to all tenants facing eviction in the city. Last Friday, June 7, NYC City Councilpersons Mark Levine and Vanessa Gibson announced a plan to expand their own ordinance, citing Prop F: “It’s not lost on us that San Francisco Tuesday night passed a bill modeled on our program, except without an income cap… We don’t want to be a step behind San Francisco.”


Prop. F expands on on local and statewide efforts to provide legal services for tenants facing eviction. Locally, a pilot project in San Francisco in 2012 announced the city’s intention to become a right to counsel city, but five years later when most tenants in the city remained unrepresented in eviction cases, activists took the issue directly to the ballot. At the state level, the Sargent Shriver Civil Right to Counsel Act sought to expand access to justice for low-income litigants starting in 2011. The Shriver Project invested $9.5 million annually statewide into pilot projects to expand legal representation in a half dozen California cities. Local and statewide pilot projects have proven what studies in other states have shown: better outcomes for tenants who have legal representation.

Prop F was powered by neighbors and activists ready to turn the tide on the displacement crisis. An outside-the-establishment campaign from the start, Prop. F gathered over 20,000 signatures, double the number required, to qualify the measure, hit over 60,000 doors, made tens of thousands of calls, and raised campaign funds from over 500 donors. The campaign inspired hundreds of new volunteers and earned endorsements across the political spectrum.

Tenants Together member organizations in San Francisco, including the San Francisco Tenants Union, Housing Rights Committee of SF, and Causa Justa::Just Cause, united behind the measure. Tenant activists teamed up with the SF chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and other progressive allies to mount the successful campaign, overcoming opposition from the San Francisco Apartment Association, the San Francisco Association of Realtors, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the SF Republican Party.

“We hope that this is just the start of a wave of cities nationwide seeking new and innovative approaches to stopping displacement,” commented Deepa Varma, director of the SF Tenants Union.