United States

SF Supervisors Unanimously Pass Legislation to Eliminate Fees for Ex-Offenders

San Francisco supervisors Tuesday at their weekly meeting unanimously passed legislation to abolish fees associated with people leaving the criminal justice system.

The move would make San Francisco the first county in the U.S. to eliminate all locally controlled fees associated with the system.

Once implemented, people leaving jails would not be expected to pay fees associated with probation costs, restitution, booking, the sheriff's work alternative program, the automated county warrant system and the sheriff's home detention program. The legislation also calls for the elimination of local penalties associated with alcohol testing and court-ordered penalties for misdemeanor and felony offenses.

"These fees are high pain for people, but low gain for government," San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros said in a statement. "They are assessed on low income people who cannot pay them and create barriers for people re-entering their communities. Only a fraction of these fees is ever collected, and I challenge other counties to join San Francisco in stopping the practice of balancing our books on the backs of people who cannot afford it."

The legislation was sponsored by the President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed.

Supervisors also unanimously passed an ordinance sponsored by Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer that prohibits landlords from increasing rents on existing tenants of recently purchased rent-controlled buildings.

The ordinance amends the city's administrative code to stop the landlords from seeking rent hikes to cover increased debt service and property taxes that resulted from a change in ownership.

"There is a flaw in our rent ordinance that allows landlords to pass through debt service and property tax increases that they have incurred from simply purchasing a rent controlled building - not for maintaining or improving the building, just acquiring it," Fewer said in a statement. "Tenants should not be burdened with a rent increase just because they have a new landlord."

The ordinance only calls for the elimination of the landlords' costs associated with acquiring buildings and does not affect landlords' ability to pass through capital improvements or any necessary maintenance.

Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who last week held a hearing on speculative landlords, said in a statement, "This measure will stop outside property speculators from buying up buildings with high-priced loans and then passing through their financing costs onto existing rent-controlled tenants. The goal of pushing these costs onto tenants is to price them out of their units so they can be re-rented out at market rates."

Supervisors also unanimously approved a $26 million renovation for the 124-year-old Golden Gate Park Tennis Center.

The renovations will include a new clubhouse, professional standard courts and expanded operations. The renovations could start as early as 2019 with a reopening planned for 2020, when Golden Gate Park turns 150 years old.

"The history of Golden Gate Park Tennis Center is a point of civic pride for our city," Mayor Mark Farrell said in a statement. "Once we transform it into the best public tennis facility in the nation, its future will be a point of civic pride."

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