The introduction of two bills sets the stage for what could be one of the 2014 legislative session's highest octane battles - whether landlords can sidestep local rent control laws and evict their tenants to convert units to condominiums.
It's a burning issue in San Francisco, where evictions and condominium conversions have proliferated due to soaring housing demand from high-income technology industry workers.
The Ellis Act, passed by the Legislature three decades ago in response to a state Supreme Court decision involving Santa Monica's rent control law, allows evictions if landlords are going out of the rental business.
Both of the bills have been introduced by San Francisco Democrats, Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.
Leno's measure, Senate Bill 1439, would apply only to San Francisco, allowing that city to prohibit Ellis Act evictions unless the property had been in the same ownership for at least five years.
It's aimed at investment companies that buy rental properties and quickly evict tenants to make condo conversions.
Ammiano's bill, Assembly Bill 2405, would allow any local government to prevent condo conversions if it has not met the state's designated need for housing in the community, particularly the need for low- and moderate-income housing.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appeared with Leno at a news conference Monday to plug his bill. The state's landlord and real estate lobbies, anticipating that anti-condo conversion legislation would be introduced, have been gearing up to block passage.
PHOTO: Renters and renter rights advocates demonstrated for better protections for renters, the creation of more affordable housing and to end the Ellis Act, during a march at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli)