Cortland Neighbor May Leave Bernal After 130% Rent Increase



Last week, Bernalwood received a heartbreaking note from Neighbor Bianca, who is reluctantly vacating her apartment on Cortland (near Andover) after being notified of a 130% rent increase. She tells Bernalwood:

It is to my great dismay that as a four-year Bernal resident, I have been officially notified of a rental increase. The 2-unit building I live in was sold about 4 months back to Citibrokers, Inc.

I found the notice of my rental increase coldly slapped and taped onto the front gate of my 2 bedroom apartment. I have attached the picture of the main document.

My unit is considered a “Single-Family Unit” because the building consists just of my apartment and a nail salon below. That makes it exempt from rent control. I spoke with the SF Rental Board, they said the rent increase was legal. It would seem pointless to attempt to fight it/hire a lawyer

As an On-Call Biologist at the Exploratorium and a part-time bartender at a music venue in the Mission, I simply do not make enough money to afford this new increase. With this, I must leave the Bay as I have run out of options for myself and my pup, Karma.

I hope this serves as a bleak warning to the rest of our beloved Bernal locals.  I want to sound the alarm so other residents brush up on their rights and keep in touch with the landlord with regard to any future sales plans. My prior landlord didn’t even tell me when he sold the building! It wasn’t until a real estate agent was at my door, asking to come in for measurements. Sigh.

I absolutely adore this neighborhood and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the city. I’m going to truly miss Bernal Heights…it’s a special slice of paradise hidden in the noise and chaos of SF.  It saddens me deeply it must end like this.


(Biologist, Bartender, Bernal & Dog Lover, Silly Cross-Stitcher)

Grrrrrrrr. Coming shortly after the 355% rent increase that drove Neighbor Deb from her apartment on Bocana earlier in the year, this is a tough story to hear.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any leads on potential housing options for Neighbor Bianca here in Bernal, please contact Bernalwood. We’ll make sure the information gets to her ASAP.

PHOTOS: via Neighbor Bianca

52 thoughts on “Cortland Neighbor May Leave Bernal After 130% Rent Increase

  1. Well, look on the bright side… maybe they won’t be able to rent a 2-bedroom above a nail salon for $5,750. Greedy mofos.

    • Oh, Bernal, they will be able to rent it in a heartbeat. Besides the flat’s proximity to tech shuttles and the highways to the south–I didn’t just say that, (and how can I vilify tech pros so, so much?! they all ask in unison, as if programmed)–a nail salon is not the worst place to rent above, as long as there is no external stench of chemicals. There’s not much noise, no one there at night, and likely no trouble from anyone working at the establishment. By this accounting, it’s almost the perfect first-floor occupant for someone living above.

      A place down the street from me–a sorry-looking 2-bedroom that is getting renovated–will likely be rented for well over 4K after being rented for less than half that, so a nicer one on Cortland is probably “at market” at nearly 6K. There is quite an ugly place on our street that is renting for almost the same amount as the asking rent on the Cortland apartment.

      My heart goes out to victims (like Bianca and others) of “The Change” that is so often celebrated and defended on this blog–when it’s not responded to by faux outrage by commenters who have their million-dollar house above their head, and who then go back to their coffee and check the interest rates and real estate temperatures. Bernal is now a place of haves and have nots, where the division is transforming the entire city.

      Location, location, frustration.

      • I own one of those million-dollar houses and I drink coffee, but that doesn’t mean I cannot be outraged by this greed.

  2. I get it. As someone that’s writing this from Sonoma County. I miss the City and my friends but not the new residents and rental situation.

    • Please to not mention the existence of Sonoma County, As an SF expat who managed to stay inside the nine counties just barely I do not want to end up in Humboldt.

  3. This is infuriating and sickening. Landlords will continue to do this as long as they can unless the movement to expose and confront this inhumnity grows. It would be nice to also share stories of good landlords when we hear them.

  4. Terrible. Using a rent increase to avoid paying eviction compensation. For $2500/month, she might still find housing in the Excelsior, Portola, or Daly City. Or she can find a place in the East Bay. But it’s challenging with a dog to find a new place, and it won’t be Bernal.

    • No eviction compensation necessary. They could just give her a 30 day notice to move out, since the place is not covered by rent control! I guess, out of the kindness of their black banker’s hearts, they gave her the “option” to remain there at the new desired rent, basically getting “first pick” over other prospective renters.

      • Doesn’t take a banker to pull out Costa Hawkins on a tenant. My family lost our place in south Bernal in January in the same way. We’d known the landlord’s family for many years.

      • I’m not sure that’s accurate. Just because it’s not covered by rent control doesn’t mean it’s not covered by the other rules regarding no-fault evictions.

  5. I can speak from experience, Bianca is the best roomate you could wish to have. Someone help! I’m tired of all of my friends having to move to Austin/Portland/ etc …

  6. As a side note, as a fellow San Franciscan whose family members include those with four legs, I know well that we are one of the most vulnerable populations in SF — there are basically no laws to protect families with dogs from housing discrimination (unless a dog is a legitimate service animal). For many years I volunteered at the Oakland SPCA and at Tony LaRussa’s ARF in Walnut Creek, and it was heartbreaking how many people were forced to abandon pets because of housing issues. My heart goes out to Bianca and Karma.

  7. I’m not surprised. Cant seem to live anywhere in SF for $2500, its just getting outrageous! Best bet might be Daly City, the peninsula. Heck, I use to live in Bernal Heights until we had to sell the family home after my parents passed. Living in San Mateo , in an apartment for $2500/mo. Its nice, but it aint no BH. Couldnt touch a place in Bernal for under $3000k./mo. Sad.

  8. Meeting this evening at Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center 7:30pm to discuss changes such as these that are happening in our community, and in general.
    Sorry, Bianca.

  9. THINK OF IT THIS WAY: You had some years of living in a great neighborhood. So, now it’s time to move on and explore a new neighborhood, meet new friends, try a new job. So often we focus on the bad things that happen to us and don’t spend enough time thinking about the good things we’ve enjoyed.

    • How would you feel if you had no choice but to abandon your job, home, friends, familiar surroundings, shops you are used to, doctors, the hairdresser who knows what style you like, etc. If someone chooses this to have a new start, great! But being forced to turn your whole life upside down, that does not sound like a great opportunity.

      • Change and uncertainty are common aspects of life. You either roll with the waves, or you fight the current.

      • I did it before. When the AIDS crisis hit in the 1980s I lost over 70 friends and acquaintances — my entire social circle. Both my parents had died, and my boyfriend was killed in a traffic accident. I was so depressed I felt the only thing I could do was move away and start over. Much as I loved SF at that point I just couldn’t take it.

        I moved to Portland without a job or a place to stay. I knew one person there, and not very well. And yes, I changed my doctor, my barber, my entire routine, and I went from operating a small moving company to working temp jobs as a clerk typist.

        My whole world was turned upside down. You deal with what you can, pick up the pieces, and move on. There is no use bitching and moaning about what’s done. Haven’t you folks been thinking of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are trying to get asylum now? Same thing with them; it does no good to moan about what’s done; it’s time to pick up the pieces and start anew.

  10. Yes this may be bad but on the flipside why should the city, state or government tell you what you can do with your property? It is ridiculous that rents can only increase less than 2% per year on rent controlled properties. Then when an owner needs to sell their property for financial security they are thrown to the wolves for doing so.

    • Look, I have some issues with SF’s rent control approach too, but is this really the appropriate context in which to argue about it?

      • This does relate because it is full circle. Due to rent control we have lost the ability to have available units. I know many folks who are subletting illegally and the owners of the property do not know. Is this fair? Who is there for the folks that do not live in rent control? Should it really be every place has rent control? Why do you think the properties are sold to begin with? To get out of the burden of rent control!

    • Right, the vitriol spat at property-sellers these days (who can effortlessly walk away with 1.5 million) is just disgraceful. I just hope they can somehow get over the merciless flogging, swathed in their sacks of cash. Becoming a millionaire seems to provide plenty of “financial security”–and becoming far less wealthy than that would make virtually all people feel “secure” enough, even the Libertarians of The Hill.

      If anyone is hurting these days, it not someone selling a property in Bernal. Be careful want you vent for, Jules…

      • Most homeoners scraped a home together and then found fortunes by the good graces of the real estate gods. Are you really going to hold them in contempt?

      • I am just stating that why should it be the owners fault for wanting to sell? My parents struggled to buy their home in Bernal Heights and sold it for 1 million to just keep up with their health care at a home. When it was being sold they were boycotted and treated in the worse manner. Is this really fair? Now they are gone and there is very little left from what they saved for their whole lives. I am very thankful for the amount they received or they would have not been taken care of. Is this what we work for all our lives?

      • Exactly. And how many people here who complain about property owners “gouging” would buy a $5 chair or vase at a flea market, discover it’s an antique, and resell it for $50? Most of them would. And it’s the exact same principle.

      • So Otis,
        How much would you charge if you have 200k of equity, a $2,500 mortgage payment, a $500 HOA payment, and a monthly property tax payment of $680. So that’s approx a $3700 monthly payment not including potential HOA assessments. What’s a “fair” rent to charge? If you charge $4,000, you’re making $300 month on a 200k investment ($3600 year). That’s a flimsy 2% return (as I see it).

  11. Is there some reason that this young woman cannot have roommates? I know I shared a big house until well into my 30s while I saved my downpayment. $2500 will get you a nice room in pretty much any neighborhood in The City still.

    • @noevalleyjim – I did to, but my share of the rent was $750. How much money is the average person putting away while paying $2,875 per month for a bedroom? That’s the monthly mortgage on a $650K home for chrissake.

  12. She seems like she could be a good tenant. I have a vacant in-law on my property, but like many others, will NEVER rent it again until the rent regulations for owner-occupied property are reformed.

    • Sometimes you don’t know the whole story. Maybe I don’t either, but this is the version I know: If they want to move their family in, these landlords should have used an OMI, but they can’t, because they used up their OMI on the same unit approx 10 years ago. The family moved in for the required three years, then the unit was re-rented at market rate. So now they’re using up their Ellis. Maybe the family will indeed live there forever. Or maybe they will sell the building to developers who will fast track it to condo conversion. Time will tell. But they made the choice to purchase a multi-unit building, with all that that entails. And incidentally, I will wholeheartedly and with pleasure vilify anyone who facebook stalks their tenant to “prove” that they don’t have a disability.

  13. Move to Fresno. For what you are paying for rent, you can buy a home. Nice homes can be had for $225,000. Rents run around $1500 for 3 bdrm homes. The Chaffee Zoo would be a place to check for employment.

  14. 😦 she seems sweet. Sorry to see this lovely woman leave the neighborhood.

    A 2br place, as well as keeping a pet, sound like luxuries many in SF (even those who could afford this jacked up rent) can’t imagine. I hope she can find a new place that can help her maintain this lifestyle.

  15. Bianca sounds exactly like someone I want and a neighbor and 130% rent increase sounds horrifying but… it sounds like Bianca has been paying rent that was at least 130% below the norm for 4 years.

  16. Alas! We only seem to know our neighbors in times of adversity; what a good neighbor and a good person Bianca sounds like. I am dismayed for her and hope she finds a place in the Bay Area….

  17. After living in SF for 15 years I decided it was a little too sleepy and after making many trips to NYC I moved to Brooklyn. A mostly pretty happy story. I was in the best city in the world, met my wife, had a kid, moved to Manhattan in a nice rental apartment with doorman near the park.
    The economy was in the tank around that time. 2008’ish, but things changed. Soon my rent was going up. And going up a lot. We started looking around. No more free months rent, no more broker free rentals. (In NYC it’s typical to pay a 1 month finders fee for a rental) We started to look back in Brooklyn. We didn’t want to live in a totally crap part of town just to say we lived in the City and moving to Jersey was out of the question. So we got priced out. We moved back here. No one threw us a parade. There was no press release. There was no meetings with the mayor. We just had to live in our second choice city. There is no promise in life that you will get to live exactly where you want to. I’m not sure why we are trying to create protectionism laws. So far it’s only helping the owners of homes watch their property values go up and up.
    Long gone are the days of the Chameleon, The Farm all ages punk club, Metal/Punk clubs on Broadway. It sucks that artists are getting pushed out. The city is worse for it, but I don’t think we are putting the genie back in the bottle.

    • WHO SAYS artists are getting pushed out? Since you moved to NYC, these clubs have opened in SF: Madrone Art Bar, The Chapel, Brick & Mortar, Mighty, Oasis, Public Works, Dirty Habit, Jones, etc. These nightspots continue: The Rev, Make Out Room, Thee Parkside, Bottom of the Hill, DNA (soon to open a second location where the CW used to be), The Eagle, Aunt Charlie’s, Gold Dust Lounge, Powerhouse, etc. Southern Exposure gallery moved and doubled in size. And in the Eastbay for people who like punk clubs, 924 Gilman is still going strong.

      As for housing prices, consider the Pigeon Palace, a building the tenants have BOUGHT so that they can continue to live in SF.

  18. Rent control is big contributor to the higher rents. So many SF owners have taken their buildings out of the rental market and converted them to TICs because they can increase the rent less than 2% a year, not enough to maintain the building.

    So the supply is shrinking and the apartments that are not subjected to rent control, because they are in newer buildings, can get these insane rents.

    There is effectively “vacancy control” of rent-controlled apartments in San Francisco as well. Apartments change hands but the landlord never knows about it so he or she can’t increase the rent to market rate. This also leads to them taking the building out of the rental market.

    What’s sad is that those advocating for rent control do not comprehend the side effects because they lack critical thinking skills.

    • BOGUS! Bogosity of the first order. FIRST of all, rent control applies only to apartments constructed after June 13, 1979. SECOND, the landlord can pass on to tenants the cost of capital improvements such as roof repair and replacement, exterior painting, and additions which increase the value of the building such as adding a roof garden or a patio. THIRD, when the tenant moves out the rent can be adjusted to whatever the landlord wants to charge.

      As for the contention that people move in and out without the landlord’s knowledge while the rent stays the same, I’d like to see some proof that this happens. For one thing, the landlord is going to notice a different name on the check, and if the landlord is at all conscientious they’re going to meet and talk with the tenant from time to time, if for no other reason than to check on issues related to the building. So, the landlord will know whether someone else has moved in.

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