San Francisco rebuked for ‘fundamental’ abuse of property rights

San Francisco rebuked for ‘fundamental’ abuse of property rights

prop.rightsIn an era in which eminent domain is routinely used to reward the wealthy and politically connected — to the detriment of  poor and middle-class property owners — it’s easy to forget that property rights as conceived of in the U.S. Constitution are every bit as essential as free speech and the right to bear arms. But there are periodic reminders that these constitutional rights remain, reminders that often illustrate the overreach of local government.

This week we saw a perfect example dealing with a San Francisco law so extreme it seems, well, un-American. Here are the key details from the Pacific Legal Foundation’s website:

Today U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer sided with Pacific Legal Foundation’s (PLF) lawsuit and struck down San Francisco’s Tenant Relocation Ordinance, as unconstitutional.

Under the ordinance, rental property owners who want to reclaim use of their own property must pay a massive sum to their tenants – a sum that the tenant doesn’t even have to use for relocation purposes.

PLF’s lead clients are Dan and Maria Levin, who live in the upstairs unit of their two-story home.   They would like to use the lower unit for friends and family, but they would have to pay their tenant $118,000 to withdraw it from the rental market.

The ordinance ‘fails on its face’

This is from Breyer’s decision:

In July 2014, the City and County of San Francisco enacted an Ordinance that requires property owners wishing to withdraw their rent-controlled property from the rental market to pay a lump sum to displaced tenants. The 2014 Ordinance requires that property owners pay the greater of a relocation payment due under a 2005 Ordinance or the new, “enhanced” amount: twenty-four times the difference between the units’ current monthly rate and an amount that purports to be the fair market value of a comparable unit in San Francisco, as calculated by a schedule developed by the Controller’s Office. Plaintiffs, who are property owners now obligated to pay amounts that range to hundreds of thousands of dollars per unit, allege that the Ordinance on its face is an unconstitutional taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment. …

… fundamentally, the Ordinance fails on its face because it requires a monetary exaction that is not roughly proportional to – indeed, does not even share an essential nexus with – the impact of the property owner’s proposed change in use. That is to say, it seeks to force the property owner to pay for a broad public problem not of the owner’s making. A property owner did not cause the high market rent to which a tenant who chooses to stay in San Francisco might be exposed, nor cause the lower rent-controlled rate the tenant previously enjoyed. The Ordinance’s constitutional infirmity being one inherent in the nature of what the monetary exaction is intended to recompense – a dislocation that necessarily arises in all of the Ordinance’s applications – it fails on its face to survive Fifth Amendment scrutiny.

Breyer, like his brother, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, is a moderate on business and regulatory issues. He didn’t see this as even close to a close call. Oral arguments were held Oct. 6. His decision came out all of 15 days later.

In the federal court system, that’s hardly common.

The takeaway: Property rights live.


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  1. Scott Baker
    Scott Baker 24 October, 2014, 07:18

    I could see this policy of taking rental units off the market being abused, however.
    Suppose a landlord takes his unit(s) off the market for a year, or whatever time is legally required to clear them of rent control requirements as well as tenant(s). Then, he put the unregulated apartment back on the market after a year…at twice the price. That would certainly pay in many cases, and it would effectively gut the purpose of rent control.
    One could argue rent control defeats free market incentives to create new housing, but fortunately there is a much better option that’s been proven to both hold down rents and to encourage new building.
    It is the Land Value Tax (LVT). With a tax only upon land, the land owner has to pay whether there are tenants or not, or, a house or not. With LVT, and no Building Value Tax (BVT), building in encouraged, filling the market for new housing and business opportunities.
    This is exactly what has happened in New York in the 1920s and early 1930s, when New York City built at up to 4X the national average. It is what happened in Harrisburg, which turned that city form the second worst in the country, to a prosperous, economically sound city, says the 25-year Mayor, Mayor Reed. It is responsible for the Golden Triangle of Pittsburgh.
    As Mayor Reed said, “The Land Value Tax works, and works always.”
    See more here:

    Reply this comment
    • IPencil
      IPencil 25 October, 2014, 15:51

      “That would certainly pay in many cases, and it would effectively gut the purpose of rent control.”

      That’s a GOOD thing. Rent control is a disastrous policy that does the exact opposite of what it’s intended. On top of that it strips owners of their property RIGHTS. Why is it YOUR business to interfere with renters and landlords?

      And a land value tax works under the presumption that a government owns ALL land, where serfs, I mean citizens, pay for the use of government property. Not sure why you are so insistent on being a serf and forcing everyone to be one as well.

      Reply this comment
    • cubanbob
      cubanbob 25 October, 2014, 16:20

      A land value tax is just as pernicious as rent control and a form of eminent domain. Rent control itself is a violation of property rights and ought to be abolished outright. Perhaps a close look at the zoning laws is in order and the appropriate steps taken to remove impediments to creating rental housing is what is needed.

      Reply this comment
    • Jay
      Jay 25 October, 2014, 16:27

      Seriously, Mayor Reed? The guy responsible for bankrupting the city of Harrisburg? The guy who spent millions of taxpayer dollars on fake or near worthless Cowboy junk. The guy who spent millions on a money pit of a Civil War museum? That Mayor Reed?

      Reply this comment
    • PD Quig
      PD Quig 26 October, 2014, 10:57

      Simple solution, Scott: eliminate government interference in the market. A property owner ought to be able to rent for whatever the market will bear constrained only by contractual agreements.

      Reply this comment
      • Tedd
        Tedd 26 October, 2014, 15:29


        Henry George is worth a read. He shows how taking the concept of property rights that was developed for things that you produce from your labour (including intellectual labour) and applying it to real property is itself a market distortion. You might not agree with his solution — I’m not sure I do, either — but it’s worth a read, to understand why a “free” market based on ownership of real property, as it is currently defined, does not produce the same outcomes that free markets produce for other kinds of property.

        Reply this comment
    • Joe
      Joe 14 June, 2015, 14:15


      ….Why is this not be obvious to you? If a landlord can take back a property from rental market and sell it after a year to make a profit, then why won’t most landlord simply keep the property and rent it at market price, the reason they cannot is because of eviction and rent control.

      You have to ask yourself WHY landlords would prefer to sell their property for a one time payment versus renting it out for residual income? Anyone with some economic brain will prefer to rent out their property and collect rent than to sell it.

      The simple existence of rent control and eviction control created this mess. It has created a situation where the landlord themselves have no rights, let alone their own civil rights. Wait, they do have rights. The tenant gets free legal counsel whereas the landlord must pay market rate landlord attorneys that can’t really do much for them because of the tenant favoring ‘ordinance laws’ created by our corrupt local government specifically SF. So if you are a typical landlord and wish to ENFORCE your lease to protect other tenants (why won’t you if they are good tenants and pays rent on time?), guess what? You have to pay an attorney to do so, otherwise it would consider ‘self-help’ or ‘illegal eviction’ or some other technical legal clauses that always favor the tenant and come back to sue you for damages and other lies they can get away with.

      Imagine, you have someone constantly suing you or ‘petitioning’ you or your property habitabilities problems (99% are false claims which are really in hopes to sue for large sums of money) and you have to pay your attorney to simply defend yourself. Don’t forget, all this time the tenant gets FREE legal counsel and you as the landlord must PAY every penny to defend yourself. Would you want to be in that situation Scott? Now you see why landlords in SF want to sell their property in such a HOT rental market?

      Now I ask you Scott, if there were no rent control and eviction control, WHY would any reasonable landlord wish to sell their property in such a HOT HOT HOT rental market let alone take my rental property OFF the market!!! I’ll tell you, I personally would never sell even if it’s over 10 million dollars if I can charge fair market value rent. That is simple economics.

      If the local ordinances are FAIR and JUST, who in their right mind would want to sell? It is never about limited land, wait, there are a lot of lands to develop in California but no, everyone wants to live in San Francisco, thus created a self inflicted problem, not a REAL problem. And local government demands landlords to pay for tenants self inflicted problem, THAT was why Judge Breyer slam down the ordinance and THAT is why I Judge Breyer is such a great man. Does it makes sense to you now Scott?

      Reply this comment
  2. Ed the independent contractor
    Ed the independent contractor 25 October, 2014, 10:58

    Mr. Baker,

    That land value tax argument is of little value in this situation due to the extremely limited land in the City of San Francisco. Such a tax will not encourage land owners to use the land and therefore increase available housing subsequently lowering rents. There is a minimal amount of land vacant and available for development in San Francisco. Certainly not enough to influence the rental market in any significant way.

    Reply this comment
    • Scott Baker
      Scott Baker 25 October, 2014, 20:51

      That’s unlikely to be the case, judging by the New York City example. In NYC, there is 6% vacant land, according to the Dept. of Finance, and much more than that is under-utilized as one story under-taxed buildings next to 20-story buildings paying 10X as much (I’ve documented this. See my link to the video and slideshow in the previous comment). In other words, the developers of the building are penalized while the holders of near-vacant land are given a tax break.
      I’m sure the situation is the same in San Francisco and as I recall from my three visits there, there are a lot of low buildings in preciously valuable areas.
      It’s all a matter of economic incentives.

      Reply this comment
      • Xmas
        Xmas 25 October, 2014, 23:03


        There are constitutional issues at the state level as Proposition 13 limits the rate of property tax increases. Property that’s been held for a long time will likely have a much lower tax payment than property that has switched hands (bought for redevelopment). I don’t have the energy to check, but I expect a major change in the building on a plot of land by the same owner would also trigger a revaluation of the property and greatly increase the tax payments.

        So, what I’m saying is, California is actually doing the complete opposite of your idea right now.

        Reply this comment
        • Scott Baker
          Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 00:56

          Yes, you are absolutely correct. That is why California has become a well-known basket case to all Georgist economists, from its near #1 status pre-prop 13. An owner can do whatever he/she wants with their houses/buildings, but they should pay the full land rent regardless. Doing this will naturally encourage people to develop land to its highest and best use and would eliminate the housing shortage in S.F., or anywhere else.

          We Georgists advocate abolishing Prop 13, reassessing property at its full market rate, collecting enough Land Rent, but not Building Rent (which ought to be zero) on that to abolish every other tax in the sate – income, sales, true capital.
          There is as Henry George first said “enough and to spare” and as modern Georgists like California Professor of Economics Mason Gaffney and another professor elsewhere Nic Tideman, about 1/3 of the national GDP in mostly uncollected rent.
          See them in the second interview here: Cheating and the Corporate Cannibals (I am interviewed by Georgist Journalist Fred Harrison, who co-wrote a book with Gaffney too, in the first video from this link). Also check out my slideshow following the videos at this link, and at the link previously given.

          As for Harrisburg and bankruptcy, the reason for that was a bad investment in a recycling plant, which came at the end of Reed’s career, and was the cause of it. The positive effects of the Land Value Tax are not disputed by anyone who’s actually studied the matter. See his presentation to the Council of Georgist Organizations 2 years ago, here:

          His successor also addressed the group about the positive effect of Land Value Taxation at that same conference.

          And Yes, I agree rent control doesn’t work and ought to be phased out. However, the true free market replacement is not to subsidize land owners with Prop 13 inflated prices (as the rent collected goes down, the price goes up because rent is “privatized” into the price instead). The just solution is to collect the rent on the land because it is the demand for that land that created the value in the first place and the land owner did nothing to create that. They should keep whatever they put into their building, however, because that IS something they earned, unlike land value.

          One of my colleagues, was an assessor for Greenwich, CT for nearly 2 decades and now runs the California chapter of Common Ground-USA (I am president of the New York chapter). You might want to read his article “A Free Market Strategy to Reduce Sprawl” here:

          Reply this comment
      • Roscoe Pilsner
        Roscoe Pilsner 27 October, 2014, 08:21

        “under-utilized as one story under-taxed buildings”

        Who is to say that a building is underutilized? If a building is underutilized then someone would probably buy it and figure out how to make a profit by utilizing it correctly. Also…under taxed? In NYC? They are probably overtaxed which is why people are just sitting on them. To improve them would probably mean having the tax bills go up so high as to be unaffordable.

        You sound like an urban planner…or more precisely, an urban “over-planner”.

        Everything you write (in this blog) seems to be about how to get more money out of people so government can have more to do whatever it is that they want. Consider the irony here…we are talking about San Francisco, one of the most unaffordable places in the country.

        180 degrees out of synch, you and I.

        Reply this comment
  3. Doug Wenzel
    Doug Wenzel 25 October, 2014, 15:26

    A land value tax would be useless in SF, because all the NIMBY’s would fight granting you a building permit to tear down anything and replace it with something that might impinge on their view, or break strict volume or height limitations.

    Aaron Peskin, Rose Pak, and their successors want to keep things just as they are, and of course, the tenant rights movement is very strong in SF.

    Reply this comment
    • Xmas
      Xmas 26 October, 2014, 11:07


      I also doubt San Francisco would even consider any sort of regulation or tax scheme that would encourage tall apartment buildings in their quaint small building neighborhoods.

      Reply this comment
  4. Otto Maddox
    Otto Maddox 25 October, 2014, 15:46

    Taxes ALWAYS affect incentives:

    “A tax on the unimproved value of land distorts the incentive to search for new land and better uses of existing land.”

    Reply this comment
    • Scott Baker
      Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 11:03

      The first article is talking about the purchase Disney made to build its theme park, essentially creating a new city where there was none before. Even there, however, the Land Value Tax works. The surrounding land that Disney did not buy (they can’t buy EVERYTHING!) would have appreciated because of the new business opportunities. Who should pay for the roads and other infrastructure to support the new hoards of people? It should rightfully be those who benefit, and those who benefit the most are the land owners. This has been known since the beginning of private land ownership. That rent is nothing that isn’t being collected anyway, it’s just a matter of whom it should go to. We Georgists say it should go back to the community.
      Disney, of course, is entitled to build its theme park, untaxed, but the land they put it on was created by nature, and given value by the community’s demand for it, so they should pay back to the community for the use of it. Don’t worry, Disney will make as much money as always, just differently, through productive enterprise, not land speculation.

      BTE, it’s Land Speculation that has caused the biggest booms and busts in history. Remember the sub-prime bubble that lend to the last crisis? That wasn’t speculation on actual houses – we can always build more or less of those. It was speculation on land.

      Reply this comment
  5. Glenn K. Beaton
    Glenn K. Beaton 25 October, 2014, 15:56

    Here in Aspen, we have a corrupt “affordable housing” program where insiders get the first dibs on rentals that come up, tenants notoriously lie about their eligibility, and the income cutoff is $184,000. (That’s not a typo.)

    Meanwhile, the city building dept is openly hostile to new building permits.

    The result? No affordable housing, because no one wants to build in such a system.

    Reply this comment
  6. Mark who left California
    Mark who left California 25 October, 2014, 15:59

    Really, a tax will make us prosperous? Government regulation and taxes encourage the little guy to take his business elsewhere, and leave the housing in SF to big business who can hire people to figure out the regulations. Before we say capitalism doesn’t work, we should probably try it.

    Reply this comment
  7. gospace
    gospace 25 October, 2014, 16:01

    “Scott Baker says: October 24, 2014 at 7:18 am I could see this policy of taking rental units off the market being abused, however. Suppose a landlord takes his unit(s) off the market for a year, or whatever time is legally required to clear them of rent control requirements as well as tenant(s). Then, he put the unregulated apartment back on the market after a year…at twice the price. That would certainly pay in many cases, and it would effectively gut the purpose of rent control.’

    I don’t understand. Why is this a bad thing? Rent contrl has been shown to destroy housing stock. A loophole to gut it should be applauded.

    Reply this comment
  8. Alec Rawls
    Alec Rawls 25 October, 2014, 16:03

    Scott Baker’s “land value tax” is the equivalent of an income tax based on what people COULD earn if they chose to devote their lives to earning money. Sick. It’s their property, they don’t have to devote it to revenue maximization, and if they choose not to it would properly be judged unconstitutional for the state to punish them with confiscatory taxes.

    Reply this comment
    • Scott Baker
      Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 01:05

      No, everyone should pay for what they take from nature, including locational values. That OUGHT to be the philosophy of everyone from Leftists to Libertarians alike. Anything less is stealing.

      Reply this comment
      • ed
        ed 26 October, 2014, 01:42

        Can I force you to pay a tax for making me read this drivel?

        Reply this comment
      • bunker
        bunker 26 October, 2014, 04:36

        Today I stole the air I breathe. Who do I owe for that?

        Reply this comment
      • bunker
        bunker 26 October, 2014, 04:38

        I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I owe you nothing.

        Reply this comment
        • Scott Baker
          Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 10:51

          You do if you use the land which I and everyone else made valuable by our demand, and through nothing you did. Everyone should pay for what they use when that use deprives someone else of that use.
          If you go live on Robinson Crusoe Island, where no one else is, or wants to, live, it’s all yours. As soon as someone else shows up, however, you have an economy, and the rent should be returned to the commonwealth for all. You can, of course, keep whatever you produce, as is your moral right.

          Reply this comment
          • PD Quig
            PD Quig 26 October, 2014, 11:07

            You’re living in the wrong place. Cuba is your natural home. The fact that you show up and create demand upon my land is your doing, not mine. You should have gotten here first, but you didn’t and now the fact that you have burdened us with your presence somehow confers partial ownership? Had I not grown up in CA and attended UC Berkeley in the 60’s and 70’s, it would be hard for me to imagine a more perverse, insane view of reality. But, hey… congratulations: you have achieved a new level.

          • Scott Baker
            Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 11:58

            Cuba is a communist country, and under pure communism the State controls the means of production. Nothing I’ve said even implies that. In fact, I’ve said just the opposite. I’ve said repeatedly that people are entitled to what they create.
            What they are not entitled to is that which they did NOT create.
            They did not create the value of the land. That came from the common demand for it. If there was no demand, there would be no price for it. Buried in that price is the rent, rent which rightfully belongs to those whose demand created the value for the land. It is that, and that alone, which Georgists say should be returned to the community.

          • Rosco Pilsner
            Rosco Pilsner 26 October, 2014, 12:56

            It is irrelevant whether they did or did not create the value of the land. In some cases they do and in others they don’t do it actively but participate in something that yields value.

            Developers create value by investing money.

            People who buy houses in neighborhoods that they think might be improved are taking a risk with their money. Unless others do the same the initial investor runs the risk of not accruing value in his property.

            Who do you suppose will sit in judgment of each transaction and decide which investor created value for himself and which did not. Would you extend your philosophy to fine art, where the ONLY measure of value is what others might pay for it?

            In the end, your theory boils down to one group of people sitting at the top of the pyramid and deciding who should get what. Nice work if you can get it…some animals being more equal than others.

          • Roscoe Pilsner
            Roscoe Pilsner 26 October, 2014, 11:30

            WOW! A little early in the day for smoking weed, huh?

            If you value what I have and want it, then offer buy it…with luck you will have something of value to offer in return.

            This stuff about “The Commonwealth”…well… it has not real life relevance of practical application.

      • bunker
        bunker 26 October, 2014, 07:19

        I’ve stolen the air I breathe today. Who do I owe?

        Reply this comment
        • Scott Baker
          Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 10:48

          Did you pollute the air? If not, you’re fine 🙂

          Reply this comment
        • Roscoe Pilsner
          Roscoe Pilsner 26 October, 2014, 10:48

          You don’t actually have to pay anyone as long as you feel guilty about consuming air that others might have had and don’t exhale because it adds CO2 to the atmosphere.

          Reply this comment
      • Inbredredneck
        Inbredredneck 26 October, 2014, 08:58

        So, to follow this logic, we now realize the old joke line about how “they” want to tax the air we breathe. I’d expect this from Leftists (with lots of exemptions for the poor, disadvantaged, connected, etc.) but if this is also the thinkin’ pattern of the “Big L” Libertarians, all y’all can go suck dry a horse trough full of donkey snot. Just remember, these are the city and state that sent DiFi, Boxer, Pelosi and the rest of the their ilk to DC, where they spread this “the Government knows best” (as in, there’s no need for a Father) gospel that has infected both parties.
        Oh, yeah, for you youngsters who don’t know about Father Knows Best, maybe you’d better ask your grandparents.

        Reply this comment
  9. Roscoe Pilsner
    Roscoe Pilsner 25 October, 2014, 16:17

    I’m surprised that the first comments here are to simply nibble around the edges.

    If a landlord wants to take his property off the market then he should be able to. There was no requirement for him to put it on the market in the first place, why should there be a penalty of any kind or any government say in the matter? It is a commodity for sale. Period. Nobody would penalize a convenience store for a decision to stop selling milk, would they? Or maybe they would in SF.

    The fact that San Francisco has managed to back itself into a corner on property values and rents should not give it the right to manipulate the finances of private citizens or corporations.

    If I thought that something like this were possible I doubt I would ever consider getting into the San Francisco rental market.

    Reply this comment
    • bour3
      bour3 27 October, 2014, 00:42

      This is exactly what I was thinking as reading. The owners erred by stating their intentions to house their relatives. They should have kept quiet, just said, “eh, we want a bigger place for ourselves.” Then do as they wish.

      Reply this comment
      • Roscoe Pilsner
        Roscoe Pilsner 27 October, 2014, 08:11

        There is a good lesson in what you say. Don’t ask permission. Just stop renting. It’s nobody’s business but your own and anyone who says otherwise is someone to be watched carefully and stopped at every opportunity.

        Reply this comment
  10. Donald Campbell
    Donald Campbell 25 October, 2014, 17:11

    The landlord has an obligation to the tenant for whatever period the lease was written. Rent Control is nothing but Socialist redistribution of wealth. Only in San Francisco could such a warped idea that a landlord owes two years of rent in a new location to his tenant. Lack of planning by elected officials does not require the landowners to pay the burden of the officials stupidity. Perhaps San Francisco could consider some of those lovely poured concrete hovels as in Soviet-era Eastern Europe for the displaced. After all, it is the so-called urban planners all excited about high density housing. I would ask, is the landlord even allowed to sell his property? Or perhaps as Ed suggests, can he level the property, evict the tennants and then build a new residence?

    Reply this comment
  11. rammer
    rammer 25 October, 2014, 17:31

    Geez, the owners aren’t really trying hard here. They need to plan regular 2am earthquake/fire/tornado/hurricane drills in accordance with local safety codes. Then take a few hours to find a union plumber to repair the water leak from their upstairs bathroom caused by an unfortunate accident. Disconnect cable service to the building because of copyright infringement, forcing all the tenants to switch to satellite services out their windows in an urban environment. Invite the police into the building to assist in daily random zero-tolerance drug searches of every apartment. Block off the parking area for re-surfacing, and then apply for the permits to do the work. Soon, the tenant will move to a different rent controlled unit in the city at little cost to the owner.

    Reply this comment
  12. Formerrentcontrolledtenant
    Formerrentcontrolledtenant 25 October, 2014, 18:23

    Rent control or any control, for that matter is a hinderance to the private market. People are creative. They will find a way to make things work whether it is giving a break to grandma, whose family has forgotten about her or sticking it to Mr./Ms. BMWer. I lived in NYC, rent control capitol of the world. A dear friend and wife moved to Chicago while I was in flux trying to find a place in the City. To sum up, they got a 44th floor lake view 2/2, with health club, parking, all new appliances to match whatever paint job on the unit that they so chose and I got a fifth floor one, bedroom walk up without door guard nor elevator for $1,000 more per month.
    Now, in NYC, no one has built an apartment building since the 60’s. Go figgurah.

    Reply this comment
  13. Victor Erimita
    Victor Erimita 25 October, 2014, 18:48

    Scott Baker, what do you think “the purpose of rent control” is? To keep down rents? Rent control in San Francisco, New York and elsewhere have effectively limited supply of new apartments for many decades, thus insuring ever higher rents in high demand locations. Price controls always have this effect.

    If your concern is lower rents, why not become a landlord yourself and offer your properties at low rents? That way you could actually do something about your concern instead of simply insisting that others do so? Or perhaps get a tax passed that all people pay, instead of forcing the burden of providing affordable housing on one slice of the population? But I assume you would prefer to paint people who own property as greedy, as opposed to those who would force people who own property to offer it at below its value, and iften even its cost to maintain. It’s really an adolescent view: the grown ups should provide everything we kids want, and our job is just to insist we get whatvwe want, not to provide for ourselves or others.

    Reply this comment
  14. Mike Sigman
    Mike Sigman 25 October, 2014, 19:41

    Basically, San Francisco wants to control privately-owned property as its own, even though it doesn’t own the property. Solution, buy the land through some legal means, then do with it as they will. While private owners have the property, let them do with it as they will. The idea of commandeering property is pretty much a totalitarian ploy … liberals tend to like authoritarian maneuvers to take control of things, “because it’s the right thing to do”.

    Reply this comment
    • Rosco Pilsner
      Rosco Pilsner 26 October, 2014, 13:04

      …and in the end, after the city takes all the property, it will find that it has to tax people an exorbitant amount to make the revenue stream work for what the city wants to do. People will move out. The tax base drops. The revenue drops. The taxes go up…and on and on. Whole sections of the city will be stressed and the property values will plummet. In the end, the city will have to offer the properties at fire sale prices to people who are willing to take the risk of homesteading.

      In the end the city rediscovers what the Pilgrims figured out after the first year…private ownership builds wealth.

      Reply this comment
  15. MSO
    MSO 25 October, 2014, 20:34

    Mr. Baker,

    Using the threat of punishment (LVT) to obtain compliance is no more than robbery. If encouragement is desired, then subsidize the land owners who willing build to suit the fashion of the day.

    Reply this comment
    • Scott Baker
      Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 10:54

      Ha! That’s why we have $95 million penthouses (2) in NYC now. The 94% tax abatement is the Mother-of-all subsidies, and turns the rent into a private rent rolled up in the price. Frankly, I am tired of supporting the free-loading wealthy with my taxes.

      Reply this comment
  16. KAF
    KAF 25 October, 2014, 21:00

    Look, I’m from the Midwest so I have no idea how California rental property rules work. However, this looks to me like the local government coming into your home and saying, “Hey, you’re not using that extra bedroom so you’re going to give it to ol’ Bob here and at this very modest price. Have a pleasant day.”

    I don’t know. I’m inclined to believe that my property is mine, to do with as I wish, and for whatever price I wish, without input from some politician who’s trying to buy some votes.

    Is there ANY part of your life they don’t control there?

    Reply this comment
  17. Craig
    Craig 25 October, 2014, 22:14

    Harrisburg and Mayor Reed are perfect examples. Reed drove Harrisburg so deeply into bankruptcy that it will never recover

    Reply this comment
  18. Queeg
    Queeg 25 October, 2014, 23:14

    SF is a filthy overpriced dump.

    That’s it-

    Reply this comment
  19. Darleen
    Darleen 25 October, 2014, 23:50

    Mr. Baker,

    You say “there are a lot of low buildings in preciously valuable areas” — And? If the owner of a two or 3 story home wishes to live in it as is, who is the government to decide that lot is “better” with a 10 or 20 story building and taxes the owner accordingly.

    Such a scheme makes a mockery of the concept of private property — ostensible owners really are just renting at the whim of The State.

    Reply this comment
  20. Roscoe Pilsner
    Roscoe Pilsner 26 October, 2014, 03:24

    I’m from the Northeast and have traveled the country extensively, though I have never visited SF. We hear a lot about the city. Apparently for those who like urban dwelling and can afford it, it scores high marks for livability. Mostly we hear that only the wealthy can afford a decent standard of housing there.

    I can see from some of the comments here what a mess it is beneath the surface. Sounds to me like something went really wrong with the market somewhere along the line…much like in NYC…and efforts to control prices has put the place into a complete fairytale land of regulation.

    The result is that somehow it is simultaneously a Progressive Eden and unaffordable. People who can afford it love it…I assume in part because the prices keep the riffraff away. At the same time those who make less seem to be proud of being shoved into miniscule apartments, proclaiming that it is in some way morally superior to allow yourself to be relegated to Soviet style living. They seem grateful for the multitude of restrictions being placed on them.

    I lived in the city for several decades. After I retired we moved to the country and “stole 15 acres of land from Nature” to paraphrase one commenter. Once you get a taste of the freedom you can never go back…and it becomes difficult to accept the self loathing attitudes of the city dweller.

    To each his own, I guess. But what an eye opener!

    Reply this comment
  21. teapartydoc
    teapartydoc 26 October, 2014, 04:56

    Baker gives himself away when he starts talking about nature. Don’t worry folks. Baker is God Himself. He knows what’s best. Markets? They don’t exist, never did.

    Reply this comment
    • Scott Baker
      Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 10:52

      Actually, markets do exist, but they are being subverted by private collection of rent which ought to be for the public. Apparently, you are a Socialist. Oh well.

      Reply this comment
  22. Queeg
    Queeg 26 October, 2014, 13:10


    There are no Socialists on CWD. Only greedy doomers whining about their dismal past lives plundering the working poor and middle class. They appear threatened the little guy wants to survive and is stepping up embracing the populist appeal of redistribution.

    Just info Scotty…..trying to survive is not Socialist!

    Think on it-

    Reply this comment
    • Roscoe Pilsner
      Roscoe Pilsner 26 October, 2014, 15:07

      And what, exactly gives you the right to decide how someone else must “redistribute” the fruits of his hard work?

      What you are proposing is theft, plain and simple. Having less is not a justification for taking the property of others. People who are poor generally aren’t poor because others are rich.

      In fact…why don’t you go first? Put your money where your mouth is. Give away everything you have to the less fortunate and even then you still have no right to redistribute another man’s property.

      But I have no reason to be concerned. In my retirement I am reaping the rewards of my lifetime of hard work and people like you are fringe…generally restricted to college campuses and other artificial environments.

      Reply this comment
  23. Scott Baker
    Scott Baker 26 October, 2014, 15:14

    No, this is completely wrong. Georgism relies on the Free Market much more than the current system with its Socialism for the Rich in the form of tax abatements does. Assessors and Realtors have a long and successful history of valuing land and in fact, it is actually easier without having to worry about factoring the building on top of it (since the building won’t be taxed, it won’t matter what its assessed value would have been, only its sale value to the owner or to the bank that might finance it).
    Your visions of a politburo making decisions over land values is a figment of your own imagination.

    Reply this comment

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