Homelessness, death and the future: A battle in Sacramento over bill to stop loopholes in eviction law

Renters, along with some former renters who have become homeless, gather inside the State Office Building on May 17 to the urge passage of SB 567. Photograph by Scott Thomas Anderson

By Scott Thomas Anderson

Tenants from around California converged on the State Office Building in Downtown Sacramento Wednesday to implore lawmakers to pass SB 567, also known as the Homelessness Prevention Act. The bill is meant to stop landlords from finding ways around the few meager tenant protections that exist in the state. Several people who arrived at the gathering said that those loopholes had either made them or a loved one homeless – or, in one case, lead to someone’s death on the streets.

SB 567 will be voted on Thursday in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Proponents say it would simply force private and corporate landlords to follow the intent of an existing law, the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, which requires just-cause evictions. Representatives for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, say that SB 567 would prevent disingenuous renovations from acting as cover for “investors seeking to push out current tenants – in order to rent to those who can pay two and three times more.”

Housing advocates maintain that these concocted renovations, or “Renovictions,” often equal “fraudulently conduct ‘no fault’ evictions” that are supposed to be illegal.

As tenants crowded into the State Office Building under the watchful eyes of many CHP officers, one of the first people to speak was Pinky Toney, a Sacramento resident who says that her sister died outdoors in 2022 shortly after a questionable eviction.   

“I’m here today for my sister’s voice,” Toney told the crowd. “She unfortunately passed away last year after a substantial remodel to her home here in Sacramento. Your officials have let my sister die on your streets; and I’m not okay with it. And none of you should be okay with it … You guys need to really wake up. SB 567 needs to pass today.”   

South Sacramento renter Markita Frazier was also overcome with emotion when speaking to the gathering. The single mother says that she was hit with an illegal eviction, putting her and her son on the verge of homelessness.

“I am one of those people in the community who is facing retaliation, bullying and harassment,” Frazier attested. “They have increased my rent three times in the last year. As of May was the third increase. I just met with the coalition to ask a few questions and I got an eviction notice … I’m afraid that I won’t be able to support my son when he’s graduating. I’m afraid he won’t have a home to live in. It’s all because I asked why I was getting a rent increase again when I’d just got one in August … It makes me worried because I don’t have a place to go. I don’t have any family in Sacramento. It’s just me and my son.”   

Another person to take the mic was Joe Lopez, a Sacramento resident who became homeless after being hit with a no-fault eviction during the pandemic. Lopez has been living out of his truck for more than twelve months.

One of the most impassioned voices to sound through the state halls was that of Imperial Beach resident Patricia Mendoza, who shared that her life was changed after being targeted with a renoviction.

“I too was evicted for that,” Mendoza stressed, choking back tears. “It breaks my heart that not only I went through that, but many others across the state are going through that – for a statute remodel – and it’s not fair. I was there for seven years and I got evicted. So, I’m not doing this for me anymore. I’m doing this for everyone else that needs to stay sheltered and under a roof.”

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