San Francisco voters to decide the fate of District Attorney Chesa Boudin in a June recall election
After Governor Gavin Newsom beat back an effort to remove him from office, there was heightened criticism over the recall system and debate over what the future of direct democracy should look like.
Recall attempts, of course, are costly and burdensome, and perhaps Sen. Steve Glazer, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments, said it best. "The recall was not intended to be, and must not become, a back door for the losing side of an election to re-litigate that result."
As a bit of trivia, there have been 179 attempts to recall state elected officials since Californians obtained the power to do so since 1911. No more than 11 qualified for the ballot and only six politicians were recalled, but there is nothing trivial for those who become a victim of crime.
Something feels different about the campaign to oust San Francisco's District Attorney Chesa Boudin. It strikes as buyer's remorse across all political spectrums, not just those who voted for another candidate.
Aside from the sheer numbers - over 83,000 signatures were garnered in support of removing DA Boudin from office - there has been a chord struck in the community of rental property owners and businesses that have had to deal with vandalism and other criminal acts perpetrated in and around their properties. The first ads have struck the airways.
Full disclaimer: We are not criminal lawyers. Having said that, there is often overlap when it comes to crime and landlord-tenant law. In every jurisdiction, a threat to public health and safety is a “just cause” to evict. Indeed, during certain periods of the pandemic, it was the only reason to evict.
In Alameda County, criminal and egregious behavior remains on the short list of theories to remove a tenant.
Whether by the conventional means of eviction or through Temporary Restraining Orders, Bornstein Law has been successful in removing bad actors and we hasten to say that some acts are not “curable.” This means that certain people need to be removed from the rental unit quickly without affording them the opportunity to rectify the underlying illegal or threatening behavior.
Related from our blog: Handling criminal activity in rental units
At a recent rally lashing out at the movement to recall him, Boudin said that he was just delivering on the promises of criminal justice reform and, among other goals toward that end, reducing the number of juveniles jailed. Those in the Boudin camp argue that there is an orchestrated, well-funded Republican hit job underway.
It turns out, though, that nobody of any political persuasion likes having their windows smashed in or getting robbed.
Of 33,000 Republicans registered in San Francisco, there are in excess of 83,000 signatories who indicated a desire for change. In fairness, Chesa Boudin makes his case on CNN. He says there is a concerted effort to intervene in ways that target the root of crime through diversion programs, increasing mental health care, and other measures.
The candidate who introduced himself in a debate as a former grocery packer dedicated to serving others says that felonious crimes will be investigated thoroughly by the police. Maybe so. But the bar is low. It takes a big heist nowadays for a larceny to be a felony.
Takeaways for landlords and property managers
We need to compartmentalize criminal law from the rights of property owners.
Under the current leadership of the District Attorney’s office, while thieves and vandals may wreak havoc on the streets with impunity, the buck stops with the landlords in the properties they own.
We want you to take aggressive action when there is an indication of criminal activity or violence in and around rental units. If there are witnesses to the nefarious activity, subpoenas can be served so that even a cooperative witness can get off of work. Police reports go a long way in telling a narrative of unsafe or menacing conduct.
A different standard of proof
The District Attorney’s office is tasked with proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the accused is afforded rigorous protections. In contrast, in an unlawful detainer (eviction) action, the landlord need not prove the guilt of a tenant; the rogue or illegal behavior needs to be established by a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning the landlord must prove more than 50% of the evidence points to illegal activity.
Temporary Restraining Orders, meanwhile, can be used to remove bad actors from the rental unit when there is a clear indication of the threat of great or irreparable harm. A judge, in his or her discretion, may "punt" the issue to traditional housing court if it is believed an eviction action is more appropriate and further, the judge may merely order the threatening person to stay away from the victim, stopping short of forcibly removing the aggressor from the property.
A word about domestic violence
Although it is alleged that Chesa Boudin has turned a blind eye to domestic violence, landlords should not. Whenever strife is discovered in the rental unit, landlords must be proactive. We offer more guidance here →
The safersfwithoutboudin recall effort points to many examples of leniency, skyrocketing crime rates, and gives us a glimpse into Boudin's thought process. Asking victims of sexual assault to make amends with their attackers or characterizing a 19-year old girl's pushing over and murdering an 84-year man as a "temper tantrum."
We know from our hard-won experience that the recidivism rate for concerning behavior is high. Whether it is hoarding, arguing with other residents, smoking when the lease prohibits it, or whatever other underlying behavior, - it is likely to rear its head again.
Related: San Francisco lawmakers have recently introduced legislation to give more advanced warning to cease objectionable behavior.
Call us cynical, then, but we find it unsurprising that when people are speedily let go after they commit a crime, they offend again and sometimes commit a more serious, violent crime. There is no doubt that a perceived lack of consequences has emboldened people to engage in illegal behavior just because they can.
We can empathize with the clarion calls to reform the police and the criminal justice system to stop mass incarceration, disparate and excessive sentences. Yet these societal goals should not give hoodlums a license to smash windows, loot, or do whatever else their heart desires with impunity.
We remind our community that even if criminal acts are not prosecuted, landlords are the kings of their castles and they need to take control of it.