• Voters Approve San Francisco’s Empty Homes Tax and Oakland’s Expanded Residential Eviction Protections

    Voters in San Francisco and Oakland approved[1] two measures with significant implications for residential property owners: San Francisco’s Proposition M, also known as the Empty Homes Tax, and Oakland’s Measure V, which expands Oakland’s Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance.

    Proposition M – the Empty Homes Tax (San Francisco)

    The Empty Homes Tax provides that owners of San Francisco properties with at least three residential units will be taxed on any residential unit that is vacant for more than 182 days in a tax year, whether consecutive or not. The tax ranges per unit for each year of vacancy, depending on the unit’s size, from $2,500-$5,000 for the first year, to $5,000-$10,000 for the second year, and $10,000-$20,000 for the third year and beyond.  These amounts are subject to adjustment for inflation. The assessed funds will be deposited into a Housing Activation Fund to support housing for elderly and low-income residents and rehabilitate multi-unit buildings for conversion to affordable housing.

    Exceptions to the tax include single-family homes, two-unit buildings, primary residences, units intended for travelers or other transient occupants, and units owned by nonprofit organizations or government entities.  In addition, the tax does not apply during certain periods of time following: (i) a building permit application for the repair, rehabilitation, or construction of a qualifying residential unit; (ii) City issuance of a building permit for repair, rehabilitation, or construction of a qualifying residential unit; (iii) a natural disaster that severely damages a qualifying residential unit; (iv) City issuance of a certificate of final completion and occupancy for a new qualifying residential unit; and (v) the death or medical absence of an owner-occupant of a qualifying residential unit.

    The Empty Homes Tax is effective as of January 1, 2024 and will expire December 31, 2053. Owners of qualifying residential units (e.g., a building with 3 or more residential units, not owned by a nonprofit or government entity) must file an annual return in the form and manner to be prescribed by the Tax Collector.

    The Empty Homes Tax is the third such tax in the United States, following Washington, D.C., which reportedly generated $9.4 million from a similar tax in calendar year 2016, and Oakland, which reported gross revenues from its empty homes tax in the amount of $7.3 million in calendar year 2020. Vancouver, British Columbia, has a similar law that generated the equivalent of $21.3 million US dollars in calendar year 2019; and in the first year after the tax was adopted, Vancouver had a 21.2% reduction in vacant units.[2]

    The Empty Homes Tax has similarities to San Francisco’s previously enacted Commercial Vacancy Tax, which became effective on January 1, 2022.  The Commercial Vacancy Tax applies to ground floor, street-facing commercial space in certain commercial districts that is vacant for more than 182 days in a calendar year. The Commercial Vacancy Tax is calculated at an initial rate of $250 per linear foot of storefront facing the street, increasing to $1,000 per linear foot for the third or greater year that a space is vacant. Filing and payment of the Commercial Vacancy Tax will first become due on February 28, 2023.

    Measure V – Expanding the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance (Oakland)

    Oakland’s Measure V passed with 65% of the vote, expanding Oakland’s eviction protections in several ways.

    The pre-existing Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance (Oakland Municipal Code Chapter 8.22, Article II) (“Just Cause Ordinance”) provided eleven just causes for an eviction of a residential tenant, including, generally: failing to pay rent; failing to cure a breach of the lease; refusing to sign a new lease after lease expiration; damaging the premises and failing to repair the same; disturbing other tenants; using the premises for an illegal use; refusing the landlord’s reasonable entry; a move-in by the owner or its qualifying relative; removal of the unit from the rental market; and the owner’s performance of substantial upgrades. A local COVID-19 eviction moratorium that is still in effect prevents most evictions in Oakland, even those permitted under the Just Cause Ordinance. When the Oakland City Council lifts the local emergency, the moratorium will end and Oakland will revert to the Just Cause Ordinance, as amended by Measure V.

    Previously, the Just Cause Ordinance only applied to residential rental units (“Rental Units”) built before 1996. Measure V extends the eviction protections to Rental Units of any age, except during the first 10 years after the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for a newly constructed Rental Unit or building containing Rental Units. Measure V also extends the Just Cause Ordinance to tenants of Vehicular Residential Facilities, which includes qualifying motor homes, travel trailers, truck campers, camping trailers, and park trailers.

    Measure V prohibits “no-fault” evictions of children enrolled in school and educators during the school year. No-fault evictions are those unrelated to a tenant’s actions, such as an owner move-in or removal of the Rental Unit from the rental market. Evictions due to the fault of the tenant, such as failure to pay rent, may still be pursued at any time during the year.  Measure V also removes from the list of “just causes” for eviction a tenant’s refusal to sign a new lease when its lease expires, and clarifies that an eviction based on illegal use does not include residing in a Rental Unit that violates building or planning codes.

    Finally, Measure V clarifies that if an owner (or qualifying relative) fails to comply with move-in rules following an owner move-in eviction, the landlord must allow the tenant to move back into the Rental Unit at the same rental rate the tenant was paying when they vacated, and the landlord must pay the tenant all of its expenses incurred to return to the Rental Unit.

    We will continue to provide further updates when they are available.

    Contact Real Estate attorney Caitlin Connell at cconnell@coblentzlaw.com for additional information.



    [1] See San Francisco Chronicle article linked here and Alameda County Election Results website linked here.

    [2] See City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors Policy Analysis Report dated January 31, 2022, available here.

    Categories: Blogs
  • Key and Upcoming Changes from the Trademark Modernization Act: What You Need to Know

    By Karen Frank and Sabrina Larson 

    In December 2020, Congress passed the Trademark Modernization Act (the “TMA”), providing for numerous changes in the processes for registering trademarks and maintaining trademark registrations in the United States. Key elements of the TMA come into effect on December 1, 2022. This client alert discusses important terms of the TMA that companies should be aware of that provide new tools to clear unused trademarks from the U.S. Trademark Register and for the Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) to move applications through examination more efficiently.

    Key terms of the TMA:

    Office Action Response Time Shortened to Three Months
    To-date, applicants for trademark registration have had six months to respond when the USPTO raises issues on an application (an “Office Action”). The TMA shortens the response time to three months. The TMA provides the option for Applicants to obtain one three-month extension to respond to an Office Action, for a $125 fee. This shortened response time is expected to significantly speed up the timing for obtaining trademark registrations.

    Two New USPTO Ex Parte Proceedings
    The TMA creates two new proceedings under which anyone can petition the USPTO to investigate the validity of a U.S. trademark registration. Under these so-called “ex parte” proceedings, a party can petition to have a trademark registration to be reexamined with regard to select goods or services, or expunged entirely, based on a reasonable investigation showing that the mark has not been used for some or all of the goods or services covered by the registration. The petition for expungement may be filed between 3 and 10 years after a mark is registered, and the petition for reexamination must be filed within 5 years of registration. These new Trademark Office proceedings create opportunities to clear the U.S. Trademark Register of registrations that are based on inaccurate claims of use in commerce in the United States. The proceedings are expected to be faster, more efficient, and less extensive (and generally less expensive) alternatives to more formal proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

    Trademark Litigation: Presumption of Irreparable Harm
    The TMA creates a statutory nationwide uniform standard of a presumption of irreparable harm to be applied in trademark cases where the trademark owner establishes infringement. This resolves a previous circuit split among the courts and reduces the evidentiary burden on trademark owners seeking to obtain injunctive relief in litigation.

    If you have any questions about the TMA or seek counsel regarding trademarks, please do not hesitate to reach out to Karen Frank or Sabrina Larson.

    Categories: Publications
  • Coblentz Recognized by 2023 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms”

    U.S. News – Best Lawyers® ranked Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP among its list of 2023 “Best Law Firms,” including National Tier 1 recognition for Land Use & Zoning Law and Litigation – Tax Law and National Tier rankings in nine additional practice areas. The firm was also named a Tier 1 “Best Law Firm” in 11 practice areas in the San Francisco Metropolitan market, with 21 San Francisco Metropolitan rankings overall.

    Thirty-five Coblentz attorneys are also recognized in the 2023 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®. Real estate partner Danna Kozerski is recognized as the Best Lawyers® 2023 Real Estate Law “Lawyer of the Year” in San Francisco.

    U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” recognizes firms for their professional excellence and consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise. Rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes clients’ and peers’ evaluation of firms based on expertise, responsiveness, understanding of a business and its needs, cost-effectiveness, civility, and whether they would refer another client to the firm.

    Categories: News