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Not All Landlords Are Assholes 

Wednesday, Sep 23 2015

Ask Nato Green what's it like to be be a landlord in San Francisco and he'll tell you, "It's like being a coke dealer in the '80s — you make a lot of money for doing nothing." He'll also quip that it's the second easiest job in the world, behind being press secretary for the Secret Service.

A comedian by trade (and a San Francisco Examiner columnist), the left-leaning Green has been a landlord in Bernal Heights for more than a decade. He's now also the the self-appointed president of Small Property Owners for Reasonable Controls (SPORC), a faux-PAC of "pro-tenant landlords" who own four or fewer units and support rent control and limits on evictions.

Although he jokes about being a pariah — the body politic in this town may detest landlords even more than techies, and his renter-friendly positions are anathema to landowners — Green is serious about housing reform.

Sort of.

"SPORC is both a joke and not a joke," he says.

He started the group a year and a half ago because he "wanted a reason to write jokes about landlords." A bare-bones Tumblr page and 113 Facebook followers later, SPORC finds itself in a particularly volatile moment in San Francisco's rental market.

As an Airbnb-funded campaign plasters anti-Prop. F propaganda across the city and no-fault evictions continue apace, Green and likeminded landlords are urging their brethren to worry less about money and more about people.

This may not be as outlandish as it sounds. Since launching SPORC, Green become an accidental guru to landlords seeking advice about building a positive rapport with tenants — so much so that he's thinking of writing a manual.

Not that he's immune to the city's siren song of astronomical rent. "There have been moments when I've wanted to gouge a yuppie," he admits.

Green knows that "morality will never win the market, but the plan for SPORC was to plant a flag for other progressive landlords to gravitate toward."

The group is mostly a pet project for now, trading in soft power rather than political action, but Green thinks it could empower other landlords who are more concerned about preserving an economically and culturally diverse city than making bank.

"I get paid some — not enough — as a comedian, but the money I make is a result of the work I put into the craft of performing and writing jokes," Green says. "What I get paid as a landlord is because I got lucky. I wasn't shrewd. I didn't make the neighborhood cool. I could just as easily have lost my shirt."

Whether SPORC ever becomes more than an outlet for sardonic jokes depends on whether Green can recruit kindred spirits with deep pockets. Until then, he's content to remain a traitor to his class.

"There's some amount of aggravation and risk from being a landlord, but it's a whole lot easier than working for a living."

About The Author

Jeremy Lybarger


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