Russell Flynn, a multi-millionaire real estate magnate in San Francisco, will do anything to push tenants out of their rent-controlled apartments so he can charge higher rents. From harassment to drumming up phony claims, Flynn has amassed his massive wealth by mistreating hard-working people.
“It was really traumatizing,” Alicia Kester, a tenant who had to defend herself against Flynn, told the East Bay Express in 2015. “I don’t want to have an acrimonious relationship with my landlord.”
Flynn, who keeps a low profile with no website, no photos, and no social media, owns more than 3,600 rental units in the Bay Area. He’s built his fortune by buying rent-controlled apartment buildings, forcing out longtime tenants, and then jacking up rents for new tenants. It’s a predatory way of business that manipulates the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, a dubious state law that allows landlords to raise rents in rent-controlled buildings to market rate once a tenant moves out.
In order to keep that harmful law intact, Flynn recently shelled out a whopping $870,000* to oppose Proposition 10, which repeals Costa-Hawkins and allows communities to limit excessive rent increases. He joins a long list of corporate landlords funding the effort to stop Prop 10, including Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman and Equity Residential co-founder Sam Zell.
Flynn’s track record shows why he’s one of the most notorious landlords in the Bay Area.
In Oakland, Alicia Kester, an African-American woman in her late 30s, lived in a rent-controlled building owned by Flynn. To push her out so he could charge higher rent with a new tenant, Flynn came up with a fake charge that she was illegally subleasing her apartment — and tried to evict her.
It was a stressful, trying time for Kester. She was worried about losing her home, and she was forced to hire an attorney. She won in court, but it should have never gone that far if Flynn played by the rules.
Flynn came up with similar phony claims against Kester’s neighbors — and again lost in court. The multi-millionaire was so shameless he tried to dramatically raise rents far beyond what’s legally allowed at the rent-controlled building. In one case, he sought to spike the rent from $1,080 to $3,875 per month.
The multi-millionaire uses other shady methods to enrich himself. In San Francisco, in 2013, he undertook the biggest single Ellis Act eviction in history of that city — tenants, mostly seniors, in 33 rent-controlled units were suddenly given eviction notices. The Ellis Act, a state law, allows a landlord to take a rental building off the market and convert it to condos or some type of hotel. Housing activists have long said that the law has been abused by unscrupulous landlords like Flynn throughout California.
Also in 2013, Flynn was taken court by a San Francisco tenant for a wrongful eviction complaint. Just like in Oakland, Flynn didn’t win — he settled out of court.
This is a bad man doing bad things. He doesn’t care about solving California’s housing-affordability crisis — he just wants to make more millions at the expense of others. Yet the opposition campaign gladly accepts Flynn’s $600,000. What does that say about them?
Flynn, Schwarzman, and the other corporate landlords want to keep the status quo while seniors, teachers, and families struggle to pay skyrocketing rents and face homelessness. In fact, they gamed the housing market and helped cause California’s housing-affordability and homeless crises — the worst in the nation.
But we have a solution: Proposition 10.
Prop 10 is supported by trusted organizations, labor unions, and social justice organizations such as the League of Women Voters, the California Teachers Association, the California Democratic Party, the ACLU, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, and many others. They are not standing with predatory landlords like Flynn.
Prop 10 allows communities to put reasonable limits on excessive rents — and to check corporate landlord greed. It returns power to us, and guarantees that landlords will make a fair rate of return. Vote Yes on 10.
(*Flynn has contributed additional monies to oppose Prop 10 since this article and accompanying video was first published.)