Why the mayor’s office is asking the wrong questions about housing

    The Balboa Reservoir, which is empty except for parked cars, could be used for affordable housing
    The Balboa Reservoir, which is empty except for parked cars, could be used for affordable housing

    By Tim Redmond

    DECEMBER 12, 2014 – Almost 30 years ago, the San Francisco Planning Commission heard a proposal to develop the empty Balboa Reservoir for affordable housing. There was talk, and more talk, and nothing ever happened.

    Eventually, the San Francisco PUC allowed City College to build on part of the site. The rest is just parking.

    And yesterday the planners heard about it again.

    Mayor Ed Lee is pushing to use surplus public property to build housing – and at the hearing, some very different perspectives emerged.

    Among them: Should the city decide how much money it has, and then look for ways to spend it on housing – or should the city decide how much housing it needs, and look for the money to fund it?

    Should the public land be given in part to private developers who can help fund affordable housing by building market-rate housing, and what should the thresholds be?

    Along the way, we heard some fascinating figures about the actual cost of building housing.

    I don’t think anyone opposes the idea of using public land for housing. Some people at the hearing, and some commissioners, suggested that small local businesses and nonprofits, which are struggling in this tech boom, ought to be part of the picture, too, but the concept Lee’s office put forward is pretty popular.

    In theory.

    But as Peter Cohen, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, noted, the devil is in the details.

    For example, Mike Martin, project director at the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said that there are buildable sites for 4,000 units that could be developed by 2020, with half of that set aside for low- and moderate-income housing. Some of that would be done with a “mixed income model, using the private sector.”

    But Cohen pointed out that the city has already met 100 percent of its needs for private-sector market-rate luxury housing, but is far behind its General Plan goals for housing at all other levels. Any public land that can accommodate between 50 and 200 units should be set aside with a “clear priority for 100 percent affordable housing,” he said.

    On some larger sites – like the Balboa Reservoir – a larger mixed-use project might work, but not at anything like the currently required levels of affordability.

    Cohen’s organization proposed that larger sites include

    A 50/10/40 mix of development. At least 50% of all units should be affordable to very-low and low-income households, per tax credit guidelines, at a maximum of 60% AMI, to be built by nonprofit developers. Another 10% (which is 20% of the remaining 50% to be built by market-rate developers) could be affordable at a range of moderate income households, between 60% AMI and 120% AMI, which can be achievable through 80/20 deals for on-site rentals and/or the standard 20% off-site inclusionary project taking advantage of the “pricing dial” which will allow flexibility in BMRs affordability targeting. And depending on location and tenure, the remaining 40% of units could be priced at a mix of market rate and upper middle-income above 120% AMI.

    That’s a bit complicated, but it boils down to this: On land owned by the public, even with private partners, at least 60 percent of the housing developed should be below-market rate. That’s what the city’s own General Plan calls for – and if the city already owns the land, it ought to be possible.

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    Joseph Smooke, who is on the board of the South of Market Community Action Network, noted that when the city devotes public land for any form of market-rate housing “you are subsidizing market-rate development.”

    Planning Commission member Michael Antonini argued that higher levels of affordability cost more money, and “it has to pencil out for anyone to build anything.” He’s a fan of using the private sector.

    But what, exactly, does it mean to “pencil out?” We got some interesting figures from Kate Hartley, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

    The cost of acquiring land in San Francisco runs from $65,000 to $165,000 a unit, she said – and that’s on top of the roughly $500,000 it costs to construct that unit. Her figures suggest that private developers will never be able to build affordable housing, and that prices will never come down to affordable levels even if they build 100,000 new units.

    The subsidy for affordable units is as much as $250,000 a unit, she said. “We would love to do 100 percent affordable, but a 200-unit project costs $50 million. There’s an opportunity cost; what else could we do with that money?”

    Well, one thing you could do is buy up existing rent-controlled housing stock and keep it affordable and out of the hands of speculators. But that, said Cohen, is really the wrong question.

    “We should decide what we need as a city, and what it will cost,” he said. “Then we can have a conversation about how to get those additional resources.

    “If we say we can’t afford to build it, so let’s just turn it over to the private sector, we are shooting ourselves in the foot.”

    So let’s talk a bit about that approach. Supposed, for example, the city decided it needs 10,000 more affordable units in the next five years. That’s more than twice what the mayor is talking about, and it’s still short of what we need, but it would be a big start. If Hartley is right, and I have no reason to doubt her, that would cost about $2.5 billion.

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    Typically the city gets federal and state matching funds for affordable housing, which might put the local share at closer to $1 billion. In 2008, a measure to approve almost a billion in bonds to rebuild San Francisco General Hospital passed with 83 percent of the vote. We just approved a half-billion bond for Muni.

    Would the San Francisco voters be willing to approve a large-scale affordable housing bond, with enough money to build 10,000 permanently affordable units? I don’t see why not.

    Are there other ways a city this rich, and this booming with new (largely under-taxed) wealth, could come up with a revenue stream of $200 million a year for five years? Or some mix of new revenue and bonds?

    Of course we could. Considering the size and importance of the problem, which pretty much dwarfs everything else on the political agenda right now, it’s not really that much money.

    So how about we start with Cohen’s idea: How much new housing do we need at which levels in the next five and ten years? What will it take to accommodate our workforce (NOT to accommodate short-term rental units and luxury apartments for people who don’t live here)?

    If the mayor wants 30,000 units in the next 15 years, how many of them ought to be market-rate based on our actual workforce? If the General Plan is right, and 60 percent need to be affordable at some level, that means 18,000 below-market-rate units.

    How are we going to come up with the $4.5 billion that will cost?

    The current model – allow market-rate developers to pay for building a small percentage of affordable housing – will never get us anywhere close to that number. What are the other options?

    And why isn’t the mayor even talking about that?

    • Ok, take this as a rhetorical question perhaps, but why doesn’t the city just build apartments at the Balboa site, and rent them out at affordable rates?

      • Sam

        Because the city knows that it would lose money forever on such a deal, and while the city is happy to stick private landlords with losing propositions, it does not want such a lousy deal for itself.

        As the article mentions at one point, it’s all about the opportunity cost. If you re-direct the city’s fund to subsidize housing for a lucky minority, then which services are you going to cut to pay for that?

        • Please provide evidence that the ‘city knows that it would lose money forever on such a deal.’

          There are plenty of landlords who, even under rent control, make substantial profits.

          • Sam

            To make “substantial profits” as a SF LL you need turnover. A building full of long-term lifers will fiscally degrade quite badly.

            The only properties that a LL would be willing to sell is one where the rents are low and there is no reasonable probability of turnover. Right now those are usually Ellis’ed for obvious reasons

            In other words, the city will end up with all the dogs and the dross.

            • I’m still waiting for evidence. Your opinion is not evidence.

              If a landlord’s expenses don’t rise, and that landlord is making profit when renting under rent control, there is no loss.

              If the cost of providing a rental unit increases, the landlord is allowed to pass those costs to the renters.

              That a landlord under rent control isn’t allowed to take advantage of market-rents isn’t the issue. And given that the landlord is paying taxes according to prop 13, which protects that landlord from being gouged by increased property value due to a hot real estate market, renters under rent control are similarly protected. It is not good for cities that people lose their homes due to changes in the economy, and that goes for both renters and homeowners.

              If you want to get rid of rent control, we should also kill prop 13, especially for apartment owners and other businesses. If you want to means test those renters under rent control, we should also means test businesses to qualify for prop 13 protections.

            • Sam

              That is not how investors think. An investor has a target ROI that he needs, typically expressed as an annual yield.

              If other investments are yielding 6% a year and his rent controlled building is only yielding 3% a year, then he will switch out of the low-yielding asset into the higher-yielding asset.

              The fact that the 3% doesn’t mean a loss totally misses the point. My target is a market yield not just breaking even.

              When an existing rental building has a sub-market yield, the odds are it will cease to be a rental building.

              And the city cannot afford to buy buildings yielding 3% a year either because the financing will cost more than that.

              Prop13 is a totally different issue because it is state-wide and affects all buildings and not just residential rentals.

      • I would like to refocus on my question. That is, why doesn’t the city just build apartments at the Balboa site, and rent them out at affordable rates?

        This is a matter of cold, hard numbers, not of ideological opinioneering. If you add the cost of building an apartment and the cost of maintaining that apartment, what would the City need to charge a renter in order to break even? Is that rent “affordable?”

        Note, of course, that the City has no need to make a profit on the deal, unlike private developers.

        Obviously there are variables, including the scale of the development and the financing costs, but there should be a range that is knowable.

        • Sam

          The answer is in the article:

          “The cost of acquiring land in San Francisco runs from $65,000 to $165,000 a unit . . and that’s on top of the roughly $500,000 it costs to construct that unit . . The subsidy for affordable units is as much as $250,000 a unit”

          So even if you decide that the land has zero cost because the city already owns it (dubious because it discounts opportunity cost) that is still 500K a unit. If you assuming bond borrowing costs are 4% a year then you need a rent of 20K to cover the financing.

          Throw in property tax, insurance, trash and water and you are looking at at least 2K a month in rent to cover costs. So cheapish, perhaps, but hardly a screaming bargain.

          And that assumes that you can come up with the millions to pay for the construction in the first place. There is a limit to how many revenue bonds you can float.

          • These are the mayor’s figures, Mr. Sam Conway. They are about as reliable as asking the CIA if they torture people.

            But even if they are correct, and your extrapolation is correct, it would mean that the city could build apartments, rent them for $2,000 a month, and break even. That sounds a lot better to me than building luxury apartments for your kind.

            Does anybody who knows the real numbers want to step up to the plate here?

            • Sam

              Marc, since you admit that you do not know what the real numbers are, you cannot know that the mayor’s numbers are wrong. And based on my knowledge and experience of construction, I’d say they are fairly close.

              I see no reason why the city should not spend some money on such housing, as long as the taxpayers approve it and are happy with that money not being spent on other needs and services.

              However, there is no reason not to build higher-end houses for those who need it to. It’s not an either/or deal. We need more housing at all price points. Market-rate housing is self-funding and so doesn’t have the same constraints as subsidized housing.

              Helping the poorer doesn’t not entail punishing the more successful.

    • Aaron Goodman

      Missing is the entire discussion of infrastructure, transit, open-space, and amenities, like pools, playgrounds, schools, retail components and community centers and services.

      that ads a lot more,

      we cannot get the land we had prior, but we sure can tax institutions, speculators, and flipping real estate interests.

      That would bring us a lot closer, think a basic tax, that makes up for what we have been missing for so long, than developers might negotiate better to garner sites, and work within the city limits by not only throwing money at transit issues, but ensure on-site integration of low-mid-level housing into the for-sale mixture….

      • Sam

        The voters just rejected a tax on those who take risks to provide housing. Didn’t you notice?

        • Greg

          We came close though. I say rework it and put it on the ballot again, preferably when there’s higher turnout. It’s a no-lose proposition. Worst case scenario: the landlords spend a bunch of their not so hard-earned money on this instead of something else. Best case scenario: we win. Gotta fight like the right if you want to win.

          • Sam

            Ah yes, that’s the public power strategy that worked so well, isn’t it?

            Keep putting bad policy on the ballot in the hope that eventually the voters will get sick of voting on it and approve it.

            How many times did that dog lose? Eleven wasnt it?

    • Finance those costs over 20-40 years. And I don’t know why we don’t throttle developers by squeezing them in the permit process. They are only interested in building luxury housing and there doesn’t seem to be a limit as to what people will pay for that, so who cares about added costs? It’s not like anyone in the 99% is ever going to be able to pay the market prices for those units.

      Determine just how many units are going to be permitted in the next 10 years (creating scarcity) and then make developers bid on permits, Land owners are going to get screwed under this scenario, but I think they can handle it. I don’t see them getting evicted and having to leave their lifelong homes and neighborhoods because of this.

      • Sam

        LOL, spoken like someone who has never been through the permit process. It’s already a nightmare and we’re lucky that anything gets built anyway.

        Oh, and if only the one percent can afford to buy a home then why are fully one third of SF homes owner-occupied? In fact, every home in SF doe sale gets bought so clearly there are plenty of people who can afford them

        • If it process is such a nightmare, nobody would want to develop here. But that isn’t the case. Developers clamor to build here and they and their investors spend a lot of time, effort and money to get what they want, regardless of the potential negative impact to San Francisco.

          • Sam

            The professionals have expediters who work through the permit process. But that just drives up costs which get added into the listing price or rent.

            The irony is that because of all the inhibitors to build new, those that pull it off do very well. This city is a perfect storm of RE inflation and the city’s policies do far more harm than good.

      • medalist

        Sounds like you’re just pessimistic about society. I’m in the 99% and i bought my place on FHA financing in SF and it wasn’t cheap. I worked hard and didn’t take any handouts and demand and subsidies.

        • So you bought one of the newly-built luxury units in the last 2 years and you are not in the 99%? If yes, you are lucky.

          • Sam

            Where is your evidence that only 1% of SF residents can afford to buy a home?

        • KnowsBetter

          Not to endorse Gary’s anti-development/anti-growth views, but FHA financing is by its very nature a subsidy – or a “handout”, if you prefer. So yeah, you did take some.

          • I’m not anti-development or anti-growth. I’ve stated more than once on this blog that I believe that the optimum population for San Francisco is about 1.5 million, and that can be achieved without negative impact to our culture and quality of life if the growth is regulated, planned and the infrastructure needed to support that population is in place BEFORE the development.

            However, what we have now is gaming of the system by developers and the mayor, a false housing crisis being used to allow episodic variances etc, and lots of what is nearly-SRO housing being built to make room for workers, which is exactly the reason why the SRO housing was built in the Tenderloin last century.

            Funny, when OPEC gouged people in the US, it was fine to complain. When landlords gouge people in SF, if you complain you are a commie or something and labeled ‘anti-development.’

            My post above was in response to Tim’s question regarding how to pay for something.

            • Actually, the optimum population for San Francisco is 700,000.

              The infrastructure is already completely overburdened with 850,000,
              or whatever it is. Auto traffic is completely out of control; every major intersection is usually blocked.
              Public transportation, esp. MUNI, water, PG&E, trash pickup, street cleaning, internet and cellular access, the maintenance of public buildings and landscaping, education, healthcare, open space; all these issues have been ignored in the speculative frenzy to make this place look like Manhattan. The City does not NEED more people, and more people moving here is by no means inevitable or desirable. What do we need more people for? Oh, that’s right, to pay some millionaire rents for those hideous ticky-tacky towers popping up everywhere.

            • folderpete

              Apparently Paris has a pop density of 55k/sq mi, while Manhattan had 25k and SF 15k. If we listen to Greg, SF will have 30k. That will certainly take a lot more water/sewer/transit. Shame cuz no one’s pain for it now.

              Paris went and bulldozed large swarths in the 1870s (to make it more difficult for mobs to control the streets, er, I mean clear out old slums). Maybe that is what Greg would like. Well, whadda it be, towers for the Sunset/Ingleside or slum-clearance in the TL?

            • 1) Greg didn’t write this, I did.
              2) What part of “. . .and the infrastructure needed to support that population is in place BEFORE the development.” did you not understand?
              3) There is plenty of wasted space to build upon. For example, several MUNI yards can be consolidated into one big parking structure/multi-service center (which could streamline costs and make things more manageable) to be built on one of the existing yards (San Jose and Geneva for example).

              A little creativity and thoughtfulness is needed.

              We do need to get people out of their cars, and the only way to do that is by having excellent public transportation.

            • folderpete

              Consolidating is a terrible idea. (Although building on top isn’t so bad.) If consolidation were such a good idea, then we could ‘consolidate’ all the busses in the bay area east of Altamonte Pass and “save a bundle” (?). There is a savings (time, money) in having service supply close to what’s being served. Isn’t that the point of keeping PDR local?

            • Morgan Driver

              Thank you, Joseph Thomas, for saying what I have been thinking — the city does not need more people and, most definitely, cannot possibly sustain 1.5 million.

            • Sam

              Morgan, even if we agree that the current population of SF is “correct” that does not necessarily imply that we should pull up the drawbridge and let nobody new in. The city needs the skills that many of those moving here have.

              The other approach is to gradually encourage those who don’t have the job skills that SF needs to move elsewhere. And in fact many less skilled workers have moved to the east bay. This makes perfect sense just as in NYC, London or Paris, lower-paid people often live in the boroughs, home counties or suburbs.

              Just because 800,000 is the right population doesn’t mean that it has to be the SAME 800,000 that we just happen to have here now due to a historical accident and coincidence,

              And price is one way to achieve that, just as in Manhattan, the fancier arrondissements of Paris, and the western postal codes of London

    • Actually, Sam, my name is verifiable. Check out my website, if you really want to know.

      Let me guess your real name… [Pass the envelope]… Ron Conway!

      Or maybe John Mackey.

      • Sam

        Marc, please follow Tim’s guidelines for this site and focus on the topic, and not on the other people and personalities here.

        • nancys

          well, Sam you didn’t do that with me: you just attacked me – falsely – after my comments last week; please follow Tim’s guidelines

          • Sam

            Nancy, I do not recall our conversation but I’m fairly sure that I was civil. Usually when people accuse me of not being civil, it is because I have demolished their argument and they react badly to that.

            If you lose a debate it is better to withdraw, as marcos did recently, rather than turn personal.

    • nancys

      you didn’t win anything; my argument wasn’t demolished – you just looked very bad –

      • Sam

        Like I said, I don’t recall, but you’re the one making personal remarks here right now.

      • Sometimes the SamBot doesn’t check the “notify” box to leave a reply; then he/she/it claims they “won.” “Sam” is so predictably reactionary I’m sure no one takes “him” seriously. Don’t let him scare you away.

        • Sam

          So, nothing on topic? Just a personal attack?

          • Nothing “personal,” Samster.

          • Sam

            No, Joseph, that is exactly what it is, and you know that because you did it deliberately

            • Awww, did we hurt him wittle feelings?
              What the babies gonna do, if you do all the cryin’?
              Or should I say: “What kind of cheese do you want with that whine?”
              (Maybe if I distract him, he’ll leave everyone else alone).

            • Sam

              Joseph, attacking me only serves to make me more persistent. So if you think you can drive me out of here by being abusive, you are very sadly wrong.

              And Tim has made it very clear he doesn’t want personal attacks here. why do you disrespect him so much?

            • Sam, stop it. Really. You’re just making a bigger fool of yourself with each post. If that’s even possible.

            • Sam

              Ah, so you get to derail the thread with personal attacks and if I tell you to follow Tim’s guidelines, then you cry foul?

    • How to finance housing, and other public infrastructure:
      “Public Banking Momentum Growing By Leaps And Bounds”


      • Sam

        Totally unbiased source there, Joseph.

        • Who says I have to be unbiased?

          • Sam

            Glad you admit it

            • You’re welcome.

            • Sam

              Understanding a problem is the first step towards fixing it. You’ve done the hard part.

    • folderpete

      MOH Kate Hartley’s “$500.000 per unit” is a strange figure. Is she talking about an “average” unit, a micro unit (< 200 ft sq), a 1BR, a 3BR? Its just a figure without reference.

      Now one could conjecture certain things. That sales prices of $1000/sq ft would indicate a 1BR (or studio) as being the item discussed. But is that what is relevant to a discussion of "affordable" or 'workforce' housing? Further, a 2BR of 1000 sq ft would cost = $1000K (a million dollars in shorthand) But that is not 'construction costs' (which she differentiates from parcel acquisition costs). And if we are talking about "Non-profit" and "affordable" construction, the cost to build (and acquire) would expectantly be less than the market sales price. And if developers expect an ROI of something like 30-40%, that might put 'contruction & acquisition' (and permitting, marketing and all the things it takes to turn dirt into homes) for a 1 BR at … what? $300K?


      Building Non-prof and building market rate are (potentially) two different animals. However, Non-profs (those "affordable guys") have a way of jacking up costs, but again, thats a different story.

      And on the subject of 'opportunity costs' – what are the opportunities denied by committing that land to private housing when it could be put to more … *public* uses (gasp, public land for public usage!). Of course the subject of costs of infrasturcture is also highly important and under-acknowledged.

    • jch

      This is a bit of a detour, but is linked to one of the sites in question, the Balboa reservoir. It is now used as a parking lot for CCSF, and is never filled. Before the accreditation crisis, however, it was often filled. My point is that Ed Lee sees benefits in a shrinking CCSF and this is one example of that perspective. We may learn of others as time goes by. Ed Lee has done a lot of damage to this town. His failure to support CCSF is high on that list.

    • Jean

      Could Sam please get a life? He sits around waiting for Tim’s posts every day and just waits to badger those who don’t agree with him. Please go somewhere else.

    • “The city needs the skills that many of those moving here have. The other approach is to gradually encourage those who don’t have the job skills that SF needs to move elsewhere.”

      And what skills would those be, Sam? Municipal governance? Structural engineering? Public transportation design? Maybe the “skills” the City needs are already here, and they aren’t being utilized because of cronyism, nepotism, and incompetence?

      Between Stanford, Cal, S.F. State, USF, and CCSF, there are plenty of skilled people here for any task you can imagine.

      • folderpete

        “And what skills would those be, Sam?”

        I really wonder how necessary the skills of ‘being on SSI’, ‘cardboard-sign-waving’, and ‘being retired’ are to the money economy, the social economy and the political economy?

        Granted, the same might be said of dishwashers and cashiers. Yet if a swift enough commute were provided, I don’t see the difference of a 45 min MUNI trip to live in SF vs 35 min BART trip (the costs are a bit different, but maybe something could be worked out).

        In one sense its nice to have plumbers and doctors and dishwashers and CEOs washing hands in the same bathroom and having kids going to the same schools. But that generally doesn’t happen unless there is some other kind of dividing line (like, say race) where the classes are thrown together.

        Maybe its nice to have old, middle age and young people mixing around. And yet, there is a profound human desire to be with one’s own kind (however that’s defined).

        Guess we’re not gonna solve this one by Xmas, eh?

      • Sam

        I don’t know, Joseph. How many activists and artists does the SF economy and tax-base need? Less than we have, I suspect.

        And even if you work in SF, that doesn’t mean you have to live in SF. The city’s boundaries are fairly arbitrary anyway.

        Mobility is good for the city. Sclerosis is not, and freezing the city in time as if we’ve coincidentally got it “just right” now seems highly unlikely.

        • Creating straw men and then setting them on fire is not “debate.”

          • Sam

            I was providing some classes of people that SF has too many of. I can think of others.

            • I can too, starting with “blowhards.”

            • Sam

              Now there, you are right. Too many activists, poets, artists, union reps and general whiners in this city.

              They’d all be happier in Oakland.

    • James_Douglas

      I love to read over comments on the ongoing issue of housing, rent control, and the like which is perennially going on here in San Francisco.

      Being originally educated in Community and Regional Planning it has always been an interest of mine. I worked briefly in the field after school, but quickly learned that it all had to do with money-power-politics. It had nothing to do with rational planning in any sense of the word.

      Rent Control in San Francisco is the logical out growth of Zoning Controls. Screw with the supply side of housing by zoning, and in a constrained market the price goes up.

      Econ 101.

      What I always love is how landlords bitch about how they are getting taken by renters under rent control. Yes, renters are getting an economic good due to rent control. But, you never hear about the fact that building owners are getting a subsidy by zoning control. The economic rent value of their building is worth more due to the constriction because of zoning. One never hears them bitch about their subsidy!

      If the Amber Reality SCOTUS decision all those years ago had gone a different way, San Francisco would today look a lot like Hong Kong. Much more dense and may well have much lower square foot rental prices.

      Zoning is nothing but a societal giveaway to those who are invested into housing in a given market.

      Per a square foot prices for housing in San Francisco can never go down. Why, because to many interests from the existing owners to the secondary mortgage markets, and the like would never allow it to happen.

      In the case of places like the Balboa Reservoir, if The City wanted to encourage Teachers, Nurses, Firemen, Police, and other middle class people to stay in San Francisco they could make that happen at such a site.

      What they should do is NOT allow development companies to build there. What they should do is carve up the block into a slightly more dense version of what is in the sounding neighborhoods.

      Create new lots. Lottery them off to people, who have rented in SF for say 10 plus years, who can demonstrate that they can get a loan to build the equivalent of say a Three Flat.

      They will occupy one of the flats and have to stay there for say 20 years or sell it back to The City for the original Construction cost. No renting of it, no airBnb. The other two flats in the building would have Rent Control on them, even though they are new units.

      At the 20 year mark, the occupied flat would go market rate for rent as long as the owner was not in the building anymore or sold it to someone else who is not in the building. Thus preserving the two Rent Controlled apartments.

      This would provide a dent in the problem and provide housing in which people could raise a family. If someone managed the property smartly they may well have the seed money to see to it that at least one more generation in their family could buy in The City in 25 years from such a scenario.

      The income stream from the other flats would help service the debt load to construct the building. It would add “Zoning Aberration” Rent Controlled stock and allow people of moderate means to contribute and be long term stable members of our community.


      One thing I can say is that I would vote tomorrow to repeal rent control as long as at the same time all zoning controls were removed as well.

      • Sam

        James, most RE investors would be very happy to see zoning scaled back. You are wrong that RE investors love zoning controls. It is the NIMBYs who love them.

        But yes, zoning drives up RE values. But then many SF NIMBYs own property (Welch, Hestor, Redmond etc). They win both ways.

        • James_Douglas

          Actually, I do not think that is the case here in San Francisco. I have a lunch date with a number of friends here in the Richmond every week. Most of those at lunch have moderate rental holdings in the area.

          When we discuss this issue, at length, and we come around to the thought that if rent control and zoning control all went away…and … the market would build out to meet demand…almost all of them say they would not support it as it would affect “their quality of life”.

          You see the guy next door may build a 10 story building and people who are as you say RE Investors do not want that next door to them!

          Most owners of property here in San Francisco like having their cake and eating it as well. It is not just the NIMBY’s who love zoning is it is the owner-investors as well.


          • folderpete

            @JD –
            What you describe is the very definition of a NIMBY. Your moderate ‘housing providers’, your home owners, your renters (who rent in the 2-3 story Richmond instead of SOMA).

            An actual “investor” might really welcome a lack of zoning controls (and ‘discretionary reviews’) as it would allow them to tear down their blogs and put in monsters. They don’t care! Cuz they live somewhere else and their “quality of life” won’t be affected.

    • Gail Williams

      The parking lot at City College is used by the teachers who teach at CCSF and the students who attend the school.

      The photograph at the top of this article is very misleading. They must have taken the picture when school was not in session–was it on Sunday?.

      On school days (Monday thru Saturday) the top level of the parking lot is full or almost full all day and evening. The overflow cars use the bottom level which fills up more on some days than others. There is no other place to park at City College except along the streets that only allow 2 hours or less at a time. Those spaces are always full also. If the city thinks that this land is going to solve the SF housing crisis, that’s ridiculous no matter who builds there. And if anyone does build on these parking lots then in the CCSF neighborhood there will be a much bigger parking crisis than there already is. So yeah, using this land for housing is a bad idea if the city doesn’t also plan to make a parking lot for the CCSF students and teachers.

      • Parking lots are the least productive use of space imaginable.
        Driving is a privilege that can be revoked at any time, not a right.
        The students and teachers can take public transit like everyone else (should be doing).
        I’m sure the faculty and students of CCSF have heard of global warming?

        • Sam

          Good luck trying to revoke the right of people to drive in America.

          SF is sinfully short of parking.

          • Driving is a privilege, not a right. And nobody has the right to kill the planet so they can sit on their ass to get from point A to point B. Autos are 19th Century technology; status symbols of supreme selfishness. The present generation is not falling for the okey-doak; besides, they can’t afford
            to own a car unless they work for a “car-share” company. Parking is impossible today; imagine how it would be if there were 1.5 million people living here. Of course, you don’t really care, you’re just being reactionary, as per usual.

            • Sam

              Actually a driving license is a right, although that right can be taken away, in certain specific cases, just like not everyone can get a marriage license.

              In fact, if you are in favor of gays being able to get a marriage license, because marriage is a right, then you cannot reasonably be against the right to hold a driving license.

              I’ve killed the planet far more by the million plus miles I have flown than by pootering around town in my sedan.

            • Driving is a privilege, not a right.
              Marriage is a social contract (a bad one, in my opinion).
              Far more people drive than fly; ergo driving is one of the biggest causes of pollution.

            • Sam

              Joseph, both require state licenses so I see no material difference. They are both rights, albeit revocable in some circumstances.

            • YOU see no material difference?
              Tell it to the judge.

            • Or better yet, try and marry your dog.

            • Sam

              I don’t care whether you think I have a right to drive or not, Joseph. Because I drive every day and you can’t stop me. That sounds like a right to me.

      • Sam

        Gail, maybe we should wait and see if CCSF is closing down, in which case that parking will no longer be needed.

        Otherwise insist that any new development include the same amount of parking as currently available for you.

        But if CCSF closes, then a lot of new homes can be built on its existing campuses.

        • folderpete

          Tearing down CCSF and putting up “housing” is the v worst suggestion I think I’ve ever heard.

          • It wasn’t a real “suggestion,” it was typical S(p)am. You say green, he’ll say yellow. You say yes, he’ll say no. Imminently predictable, and contributing nothing to the solution of any of the problems discussed so far. That’s why I think “Sam” is malware; he seems incapable of actual rational discourse. And you’ll notice Sam hasn’t “won” a single argument with anyone yet, because he has no real position, except opposition to every suggestion. He/she/it also never misses an opportunity to make disparaging remarks about the people who live here.

            • Sam

              Joseph, in case you haven’t noticed, CCSF is in real danger of having to close down, due to gross mismanagement and fiscal distress.

              In which case then it is legitimate to consider how best to redeploy those real estate resources

            • folderpete

              @Sam –
              CCSFs imminent? loss-of-accreditation is not a reason for permanent closure. And certainly not a reason to scavenge its assets. It might be a good time to clean house and reorganize the educational institution. I haven’t heard of such gross corruption and waste to even justify a closure. But SF would certainly be at a loss if CCSF were to cease to exist.

            • Sam

              If CCSF loses its accreditation then it will have to be dramatically reduced in size, which would free up their considerable under-used real estate assets

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