Key legislation comes before the supes. Plus: developer subsidies and Mission development controls
By Tim Redmond
SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 – A major expansion of the city’s tenant-protection laws comes before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday/22 and there appear to be six votes in favor. But Sup. Scott Wiener will try to amend out a critical part of the law, and that will put Sup. Julie Christensen, who is in a tight re-election race in a tenant-heavy district, on the hot seat.
The measure would make it harder for landlords to evict tenants over minor and easily corrected breaches of a lease, would prevent evictions that are based entirely on a unit not being legally zoned for housing, and would prevent landlords from using owner-move-in evictions as a way to get rid of a tenant and raise the rent.
It would also allow tenants to add more roommates, as long as they didn’t exceed the legal occupancy levels of an apartment or flat, without facing eviction. That’s more important today than ever, since more and more people are looking to take on additional renters to help cover the insane prices of housing.
The landlords don’t like any of the changes, but even Wiener, who often sides with the apartment owners, went along with most of the proposals at the Land Use Committee. He tried to sideline the roommate provision, though, saying that it would take control of rental units away from the owners.
His effort to delete that part of the bill failed when Sup. Malia Cohen joined the measure’s sponsor, Sup. Jane Kim, in voting to send the entire package to the full board with a positive recommendation.
Wiener asked that the legislation be split and will seek a vote on the roommate provision at the board.
If Cohen sticks to the position she took in committee, and the other five supervisors who generally vote on the progressive side go along, Kim will have a majority. So it might make political sense for Christensen to vote in favor, too, since the landlords will already have lost. However, she has collected thousands of dollars in campaign money from rea-estate interests, so it will be interesting to see if she goes along with Wiener in his attempt to gut the roommate provision.
The meeting starts at 2pm in the Board Chambers at City Hall.
I’m pretty used to watching bad policy at City Hall – there’s been so much of it in the past few years. But every once in a while, I run into something that has me tearing out what little is left of my hair – and right now, it’s the Transportation Sustainability Fee.
This goes back to the era right after Prop. 13, when the city was scrambling to figure out how the hell to fund Muni in a city where highrise office buildings were popping up everywhere, adding to the need for transit – but property taxes were essentially frozen.
The idea was to charge office developers a fee to reflect the cost of buying new buses, hiring drivers, and all the other things that are needed to keep a transit system running for a growing population. Studies were done, and they concluded that every square foot of new office space meant Muni needed about $9 in new revenue.
That was too steep for the pro-development mayor at the time, Dianne Feinstein, so the city settled for $5. The fee has gone up a few times, but now it’s being overhauled: Legislation that comes before the Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/21 would shift the spending element (money for bike lanes and other transportation systems beyond Muni) and the revenue element (residential developers would now have to pay, just like office developers).
But the fee is radically low, so low that it pretty much guarantees that Muni will continue to perform below what this city desperately needs. It amounts to a billion-dollar subsidy for developers.
But I seem to be the only one talking about this. I wonder what the committee members will do – and if anyone will testify about the notion that growth should pay for growth, and if new buildings cost the rest of us more than they bring in to the city, maybe we don’t need them.
The voters will weigh in on a moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission Nov. 3, but in the meantime, the Planning Commission is talking about a milder version. The commission will discuss Thursday/24 a six-month interim controls plan that would require additional review for any market-rate project of more than five units.
The planning staff is suggesting that major projects undergo conditional-use approval, which would slow them down, while allowing
staff to analyze affordable housing needs, assess sites for affordable housing production, and stem the loss of existing income protected units while maintaining PDR capacity in PDR zoned lands and preserving vital community resources. More specifically, the interim controls would allow time for the City to determine if permanent zoning changes could be formulated to accelerate affordable housing goals and for the Mission Action Plan 2020 process to complete a package of comprehensive, permanent solutions.
It’s a much shorter-term proposal – six months is nothing in the land of SF planning – but it could lead to a longer set of new zoning rules.
Of course, if it passes, the opponents of the Mission Moratorium (Prop. I) will insist that the problem has been solved.
But at least all of the activism around the attack on the Mission is getting attention.
The Community College Board will be discussing in closed session the fate of 33 Gough St Thursday/24, and of course the issue is money: Should the cash-strapped school maximize the return it can get on this piece of property (by leasing it long term for market-rate housing) – or should a piece of public property be set aside for badly needed affordable housing, even if that means the school gets less out of the deal? And whatever happens, should part of the package be space for the college?
From what I’ve been told, it’s unlikely the board will make any sort of decision this week, but the process is underway and at some point soon the elected members are going to have to set policy.
Also on the closed-session agenda: The so-far unproductive negotiations with the teachers’s union and the union representing classified employees. I wonder what the staff is going to tell the board.