Shouldn’t he take some responsibility for the impacts of the boom he is so proud of?
By Tim Redmond
OCTOBER 13, 2015 — There’s plenty to say about Randy Shaw’s piece today extolling the great pro-tenant record of Mayor Ed Lee. The mayor, for example, didn’t sign the roommate provisions of the Eviction 2.0 legislation, which would have demonstrated support. He allowed it to become law without his signature. I am told by insiders that he would have preferred to veto it, but was worried about the impacts a high-profile anti-tenant move would have had on the fall election, particularly on Sup. Julie Christensen.
Oh, and the mayor has also been the city’s chief executive during the worst eviction and displacement crisis since World War II, and hasn’t done much about it. He told me about a year ago that he saw no local solutions to the crisis, that “all roads lead to Sacramento,” where he was pushing for changes in the Ellis Act – something that everyone agreed was a long shot.
Did the Eviction 2.0 legislation come out of the Mayor’s Office? No – it came from the progressives on the Board of Supervisors.
In fact, most of the mayor’s housing policies rely on the magic of the free market, which has never worked in this city.
He not only failed to support Prop. F, he never did anything to control the displacement caused by Airbnb, at one point telling people that it was a local company and shouldn’t be discouraged.
He worked with Sup. David Chiu (and Airbnb lobbyists) on legislation that allows more than 5,000 housing units to be illegally rented as hotels every night – because the enforcement provisions that his own Planning Dept. said were needed would have harmed Airbnb’s bottom line.
But let’s take a step even further back. The mayor is really proud of his record of attracting tech companies to San Francisco and brags about the jobs he’s helped create. But the impact of those jobs has been astonishing – wholesale destruction of neighborhoods.
He points out that some of the progressive supervisors – Jane Kim and Eric Mar – also supported the Twitter tax break. I think if you asked them today whether they would like to have that vote back, they might pause to reflect. The mayor has not.
Here’s the more interesting point: Shaw says that everyone has supported the economic side of the boom
Some blame Lee for the economic boom that has caused housing prices to skyrocket. But I didn’t hear any progressive supervisors arguing the city should tell tech companies, hospitals, and other new businesses to not operate in San Francisco.
Maybe no supervisors have said that. It’s hard for an elected official to be “anti-business.” The hospitals, by the way, are not the ones driving up the rent – most hospital employees don’t make big money. (Yes, brain surgeons do, but not the people who cook the food, make the beds, clean the floors … even the nurses don’t make enough to compete for housing in this market.)
The tech companies are driving up the rent. Basically, they see high housing costs as just a small price of doing business, and they’ll pay their talent whatever it takes to live in SF.
The supervisors may not be saying that we accepted too much too fast, that the city has been too welcoming to tech companies …. But I’ve said that. And I think it’s true.
There are two sides to the housing boom – the supply side (the mayor wants to build more housing) and the demand side (the tech boom is putting pressure on the existing housing stock). What’s wrong with talking about both? What’s wrong with saying that we have grown too much too fast, that we made the city too attractive to tech without first stabilizing existing vulnerable communities?
What’s wrong with saying that most San Franciscans are worse off under the boom than they were before?
Growth – uncontrolled growth without prior planning and mitigations – is not always good. This is one of the sources of the current crisis. And it’s a reason that the mayor is in part responsible.