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Monday, September 27, 2021

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News + PoliticsSupes oppose displacement -- then approve displacement

Supes oppose displacement — then approve displacement

After voting for a measure to give neighborhood preference in affordable housing, board votes for giant development that neighborhood opposes

A giant project for Fifth and Mission drew extensive community opposition
A giant project for Fifth and Mission drew extensive community opposition

By Tim Redmond

The Board of Supervisors approved a plan today to grant preference to existing neighborhood residents as a means of fighting displacement — just hours before approving a project that could lead to large-scale displacement.

The measure by Sups. London Breed and Malia Cohen would set aside 40 percent of all new affordable housing units for people who live in the supervisorial district where the project is being built.

That, Breed argued, would both allow people who face evictions of overcrowded housing conditions to stay in their neighborhoods and communities — and might encourage neighbors to accept more affordable units.

She and Cohen spoke of the dramatic loss of African American population in the city and the evidence that only a tiny fraction of the affordable units in private developments go to Black residents.

“I don’t know who’s winning the lottery,” she said. “But I know who’s losing.”

There was pretty widespread support for the concept, although Sup. Eric Mar noted that low-income Filipino and Latino residents are also losing out in the housing lottery, that the proposal “pits low-income people of color against other low-income people of color” in “fighting over scraps.

“I support multi-racial justice,” he said.

He mentioned that the board would later be dealing with a major project that is opposed by many in the South of Market community because of its potential for displacement: “The way to stop displacement is to stop displacement.”

Sup. David Campos said he had some concerns about the proposal, but noted that the Black community, and its elected leaders, had organized to push for it.

“I have come to this board to ask for help for the Mission,” he said “I don’t know if this will work or not, but this is a priority for the African American community. When the Latino community came here [to seek a moratorium on development in the Mission] we said, give us the benefit of the doubt. In that spirit, I will be supporting this.”

He didn’t say, and didn’t need to say, that none of the sponsors of this measure gave him the same courtesy and supported him when he asked for the moratorium.

The measure passed 9-2.

And then, fairly quickly, the board moved onto the 5M project.

The project is deeply unpopular among the low-income residents, many of them Filipino, in the surrounding area.

Speaker after speaker (many of them seniors) talked about the fear of eviction, about the concern that the fancy new office space and high-end condos will lead to more speculation, higher property values, and massive displacement.

Tony Robles, a community organizer, spoke of the old days of the I-Hotel and Manilatown, an area where the Filipino community was evicted and scattered in the 1970s to make room for the creep of downtown. “Manilatown was deemed too valuable for the Filipino community to live in,” he said.

Representatives of Filipino youth and families said they see the same thing happening again. “This project will end with a Filipino Heritage District with no Filipinos in it,” one speaker noted.

Much of the affordable housing will not be on site – in fact, it won’t be in the same neighborhood, but in the Tenderloin.

Sup. Jane Kim interrupted one group of speakers, who were saying that there was no housing for the Filipino community, by saying that the higher-end “affordable housing” was aimed at people who earned the salaries of, say, a nurse or a teacher.

“Are there no Filipinos who are nurses or teachers?” she asked.

Most of the people who were speaking, however, represented much lower-income residents.

“Former restaurant and hotel workers have been forced to leave the city even though they still work here,” one SoMa resident said. “Even my neighbors have changed. …. Most of the people who move in are working in the tech industry and can afford higher rents.”

The whole project is a pretty dramatic change from the Central SoMa plan and the city’s long pattern of land use in the area. As Sue Hestor, who has been watching development in the city for decades, testified, “nobody every expected Montgomery Street to migrate to Fifth and Mission.”

The testimony against the project went on for more than four hours. The message was consistent and clear: The project doesn’t meet the needs of the community. It’s housing most for rich people who probably won’t wind up even living there most of the time, it’s office space that will attract high-paid workers from other places who will move here and have no place to live and will then wind up displacing current low-income residents.

It’s one of those pivotal projects, a moment when it’s clear that the developer is falling far short of paying its way, that the development will do more damage to the city than good, when you have to ask why anyone other than the developer would want to see this happen.

Kim asked about one of the key issues: Why is this area being spot-zoned? Why not just follow the existing laws?

Ken Rich from the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development noted that the special project agreement would include more benefits than would be legal under standard zoning. That’s part of the game that gets played with these special project agreements – in exchange for essentially ignoring existing zoning laws, developers offer some community benefits.

Rich, in response to Kim’s questions, said that most of the housing created on site or nearby would have a combination of 19 units for the chronically homeless, and $18 million will go to a project that is offering 100 units for low-income people. That project is already underway, but is stalled for lack of money.

There would be 135 units affordable for people earning 50 percent of area median income.

There’s no question that this project will have more affordable housing than almost anything else that’s being built.

But it will still have less affordable housing than is needed to meet the demand that the project will create.

Still, to go back to the message that Campos put out earlier: The community isn’t happy with the deal, and was asking the supes not to approve it.

“There’s a huge disconnect between the testimony on displacement [and what the city is proposing],” Sup. Eric Mar noted. “This is supersized upzoning and spot zoning in a residential area, and will have impacts on as many as 6,000 low-income people.”

Mar asked about the “human impacts.” Sarah Jones, director of environmental planning, said those impacts are only addressed if they cause, or are caused by, physical impacts. So when it comes to the EIR, “we do not in the context of CEQA consider the impacts that the community has brought forward today.”

Planning Director John Rahaim insisted that displacement wasn’t a big issue because a lot of the units in the area are under rent control and have “some protection from displacement.” (There are some units in the area that are protected more strongly because they’re SROs, or city-controlled subsidized housing.) Any tenant under rent control in San Francisco knows that, with the Ellis Act, the city’s existing laws are in no way a protection against displacement in the wake of soaring property values.

Mar said that people who understand the community benefits package think it’s too weak. “They just disagree with you that they are enough.”

There were some speakers in favor of the project. They seemed to fall into three categories: People who think (like SFBARF and SPUR) that building more luxury housing will solve the housing problem; people who had already cut a deal with the developers; and people who thought that the 40 percent deal was an excellent agreement and the best the city could get.

As one said, “Forty percent affordable housing. There is no other project that has reached that benchmark.”

After all the testimony, Sup. David Campos noted that the project “has many benefits.” But “the challenge that I have is a community that is in a unique predicament … you have people who are concerned.”

He noted that he had accepted the Breed and Cohen measure because he was deferring to the community, but in this case, the community doesn’t want the project.

“I’m not at a point that I can support it.”

Sup. John Avalos talked about the history of displacement and said he wanted to be “on the right side of history.”

Kim defended the extraordinary level of family and affordable housing, and said “this is the first time a developer has agreed to build 40 percent affordable housing, and they are doing it on private land.”

She said that she fully understands the fear of displacement. “Ideally, every project would be 100 percent affordable. But we depend on private development to fund affordable housing. … I have to ask, when is it enough?”

Then she raised a serious question: If we don’t want this project, do we want to stop all development? “If we cannot support a project at 40 percent affordable housing, I don’t know what this board can support in the future?”

The problem is that even at 40 percent, the project creates a net deficit of affordable housing. And no project at all could wind up being the better alternative.

Mar discussed extreme wealth difference in the district; “a project like this that is so out of scope is going to have a gentrifying impact on the entire neighborhood … this will lead to what urban experts say is the total displacement of the Filipino community.”

It’s a tough question – at what point do you say no project at all is better than a project that makes things worse? Should we not follow the Hippocratic Oath for urban planning – “First, do no harm?”

In the end, the same people who want to protect low-income San Franciscans from displacement through changes in the affordable housing preference voted for the 5M project, one an 8-3 vote, with Sups. John Avalos, Eric Mar, and David Campos in opposition.

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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88 COMMENTS

  1. Lang hits the nail on the head – he REAL reason progressives oppose all housing development is a demographic one – that new housing will house residents who will not vote progressive. Why isn’t that then the progressive argument, which is easily understood, and a valid concern? Instead, people like Redmond try to get us to believe that a big project with 40% affordable housing will DECREASE affordable housing. These ridiculous arguments are what is leading to the progressive demise – just be honest – it’ll probably yield better results!

  2. I am very disappointed in the Board for approving this project. This project was not well thought out at all. It is out of scale for the neighborhood, will cause massive traffic jams for years to come, and is ugly AND expensive. And how many of the 40% units will go to current neighborhood residents, the under-housed, or the homeless?
    https://youtu.be/pxhLI8ijhRM

  3. So you admit that the people we elect use public dollars to reward agencies that work against their constituencies and do the bidding of developers?

  4. SSF grants are awarded by the discretion of the Mayor’s Office. There is no independent auditing of the merit process, the advisory panel can be ignored by the government. This is how developers roll.

  5. If the election produces the wrong result, quit making the appeals that don’t find traction and identify new appeals that would gain traction, it is as simple as that.

  6. I encourage you to take your evidence of criminal wrongdoing to the DA.

    I think your real problem was aptly stated by Brecht:

    “”if an election produces the wrong result, change the electorate”.

  7. The voters have not been offered that because of restraint of trade on politics that would be otherwise illegal under anti-trust laws.

  8. The voters have not been offered what you suggest because there is no demand from the voters to be offered that.

    Where is your evidence that Lee-voters like me want SF to be more like Richmond, a city which has little in common with SF anyway?

  9. The voters have not been offered such an option. In fact, the voters are detested sufficiently by both the for-profit corporate boosters as they are the non-profit corporate boosters. This is why the tentacles of corruption wind through each crack and crevice of the public sector.

  10. Neighborhood preference is discriminatory & unconstitutional. As a resident of the state & county, I’m offended by the notion of discrimination based on proximity within arbitrarily drawn districts in violation of the 14th Amendment

  11. wcw, there’s a funny thing about the internet that it publishes comments to everyone, and therefore everyone can reply.

    If you want a private conversation, use email or a phone call.

    Good to know you take the confederacy side on the civil war though. Explains a lot.

  12. Right, the casual bigotry of the Northeast. But why reply to a comment directed at another? The arrow points at sffoghorn.

  13. To answer your question, ZERO millions is how much United Playaz got from the
    SOMA Stabilization fund to buy our building. What we were awarded,
    through a competitive bidding process and submission of a grant, along
    with the completion of a full ARA, was $400K toward the purchase of a
    youth center from a fund that is CHARTERED to help nonprofits/residents
    in SOMA stabilize. It is the same pool of funds that also just purchased
    2 small sites of permanently affordable housing in SOMA. If you want to
    disparage my organization for following a city process to acquire funds
    to stabilize children/youth services in SOMA, please get your facts
    straight.

  14. I mean, if new buildings causes displacement, why not actively make neighborhoods shittier? Lets cut down all the trees and build more intra-city freeways. That’ll show ’em.

  15. Oh, noes, the people who troll me don’t fine credible, how ever shall I recover my permanently damaged self esteem? Where is my safe space?

  16. LOL, so you want the developer to provide heavily discounted homes and then on top of that pay the deposit or down payment?

    How about free pizza for life and a pony too?

  17. Obviously Tim’s theories of supply and demand are total nonsense and there isn’t a credible economist who would agree with him that less supply = lower prices.

    But this is not ultimately about housing for Tim, and certainly not about urban planning and architecture. It is all about demographics and politics. People buying moving to SF and buying or renting market-rate housing are not likely to support the policies and politicians that Tim supports.

    So Tim’s only hope is to stop all progress and try and turn the city back to what he seeks – a low-income city with a depressed economy, populated by illegals, city workers, artists, activists and welfare recipients. Then Tim would win every election

  18. List the regulars here who have stated that they find you to be credible.

    Your hypocrisy on Mission District condos undermines any plausibility you might otherwise struggle to achieve

  19. My credibility rests on me not being credible by you.

    The fact that you all troll and cyber bully me means that you take me seriously and makes me more credible.

  20. Would you like me to find the thread where you stated your opposition to new housing because t could harm the wealth you’ve created with your condo?

    Yes, present it, troll.

  21. 40% is the best deal on affordable housing right now. No one gets evicted, and desperately-needed housing is created. The response from Jane Kim was a hard truth that the seniors needed to hear, but couldn’t (or wouldn’t accept).

  22. Tim’s self-serving theory would have a little more credibility if he could summon an iota of evidence to support it

  23. There is something deeply disturbing about a white male tech worker helping to displace low-income people of color by outbidding them for housing and buying a condo. And then turning around and claiming that other white male tech workers should not buy condos in the Mission.

    I have no problem with marcos selfishly and greedily wanting to enhance his net worth. But to simultaneously seek to deny others that same opportunity renders any credibility he has totally moot

  24. Probably half of all SF jobs are worked by someone who commutes into the city. Many of the others would be worked by people who already have a home here. So the idea that creating a new job makes housing less available seems speculative at best.

    If Tim were correct then the logical response would actually be for the city to lose jobs and destroy office buildings. And that is as bizarre as Tim’s other claim that building more homes drives up their cost, meaning that we should instead be destroying homes because that would make them cheaper!

    Redmond logic is off the wall.

  25. What do you say about people who result to ad hominem attacks in responses?
    Would you like me to find the thread where you stated your opposition to new housing because t could harm the wealth you’ve created with your condo?

  26. There are public dollars at play with UP from the same elected officials who support 5M.

    Very little in politics happens by accident, by happenstance, by chance.

    You are a hallucinating troll, a cyber bully.

  27. Not Donald. You’re calling the character of the UP into question as being influenced by money. I’m calling your character into question for the same reason. You’ve gone on record here (or maybe it was on the old SFBG) as being opposed to new housing because it would directly impact your wealth. People should be reminded of that.

  28. >”Pulling this bull$hit new housing creates more demand than it satisfies theory is NOT a solution.”

    If that was true than why couldn’t we just bulldoze our way out of the housing shortage?

    But if you think about it…maybe Tim is onto something. If we just leveled the most desirable parts of town we wouldn’t have this overheated market any more.

  29. Avalon, mar, and campos were only supposed to comment on the technical legality of the EIR not give long soliloquies on the appropriateness of the project. Why have quasi judicial hearings at all if you’re going to ignore the procedures and use your time to play Robin Hood.
    There were many many people who came out to support 5m. The elderly women who spoke at the end, including the one who was very loud at the mic do not fall into your neat little boxes, Tim. It must feel very disorienting to recognize that your way of thinking is on the way out.
    Again, what is the old guard progressive response to our current housing situation. Pulling this bull$hit new housing creates more demand than it satisfies theory is NOT a solution. There is no progressive solution to what we are currently experiencing… So get out of the way.

  30. >”During the debate over the neighborhood preference, she said being evicted from your home is stressful, but being evicted and having to move out of your neighborhood is devastating.”

    And your point is?

    Or do you just get a thrill out of kicking someone when they are already down?

  31. How would that work? And why shouldn’t the city just go down the list to the N+1th person in the lottery? While it’s great that things worked out for the Ramirezes, that article doesn’t mention anything about the family that *didn’t* get a place to live because we bent the rules for them.

  32. Tim’s pimping for the nonprofit mafia who don’t have enough political heft to be allowed at the table anymore.

  33. UP just got how many million from the SOMA stabilization fund to purchase their HQ? I wonder why they supported the project.

  34. Julie Christensen put in another disastrous performance in what may be her last SFBOS meeting at least as an appointed Supervisor (she may run against Peskin next year, but it seems more likely the mayor and Ron Conway will recruit someone else to run).

    During the debate over the neighborhood preference, she said being evicted from your home is stressful, but being evicted and having to move out of your neighborhood is devastating.

    She also objected to just accepting a 5M amendment by Norman Yee calling for them to build a child care center. She said it might not be needed and listed some child care centers in the area.

    Yee said they all are already full, and there will be more children moving into the area. She then voted for the ammendment along with everyone else.

  35. No, becuz the project creates more jobs than housing for people filling those jobs.

    Yes, some will chose to llve elsewhere. But it does seem to be a good point that new jobs are going to require (some) new workers – and those new yorkers will need housing – plus the ancillary housing needed for the economic multiplier jobs/workers. How/where does that new housing get created?

    And if the housing imbroglio is such a problem, then maybe the added new jobs from the new development aren’t such a great benefit to begin with.

  36. The Tim/Nimby argument is basically that any project that improves the cityscape causes displacement. So in this case for example, a landlord a few blocks away from the development will decide that this is a good time to start thinking about cashing in and Ellis-ing the tenants.

    They never provide an alternative other that “never build anything”.

  37. Ah yes, OK, I see that now.

    Mar and Tang seem like strange bedfellows on anything, although they do both have west-side constituencies so maybe they should agree more, rather than cancelling out each other’s votes most of the time.

  38. Pretty witty retort from Jane Kim. Filipino-Americans are the second most successful ethnic minority in the US (after Indian Americans), precisely because so many of them work in nursing.

  39. The 5M vote went 8-3, with Campos, Avalos, and Mar voting against the project.

    9-2 was for the neighborhood preference vote, with Mar and Tang voting no.

  40. How on earth does Tim get from “40% BMR’s” to a net LOSS of housing?

    That is Redmond logic at its most obtuse.

  41. The shadow issue was that the park’s daily shadow area would increase from 8% to 10%. If you think about the exposure in that park and the western location of 75 Howard and the existing buildings you can envision perhaps a slight increased shadow in the late afternoon.

    Tim called it a “significant” issue of course. Nobody cared.

  42. This is very much a personal opinion:

    “The problem is that even at 40 percent, the project creates a net deficit of affordable housing. And no project at all could wind up being the better alternative.

    […]

    It’s a tough question – at what point do you say no project at all is better than a project that makes things worse?”

  43. “There were some speakers in favor of the project. They seemed to fall into three categories: People who think (like SFBARF and SPUR) that building more luxury housing will solve the housing problem; people who had already cut a deal with the developers; and people who thought that the 40 percent deal was an excellent agreement and the best the city could get.”

    Did we watch the same testimony? I remember United Playaz, longtime residents, seniors, the building trades unions, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, the owners of The Chieftain Pub, and many Filipino neighbors speaking emphatically in favor of the project. Dozens of people called out Forest City for proactively engaging with the community, and treating their concerns with respect.

    The problem is that even at 40 percent, the project creates a net deficit of affordable housing. And no project at all could wind up being the better alternative.

    This point of view has no basis in reality. You are fanning the flames of displacement.

  44. What is “accurate” about citing issues like displacement and evictions when this project clearly involves neither?

  45. I know but this particular post described accurately the scene yesterday. Tim didn’t add any of his personal leftist opinions… Tim gets my accolades when he does good. =)

  46. It’s funny SONCAM and SMACK do not represent the Filipino Community they only represent 5% of the community population. Those opposing are mostly mission “activists”.

  47. SUE HESTOR
    “Sue Hestor, who has been watching development in the city for decades, testified, ‘nobody every expected Montgomery Street to migrate to Fifth and Mission.’ ”

    Sue Hestor is merely exhibiting her trademark lack of imagination/vision.
    She continues to attempt to foist her reactionary dream upon all others — especially those yet to arrive that are looking for housing — that the City forever remain as it was decades ago when she arrived.
    Basically, if she can’t “imagine it” or if doesn’t conform to her narrow/outdated “vision” then it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.

    CAMPOS
    “Still, to go back to the message that Campos put out earlier: The community isn’t happy with the deal, and was asking the supes not to approve it.”

    – The smaller portion of the “community” is against it. The larger portion of the
    “community”, i.e., the majority, is for it.
    In our democracy, with such matters, the majority and the greater good should rightly prevail.

    AVALOS
    “Sup. John Avalos talked about the history of displacement and said he wanted to be ‘on the right side of history.’ ”

    – In addition to being flat out wrong, this is just the worst — exhibiting a hyper-inflated sense of one’s own importance/relevance by emphasizing his very personal goal vis-a-vis “history” — kind of like someone proclaiming: “One of my finer qualities is my humility.”

  48. I notice Tim decided to not mention the 75 Howard project he’d been ranting about for the last few days.

    Maybe that’s because the Board of Supervisors UNANIMOUSLY rejected the ridiculous appeal the NIMBYs brought forward? Silly that they even tried–shadows on the corner of a park are NOT a real environmental concern.

  49. Wow! I like the non partisan blog post! If I was a cynic I would say Kim’s check must’ve cleared. Please continue with more posts like this.

  50. 5M is a great deal. 40% affordable on private land is unprecedented — as in never happened before. This project evicts no one and creates hundreds of affordable units on land that would otherwise be all offices. The vote of 8-3 in favor shows how good a deal it was. Even if Peskin was there it would have sailed through 7-4. Nice to see some sanity on the board. Can’t wait till Avalos, Mar, and Campos either term out or lose.

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