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Thursday, June 17, 2021

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UncategorizedThe Agenda, April 25-May 1: Lots of housing data...

The Agenda, April 25-May 1: Lots of housing data …

... and are we seeing the opening moves of a campaign to repeal Prop. M?

It’s going to be a week full of housing data, which is a good thing since so much of the information the national news media is putting out on the crisis in San Francisco is badly lacking in facts.

The trailing legislation related to Prop. C, the measure to increase the percentage of affordable housing in new developments, comes before the Land Use and Transportation Committee Monday/25, but that deal is mostly done. The discussion will be interesting in the sense that we may once again hear developers saying that they can’t afford to build 25 percent affordable housing, and we probably won’t hear that anything less than 40 percent makes the crisis worse. Because if we rely on that level of hard data, the proper policy answer is not to build any more luxury housing.

The city's own figures, presented in this chart, show that SF is building far more luxury housing that it needs -- and costs for the rest of us aren't coming down
The city’s own figures, presented in this chart, show that SF is building far more luxury housing that it needs — and costs for the rest of us aren’t coming down

But this deal is already done, and whatever the committee does, the measure has the votes to pass, and I can’t see the mayor issuing a veto.

Also on that committee agenda: A hearing requested by Sup. Scott Wiener into short-term residential rentals enforcement. Again, if we get real data, it will show that the city isn’t, and can’t possibly under current law, enforce the rules. The company knows it’s in trouble here: With the election of Aaron Peskin last fall, there are six votes for stricter rules, Peskin and Sup. David Campos are introducing. (More on the politics of that later today)

But it will be interesting to hear the Mayor’s Office try to defend a set of policies that have made it impossible to prevent entire houses and flats from being turned into hotels.


Then on Thursday/28, the Planning Commission gets a presentation from staff on “job and office trends, 1985-2015.” Here’s what this is about: In 1986, the voters passed Prop. M, a landmark growth-control law that put limits on new office development. The reason: Back then, people realized that building fancy highrise offices, which is where the development money was in those days, attracted corporations that attracted new (relatively) high-paid workers, who would want a place to live in San Francisco. And while those of us who are now called Nimbys were fighting bitterly to force developers to pay for housing, the developers were resisting.

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Prop. M, unfortunately, didn’t apply to cities on the Peninsula, which started building huge tech office complexes (and no housing) and creating problems for San Francisco. But let’s go back to Prop. M.

The rules limit the amount of new office space that can be built in any one year, and since Prop. M passed, a series of recessions and a shift in investment capital away from offices and into luxury condos (and some illegal conversions of industrial space to offices that were never properly accounted for) have kept the gross number of square feet under the cap. It’s cumulative, so if no offices are built one year, twice as many can be built the next.

But now with the mayor’s tech boom, the city is starting to run up against the cap:

In approximately a  year or so, the Planning Commission will be faced, for the first  time in at least 15 years, the necessity of selecting, on an annual basis, which office projects will be entitled given the annual limits established by the Office Allocation Program (made permanent through Prop M).

The Horror: At some point soon, developers will have to convince the city that their projects create enough benefits that they’re worth approving. Developers will have to compete with each other – and the ones who offer the most affordable housing, transit, public space, child care and other amenities will be the ones that get the green light.

You’d think city planners would love that dynamic. But instead, I am getting the distinct impression that the “information” will be geared toward a political suggestion that Prop. M be amended or repealed.

“Staff,” the Planning agenda notes, “will continue this research, including delving into the two other ‘legs’ of the stool framed as part of the Downtown Plan/Prop. M policy framework – ie housing and transportation.”

Yes, and that would mean considering whether new offices pay for the transportation and housing impacts they create. Which right now they do not.

The Prop. M limit is a chance for the city to start to catch up on housing and Muni fees. Efforts to change it would be a huge gift to developers. Wonder how that one goes.


The planners will also get a briefing on Plan Bay Area, the proposal that would encourage tremendous amounts of new development, much of it in areas where there are already vulnerable populations.


If you want to understand how the private for-profit healthcare system costs us a fortune and makes us less healthy, check out the move Fixit, Health Care at the Tipping Point. It also shows how a Medicare For All plan would offer a much better alternative.

The film is showing Wednesday/27 as part of a long-term plan for a 2020 ballot initiative creating single-payer health care in California. 6:30pm, Centro Del Pueblo, 474 Valencia.


The Chron, I guess, has a policy of not running letters to the editor that are signed by organizations or more than one individual. So when Peter Cohen, at the Council of Community Housing Organizations, sent a note responding to C.W. Nevius’ latest wrong column, and got a long list of organizations to sign on, the Chron ran it – but only with his name.

Just for the record, so you can see how many groups agree with the CCHO position, here’s the letter, with the full list of signatories:

C.W. Nevius, in is column “Housing crisis hits young middle class,” chooses to ignore a middle-income housing solution right before his eyes: The June’s Proposition C ballot measure. Prop. C, the affordable housing charter amendment, doubles the amount of “inclusionary housing” that must be included in new, market-rate development. Projects will provide 25 percent of their apartments or condos as affordable.

Significantly, and for the first time ever, Prop. C also requires developers to include middle-income housing (10 percent in all) so that San Franciscans like teachers and nurses can afford to live in the communities they serve. This important measure insures that affordable housing – BOTH middle-income and low-income – but built alongside luxury condos.

And contrary to Mr. Nevius’s implications, San Francisco’s affordable housing advocates are united behind this balanced approach to inclusionary housing. The public is tired of the politics of divisiveness. Proposition C is a real solution that adds more housing opportunities for a wide range of San Franciscans.

Council of Community Housing Organizations


United Educators SF

Community Tenants Association

Affordable Housing Alliance

Nonprofit Housing Association, NorCal

Faith in Action Bay Area

AIDS Housing Alliance

Senior and Disability Action

ACCC Action, SF Chapter


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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  1. Yet again Tim trots out the “ahead of our market-rate housing allocation for 2014” canard without pointing out that on jobs we’re ahead of our *2025* numbers. Extra ironic given that the last post on housing was about how not building was not the problem, it is all the new jobs.

  2. So like a few thousand units that are only economically possible because the developers don’t have to actually purchase the land?

  3. Maybe he supported these, but he nixed Prop J (Central Waterfront Workforce Housing) from a dozen yrs ago which would have created more units than D & F combined.

    I actually voted against D & F cuz I didn’t like the heights give-away that will block the waterfront, where Prop J was about modest height/density bonuses.

    If Tim is in favor of housing, he’s come lately to the game; that makes him part of the problem over the years.

  4. Yes, sounds v ‘reasonable’. Also sounds a bit like grandstanding by K&P, as the 25% figure is sure to not hold up to the feasibility study.

    And of course the ‘project by project’ approval criterium – just what SFs ‘pay-to-play’ politics needs: an opening for the Supes to cash in.

    But you’re right, that 12% (like many things) shouldn’t be in the Charter.

  5. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Prop C (which will probably pass, since it seems ‘so reasonable’) will result in little further building for the next 10 yrs, outside of what manages to get grandfathered in.

    Progressives will declare a great “Victory!”, and note that “housing continues to be built” (well, the grandfathered stuff, anyway). But a recession will come along, knock the incentive (jobs) out of the market; the additional Prop C margin will prove prohibitive for new building, and development will come to a virtual standstill.

    And San Francisco’s housing situation will continue to be as psychotic as are so many of its street denizens (“only in San Francisco” branding)

    Tim’s wrong about one thing though: its not just recessions and earthquakes that make prices go down. The previous article had discussion about ‘white-flight’. Issues of ‘safety’ could very well be the next “white flight” theme. I see that as a definite possibility for many of the middle class who might have options and don’t care to be threatened or harassed any longer by the high costs and personal space invasion.

  6. I’m sure that Tim could point to some housing he approved of, which was subsidized by housing that he disapproved of.

  7. Tim – You say that you are not opposed to building housing. Could you please tell us what housing you have supported building in San Francisco?

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