Saturday, May 8, 2021
News + Politics San Francisco residents demand resources to address housing crisis

San Francisco residents demand resources to address housing crisis

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Grace Martinez, ACCE, addressed a group of supporters outside City Hall. Photo by Sana Saleem.
Grace Martinez, ACCE, addressed a group of supporters outside City Hall. Photo by Sana Saleem.

Coalitions of community, racial and economic justice, and housing groups including Jobs with Justice, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Mission Economic Development Agency, and Mission SRO Collaborative held a protest outside City Hall today to call for adequate funding to address the affordable housing crisis in San Francisco.

Carlos
Carlos Gutierrez is currently fighting eviction. Photo by Sana Saleem.

“When Twitter and other major technology corporations demanded tax breaks to stay in our city, the city had no problem giving them a hand-out,” said Julien Ball of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “But when we want real funding to solve the housing crisis the tech boom helped cause, our calls for change and real investment in stopping the displacement crisis keeps falling on deaf ears. It’s time we had a real voice for them to pay their fair share.”

The small group gathered at the steps of City Hall to call for resources to address the housing crisis. The rally comes as the Board of Supervisors debate the city budget, which community leaders contend will not adequately address the crisis, despite repeated calls for resources to keep people in their homes and build new affordable housing.

San Francisco resident Carlos Gutierrez addressed a dozen supporters. “It means a lot that people come out here to support this fight because a lot of us are still here fighting the good fight. My family has been living in the same house for the last 36 years, my aunt who lives downstairs who is 62 years old, who is legally blind, they (the new owners) put our house on the market,” Gutierrez has three aunts who live in their family home and have health complications. The building was sold 8 months ago after being on the market for 10 months. Gutierrez’s family was under a lot of stress while it was on the market, “We believe the stress from speculators coming in and out may have caused the most recent stroke. The health of my disabled family members has deteriorated and would have no where else to go if evicted,” Gutierrez said. 

Gutierrez is trying to keep his family home and was heartened to see others pushing back and sharing their stories of successfully fighting eviction.

Daniel C, born and raised in the mission, speaks to a group outside City Hall. Photo by Sana Saleem.
Daniel C, born and raised in the mission, speaks to a group outside City Hall. Photo by Sana Saleem.

Daniel C, born and raised in the mission, shared his story of successfully fighting an eviction. “I never personally asked to be part of the campaign that many of you are fighting for; I got pushed into it and it made me realize a darker side of San Francisco that I am glad many of you are fighting.”

Rene
Rene Yanez “Mission was part of my DNA,” Photo by Sana Saleem

Artist Rene Yanez, who fought hard against his eviction in 2013 through everything from eviction garage sales to various art exhibitions, was at high spirits at the protest. “This is important because we gotta keep teachers, artists and nurses in San Francisco because that’s what makes it San Francisco. It’s part of our being, you know being in the mission was part of my DNA,” he said.

Yanez also spoke about the recent fire at 29th and Mission and expressed his doubts on the series of fires in the Mission. “These places burn down and poof a condo goes up,” Yanez said as people from the crowd responded in support.

Lita Blanc, President of United educators or San Francisco, said that public education is at risk in San Francisco because of the increasing rents and evictions. “The affordability crisis is accentuating the crisis in which educators find that they can’t afford to stay in the city in which they are teaching. So last year there were 500 teachers that had to be replaced in the beginning of the school year and this year once again there’s this big turn over where there are another 500 openings posted for the classrooms of this city.”

Ross Rhodes rallied the crowd to march in to City Hall. Photo by Sana Saleem.
Ross Rhodes rallied the crowd to march in to City Hall. Photo by Sana Saleem.

Blanc’s concerns have reached the Board of Supervisors as Sup. David Campos authored legislation in March prohibiting no-fault evictions during the school year against employees at San Francisco schools and child care centers, as well as against families with children. Campos’ legislation expands existing protections to cover nearly any school employee. 

Prolific foreclosure and eviction fighter Ross Rhodes rallied the crowd to march in to City Hall and share their concerns at the public comments. “Let’s get in and march up there and tell the Budget Committee what we want done because we are the consumers, we are the ones that make the city run, we are the ones that vote them in the office. If you want change, we gotta make change.”

Affordable housing advocates say that city funding has failed to make up for cuts in affordable housing at the state level when re-development was eliminated.

In a press statement about the protest, advocates shared their concern over inaction in the face of rising evictions and homelessness “Instead of allowing communities a greater voice to address the crisis, win protections and adequate funding, recently some San Francisco city officials and Governor Jerry Brown have been influenced by real estate and major technology corporations to allow developers greater ability to build more market-rate units with even less public input through the local ‘Affordable Housing Bonus Program‘ and the state’s “by-right” proposal.  If passed, both would further quiet the voices of those mose impacted by the crisis – the city and state’s poor to working class communities of color.”

Community groups and her district residents will be calling on Land Use Committee Chair Malia Cohen to support more investment in affordable housing and greater community input and impact analysis on development deals as well as supporting Supervisor Peskin’s resolution to address “By-right” and his alternative “densit done right” plan, which would prevent the demolition of existing affordable housing and community-serving businesses and would allow increased density only for truly affordable units.

 

Sana Saleem
Sana Saleem is a writer with a focus on social justice and human stories. She's member board of advisory for the Courage Foundation, Edward Snowden's legal defense fund.

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  69. That’s a bank driven speculative spreadsheet number and is how most contractors come up with their current costs. It’s about circumventing this to achieve new developments with investment by the big corps most affecting the neighborhoods. Equity tax….reduces the costs.

  70. I would agree. I think the short-term prospects are low for tech unionization due to a number of factors that are not specific to SF and tech, e.g. the fact that union membership in the US has increasingly been relegated to government workers an the the transportation industry, and is seen as not applicable to professions outside of that.

    But it should be noted that many of the most important trends within tech are explicitly socialist and ‘union-esque’:

    – promotion of the right of privacy.

    – rejection of the idea of ‘intellectual property’ and way in which it’s used by large corporation to control content distribution for rent seeking.

    – emergence of a large number of societies and organizations to champion certain technologies outside of the constraints of commercial enterprise.

    – The radical immergence of open source free software projects such as Linux, GNU, git, BSD, etc.

    The shameful way in which top Bay Area technological companies like Apple sought to fix tech workers wages, even as they became the most profitable firms ever to exist had the effect of opening the eyes of a lot of engineers. Sanders’ message resonated quite strongly in the tech community as well.

    With respect to tech shuttle buses, I had a conversation or two about Bauer’s IT being given the boot in SF and the fact that Loop Transportation and Compass Transportation were both Teamster shops. Apple, Facebook, and Google were agnostic about the use of union labor in the shuttle services they contract. But tech workers could have shown greater solidarity (and I think would have had they been presented with the information.) Ultimately the tech buses showdown has never been framed as being about fair labor, but instead has been about coercing techies to decamp from the city.

  71. A neat tool. I’ve gotten to play around with it a little before. The single best thing the city could do to produce more housing, both BMR and market rate, is to shorten review times and streamline the planning process. I’m still a fan of height/density variances in exchange for more affordable units.

  72. Sure, everyone wants good things on the cheap. But that doesn’t mean they want the government as their landlord. The American way is to keep most housing as private but then regulate it. Rather than nationalize housing.

    I really do not see much support for European-style socialism as a solution here, and in fact the Europeans have been rolling back their welfare state and government-run businesses for the last few decades.

  73. Though they seem to injure or kill people on a higher basis. UCSF shuttles are what I see when I’m made aware that someone was driving badly.

  74. Thats not true. Americans – and especially San Franciscans – want decent, safe and convenient housing, and they want to pay as little for it as possible.

  75. Austria was never part of a communist bloc, nor was it ever controlled by the former Soviet Union. It has dabbled in socialism, as have a number of countries in Europe, especially when communism was fashionable 80-90 years ago. But is a modern capitalist economy and member of the EU. It’s no poster child for the kind of large-scale state intervention in housing or any other line of business that socialism demands, and there remains a vibrant private housing sector throughout Austria.

    And yes, the Austrian School of Economics indirectly gave us supply-side economics, monetarism, the “sound money” approach to deficits, low taxes and privatization – all hallmarks of Reagan and the transformation of Western society that started in the late 1970’s.

    In any event it’s all moot as there is no evidence that the voters, even in liberal San Francisco let alone the rest of the country, want bureaucrats as landlords or are willing to pay much higher taxes so that we can all live in projects.

    Home ownership remains solidly over 60% nationwide and the private sector rental business is vibrant. Few Americans would trade that to live in government-issued homes. And even in Europe, some governments have been selling off their public project housing.

  76. The Austrian School had as much to do with Vienna city government as the Chicago School had to do with Richard Daley’s: nothing. Red Vienna city government was run by the reds. Municipal buildings were named things like Karl Marx Hof. It was not pre-Thatcherite.

    Vienna directly owns and manages about a fourth of its housing stock. Another fifth is owned and managed by limited-profit housing associations. It is neither perfect nor a paradise, but it addresses housing need at scale. Another 500 units a year in SF would not.

  77. If the tech companies were unionized, I don’t think you would see the animosity. Haven’t you ever wondered why the UCSF shuttle buses aren’t targets of the protesters?

  78. Redmond’s anti-development, anti-density stance has been one of the more consistent of SF progressives: he doesn’t want a city more dense then SF currently is and he doesn’t like most techies and doesn’t want the existing units to be filled with them.

    While I don’t believe he’s ever laid out his agenda quite so baldly, I think that’s a fair characterization. And I can understand both points from a personal point of view, jostling crowds rub some people the wrong way, and SF’s infrastructure has been noticeably slow scaling to accommodation even the rather modest increase in size we’ve experienced in the last ten years. I’m also not especially fond of some aspects of tech culture, even as one working in the industry itself: I’ll go out of my way, crossing the street and crossing back again, in order to avoid walking in front of a group talking about a Google hangout vetting-interview they just did with a SEO consulting firm that they want to retain to review their international sites. But that’s because I can be just as dour and cranky as the next guy. I’d like to think that I have some ability to separate personal pet peeves from actual policy as I keep a vigilant eye open for incipient get-off-my-lawnism as I settle into late-middle age.

    However, whether I’ve actually managed to be as open-minded and generous of spirit as I envisage myself and whether Tim’s attitude is as much the mirror opposite as I like to think that it is, the fact remains that his plan to accomplish his agenda has failed. Basically the SF progressive agenda required that:

    – We were in the middle of a tech bubble that would pop after about two years (appx. 2012 – 2014)

    – During that time tech could be kept out by making moving and living in SF as onerous as possible.

    – Rent protections could be beefed up enough to keep existing renters in place until the bubble popped. And SF passed out of danger from the tech plague.

    Sadly (for Tim), we’re not in the middle of a tech ‘bubble’, i.e. tech is here to stay. Instead we’re in the middle of an up economic cycle that could well have a number of years left in it, and there’s no indication that tech will be any harder hit then the rest of the economy during the next recession. So, the idea of holding on for another six months is silly, SF progressives have been playing that Freedman unit for the last 6 years.

    Secondly, even with as difficult as it is for newcomers to move to SF, they still do, and techies are especially well represented in the group of new arrivals. (though they don’t constitute 100% or even close of the 60,000 people that have been added to SF’s population since 2010.)

    Finally, the exodus of long term working class residents continues, as does the gradual attrition due to illness and old age of old-timers. SF Progressives lost their gamble. And it’s time to admit that and come up with a new policy formula. Hate on the techies if you have to, but accept, they’re here to stay. Being reality oriented also means accepting the lemma that if there are 11 people in SF and only 10 units to house them, that it will never be the techie that doesn’t have a place to stay, so we’d better make sure that there are always 11 units available.

  79. Also, the $34 million Twitter tax break figure is completely bogus.

    San Francisco is one of the very few jurisdictions that tries to tax stock options, so there was no way that Twitter was going to go public in San Francisco and stick their investors and employees with a $34 million bill. They had a fiduciary obligation to avoid that hit and could have met it with a short move to Brisbane (or just about anywhere else in the country).

    Everyone (including Mirkarimi and Campos) acknowledged that San Francisco was never going to see that money under any circumstances.

    The real Twitter tax break was about $2.5 million in payroll taxes. The Controller’s office has said that it wound up being a net positive but if you don’t believe it then fine, we could have built 3 BMR units with the Twitter tax break money.

  80. The point is, no amount of funding the city can come up with (barring maybe the repeal of prop 13 at the state level) will have any measurable impact on housing. $500 million only gets you 600 or so units. There has to be a fundamental shift in both state and federal housing policy. The best thing the city can do is streamline the planning process.

  81. It’s also worth mentioning that at about the same time in Austria the so-called “Austrian School” of economics developed. Their emphasis on sound money helped to undermine the post-WW2 Keynesian consensus and provided the idelogical monetarist framework for the Reagan/Thatcher revolutions.

    Austria isn’t quite the socialist paradise being painted here

  82. “This is important because we gotta keep teachers, artists and nurses in San Francisco because that’s what makes it San Francisco”

    Nurses in the city make like $75 an hour, so I’m sure they’re doing fine…

  83. I bet you dollars to donuts they had none of the above. They had a strong central government that understood the need, made housing a priority, and went ahead and built it. We can’t build anything without a 2 year study on the kind of glass that will be in the windows to prevent pigeons from flying into them….I’m not kidding.

  84. Mr. Ball nailed it. $34 million in lost revenue to keep twitter. What are we spending to keep actual people?

  85. Re: “These places burn down and poof a condo goes up,” Yanez said as people from the crowd responded in support.

    Does anyone have an example where that actually happened? Where a building was destroyed by fire and replaced by market rate housing? Any specific examples?

  86. I’ve seen that $700k amount mentioned before as the cost of a unit of affordable housing in SF. Where does it come from?

  87. I imagine that Vienna had all of the above, in their own fashion. They were a “Labor” govmint, after all. And they did build with a ‘social’ benefit in mind – so they had large common areas (“community rooms”), and appropriatenss for workers in mind, etc. Not sure they were posh in their appointments, so maybe the savings came from spare baths & kitchens (where most of the money typically goes).

    That said, not sure where they came up with the financing. And, yes, “affordable” housing, the way we do it, isn’t!

  88. I get where this is coming from. It’s about as likely as me demanding that the State of California be divided into six separate states, with Northern California being turned into a libertarian utopia.

    Look, the model being advocated here (subsidized and state owned housing) is completely out of favor with this country. It’s impossible with limitations on funding created long ago by Prop 13.

    Meanwhile, all of this just turns into fiddling while Rome is burning.

    Look to your left, look to your right, look at yourself. We’re all going to have to go if housing, density, and transit isn’t massively overhauled. That means more buildings. Otherwise, the only one left will be Tim Redmond. (Which might be the whole point. I suspect it is).

  89. Did Vienna have CEQA? Title 24? mandatory project labor agreements, MBE/WBE requirements? bike parking requirements? community benefits requirements? shadow ordinances? impact fees for schools, parks, transit?
    Our system is not designed for the large scale building of homes, its designed to stop the large scale building of homes.

  90. The SFRA averaged under 540 affordable units per year 1990 to 2008; the the city averaged 550 new affordable units from 2010 to 2014. Ending redevelopment is not the problem, and the SFRA was never a solution: needed scale is at least ten times this size.

    Demands for a Red Vienna-scale building program (Vienna built over 60,000 new units of municipal housing in the ’20s and ’30s) would be appropriate. Demands for replacement of redevelopment funding or for subsidies scaled to recent business tax breaks just make Myron Orfield sound right when he talks about the poverty housing industry.

  91. it costs $700,000 to build one unit of “affordable” housing in San Francisco. How many units do these people want, and where do they think the money will come from?

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