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Thursday, September 23, 2021

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News + PoliticsThe real housing record of London Breed

The real housing record of London Breed

The D5 supervisor says she's supporting affordable housing, but her history is much more mixed

Sup. London Breed’s campaign website makes the ambiguous claim that she is “creating more affordable housing,” as if she has a hammer and is busy pounding nails as we speak. “Creating more” implies an increase over what existed — yet the only specific example she cites is a neighborhood preference that creates not one new affordable unit, and her role in rehabilitating existing public housing that also added not one new unit.

Her campaign also claims that she “wrote legislation creating the highest affordable housing requirements in San Francisco history” and “is near completion” on a “Housing Blueprint” for D5.

Sup. London Breed has a very mixed record on housing
Sup. London Breed has a very mixed record on housing

That’s it. That’s her record on affordable housing, according to her campaign, during the period of the greatest affordable housing crisis in modern San Francisco history.

But that not the real story.

The real story is that London Breed’s votes on the Board of Supervisors have actually caused a decline in the number of affordable homes in District 5. Indeed, had some of her proposals not been defeated by her fellow supervisors, even more rent-controlled apartments would have been lost in the district. Breed has favored the plans and programs of developers and real estate speculators to convert rent controlled apartments to condos or hotel rooms, removing them from the reach of working and lower income residents.

Let’s look at her actual votes on the Board since she arrived in 2013.

TICs, condos and the assault on rent-controlled apartments

In 2013, her first important housing test saw Supervisor Breed solidly backing landlord- and speculator-friendly legislation introduced by her strong ally on the board, Supervisor Scott Wiener.  It would have allowed “tenants in common” owners to freely convert to full condo status, bypassing the 200 conversion a year limit set 20 years ago to limit the loss of rental housing.  The proposed legislation was simple in its complexity:  allow unregulated TICs to convert to regulated condos.

While condos are limited to 200 conversions a year, unregulated TICs, by state law, were exempt from that limit. In 2013 it was estimated that as many as 10,000 apartments had been converted to TICs, with the overwhelming majority being in rent-controlled apartment buildings. These conversions meant the loss of rent controlled apartments and, in most cases the eviction, through the Ellis Act, of their tenants.

Candidate Breed announced her support of the legislation to its main proponents, Plan C, a pro-developer group that announced its endorsement of her based upon that position.

But the pro-tenant majority on the board kept the legislation in committee until June, 2013 when Breed, again joining Wiener and two others, pulled it from committee to the full board.

The opposition to the legislation was based on the fact that the unlimited conversion of TICs to condos would reduce rent-controlled apartments and lead to massive evictions as landlord /speculators would buy rent controlled buildings, use Ellis Act to evict and then convert to TICs, which could then become ever more profitable condos. The ordinance, in short, was seen by every tenant and affordable housing advocate in the city has being anti-rent control and anti-affordable housing.

Breed supported it anyway. On June 11th 2013, with Sups. Cohen, Tang, Ferrell, and Wiener, she sought an “amendment of the whole” gutting the protections added to the measure by the pro-tenant majority. She wanted to remove a measure that would have eliminated the rights of condo conversions if the landlords sued over it. Breed lost on a 6-5 vote.

Seeing the political handwriting on the wall, she and Cohen then voted with the six pro-tenant advocates to make the measure – amended to included tenant protections — veto proof, with Wiener and Farrell actually voting against legislation they initially introduced and brought to a vote with Breed’s support.

Hundreds of the lost rent controlled TICs were in D5, reducing the number of affordable rental units available to residents.

The Ellis Act bill

Sup. David Campos introduced a bill in 2014 that was a key part of the tenant agenda. It was designed to slow down the epidemic of Ellis Act evictions and to give tenants who were tossed out a reasonable chance to stay in the city.

The measure called for landlords who used the Ellis Act to pay relocation fees adequate to actually cover the cost of finding new housing in the city.

Breed tried to gut that bill by adding amendments that would exempt a lot of property owners. She said during the debate that people who had owned property for a long time could make more money when the sell it if first they were able to evict all their tenants.

Airbnb and the continued assault on rent-controlled apartments

Ron Conway, a major investor in Airbnb, and four of his family members gave the maximum allowable individual contributions to candidate Breed in 2012.  In addition, Conway and his wife contributed a cool $100,000 to an independent-expenditure committee that attacked Breed’s principal opponent in the race.

Members of ShareBetter SF, a broad based coalition of neighborhood, tenant, landlord, affordable housing and labor organizations seeking effective regulation of short term rentals (STR’s or “Airbnb”) of apartments where well aware of these contributions when they approached Breed in mid 2014 seeking her support for amendments to a proposed ordinance introduced by then-Board President David Chiu.

ShareBetterSF was concerned that the legislation supposedly regulating STRs, drafted by Chiu after more than 40 meetings with Airbnb lobbyists, was simply an unenforceable fig lead that would legalize what was then illegal activity while still allowing the unlimited use of rent controlled units as hotel rooms, creating new incentives to evict tenants.

The particular mechanism rendering the law unenforceable was the lack of a verifiable limit on the number of days an apartment could be rented as a STR.  The Chiu legislation created a limit only on “un-hosted” rentals, that is rentals that occurred when the “host” was absent.  For “hosted” rentals the Chiu legislation set no daily limits at all.

To enforce the ordinance, the city then had to determine when a person was present at a particular address, an enforcement requirement that was simply impossible to meet unless all renters were issued GPS transmitters.  In effect the Chiu legislation legalized the unlimited short term rental of every apartment in San Francisco.

While ShareBetterSF had no problem with allowing an owner to rent out a bedroom in the family home, the group was deeply concerned about apartments being converted to full-time hotel rooms and the subsequent loss of critically needed permanent housing, especially housing with controlled rents. Member organizations, both apartment owners and tenant advocates, had noticed a spike in such activity and a reluctance on the part of the city to enforce the existing law against renting a unit for less than 30 days. The position was to regulate, not ban, short term rentals in order to protect the supply of rental housing available to residents seeking permanent homes, especially affordable rent-controlled housing.

Breed refused to support that ShareBetterSF daily limit amendment to the Chiu legislation, and on October 7th 2014 cast the deciding sixth vote against it, rendering the ordinance unenforceable.

The issue was revisited the next year after it was clear that the Chiu ordinance, as predicted, was not working. While Airbnb reported some 7,000 listings, fewer than 600 STR’s had registered with the city and the city was doing little to enforce the legislation.

ShareBetterSF introduced legislation seeking an enforceable ordinance.  On July15th, 2015, Supervisor Breed not only voted against a single enforceable daily limit she also supported amendments, drafted by Airbnb, that actually weakened an already weak ordinance: banning tenants and apartment owner non- profits the right to sue, doubling the length of time the department could take to reply to a complaint and banning appeals to decisions made by the department that were in the Chiu legislation.

In May, 2015 the Budget and Legislative Analyst issued a report on the impact of legalizing short term rentals. It estimated that “commercial” STR’s, defined in the study as rentals of 90 or more days a year of an entire home or apartment, constituted some 32% of all apartments for rent in the Haight-Ashbury and Western Addition in 2013.  That was eight times the vacancy rate for rental units in 2013. Rents to all renters would have been much lower if these units were, in fact, rented as apartments instead of hotels rooms. The study indicated a relationship between the number “commercial hosts” and the number of evictions in a neighborhood. The top three neighborhoods with the most commercial hosts were the top three neighborhoods experiencing evictions. (Legislative and Budget Analysis, Policy Analysis Report, May 13, 2015).

A private study of Airbnb in D5 done in August, 2016 showed the impact of Supervisor Breed’s support for the unenforceable ordinance over its first two years.  It showed that some 67% of all Airbnb listing in D5 were full units, not rooms in a “mom and pop” shared home. Moreover, 45% of all rooms in her district were used for more than 90 days and they generated 63% of all Airbnb revenue in the district. Airbnb operators who listed two or more units (totally illegally as the ordinance limits Airbnb operators to only one unit, their “primary residence”.) totaled 43% of all listings, which earned 55% of all of the revenue generated in D5.

Again, affordable apartments were lost to permanent residents of D5 and hundreds of more were made more expensive by the artificially low vacancy rate as a result of Supervisors Breed votes in support of short term rentals.

The “Density Bonus” on Divisadero and Fillmore

In January, 2015, Sup. Breed introduced legislation that rezoned Divisadero Street from Haight to O’Farrell from a Neighborhood Commercial District to a Neighborhood Commercial Transit District. The rezoning would remove the regulations governing the number of units allowed by lot size and allow the number of units to be determined by height and bulk, allowing for more, smaller units, that is more residential density per lot.  While height would not be increased, many smaller units would be allowed to replace fewer, larger units.

The bonus to developers would be huge. In one case a developer, under the old zoning, proposed a 16-unit project at 650 Divisadero. After the rezoning, passed by the Board in July, 2015, he revised his project to 60 units, more than 350% increase.

The rezoning was not well publicized in D5, and it wasn’t until projects started dramatically increasing their unit count that neighbors became aware of the change in late 2015. Neighborhood concern was increased when it was realized that the dramatic increase in density had no increase in required affordability.  Moreover, such an increase in density with no increase in affordability would so change the development economics of the area that demolition of exiting housing and displacement of existing neighborhood serving retail uses became a deep concern since the legislation neither addressed demolition or small business retention.

In October, 2015, members of three neighborhood organizations and several Divisadero Street residents and merchants wrote Supervisor Breed pointing out their concerns and asking her to rescind the rezoning until the community could develop a “community driven” plan that addressed these concerns.

The following month she replied that she would not rescind the legislation, saying that city law prohibited her from requiring more affordability “unless … a significant upzoning in an area of 40 acres or more…the Divisadero NCT is not 40 acres…”

That was an incorrect citing of the law, which passed as Proposition C in 2012.

What Proposition C actually said is the exact opposite — increases in affordability requirements could be made if “through …local legislation … a 50% or greater increase in residential density over prior zoning” is granted, which is exactly the case with her NCTD rezoning.

Supervisor Breed refused to attend any of the planning sessions of the Affordable Divisadero Community Plan, sending her staff to only one to lecture the audience in her mistaken assertion of Prop. C.

In January, 2016, after 500 residents attended one or more of the meetings, the Divisadero Community Plan was adopted and sent to the supervisor and the Planning Commission.  It called for demolition controls on all rent controlled housing, a 50% affordable requirement for all new developments of 10 units or more with all of the affordable units on site, that 70% of new market rate housing had to be two or more bedrooms, that additional fees be charged for transit on all new market rate units and that in all “high density development” 50% of all proposed retail space had to be “neighborhood serving” and there should be no formula retail uses allowed.

Supervisor Breed has remained silent on the Affordable Divisadero Community Plan.

But on the day before the plan was to be finally debated at a well publicized community meeting, Breed announced her intention to introduce legislation to increase affordability requirements from 12% to 23% in the NCTD, dropping her claim that to do so was illegal.  Her campaign claim that this is the “highest affordable housing requirement in San Francisco history” is pure hokum since the voters passed a 25% inclusionary requirement in June, 2016.

As of this date no committee hearing before the Board of Supervisors has been set by Breed, so it’s unclear when the new requirement will take effect, possibly exempting a massive 152-unit market-rate development proposed for Divisadero at Oak.

Breed complained when 48hills questioned her record on tenant issues, and we responded here.

But Breed’s record on affordable housing includes supporting legislation that has made housing more expensive for her constituents in D5; incentivizing displacement and demolition of existing housing and small businesses through massive upzonings, and pitting tenants against first-time owners over scarce rental housing.

We also asked her office to respond to questions about this article, but have heard nothing back. We will happily update if she wants to comment.








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  1. don’t forget the midtown strike tenants! she has not only not supported the midtown tenants in keeping their homes, but is also supportive of the demolition. this will displace numerous senior citizens, black, asian and latino residents, completely contradicting her claims that she cares about tenants. she also did not help or support 100 year old iris canada when she was being wrongfully evicted.

  2. To be fair, I read the longer PDF including the exhibits gathered by FBI surveillance, but these did not substantiate the quoted statement by Derf Butler. Rather, there were numerous characters trying to arrange a meeting with her and being frustrated, and calling her names.

  3. London you forgotten your roots eluding once pios women. Now greedy “politician whom controlled by whom? BOMA S.F,Small Pro S.F and NAIOP not your fault always been social acceptance shall succeed Ed 2020? Challenge new economic factor of residents “global firms”
    waive is abundant whom can’t overlook this. London spoken to British developers in U.K your
    equivalent support gentrification haven’t. Heard speak of Ellis Act” abolishing why should you there supporters your representing Fillmore no more! Eventually gentrified by 2020, not race by
    income REITS whom persist gaining entrance of profits. London (Annoyance) ideal puppet trying, retain status of those opposing renters rights (using gender and heritage) your a joke!

  4. So: 1. You own a unit worth around $1,000,000, and appreciating $50K-$100K every year. 2. You can afford to let it sit empty, paying maintenance and taxes. 3. You don’t want to rent it out for $40,000-$50,000/yr or whatever, because that will prevent you from renting it for even more in the future. And I’m supposed to feel sorry for you?

    I’d rather be concerned about my friend, a nurse, and her husband who works full time and is not “a part time business consultant”, who are able to stay in the city only because of rent control. They don’t have a spare apartment in SF to keep around in case the kids want it some day.

    You’re not “an evil investor”, but you are a clueless, self-centered investor.

  5. She’s on the take, and has been since the very beginning. True, she grew up in public housing, but she needs to stop pretending that she’s one of the people: her track record exposes that lie for all to see. She got into office on solid footing, but she swiftly betrayed the very people she claims to care about. It is time to remove her from office. http://www.sfexaminer.com/mayor-city-officials-others-accused-of-wrongdoing-according-to-new-details-from-fbi-probe-into-shrimp-boy/

  6. Wow, @ex-sanfranciscan, it’s like you know me. No, wait, the other thing: it’s like you don’t know me at all. Of course, you live in Tahoe and you imagine me to be making a killing, so it’s kind of like you don’t know much of anything at all.

  7. At an Affordable Divis meeting last fall, one of Breed’s aides said she was working on a blueprint for the district. Since blueprint and plan are basically synonyms, I asked if Breed might consider supporting other such concepts. Specifically, I asked if she might support a measure that would address the displacement and affordable housing crisis in one rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Breed refused to support any such measure. Just to make sure they were clear on what I was asking, I asked if they thought Breed could come out in support of Proposition I. She opted for “neutrality” on the issue because, apparently, shrugging one’s shoulders is a pretty good stance when it comes to displacement. Had she been concerned then, she could have taken a position. She failed.

  8. So you say your TIC is empty “because of rent control.” Then you tell us you “cannot do an owner move in” because you only own 24.x % of your building. Apparently you aren’t clear on a couple of concepts:

    – if the unit is empty (as you say) then you can do an owner move in (it just wouldn’t be an owner move in eviction because [as you say] the unit is empty);

    – if the unit isn’t empty, then you mis-state the facts.

    if you rented your allegedly empty unit, you’d have income of several thousand dollars per month (yeah, I know, rent control would kill the chance to make a lot more next year and the year after etc.). Whatever your costs are for the TIC (mortgage, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, any HOA-type fees) have to be paid regardless of the “full” or “empty” status of your unit. If you rent it, not only are most of your expenses fully deductible from the rental income but you also get (and this is one of the biggest scams/gimmicks of tax law) you get to depreciate the property at 3.636 percent per year) and deduct that amount too. It’s a plan that can almost make rental income tax free. If you are as middle-class as you allege (Dr. Mom; Mrs. Nurse), then you don’t have deep enough pockets to keep your place empty (take that as a bit of part-time business consultation, offered free of charge).

    That is the main reason I kept my condo when I bought a house. It was a better deal than selling it. The property has appreciated beyond any normal or fair return on an investment, and I have income that pays the mortgage on my house. As a condo it is exempt from some parts of the rent control ordinance, so maybe that’s way I have yet to see an advantage in keeping it empty. But consider this: if I invested elsewhere (say in dividend paying stocks), my income would also be subject to a sort of “rent control”: I couldn’t just call up the board of directors and say, hey, I’m increasing the yield on my investment starting next month, so please raise my dividend from 7 cents per share to 8.9 cents per share. Oh, and also, I’m planning on framing my stock certificates in hand-crafted jewel-encrusted frames, so I will be passing that cost on to you as permitted under the rent control ordinance. And, no, you cannot spin off any of the corporation because that is a lot like subletting, which as you know is prohibited.

    It is pretty difficult to “guess” how many units that would be subject to rent control are kept off the market because the owners would prefer a gross income of zero dollars per year to tens of thousand per year (with the net being virtually tax free) and a few percent more per year the following year etc. It is also difficult to figure exactly how many units are illegally converted to hotel use. I can tell you, though, that there is a huge amount of illegal hotel conversion in D5 (as well as elsewhere).

    Here are just a few examples in D5 (all of which I have reported to the planning department (or building inspector when relevant):

    This is 1432 Grove (owned by an intellectual property attorney – not that he’s an intellectual, just that is the legal practice he runs – alongside his illegal practice of running an unlicensed hotel): https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9218585?s=skXVKxw2

    This is 1314 Eddy Street, owned by two men who own four other fake hotels. It isn’t owned by “Cali,” the host Airbnb says is verified. Airbnb also allows them to lie in their listing. The listing says “**PLEASE NOTE: ONLY ACCEPTING 30+ DAYS RESERVATIONS AT THIS TIME**” but you can rent the house for a five night minimum. Check the calendar, check the number of reviews, and ask the house cleaners who come after each renter moves out. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11338538?s=Xoqkxa9G

    This is 817 Oak St. They’ve been busted twice. After they got caught the second time, they go out of it by lying to the city planner saying they only rent for 30+ days. Based on that lie, the Planning Department determined that there was no violation. Except that a minimum stay at that hotel is just two days. I told the planner that that was the case, but they don’t have the resources to go after them. The owners don’t care about their privacy, either, since they’ve been on a reality tv show discussing the man’s butt waxing options. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10945285?s=MCH6zTtx

    THis is 653 Fell Street. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/756670?s=rlnBzEV-

    This is 711 Page Street. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/845132?s=Y05ZHPna

    This is 850 Steiner Street. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/201579?s=RcIIbaNi

    This 246 Waller Street. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/7844031?checkin=07%2F01%2F2016&checkout=08%2F06%2F2016&s=qJffdyB1

    This is 1550 Page Street. There is a STR Permit for that address, but the unit cannot be rented as a hotel since it is not anyone’s primary residence. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10437411?s=1jHArVUJ

    This is 1262 Fulton. It is also permitted, but is not anyone’s primary residence. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9462355?s=wKdL_kZP

    I found a unit at St. Francis Square Coop, that I was able to get busted by the board of directors (the coop explicitly bans short-term rentals, and was built to be working-class housing not hotels). The point of that is that Airbnb enables illegal and/or unethical behavior that profits both them and the “hosts.”

    I have about fifteen other D5 addresses but the listing URLs are no longer valid. It will take some research to find the new listings.

    Six weeks ago, I wrote to Supervisor Campos suggesting that some reasonable changes be added to the (currently on hold) revisions to the short-term rental law. The two main additions I suggested are:

    Hosts who lie on their applications (whether for an STR permit or a building permit) need to be prosecuted for fraud and perjury.

    The Office of Short-Term Rentals needs to have a significant staffing increase. That could easily be funded by a nominal surtax on all of the Airbnb listings.

  9. Wow Jym….how kind of you!!

    I know my wife who is an RN and has been a trauma nurse is really missed in the city. They were really willing to do anything to keep her. San Francisco is very short of RNs.

    You on the other hand? Probably a childless guy, in a rent controlled apartment, and making a killing and screw everyone else.

    You ever wonder why San Francisco has the lowest rate of home ownership AND the lowest percentage of population under 18?

    Oh wait! You really dont care do you.

  10. ex-San Franciscan: you have conveniently omitted the fact that Con Wrongway and fellow Airbnb investor Reid Hoffman contributed $685,000.00 to David Chiu’s race for state assembly. San Franciscans well remember David Chiu as the author of the toothless, impotent Airbnb legislation that Breed helped pass on the Board of Supervisors. You can opine all you want about the cause of San Francisco’s affordable (for buying or for renting) housing crisis. Facts are facts. Something stinks to high heaven and the big $$$$ investments that Wrongway and Airbnb have made in San Francisco’s elected ones like Ed Lee, David Chiu and London Breed is deeply troubling.

  11. Basically she tries to pretend she stands with her district, but when the mayor and his moneymen need her, they can count on her vote.

    Fortunately this is a race where we don’t have to settle for crap. I heard Dean Preston speak at SF for Democracy. Very impressed. Very strong on housing. Very strong on police reform. He’d be a fantastic asset on the BOS.

  12. Ron Conway is a major investor in AirBnB? Really?

    His company, SV Angel, invested in a series A round that was a total of 7.2 Million invested. 8 VC firms participated in the round so if they all invested equally it would be a 900K investment.

    AirBnB has taken financing to the tune of almost 3 BILLION!! How in the hell is he a “major investor?”

    You want to really know what has been killing the rental stock in San Francisco? The so-called progressives. People complain that AirBnB is killing the rental stock. Most of those homes would not be rented anyway. How many places are just sitting empty because of rent control? I know of almost 100 myself. People have said it is upwards of 20,000 units.

    One of those units is a place I own in San Francisco. It is a TIC and I own a 24.x percentage of the building. Cannot do an owner move in (must own at least 25%) or if I Ellised it we could never condo convert.

    Why didnt we do a condo conversion? Because 2 of the other people in the building just simply cannot afford it. 20K fee plus all the work we would need to do is just prohibitive for them and would be a stretch for my wife and I.

    People need to look at the people who are buying TICs. Not all of them are the evil investors / tech millionaires. My wife is a nurse and I am a part time business consultant / Mr Mom.

    We would probably sell except that we want to have a place in SF after the kids are grown. After being there for the weekend recently we might change our mind……

    Moved to Tahoe over a year ago and, for now, not really looking back. Although I really would love to rent out my unit….I just cant give someone the possibility of a lifetime lease.

  13. As a percent of total rentals Ellis evictions are too few to make much of a difference. I would like to see more rentals converted to owner occupied. It would make owning more “affordable.” The more owners the better it is for the neighborhood and the City.

  14. Katy Tang started the ball rolling with these phony “blueprints” for districts. They are full of restatements of the fact (i.e “gosh, there are people living in our district!” duh) with nothing real of substance in them, so yeah, why not have one for all of em

  15. Thank you for the succinct break down of Supervisor Breed’s record. Actions speak louder than words. It’s outrageous that the supervisor thinks her constituents arent paying attention to her votes and her behavior.

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