Sponsored link
Friday, June 18, 2021

Sponsored link

UncategorizedObama's supply-side toolkit attacks local housing policy

Obama’s supply-side toolkit attacks local housing policy

The White House wants to overrule local zoning and inclusionary housing rules -- but won't give cities any money for affordable housing

On September 27th the Obama administration released a “Housing Development Toolkit” promoting a deregulation program for market rate housing development at the local level. It’s remarkably similar to the May, 2016 version of Jerry Brown’s “by-right” proposal that was quietly withdrawn by the governor, failing to get any support in either the Assembly or the Senate after the emergence of a broad statewide c.oalition of tenants, affordable housing advocates, trade unionists, environmentalists, and local government officials, all of whom opposed it.

“By-right development” requires local governments to approve a market rate development with no public hearing and no ability to change the density or affordability of the proposal once submitted. It is usually linked to a density bonus and has minimal requirements for being “transit-oriented.”

Making ends meet in the era of Obama’s urban austerity: seniors selling food supplement for cash two blocks from UBER and Twitter world headquarters and the “Mid-Market Miracle”. (photo Calvin Welch)

Indeed, the first “tool” listed in the Obama toolkit is “establish by-right development.”  Brown attempted to sugar coat the by-right pill with a $400 millon state funding program for affordable housing that would be available if and only if the legislature passed “by-right”

Obama continued his policy of austerity of funding affordable housing by making available $300 million (nationwide!) to implement the program, not for additional affordability in the new project. Like Brown’s May proposal (quickly amended in June) Obama does not require a by-right development to replace affordable housing demolished to make room for the new project.

To say that the Obama administration has been a disappointment to advocates for innovative and well-funded urban programs around affordable housing, rebuilding public housing, and the development of inner city communities (mainly communities of people of color) would be so understated as to be misleading.

It is hard to credit a more cruelly disconnected phenomenon that these two facts of the Obama years: The Democratic Party is totally reliant on an urban vote for its victory — and has systematically failed to provide an effective policy addressing the single most critical aspect of urban life today: housing affordability.

Help us save local journalism!

Every tax-deductible donation helps us grow to cover the issues that mean the most to our community. Become a 48 Hills Hero and support the only daily progressive news source in the Bay Area.

To put it bluntly, Obama’s urban housing policy favors the displacement of Democrats from urban America and their replacement by Republicans. It’s one of the most stark examples of political suicide yet seen.

Go back and look at the last three Democratic party platforms. Other than some very generalized statements about the need to “rebuild the infrastructure,” usually defined as roads and bridges for cars and trucks, and to bail out homeowners hurt by the great recession, try to find an urban program. Try to find policies and programs for affordable housing, for urban tenants, for urban transit riders, for funding non-profit services, community centers and public housing.  Spoiler alert: you won’t find such programs or polices, not even as “campaign promises'” in a basically meaningless party platform.


In every major city in the nation that has a functioning economy, there’s an affordable housing crisis: from Portland to Denver, from Boston to Winston-Salem, from Dallas to St. Paul, where the economy is booming because of the Federal Reserve Banks policy of “quantitative easing,” which pumps some $80 billion a month into the financial sector fueling investment in tech and market rate housing development.  The “recovery” under Obama has been lopsided, with a few benefiting greatly — those that can access quantitative easing government assistance — and all the rest of us who must endure governmental austerity benefiting not so much.

Just how austere has the Obama years been for federal funding of affordable housing and community development?  It is sobering.

The last Democrat to fully fund an urban housing and community development program was Jimmy Carter. In his next to last year, he got Congress to approve a budget of $67.9 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Adjusted to 2015 dollars that was $249.2 billion.  In 2015, Obama next to last year in office, he requested (in 2015 dollars of course) $46.6 billion, less than 20% of Carters 1978 allocation.  Obama has never requested more than $50 billion a year for HUD, and this year he is requesting $800 million less than last year, including the $300 million to implement “by-right” development.

Obama isn’t even meeting Bill Clinton’s level of HUD funding and Clinton, we must not forget, instituted a “one strike and you are out” for drug possession of any family member in public housing policy that pushed San Francisco’s population of homeless families to all-time highs in the mid 1990’s. In 1992, Clinton allocated $6.8 billion in for HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program funding, among other things community centers and the weatherproofing programs for low income people that young Barak Obama worked as a community organizer for.  President Obama spent $3.3B for CDBG in 2012, or 300% reduction in 2012 dollars.

According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, there has been a 55% decline in funding HUDs HOME program the primary subsidy for multi-family rental housing development over the last ten years and the number of people living in neighborhoods with the poverty rate of at least 40% has more than doubled  on Obama’s watch.


In September of 2013, as the Planning Department was receiving hundreds of complaints from neighbors about the then-illegal short term rentals in their neighborhoods, and the Board of Supervisors had yet to make the practice legal (the law wasn’t passed until the end of 2014), Obama’s White House issued a press release featuring “80 top innovators” who were busy working on “ways to improve disaster response and recovery efforts” that featured Airbnb’s participation. In most American cities (including San Francisco) the renting of homes and apartments for less than 30 days was illegal. The battle over Airbnb still rages here as well as New York, Portland, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Toronto, Paris and Berlin to name but a few.

One would never know that from the wet kiss on the lips for Airbnb by the Obama White House.

Between that 2013 and today, the Obama White House has issued seven press announcements featuring Airbnb good deeds on an amazing range of issues: from “fighting” the Zika Virus (Airbnb “messaged over 100,000 hosts that live in areas impacted by the virus”), to “answering a call to action for private sector engagement on the global refugee crisis” (Airbnb will “allow humanitarian workers to book accommodations” and to “develop a renewed global call to action”) to “empowering all Americans as we age” at a White House Conference on Aging where Airbnb committed to “research to support and understand the experience of older Americans in their travels and…use of technology”).

But the Obama administration did more than flack for Airbnb, it provided high level access to a new market in Havana, Cuba.  Obama took Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky with him, as part of the official party, to Cuba in March of this year and featured him at an “Entrepreneurship and Opportunity Event” in Havana.  Just before that even the White House announced a “special authorization” for Airbnb to “become a one stop shop” for both US and non US citizens to book rooms in Cuba according to the LA Times, a federal license that only Airbnb has.

In May, Bloomberg reported that Cuba was Airbnb’s fastest growing market and in September The New York Times reported that by August of this year “Airbnb had 90% of all rooms in the country.”

With three former Obama White House staffers and former Attorney General Eric Holder working for the company. it was perhaps inevitable that Chesky would try to do some direct business with the Obama. Late last year, according to Bloomberg, as Chesky was staying in the Lincoln Bedroom he “made sure I mentioned to him one thing he needed to do: he needed to get the Lincoln Bedroom on Airbnb.” For the time being, Obama declined Chesky’s offer.

There has been no indication that anyone in the Obama administration might see some impact that removing tens of thousands of apartments from the rental long term market may have a national impact on the housing crisis.  Others, however, have.

A June 2016 study of New York concluded that short-term rentals (mainly Airbnb) “exacerbate already severely low vacancy rates,” a March 2015 study of Los Angeles that found Airbnb rentals “[incentivizes] large scale conversions of residential units to tourist accommodations,” and three studies in San Francisco that show reductions in the vacancy rate, an increase in evictions in neighborhoods that have high numbers of Airbnb units, and that for every housing unit “withdrawn for the market for short term rentals…would have a total impact on the City’s economy -$250,000 to – $300,000 per year.”

Knowledge and interest at the federal level in the importance of Airbnb was shown in July, 2016 when Senators Warren, Schatz and Feinstein, troubled by Airbnb practice of allowing “renting out entire residences or multiple residences simultaneously…without providing more detailed information which would help officials to determine the legality of those rentals,” called upon the Federal Trade Commission to provide “reliable data on the commercial use of online platforms.”  It is hardly possible that the Obama administration was unaware of the problem posed by Airbnb in the nation’s largest cities and best known cities.

San Francisco’s 8,000 Airbnb units exert a profound impact on the cost of rental housing, making our local rental market the most expensive in the nation. With a 2.5% vacancy rate of its 200,000 apartments vacant, adding the 8,000 units back to the rental stock would more than double the vacancy rate with resultant drop in rents.

In addition, the law legalizing Airbnb in San Francisco was drafted to gut its enforcement by including the unenforceable “hosted”/”unhosted” language in which the city must determine where primary residents sleep. It also fails to hold Airbnb accountable for the continued listing of unregistered units rendering the registration system totally ineffectual.  Knowledge of this reality prompted Feinstein to sign the letter to the FTC asking for more data.

Obama’s Toolkit doesn’t even mention the existence of short term rentals nor their possible impact on housing availability and costs. And it certainly does not suggest any regulation of Airbnb to preserve affordable rental housing.



With just five months left in his administration, Obama is calling for wholesale deregulation of housing development at the local level. His Toolkit is a full embrace of the supply-side school of economics argument, neither acknowledging nor even mentioning the massive federal dis-investment in urban America over which he has presided and the simultaneous impact of a nationwide (indeed, global) business which chief characteristic is the removal of permanent housing opportunities from the inventory of every city in the country.

His Toolkit never entertains even the remote possibility that refusing to provide needed funds for the development of new affordable housing, and allowing the wholesale conversion of existing affordable housing may impact the supply of that housing.

Instead, building on the theories and studies of the neoliberal libertarian urban economist Edward Glaeser, the Toolkit embraces the notion that “local barriers to housing development have intensified” and that only by removing these barriers- zoning “and other land use regulations, and the lengthy development approval process” can “housing markets…respond to growing demand.”

Doing these things, says Obama’s Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, Jason Furman, the son of a successful New York real estate and shopping mall developer who endowed the Furman Center of Real Estate and Urban Policy of NYU, will result in “mobility and economic growth.”

That, in a nutshell, is the Toolkit.

All too often the end result of the Obama Administration austerity and de regulation urban policy (Photo: Calvin Welch)

We in California have some experience with deregulated markets. We tried that with electricity and got Enron-ed. George Will and others of his ilk blamed us because we didn’t approve enough power plants and over regulated the supply when in fact it was the “market makers” and speculators at Enron that drove up power prices after energy deregulation. When we re-regulated electricity and pushed roof top solar power, our energy prices stabilized.

I submit that we are experiencing the same phenomena now in housing: Prices are being driven up by under-regulated speculative manipulations (Airbnb) and market rate development, afloat in a sea of quantitative-easing cheap money.

In 2009 San Francisco adopted, in its Eastern Neighborhood rezoning, virtually all of the deregulation policies advanced in Obama Toolkit: streamlining permitting, greatly reducing off- street parking requirements, enacting high-density zoning.  Other suggestions of the Toolkit — accessory dwelling units (“in-law units”) and  inclusionary housing — were adopted citywide.

What has been the result?

First, let’s look at the Eastern Neighborhoods. In September, 2015 the City Planning Department issued a report on development in the area since 2011.  It reported that 1,375 housing units were built, representing some 14% of the new housing produced citywide over the same period. Another 11,650 units are in the “housing pipeline” in the Eastern Neighborhoods, representing about 19% of all pipeline projects.

Applying the deregulation tools suggested by Obama produced less housing than we saw in other areas subject to non-toolkit public hearing and regulation. A full 86% of all new housing actually built in San Francisco and 81% of all entitled units were built subject to city policies that did not involve deregulation. Offering  “tools” less useful than existing procedures is simply ideological problem solving in search of a problem.

Second, the basic assumption of the Obama Toolkit authors and their local allies — SPUR, BARF and a chorus of smug bloggers — is that supply and  un-regulated supply alone (no tenant protections, no rent control, no anti-gentrification policies, no mandatory minimum affordability and most especially, no public hearings) will address our housing needs.

The City Planning Department lists housing production by affordability level in San Francisco.  Looking at the cumulative reports from 2007 to the first quarter of 2016 — the Obama years — San Francisco has built some 25,019 new housing units (with some 24% affordable to moderate and low income households) and has “entitled” (approved) 41,000 more, with some 23,000 of the entitled units in three major developments: Treasure Island, Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Park Merced.  That’s 66,000 units built or approved in less than a decade, or more than 7,000 units a year.

Nearly 80% of this housing has been market-rate, with a declining proportion being affordable to even middle income residents let alone the tens of thousands of service workers who serve the 60,000 or so tech workers added to the city during the same period.  Only about 11% of “pipeline” (or future) projects are listed as affordable — down from the 25% from units already built, reflecting the loss of tax increment financing by Brown and the continued “austerity” funding of HUD from Obama.

In April, 2015 the pro-market city economist, Ted Eagan, reported that “from 2011-13, an average of 60,000 people a year moved out of San Francisco, 63% of them were members of low or very-low income households.”

How do the market de-regulators answer these very clear facts on the ground in San Francisco? At the very time that San Francisco reduced approval regulations and approved thousands of high-density, “transit oriented” market rate housing units, some 180,000 San Franciscans were driven out, including 50,000 of the most favored “middle class.”


Eagan has an idea: “Adjusting for other demographic factors, income appears to be a significant contributor to whether an individual has moved out of San Francisco this decade.”

In the Obama era (2009-2015) San Francisco’s median income for a four-person household increased by 5%. The cost of a single family home went up by 60%.


 It is, of course, ironic that the first self-identified community organizer ever elected president is pushing an urban policy that it antithetical to the gains made by authentic community organizing.  With the Toolkit’s emphasis on “removing restriction…and speeding up permitting and construction processes,” community organizers’ local efforts to secure local employment, remove toxics from the neighborhood, ensure statutory affordability for residents, preferences for neighbors, and guarantees against evictions and displacement — the very stuff of urban community organizing — might well be a “restriction” that needs to be “removed” should the policy be adopted at the local level.

It is, of course, at the local level that the real protections against deregulated markets now occur.  In San Francisco, for example, about 60 % of the housing stock is under some sort of price restrictions, with about 230,000 units protected by local rent control, conversion controls, and city-owned, non-profit developed permanently affordable housing.  Only 16,000 units of Section 8 and public housing are Federally guaranteed (with the public housing portion being rapidly deregulated, allowing market rate developers access to once publicly owned land). The rest are controlled by local programs. That there are any seniors and low and moderate income working people left in San Francisco is largely because of the existence of these local “restrictions” on the market.

Since these restrictions are place-based — that is they go with the buildings themselves — removing this housing stock through new, high density development means removing the residents of that housing. And since those rules were created  by local decision makers ( or, in many cases, voters) responding to local conditions and needs, replacing local decisions with state or, now, federally mandated “by-right” approvals will lead to local opposition. That’s exactly what happened both here in San Francisco with the defeat of Mayor Ed Lee’s “Density Bonus” and Browns “By-right” programs this year.

To call such efforts for community control over de-regulated markets “NIMBYism” is simply Orwellian. Fighting to protect economically and socially diverse neighborhoods from being displaced by high density market rate development by demanding mandatory affordability at significant levels, preservation of neighborhood serving small businesses, arts and social service space, eviction and existing affordable housing protections, guaranteed transit service for both existing and new residents and meaningful local hire requirements is simple community preservation.

The vibrancy (if not desperation) of this attempt to regulate market excess  t the local level   can be seen in the number of measures on this Novembers ballot throughout the Bay Area.

There are six measures that either establish rent control and regulate evictions or extend existing controls (Burlingame, San Mateo, Mountain View, Richmond, Oakland and Alameda). There are seven measures (four in San Francisco, Props. C, K, S and W and one each in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara county)  that that will increase local taxes or issue general obligation bonds that, if passed , would  generate $1.8 billion in bond money and some $134 m a year in new taxes to pay for housing homeless people and building new affordable housing.

The birth of this new “local urbanism” here in the Bay Area as a response to the failure of either state or federal government to address the local impacts of neoliberal policies aimed at only facilitating high-density market rate development is the most exciting and meaningful social and political movement you will never see covered by any national media.

Watch this space for more reports from the front.






Sponsored link


  1. I asked what Hillary’s housing policy is and somoene shot this back at
    me. Needless to say, we need to have a conversation with our state and
    federal candidates on what they think will solve the “affordable”
    housing crisis. This is not it!

    If anyone gets into a town hall with the candidates, a good question to ask would be, “who do you support for HUD and who do you support for Treasury
    Secretary?”. Those two positions could be clear indicators of where the
    future president wants to take the country.

  2. Susan, you don’t have to hear from me if you don’t engage me in comments back and forth. Take care, have a great weekend.

  3. Wow, your claims that war is peace and weakness is strength have reached a new low. I mean really, you quote an organizer at one group within CCHO in an attack on a emeritus staffer from another, and you say you’re NOT trying to create divisions within the group, but instead are calling on them to dialogue with the enemy? Really? Look, this conversation is hopeless. No matter how many times one points out your dishonesty, you double down, and I’m tired of being gas-lighted in this particular way. Please cease and desist- I do not wish to hear from you again

  4. Harangued for not rolling over is kind of a simplistic takeaway, isn’t it? As much as I disagree with BARF sometimes, that post makes a pretty fair, nuanced point:

    “Even though the program has been amended to not allow any rent-controlled housing to be demolished, trading 4 rent controled units for 10 BMR units would usually have been a good move, especially if we worked together to keep the people who lost their units in the community.”

  5. yes, I agree, transit improvements, housing and jobs all have to go together….and SF is a very beautiful city, worthy of protecting, even as we struggle with how to grow it. I wonder how the heck Japan and Singapore kept up with it all, leaving us in the dust. The transit in Japan is amazing and unbelievable, and that one can go hundreds of miles in a couple of hours on a bullet train….what might be an 6 or 8 hour drive by automobile. Here’s a video of public housing in Singapore – certain parts of Asia are cutting edge and leading the world these days. https://youtu.be/5Nxx3M7cuqg

  6. Not trying to stir up tensions, just get a dialog going, we won’t agree on everything, but we may find we have allies in unexpected places. I wish I had had time to go to the ballot measure discussions for YIMBY Party this year, simply to make the case against P and U. If we are not at the table, we can’t share our views. YIMBY and BARF are real forces of organized people, so in my opinion, it behooves us to engage, negotiate, debate, and try to come to as much agreement as possible, and to even reexamine our own convictions in light of different viewpoints, like the President’s toolkit. Of course, Susan, there are times we just have to protest, and you and have been part of several protests defending/supporting the community. In fact, i remember us taking over the Google float a couple years ago during the Pride Parade.

  7. Agree to looking outside the box on solutions but hesitate when the current proposals are seen more as detrimental. the problem is the market which caters to the real estate and home mortgage system vs a rental and co-op model as a 50-50 split in what is developed. It’s pretty obvious rentals are not being built essential housing and in the quantity to rectify years of lacking co-development. We cannot fix it overnight but expecting SF to turn into Shanghai or Kowloon to solve our housing issues is not a solution if systems like transit are not brought up to par…

    Example was Parkmerced where we led tours with Docomomo NorCal and a group of Dutch planners landscape architects , architects and officials who noted Parkmerced was what they strive for in urban planning as it exists today. they could not even comprehend why it was being demolished in its current state and wondered why the city was complicit in its destruction…..

  8. The link I provided directs to SFBARF’s blog. If you scroll down you will indeed find the article ” SF-Fauxgressives don’t Get Deferred rewards…”, in which SF”s tenant advocates are harangued for not simply rolling over and accepting the very real potential for inclusion of rent-controlled and Section 8 units in the so-called Affordable Housing Bonus Program.

  9. So what? You are still insisting that the Council of Community Housing Organizations come to a consensus with an organization that is campaigning for a “Yes” on both propositions- *and* at the same time trying to stir up tent ions within CCHO.

  10. Singapore is probably the world’s leader in urban planning for transit, water, education, jobs and affordable housing. I’m looking forward to visiting Pinnacle at Duxton next month, as well as the Singapore City Gallery – an urban development authority museum. As someone who struggled for years to have affordable housing in San Francisco, and spent several years homeless, I’m impressed when I see a nation of homeowners, paying 20-25% of income for their homes, whether its in Japan or Singapore. Clearly, these Cities and nations are meeting the needs of their citizens, we are not. Again, for me, the actual proof is how much we have to pay to rent or buy a home in San Francisco, when compared to world class cities elsewhere. I think we could learn something from the successful outcomes in other nations and cities.

  11. Yes, that’s who James Tracy quoted, relating it to every tenant can self manage – i.e. the vision for resident owned and controlled housing in San Francisco, of which Columbus United Cooperative is a successful pilot. i had forgotten the exact quote, but I posted James Tracy’s speech a couple weeks ago, and just listened to it again.

  12. Supervisors looking out for San Francisco’s best interests is something that they should be doing.

    Brisbane should not be allowed to build office space while refusing to build housing.

  13. Is your link correct? It led me to a humorous article about how Calvin Welch is a Marxist.

  14. The Obama administration hasn’t publicized too much of its stated goal to federally codify “social justice”, but it’s hopes indeed lie in very liberal court rulings moving the needle. Administrations come and go, as do their goals, and as do court appointees. Those things move slowly. The 1968 Fair Housing Act is implicit in that it bars “discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.” and notably excludes economic factors. “The goal is a unitary housing market in which a person’s background (as opposed to financial resources) does not arbitrarily restrict access” via everyones favorite wikipedia…

  15. SF is not japan, nor china, nor any other rack-em-pack-em-and-stack-em city.
    Part of the allure is that SF has always had a mixture of neighborhoods styles and well thought out urban toolkits to begin with. It actually had a lot of great urban density ideas, inclusive of landscaped apartment complexes, and these along with many other design options and ownership alternatives can still be made to work, and develop new housing in SF. The question is where, and not all of it should be in the denser and lower income neighborhoods. I for one would like to see a plan on the boards for a block-by-block implementation of individual sites in the sunset grid system to install smaller micro-towers, infill housing options SRO’s, homeless housing, and new business, and shops and retail along with density along the streets, by closing off some blocks and infilling with micro-stacked and shifted plans for infill density. We don’t have to ruin SF to get the new housing units, but we sure as hell have to start looking at West Portal St. Francis Woods, and Pacific Heights in as much scrutiny as other neighborhoods to decide where and how the equitable density will be built along with the transit and infrastructural upgrades.

    Look at the Library changes, and Public Pools and Parks, and Schools, they cannot fit or even begin to handle the increased populations. They are AT capacity even without any new development. So the planning has to extend further, and be more futuristic thinking like adding another million people a year for the next 10 years. Than include transit, schools, pools, parks, and sewer, power, water issues and you see it just does not pencil out. So we have to require suburbs take their brunt, as well as outer cities in the state, and we need to think in more wholistic design and density patterns to connect urban nodes, and redesign the burbs and street systems to allow for landscape, farming, transit and improved walkable an bike systems along with the housing infill. Takes more than what SFHAC, SPUR and SFBARF have to date imagined… And it needs to take into account the living people in SF, not just the bank, developer mantras but how we as people want to live in the future SF….

  16. Yes but SFBARF and SFHAC still fail even when discussing brisbane to realize the need to link/loop and connect transit as the priority. They miss the bucket by focusing on catching water when the bucket is full of holes… We need a sound system (bucket) or whatever metaphor you want to scoop and build. Without it we don’t have housing, we have a nightmare.

  17. constructive dialogue deals with the primary issue of “TRANSPORTATION” and not cart-before-the-horse policies of packing as many sardines as you can in a defined geographic area.

    You have to solve the basics infrastructure wise before you release the flood gates.

    Unfortunately in the rush to “build-whatever-where-ever-how-ever” we are losing as a planning principle the need to link/loop and connect systems prior to development approvals and back-room deals that negate the real system upgrades needed to move SF further down the futuristic path…

    Take for example the lovely brisbane issues currently, along with reports on BVHP and Lennar on toxic issues and costs re-surfacing, along with candlestick and more housing shown recently on socket-site SF along with absolutely no solution to transit (another recent SF Examiner article published on the same day as another CW Nevius discussion on annexing Brisbane. Its called BI-COUNTY development and it requires a more robust and positive transit solution prior to density.

    West side of SF it was the 19th Ave Transit Study, where even now we don’t have a 19th ave direct Muni link to Daly City BART and SFSU-CSU and Parkmerced will soon be super densifying those areas without an adequate discussion or link of the Tier-5 Level future connections to Daly City that will cost more probably than the central subway x10… Since you have to cross the Brotherhood Way 1952 Interchange, Alemany Fly-Over and I-280.

    West and East sides of SF are very similar in that the city has spent billions on downtown transit issues, and even presidio over/underpasses, but has ignored the SE-SW corridors and the possible changes that can shift the gears and get our roads and mass-transit systems working at a better and higher capacity.

    Take the L-Taraval, why not link it back up sloat blvd. to St. Francis Circle, provides services to the Stern Grove and Lakeshore area, and could help if Stonestown General Growth Properties densifies, and it can be looped on the westside of Parkmerced or Stonestown and SFSU-CSU to Daly City John Daly Blvd. or back up Holloway… ?

    Many ideas but little real exploration on how this can be solved quicker/faster and more up front in the development timeline.

    The need is to tax the business and real estate flips, and proposals with teeth in legislation to get the horse in front of the cart… When we don’t we risk more than just the housing. Since nobody will want to live in a city stuck in grid-lock ad nauseum.

  18. I agree with BARF on some things, and I agree with you on some things. You probably agree with BARF, on a few issues. They endorsed Props A and K last year, for example.

    Which parts of my posts do you find dishonest?

  19. Whether or not you a member of SFBARF or merely share their position, it is beyond clear to anyone who takes the time to read their positions that Calvin’s portrayal is fundamentally accurate-and I think you know that quite well. And frankly, given the fundamental dishonesty of the advocates of the “pro-housing’ position, only a fool would consider a “constructive dialogue” possible.

  20. And btw, just as an example of your dishonesty,it was C.L.R James- a Trinidadian marxist- who said ” any cook can govern”.

  21. And btw, just as one example of your dishonesty, it was C.L.R James- a Trinidadian Marxist- who said “any cook can govern.

  22. I’m not a member of SFBARF, so I don’t think my opinions are factored into their decision-making.

    The larger point is that the mainstream “YIMBY” argument is not the nefarious Libertarian screed that Calvin and Tim portray, and that an inaccurate representation of the pro-housing position is poisonous to a constructive dialogue.

  23. No, refusing to listen to dishonest and profoundly disingenuous individuals is not totalitarian. It is merely a refusal to be manipulated.Still less is refusing to adopt their positions, when there is an absolute absence of *any* common interest- as is the case here

  24. Its only natural and to be expected that different people have difference viewpoints, based upon their life experiences. That’s why dialog and listening to each other is important. If people have to pass an ideological litmus test before being allowed at the table to speak their views, then we are advocating for totalitarianism, not democracy and humanism.

  25. Not true.

    For example not too long ago in the “Old South” segregationist whites were adamant about preserving “local control” and “preserving their way of life” (also known as the “State’s Rights” argument) — which was code for keeping blacks in their place, excluding them economically and politically and generally denying them their rights.

    Ultimately and rightly, and for the good of the nation — both morally and economically — the federal government had to step in and remedy the situation.

    Currently, homeowners and other ideologues (sometimes they’re both like Mr. Welch) in various localities dominate the local planning/development process, fight to keep it exclusionary, and continue to inhibit the creation of adequate amounts of housing all in the name of “local control”, preserving neighborhood character”, etc. etc.

    This is an unsustainable situation — economically, environmentally and socially — and will likely require intervention at either the State or Federal level — or both as it is manifestly unfair, unjust and is damaging to the nation.

  26. I’m sorry but it is you, the core group in SFBARF, who are pitting people against each other by your promotion of hyper-gentrification, and your more or less open attacks on rent control. These things are by their nature, an attack on the ability of most San Franciscans to remain in their homes. As such, there is no room for dialogue. Oh, and btw, naming people’s real and effective ideology/ function isn’t name-calling. It is merely pointing out the facts.

  27. “Strong protections for tenants”?. “community Land Trusts”? “The Small Sites Acquisition Program”? Really? <>

  28. I’m sorry, but the only real program of the SF YIMBY Party is “build, baby, build”- otherwise they would never have taken a position in support of the so-called AfFordable Housing Bonus Program, nor in opposition to taxes on housing speculation and real regulation of AirBnB.


  29. Actually, Gabriel Metcalf from SPUR did come to a meeting organized by Sonja Trauss, SFBARF and YIMBY Party.

  30. No, mostly democrats, though I did meet one Libertarian. Pitting people against people is not the answer, we need to have a conversation and come up with solutions, instead of fighting for rights of one group over another. People before ideology. I shared with them the viability of the Land Trust movement as a solution, and they embraced it. If you can stop calling them names for a minute and actually dialog, debate and make your case to them reasonably, you might find we have a whole lot more in common. We all need and want affordable housing.

  31. Thankfully, such a complete revolution in how our system is structured, with city/county/state and then federal responsibility being long established and with that existing system having profound legal support. What the Feds can do is control the purse strings, at some level. Look at federal attempts to move in on education. Can’t really happen, legally. It’s all about the money.

  32. Not “irrelevant” at all — either we heed the recommendations of well-researched efforts such s President Obama’s Toolkit and land use policy is reformed at the local level or it’s going to be transferred to a higher authority, e.g. regional, state or national.

    As Jonathan Bonato rightly points out — local control with regards to land use policy is increasingly being characterized as high reactionary, exclusionary (unfair to the young, the newly-arrived and those of modest means) and has been shown to be damaging to the health of the overall economy — see the research of UC Berkeley’s Enrico Moretti in this regard.

    Accordingly, it will likely need to be controlled more and more at the state level – like in Australia –or national level — as is the case in Japan.

  33. 1.
    “Second, the basic assumption of the Obama Toolkit authors and their local allies — SPUR, BARF and a chorus of smug bloggers — is that supply and un-regulated supply alone (no tenant protections, no rent control, no anti-gentrification policies, no mandatory minimum affordability and most especially, no public hearings) will address our housing needs.”


    Here are SPUR’s recommendations on how to address the housing crisis. Go take a look. They suggest, amongst other things, protecting rent controlled units, doubling the number of affordable units citywide, Ellis Act reform, and pushing for statewide affordable housing programs.

    Here is the SF YIMBY Party’s platform. It advocates for, amongst other things, “community land trusts, resident owned and controlled cooperatives, the Small Sites Acquisition Program, Real Ownership Opportunities for Tenants Program (ROOTS), maintaining strong tenant protections, promoting homeownership, improving access to credit in minority communities, opposing abusive withholding of housing benefits, expanding federal funding for subsidized housing, providing lawyers for at-risk tenants and homeowners, and building more housing.”

    I understand that it’s comforting to feel like you’re engaged in a righteous struggle against horrible people, but I think you’d find more common ground amongst “YIMBYs” than you think.

    I’ll go ahead and emphasize this again. Market-rate housing is not the only solution, but it is part of the solution.

    “In April, 2015 the pro-market city economist, Ted Eagan, reported that “from 2011-13, an average of 60,000 people a year moved out of San Francisco, 63% of them were members of low or very-low income households.”

    How do the market de-regulators answer these very clear facts on the ground in San Francisco? At the very time that San Francisco reduced approval regulations and approved thousands of high-density, “transit oriented” market rate housing units, some 180,000 San Franciscans were driven out, including 50,000 of the most favored “middle class.”

    Calling Ted Egan a ‘pro-market’ economist is like calling a physicist “pro-gravity.” Recognizing that there is such a thing as a market does not make you an ideologue.

    But, to your main point. Why is housing still expensive, when we’re building so much housing?

    The answer will disappoint you: “a lot” is not the same thing as “enough.” Why isn’t climate change reversing, even though we’re building so many solar panels? Why do I still have a headache after taking one baby aspirin? Why is one pizza enough for a small party but not a large one?

    Last year, the Bay Area added 133,000 jobs and 16,000 units of housing. Some of us—apparently including the president—see that as a problem with an obvious solution: build more housing.

    Ten years ago, a couple could afford to rent a 2br apartment if they earned 131% of the area median income—$96,000. Two first-year teachers can earn that. Now, between the two of them, they’d need to earn 242% of the area median income—$193,000. You can write off market-rate housing all you’d like, but the overall shortage of market-rate units has exacerbated the demand for BMR housing. There’s nowhere near enough funding to build enough affordable units. HUD’s not getting a massive increase in funding as long as the Republicans control congress. We have to play the hand we’re dealt.

    If your view of the situation is that supply doesn’t matter or, in fact, makes things worse, then you have backed yourself into a rhetorical corner that requires outright denial of reality.

  34. PS: Given your overt- and your cohorts’ implicit- opposition to rent control, most of us are not fooled.

  35. I am sorry, but your astro-turf comrades you refer to as “young people” are not- repeat- not cooks. They are a group of libertarian fanatics and, yes, shills. all of whom are part of a very small elite of high-paid tech workers, professionals and consultants. and they all stand to gain at the expense of the rest of us.

  36. Totally interesting that the same supervisors (PESKIN AND KIM) that wrote a bunch or resolutions telling Jerry Brown to let SF keep our local land use control, just crafted a resolution telling Brisbane to do what we want or we’ll annex you. They seem to be indicating that Brisbane folks are being myopic and self interested and therefore we should bully them into being good actors, but SF – somehow we are not falling into the same trappings. As of right development makes perfect sense – instead of negotiating density and inclusionary and public benefits on a project by project basis – cities would have to update their zoning controls and regulations to reflect what they actually want. This isn’t “De-regulation” this is CLEAR regulations. Something San Francisco’s binders full of zoning controls lacks. . . .

  37. Note: No one should be working with SFBARF, as they are nothing more than activist disruptive yelping troublemakers who want recognition, and to even mention them in the same sentence as SPUR is erroneous.

  38. This “tool kit” is somewhat irrelevant, as the Fed does not and cannot control or regulate local planning and building decisions. Thankfully. This Toolkit, along with Transportation Secretary Foxx’s recent pontifications about his personal desires for urban renewal, bear no weight. With the end of this administration so near, both are little more than opinions and have no effect on the nuts and bolts of the real process.

  39. Can San Franciscan’s really afford to wait with Calvin Welch for the Federal government to fund HUD? Its been forty years of ever smaller budgets, while housing prices have skyrocketed and the housing shortage has led to techies taking over SRO hotels…the “progressive” ideology isn’t working for the City as a whole, it helps a miniscule few people who were lucky to win a lottery, or managed to score a rent controlled apartment years ago, or managed to buy a home and become a millionaire in so doing, but for everyone else, things have grown so much worse in San Francisco. It seems to me the President’s toolkit is a pragmatic attempt to solve the problem given the economic and political realities we face. And Japan’s housing policies seem to contradict everything Calvin Welch argues….by right, national zoning, limiting local control, quicker approvals, has actually created a surplus of housing affordable to the country as a whole. For me, Its hard to argue that the President’s toolkit won’t work, when Tokyo’s average monthly rent was $802.00 compared to $3866 in San Francisco in 2015. .I wish CCHO and Calvin Welch would really take a look at other ideas and solutions and try to be more pragmatic and work with their so called “enemies” We need housing, not obstacles thrown up in the way of every attempt to build or propose a solution.

  40. Calvin Welch is the ultimate “I’ve-got-mine” NIMBY reactionary conservative who want to double-down on the failed housing policies of the past 40+ years.

Comments are closed.

Sponsored link

More by this author

SF’s economic recovery plan: Trumpism on the local level

It's all about governmental deregulation and public subsidy of private profit -- while ignoring the manifest needs of everyday people.

Density, neoliberalism, and COVID

SF has allowed developers to build housing and offices for more and more people -- without paying for the infrastructure that we need to take care of them.

Affordable housing is a great bargain for SF

The New York Times (along with many others) completely misses the reality of the housing market in this city.
Sponsored link

You might also likeRELATED