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Friday, April 12, 2024

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Home Featured The Agenda: Why teachers can’t find housing

The Agenda: Why teachers can’t find housing

Why is nobody addressing the Twitter tax break, Airbnb, the Google buses, or all the other factors that make it impossible for teachers to live in SF?

What has the tech boom done for teachers?

There has been much talk of late about teacher housing, and that’s all good: If teachers can’t live in San Francisco, we have a serious problem. And it appears that we do.

Sups. London Breed and Ahsha Safai recently tried to pit the teachers against lower-income people, which the Teachers’ Union rejected. And now Heather Knight has a column on a recent hearing, where a long line of teachers noted that they can’t stay and have a career in a city where housing costs far, far outstrip what even senior teachers with advanced degrees earn.

What has the tech boom done for teachers?
What has the tech boom done for teachers?

So I am going to stop for a moment and ask a couple of questions about city policy – questions that didn’t come up at the hearing.

What good has the Twitter tax break done for teachers?

What good have the Google buses and the city’s deal to let them make it easier for high-paid tech workers to live here and commute to Silicon Valley done for teachers?

What has Airbnb done for teachers (except drive up housing costs)?

What has the administration of Mayor Ed Lee done for teachers?

It’s not all about the supply, folks. It’s about the demand – and the city, under Mayor Lee, has done everything it can to drive up the demand for housing. I would say that, overall, people in the middle-income people, like teachers, do worse during these sort of speculative booms. And we are never going to be able to build our way out of it.

Mayor Lee and the supes who went along with him made a decision coming out of the Great Recession. They decided that creating jobs for new arrivals was more important than protecting existing residents. They decided that a tech boom would be good for San Francisco.

Now — now, all these years later — they are figuring out that teachers (and so many other people who make the city run every day) are priced out by the boom they created. Makes my head hurt.


Next: Since I am being cranky here … I went to a Warriors game this week. Oracle Arena is a great place to watch basketball. The crowd in our upper-level seats was decidedly working class, people who have filled the arena for years, through good times and bad. Why do they need a fancy new billion-dollar home in San Francisco – a place where a lot of the current fans will never be able to afford a game?

Oh, and there’s nothing more fun than walking across the bridge from BART before and after the game, with folks selling illicit team gear for cheap, vending hot dogs like the ones you get on Mission Street, and hawking cold cans of Bud out of a cooler for $5. You think that’s going to happen in fully gentrified Mission Bay?


I watched the hearing that Sup. Malia Cohen called to look at how the federal budget cuts are going to impact the city, and was a little disturbed that the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee first said that she didn’t want to be “shadowboxing” with threats we don’t know will happen then talked about “decisions to keep our city working” without any mention of new revenue sources. It was as if the only answer to Trump is to follow his lead and cut government spending.

Ben Rosenfield, the controller, pointed out that the city gets about $2 billion a year in federal money, but a lot of that probably isn’t at risk: It’s hard to see how Trump could block the city from administering Medicaid or food stamps. But there’s $200 million a year that’s easily on the chopping block, and 94 percent of it is for health and human services.

Then there’s the Housing Authority, which is funded in large part with $176 million in federal money. And the city has appropriated another $800 million for transit projects “and we are waiting for the money to arrive” from Washington, Rosenfield said.

Add in the other local organizations that get federal money – a lot of arts groups rely on NEA money – and you’ve got a city with a big problem.

“We likely have severe budget cuts coming,” Rosenfield said. “We don’t want to talk about eliminating programs, but we can’t ignore the possibility of [funding] loss.”

It takes a while to figure out the best way to replace that money with new revenue. At last Sup. Aaron Peskin is starting the discussion by asking the state to allow us to enact a local income tax. But if there’s any talk in the Mayor’s Office of anything that would backfill a few hundred million dollars (in a progressive way, not with sales taxes) I haven’t heard it.

Remember: The feds have historically given generous matches to cities for affordable housing. It appears much of that will go away. So we need to protect our existing programs, spend more on affordable housing, spend more to protect vulnerable residents who lose their safety net under Trump … and we aren’t talking now about a plan to raise at least $300 million next year?



  1. “unless you consider a 30 year old professional renting a bedroom with shared bath
    and kitchen “living”.

    Actually, the living situation you’ve described is how a a large percentage of San Francisco’s 30 somethings live. Even well paid people at tech companies have a bedroom with shared bath and kitchen arrangement; I’m not sure why you find it so appalling.

  2. SFSU-CSU has the UPS blocks, and have yet to embark in their development plans, depending on what they hit first, Stonestown Apartments, Hotel on 19th Ave, up at Winston, or removal of the science building and rebuild, their could be some interesting options, with GGP, and Parkmerced and SFSU-CSU if there is a discussion on linking to Daly City BART via a separate system like a mono-rail, and getting it built faster than the proposed MUNI M-Line… If people put their caps on for a bit and pull out calculators, their could be a win win with air-development rights along the route out to BART, a line of new towers or entry design at the Brotherhood Way/Alemany and I-280 flyover and re-designed plaza with Daly City BART, look at the google maps, its a possible transformation sim. to the SE side, but the transit is the key link… and needs to be made soon!

  3. agree cannot always be done up front, but when the planners have a lead and know what and where they are connecting they should be already taking steps to the solution, not waiting till its all built up. (example: DTX and downtown towers, which was to be completed soon after the big towers blocking views were built…They need to amp it up or we soon will be a city by the bay in a major gridlock….

  4. That is tragic and, unfortunately, variants of your story abound.
    The primary culprits are the short-sighted policies, primarily at the local — but also at the State — levels, that have for decades thwarted the production of adequate amounts of housing and have prioritized land-use polices that favor the automobile over public transportation.

  5. I agree with you to the extent that we need to invest in our public/mass transit infrastructure as well (I stated that clearly in my initial comment) — but not to the extent that we have to supposedly do it all “up front” and before we accelerate housing creation.

    Such an approach is tantamount to continue to ignore the problem and allowing the chronic housing shortage problem to fester — it’s a version of making “the perfect the enemy of the good.”

  6. While I don’t live in SF (South Bay) let me add.

    Our daughter is doing a late-20s career change to become an elementary school teacher. She is funding the program herself at a private school at higher cost, because getting into a state school would have taken years. She’s teaching at a parochial school and loves it, and parents and students like her. She is living at home with Mom and Dad during this transition.

    Our plan is to retire in 2018, and we can not afford to remain in California. When we sell the house, she is planning to also move out of the Bay Area (out of state) since she can not afford to live here- unless you consider a 30 year old professional renting a bedroom with shared bath and kitchen “living”.

    We came to CA 25 years ago for the “dream”. Our son moved to Montana 5 years ago to build a carpentry business which he could not do in CA (regulations and wage scale depression from illegal aliens doing construction), and our daughter will be leaving as well. There go 2 bright people with Cal university undergraduate degrees.

  7. FYI – Pink Palace was not destroyed, but rehabbed and converted into Senior affordable Housing.

    They just build an addition on a former parking lot at the site and auctioned off the units late last year. IIRC, its Willie Kennedy Homes, so some such name.

  8. I have a thought. Granted that the rents being charges by Parkmerced are currently as high as the rest of the area. However there are many, many vacancies and they are due to start creating even more housing. Perhaps some sort of partnership could be formed with the owners and the City for teacher housing. Parkmerced’s existing townhouses, although many do perhaps need some rehab, are built in blocks with common backyards that are perfect for family housing.

  9. Thanks or the link. It is clear that Whites started to abandon the SFUSD after bussing. But it also seems Whites are slowing returning for the past decade or so. Part of the total decrease is demographics true for the entire Bay Area. It would be interesting to see elementary school enrollment since it seems we have had a mini baby boom. SF had an increase in under 5 age group while the rest of the Bay Area had a decrease. Some of them are still in the City when they are elementary school age. Many families can’ afford to buy a home in the suburbs until their children are nearing high school age.

  10. Which created the dangerous ghettoes in many ways. Places like the infamous Pink Palace (since taken down) were built during that time, taking black people out of their beautiful Victorian homes & put into stacked block housing.

  11. Building market rate housing won’t stop in the system existing. The issue is whether corporations and government can fund and find land to develop into essential housing stock controlled in price and amenable to low income and qualifying groups and individuals by creating well designed and managed housing for families and seniors and students.

    It has existed before and has been done to much acclaim. The problem is that the existing powers that be do not want to discuss the alternatives such as buying property through philanthropy and taxation to redevelop into new housing such as blocks of single family homes or dispersed housing strategies in SF.

    The other is co-op and other institutions expanding vs contracting like the SFHA or working in conjunction with the SFCLT and affordable housing developers to pool and compete with bigger developers.

    urban planning must also take into account prior the impacts on transit,schools libraries and public spaces such as public pools. They have not enlarged any libraries or created new concepts such as what we suggested prior across from Merced library on 19th above the parking lots at Stonestown a new larger public library to serve the area while converting the older one to a children’s museum, teen space or other use.

    Transit needs to be upped equitably on the SE to SW sector of SF seeing the brunt or development. Maybe a seperated system even to take people between Stonestown sfsu and Daly City Bart aireal vs underground as an AirTran. There is lots of air rights for development between brotherhood way and Daly City Bart. The planners just have not spent enough time on it focusing instead on the more glamorous towers of downtown (not too glamorous lately)

  12. That’s the problem with lacking serious mass transit investment up front we have a serious capacity problem

  13. SF already is already built wall-to-wall and its a great place. Same with NYC, Paris, London, Tokyo, etc

    Not sure what you’re afraid of.

  14. I’m advocating for no such thing — quite the opposite.
    However, your position is anti-environmental, anti-social-diversity and anti-economic opportunity. Furthermore, by arguing against the creation of adequate amounts of housing, you are taking an anti-immigrant and anti-migrant position.

  15. Not being able to argue against wall-to-wall concrete I see. Because that is what you’re advocating.

  16. Plentiful affordable housing for all in a diverse/convenient urban environment with optimized public transportation doesn’t sound like dystopia to me.

  17. yes tim, there will actually be “unauthorized” warriors t shirts etc for sale on the sidewalks of Third St. in Mission Bay, just like there have been for years on the sidewalks of Third St in SOMA for Giants gear. that is one thing you needn’t worry about.

    but who can afford to go to those games and buy that stuff is another story. there are still reasonably cheap Giants tickets < $35 some games during the year. but the Warriors, no not really. of course this team is something special, you
    do have to allow for that.

  18. Ugh, sounds like a SPUR dystopia. And it’s all the fault of anyone who ever took a stand against runaway development.

  19. “Did Tim just say that SF pays $2 BILLION for medicaid & food stamps
    for SFers? According to SFG in 2012 there were only 120k seniors in SF!
    It is UNBELIEVABLE if SF is spending $2 BILLION on medicaid for
    seniors in SF, that means there’s a lot of cronyism & corruption
    with salaries!”

    You seem excitable to the point of being idiotic. You’re wrong about what Tim wrote and you’re wrong about Medicaid and who is covered.

    What Tim wrote is that San Francisco receives $2 billion in federal funds TOTAL, which includes some funding for Medicaid and food stamps. Medicare is a healthcare program for most seniors. Medicaid is a program for low-income children below a certain wage, pregnant women, parents of Medicaid-eligible children who meet
    certain income requirements, some low-income seniors among others. There are a lot of eligibility requirements, too many to list here.

    As in the past you’ve linked to sites such as Brietbart, I won’t follow any of your links to see what the hell you are ranting about.

    Consider pursuing a hobby.

  20. Did Tim just say that SF pays $2 BILLION for medicaid & food stamps for SFers? According to SFG in 2012 there were only 120k seniors in SF! It is UNBELIEVABLE if SF is spending $2 BILLION on medicaid for seniors in SF, that means there’s a lot of cronyism & corruption with salaries!

    As far as Food Stamps, aka SNAP, SFG said there are just 34k on food stamps in SF. I’m just disgusted at how SF is spending $2 BILLION on food stamps and medicaid for under 150k people!!

  21. If we fail to build housing in sufficient quantities then the lower and lower-middle classes — not to mention, increasingly, the middle class (now being stressed to the limit) — will most certainly be priced out. Its happening now and will only continue to increase under the current anti-housing-development policies.

    If you’re truly concerned about diversity ( i.e., social sustainability) and if you’re for environmental sustainability then you should be vigorously pro-housing development in our metropolitan areas.

    Not to build housing is the ultimate racist act — as to not do so will only accelerate displacement.

    Because of the ever-worsening housing shortage, Californian’s — especially renters — are losing $50 Billion annually. These dollars are going to landlords and excessive mortgages rather than towards equity/savings and, potentially, a down payment on a home.

    Furthermore, creating the necessary amounts of housing , State-wide, would result in an estimate $90 Billion in annual construction activity which would provide a consistent and continuing stream of good-paying construction jobs for many of the lower and middle classes and would be a huge boon to the economy of California — from which all would benefit.

  22. Goggle buses, AirBnB, et al are not the reason that teachers — as well as ever-increasing numbers of the middle and lower classes — cannot find sustainably-affordable housing in the SF/Bay Area — and throughout coastal California and other areas where the economic (i.e. job) opportunities are great.

    The fault lies squarely with the SF/Bay Area’s anti-housing policies OVER THE PAST 40 YEARS. Policies that continue today — ironically, tragically and counterproductively advocated for by Tim R., Calvin W., Fernando M., Peter C.. Sue H. et al.

    These shortsighted policies have lead directly to the chronic/crisis-level housing shortage that we are suffering from today.

    In order to turn this around, bickering over “subsidies and percentages” will not work to address the magnitude of the problem — and setting too high a figure will simply slow down or even halt housing production.

    The only way to solve this problem within our current political/economic system — heck, even if we had the state socialist system that Tim so fervently advocates for — is to massively increase overall housing production while concurrently investing heavily in our public/mass transportation network.

    This requires a coordinated approach — involving political, design and technological innovation.

    Politically, we need to streamline/accelerate the process for reviewing and approving infill multi-family housing development — especially in public transit rich urban locations. We need to reform the application of CEQA in order to encourage — rather discourage as we currently do — this kind of housing and eliminate the abuse of CEQA by Nimby and Union groups that misuse the intentions of this law to extort concessions from project sponsors and delay and even kill much-needed projects. Furthermore, we need to reform Prop 13 — in its current form it dis-incentivizes the creation of housing while favoring commercial development.

    Design-wise we need to create better-designed dwellings that use space and other resources (e.g. materials, water and energy) more efficiently — allowing more housing to be created on each piece of land. This goes hand-in-hand with prioritizing walking/bicycling/public transportation over private automobiles. Accordingly, the provision of expensive, space-wasting car parking should be prohibited in all new development. Alternatively, we must concurrently invest in an integrated/coordinated/expanded public transportation system for the entire Bay Area.

    Technologically, we need to encourage modular/off-site construction approaches that can realize the massive quantities of high-quality / low-cost housing that we so desperately need — as quickly and efficiently as possible.

  23. The winners in this city are property holders. When land values are pumped to the highest levels by removing restrictions, and forcing dense development is the most important goal of City Hall, you cannot expect to protect anyone over the long run. Teachers should take their talents and follow families out of the city to communities that appreciate them.

    We just learned that the AMI (average medium income) that determines who is allowed to sign up for a housing a lottery are also used to determine how much the rents may go up each year on the “affordable” properties. The use of the unstable AMI for every determination is a major problem that needs to be investigated and we hope someone at City Hall will start that investigation soon.

  24. SF teachers have low pay compared to teachers in other areas. Paying them more would help. However, the teacher shortage is statewide. There are Bay Area jurisdictions that have higher pay and lower housing prices that have more difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers than SF. Cost of living is a factor but apparently not the primary one.

    SFUSD has been quoted on news articles that 70% of SFUSD teachers live in SF which means 30% commute. For the average SF worker 62% commute. SF is more affordable for teachers than average? Of course, it is not necessary to live in SF to work in SF. If teachers some can’t
    live in SF it may not be a serious problem.

    That 70% probably includes a lot of young singles who have a higher tolerance for pain, and many teachers who have an employed spouse or partner. On the other hand, SFUSD may be wrong about the percent.

  25. Speaking of teachers, maybe Mayor Lee, Conway and the tech executives feel the same way about them as Trump supporter Robert Mercer: “A cat has value, he [Mercer] said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” More here:


    I’ve been ranting about that in a crisis which is 100% controlled by supply and demand, it is just foolish to only focus upon the supply. This needs to be tightened up NOW – maybe by a new and better prop M that limits development of commercial buildings by an index of available housing in SF and the region.

    We should have been limiting or slowing the flow of new office buildings, but that would not make the 1% more money. I know our system is such that we cannot employ people nor provide healthcare to people without first bribing enriching the oligarchs, but I expected more from San Francisco.

    PS: Vancouver is taking radical actions to curb the rising prices of real estate and rents. We should be doing the same.

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