Why Wiener’s housing bill undermines good policy outcomes

Recent deals at Board of Supes show that the city gets more affordable housing and more mitigation when the community has a role in the process -- exactly what Sen. Wiener wants to eliminate

The One Oak project and another controversial development in the Mission both moved forward this week after the district supervisors worked with the developers and the appellants to cut deals. This is becoming increasingly common: Sup. Hillary Ronen alone has brought the community developers together to hammer out agreements on at least three other projects, and on One Oak, Sup. London Breed led the negotiations.

In every single case, the developer has come to the table with more than they were originally offering. In every single case, the city got a better deal after the appeal than the Planning Department — which is supposed to do this sort of work — could manage.

The One Oak project

At Tuesday’s Board meeting, Breed made a point of saying that environmental appeals — the bane of big developers — were a good thing, because they lead to better outcomes.

And in every single case, if state Sen. Scott Wiener’s recently approved SB 35 had been in effect, the additional affordable housing, the transportation mitigations, and the controls on future parking and car use would never have happened.

That’s because Wiener, along with Gov. Jerry Brown, wants to speed up housing development (that is, luxury housing development) by cutting the community out of the process.

At One Oak, Jason Henderson, a neighborhood resident and SF State professor, argued that the project would bring too much traffic to a key intersection that is already choked with cars. The result would be a significant slowdown in Muni service.

He pointed out that several other big new housing developments are slated for “The Hub” — the area around Market and Van Ness — and combined they could paralyze several key Muni routes.

The Planning Department, using ancient data, didn’t even analyze the role that Uber, Lyft, and online delivery services play in traffic impacts for high-end housing.

Ad a result of the appeal, Breed and Sups. Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim have introduced interim controls that will do what Planning refused to do: Mandate that none of the other new buildings in that area have more that one parking space for every four units.

And the supes have demanded that the planners start to analyze the role of Uber and Lyft in the city’s traffic problems. 

The fate of the Transportation Network Companies wasn’t helped by a new study showing the the majority of the dangerous moving violations in downtown SF are caused by these services.

Ronen worked with Our Mission No Eviction and a developer to increase the on-site affordable housing in a project on Mission St from 17.5 to 20 percent and to guarantee that for ten years, the production, distribution, and repair space on the ground floor of the project will be rented below market rate.

These are positive outcomes. We can argue about whether the city got the best possible deal or whether the projects are worthy in the first place, but there’s no doubt that the city got a way better deal after someone used CEQA to challenge the project..

In other words: The city benefits directly from the sort of appeals that Wiener worked to eliminate.