Campaign Trail: Wiener’s upzoning bill becomes issue in SF mayor’s race

Kim takes a strong stand against measure that would raise height limits and density all over town

Scott Wiener’s bill to strip cities of local zoning and allow more housing density is becoming an issue in the SF mayoral campaign.

Sup. Jane Kim held a rally this morning in West Portal, with neighborhood leaders denouncing SB 827.

Sup. Jane Kim rallies in West Portal against the Wiener bill

Her move comes after Supervisor Aaron Peskin put forward a resolution urging significant amendments that may lead to a statement of formal opposition.

The Planning Commission heard a presentation on the bill this afternoon.

Wiener appeared on KQED’s Forum this morning, saying that his bill is about “un-banning apartment buildings” near transit stations.

But it’s really about a lot more than that.

Kim, joined by George Wooding, president of the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods, and land-use lawyer Christine Linnenbach, said that the Wiener bill is a “one-size fits all” solution that would unfairly impact San Francisco.

“I am a supervisor who has approved more housing than any other legislator on the city in the past seven years,” Kim said. “But SB 827 is the wrong way to go.”

This could be a powerful issue on the west side of town, where Kim in the past has not had strong support. The west side, for both good and bad reasons, hates SB 827, which would pretty much end single-family density in San Francisco.

Kim posted a piece on Medium today headlined “We don’t need to destroy the Sunset to save San Francisco.” She argues that the bill

upzones our entire City without increasing developer contribution to transit, parks, schools or other services critical to sustaining our neighborhoods. This is not how we build housing or grow livable cities.

Meanwhile, the cities who refuse to invest in public transit aren’t required to build any new housing.In fact, SB 827 rewards bad actors who refuse to build public transit or housing — sorely needed throughout the region.

Kim – like a lot of us – is not a big supporter of maintaining single-family zoning in 70 percent of the city. San Francisco absolutely needs increased density on the west side of town. And the idea of building along transit corridors makes perfect sense – as long as you don’t stop to read the Wiener bill.

Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards pointed out some of the issues during the hearing. He noted that the measure would allow developers to add tens of thousands of new units on transit corridors that are already crowded (Geary may be a “quality transit” area, but those buses are already packed most of the time) – without any new money to improve the infrastructure.

In fact, Richards said, even if the city eventually collected enough property tax to start to catch up with transit needs, the bill would create a “dystopian future” for a least ten years.

Wiener also assumes that people who move into housing, including luxury housing (which is what developers will build in San Francisco) along transit corridors won’t use cars. The new buildings he envisions would not have parking, which is good – but the wealthy residents aren’t all going to take overcrowded, inadequate transit. They’ll buy cars, use Uber and Lyft, and generally increase traffic problems.

Wiener keeps talking about amending the bill, but unless he changes it pretty radically – to allow, for example, cities to capture the increased value that property owners will get from increased density to pay for transit – it’s going to be hard to get local support.

Kim told me today that she can’t envision any amendments that would make the measure acceptable.

So far, only a few of the groups talking about endorsements in the race have made this a major point of focus. But I think that’s going to change as the voters learn more about this issue.

So far, London Breed is a full supporter of SB 827.

Mark Leno says he can’t support the measure as it’s currently written, but is open to amendments:

As I’ve said from the start, I understand the concept behind the bill and I have great regard for the author. The concept being that we incentivize and in some cases mandate greater height and greater density along transit.

I took an opposed position until amended, and I have not digested all of the recent amendments. If we can protect lower income areas that would be up zoned [thus making] the properties more valuable and giving incentive for them to be displaced, [that protection] is a good thing.

I will say, Scott is trying to address many parts of the state that are building no housing at all, like the Mayor of Brisbane saying he’s going to construct a commercial park with 3,000 new jobs and leave the housing to SF. But there should be allowances for SF, which is building more housing per capita than any city. 

Renouncing all local planning control is a very serious issue. One size fits all zoning can have enormous unintended consequences. It’s a work in progress, it will continue to be amended, and the process will continue.

The supes will vote on the Peskin measure soon. The Los Angeles County Democratic Party voted unanimously to oppose it. This one isn’t going away.

81 COMMENTS

  1. Gov. Brown supports Wiener’s bills because he wants to get rid of local regulations. That makes him a YIMBY by definition.

    Ahh, Foggy connects the adjective racist to the noun YIMBY. Most of the people suffering from the housing shortage in California are living in inland communities. Most are Latino. Do you think they want the elitists in the coastal counties to continue their NIMBY ways.? Answer the question: No, or NO.

    Finally, Foggy is once again calling people with whom he disagrees “bots.” I can see why we should never ask for “reasoning” from you.

  2. Any evidence Jerry Brown has even heard of the YIMBYS?

    It’s true, Wiener is connected at the hip with racist YIMBYS. It’s a Conway funding situation, I’d reckon.

    Seeing as YIMBYS are usually dumb bots, I can see your reasoning in asking.

  3. What a complete load of horse hockey. Upzoning will simply result in more high rise, ultra-expensive apartments replacing lower income housing. It will not make a damned thing affordable. It will just do what Wiener wants, and drive low income people out of San Francisco.

  4. Upzoning doesn’t gentrify. It degentrifies as the added supply makes living in once exclusive neighborhoods affordable. Pre-1960’s this is what was happening in San Francisco.

  5. Then push it there, and stop trying to gentrify San Francisco, and stop supporting Scott Wiener’s efforts to push out those who are not rich. Silicon Valley should be building, not San Francisco. But Wiener’s bill would protect them, and put the burden even more on San Francisco.

  6. YIMBYS really are dumb.

    You’re anti-Union, your revolution by way of construction and lining real estate speculator profits isn’t going to go far.

  7. Yes we are. We want more housing construction, which will lower housing costs for everyone. Can an ass be dumb, or smart?

  8. The YIMBY top priority is to alleviate the housing shortage. But the environmental aspects are great, too.

  9. California is mired in a severe housing shortage, and Wiener is addresing it. Viva el YIMBYismo! Viva la revoluction!

  10. Yes, so nice to see District-Shopper-Jane supporting all the NIMBYs out on the West Side. Good Suburban Livin’ in those neighborhoods.

  11. Thanks for the link [Weener’s bill] is an audacious proposal to get Californians out of their cars.”
    THE HORROR!

  12. “And there is no amendment to allow for value capture.”

    Why would it need one? Value is captured through SF’s 18% IZ ordinance, in addition to the value captured through property tax. The board of Supervisors concluded that the previous 25% rate was decreasing the total amount of affordable housing
    created, and was counterproductive.

    Sure, we can saddle new housing with more financial burdens if the goal is to reduce the amount of housing produced.

    Regarding tenants getting squeezed out, the incetive is already there, with or without upzoning. 42 months is very generous considering the tenants don’t need to leave until planning is complete.

  13. Any reasonable suggestion could go a long way. If the mayor of SF says, “look, we can’t handle the influx of tech into the area”, other mayors will likely say, “so what do you suggest?” And we’ll go from there.

    To start with, let our leaders just publicly entertain the possibility that bringing in hundreds of thousands of tech employees earning six-figure salaries might have something to do with rising housing prices.

  14. And exactly how would that work in reality?

    I remember Peskin threatening to annex Brisbane. But what would the realistic progressive plan be for Cupertino? A tariff on iPhones? Followed by a threat of ground invasion? We do have a bigger police force.

  15. You seem to forget that SF has a land area of 49 square miles. And there are limits on infrastructure. More people means more water needed, more waste to process, a need for more services. You ignore reality. Why are you not pushing for more housing in Silicon Valley?

  16. It does not make sense to radically change the system for economic and demographic cycles that will resolve themselves. If builders ruin single family neighborhoods to meet a short-term demand, it will be difficult
    to go back. And if zoning is changed, over time multiunit buildings will
    replace single-family homes making the remaining single-family homes less affordable. And a reduction of the supply will cause more families with
    children to leave the City.

  17. d. Deregulate buildings, phasing out rent control in newly created buildings, where tenants would be protected instead of the units, thereby discontinuing RC when vacancies arise.

  18. I don’t want to give investors the opportunity to make that decision in my single family neighborhood.

  19. The Koch brothers prefer state government to local because it is harder for organized citizens to fight for reforms on the state level, and state government tends to be very good to the wealthy and corporate interests.

  20. I wouldn’t want the state to set the rules for this either. This is something that the city of SF should iron out with Silicon Valley cities.

  21. You mean that window dressing? First of all the right to return is already not working out so well at Park Merced. And up to 42 months of rental assistance? What happens after that if the building is not rebuilt? Within a few months, those tenants will be forced out of the area. Developers will bank on this. In fact, if there is such a housing crisis, then how do they propose to find comparable alternative units in the area?

    And there is no amendment to allow for value capture.

  22. The upzoning was accomplished by a ballot initiative that the people of San Francisco voted for (74% to 26%, prop d, 2015).

  23. Did you not read the amendments with strong displacement protections added to SB827?

    “4. An adequate Right to Remain Guarantee – at minimum – must include a developer providing to all displaced tenants:
    a. Moving expenses for moving into, and out of, an interim unit in the area.
    b. Up to 42 months of rental assistance for the price of an available, comparable unit in the area.
    c. A right of first refusal for a comparable housing unit in the new building, and offered with a new lease at the
    rent previously enjoyed by the tenant in their demolished unit.”

  24. The Millennial bubble is peaking. The trend will be back to the suburbs. Investing in too many more apartment buildings may not be a good investment.

  25. There are many in the area that would support some variances for mutiunit buildings along commercial streets. There are apartment buildings on West Portal Avenue.

  26. And what’s wrong with SF, with an already existing transportation network, adding more people? A lot of Sillicon Valley does get upzoned along El Camino Real thanks to Caltrain.

  27. Mission Rock was primarily commercial, so 40% affordable is being cross-subsidized by the commercial component. You can’t get 40% affordable with market rate cross-subsidizing.

  28. Kim up zoned the parcel across from ATT Park. Thats her biggest claim to ‘creating housing’ @ 40%.

    How did she get 40% when others can barely get 25%?

    Because she up zoned a parcel from zero height to 240′; a super-win for the Giants owners. Guess they could afford to throw in some units on the air-wells.

  29. Because he probably is greatly enriched by ALL of the developers who will profit, as opposed to JUST the ones here.

  30. And that is what Wiener’s bill does. Look at the maps that show areas it will affect. Like ALL of San Francisco, and very, very, very little of Silicon Valley.

  31. And that is EXACTLY what Wiener is trying to preserve, and expand on. Wiener wants this, and more.

  32. Tim doesn’t mention that SF can still charge impact fees for transit. Maybe SF could do transit improvements faster then the 17 years it took to get Geary “rapid bus”? Not the state’s problem City Hall can’t get stuff done.

    What has Jane Kim upzoned? She went out of her way to stop upzoning single family neighborhoods in Home-SF. Her district leads in affordable housing because it is the only place apartments are legal. So why is she in the place that kicked out Willie Mays rallying opposition to spreading housing over the city?

  33. Oh yes, second to racial equality, environmentalism is the YIMBYs top priority. But we already know that.

  34. Damn Zhoosh, you’re the best research assistant around. I know I appreciate all the help you’ve given me.

    Say, what year was that 8 story SF apartment building in the pic taken? Is that what all the new buildings will look like?

    Thanks for having my back, pal.

  35. I can’t help but reminded of Transfer Energy Partners and the DAPL (Bakken Pipeline).

    If you get enough lawyers and lobbyists together you can buy democracy and bypass Environmental Impact Reports. T.E.P. was practically writing the Army Corps of Engineers’ press releases there at the end.

    Scott Wiener is looking to completely quash CEQA. Once again, Native Americans will get the fist. Yimby’s have no view of land aside from that of a commodity.

    In response, the NYTimes releases a modern image of the East Bay’s ancient Ohlone village and implies the origins of the bill are environmentally related. Is the picture taken from Conor Johnston’s parent’s house??

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/business/energy-environment/climate-density.html

  36. Local elections? But isn’t this a regional issue? I’ve read many times in 48 Hills about Cupertino and Mountain View hurting San Francisco by using it as a bedroom community. I ALWAYS hear about the problem of the Google buses shipping people here for the night.

    So why do you think that this is just a local issue that can be solved locally?

  37. Here is a quote from Michael Hendrix, director of state and local policy at the Manhattan Institute, a Libertarian think tank heavily funded by the Charles Koch Foundation: “But whether it passes or not, SB 827 shifts the window of acceptable
    discourse dramatically in favor of market-oriented reforms of housing
    policy. On that basis alone, Scott Wiener has positioned himself as a
    visionary reformer of California’s housing crisis.”

    This the real agenda here, and Wiener and his cohorts don’t give a damn about displacement.

  38. Answer: a couple more elections. Vote the grandstanding, interventionist politicians out of office.

  39. Uh no. Actually London Breed’s D5 is the poop and needles and trash on the sudewalks district. We’s got MASSIVE displacement (due to illegal and fraudulent evictions) and Breed parties with Conway, speculators, developers and realtors. If you are a renter in SF, London Breed has been selling you out for years.

  40. If the fight is indeed between the put-upon majority and the NIMBY minority, then let that majority exercise its political power in local elections.

  41. Prop B in 2014 already ensures that Muni funding scales with population growth. Housing won’t pop up overnight if 827 passes and in case you hadn’t noticed transit improvements along the Geary corridor are already underway regardless.

    Jane Kim would rather have San Francisco’s most vulnerable populations (most of which are already zoned for higher density) take the brunt of the pressure of displacement than let wealthy homeowners west of Divis do their part to alleviate the crisis.

  42. Here’s the problem, too many noses in other people’s back yards – that’s the YIMBY and Newby way. Weiner is a perfect example.

  43. I don’t know if Tim Redmond is a millionaire but there is more than a grain of truth that part of Kim’s district is worse under her so-called watch. It is also true that many of us prefer journalism that does not indulge in political advocacy I realize that in this day and age of narcissism, this is hard to come by. Having seen Kim in action, since she moved into her current district in order to run for supervisor and whose first act was to approve the tax breaks which led to the very housing crisis she is now trying to utilize in her usual opportunist manner in order to win an election. She and Wiener have a lot in common in that they are both opportunists concerned mainly with their glorious careers. No one should trust this candidate to be Mayor of SF. I hope she keeps any suggestions for West Portal to herself in the meantime and leaves them to people who actually live in the district like George Wooding. It is interesting that Tim Redmond didn’t include Norman Yee, the District Supervisor, as a district leader.

  44. That would be nice, but the City demonstrably hasn’t dealt with it. And cities around the state have demonstrably failed to deal with similar situations elsewhere. In the meantime we have a worsening climate crisis and a worsening housing crisis. Given that local governments have proved themselves incapable of addressing these problems, it’s time for the state to step in.

  45. Jane Kim, the Supervisor who represents San Francisco’s poop and needles district, now joins the fight for housing exclusivity and NIMBY power. So it makes perfect sense that Tim Redmond, the millionaire homeowner from Bernal Heights, throws his hat in with her.

  46. So you’re fine if Brisbane wants to build 5,000 offices and wants to leave the related housing to San Francisco? Because that is a local issue for Brisbane to decide?

  47. SB827 would have statewide implications. Maybe Mr. Wiener wanted to have the zoning changes encompass more than the City to get the towns down the peninsula to share the housing burden.

    When Costa-Hawkins is repealed with the November initiative, we will be able to get those same towns to adopt strict rent control. Sounds like a win-win.

  48. If upzoning the city is such a great idea, why couldn’t Wiener do it with a BoS that’s half sympathetic to it, and with a pro-development mayor and a pro-development planning department?

  49. Let the City deal with it. We have a planning department, we have a planning commission, we have a Board of Supervisors. How many people in the State Assembly have even heard of West Portal?

  50. So does Jane Kim favor preserving West Portal’s 25′ height limit inviolate? Many older historic buildings along West Portal exceed that height limit. The relatively new buildings that comply with that height limit are mostly hideous. And they’re single use structures that don’t provide any housing despite being adjacent to multiple Muni lines and being in the midst of a major neighborhood commercial district. If she’s willing to raise the height limit, does she have the guts to tell that to anyone on the west side of town?

  51. What does it take for our state representatives to deal with the affairs of state and leave the local governments alone to work on local issues?

Comments are closed.