SF supes oppose Wiener real-estate bill

Breed sides with Wiener as debate shows clear differences among candidates for mayor

The Board of Supes voted today to oppose State Senator Scott Wiener’s real-estate bill, SB 827, which would upzone most of San Francisco. 

The discussion over the bill became a debate about much larger housing issues – and demonstrated the sharp distinctions between political leaders who want to rely on the private market to solve housing problems and those who say that market has failed.

A coalition of neighborhood groups, tenants, and small businesses rallied against SB 827. Photo by Dan Raile

Peskin argued that the bill “fundamentally disrupts communities. We need to send a signal to Sen. Wiener and [co-sponsor] Assemblymember Phil Ting that the discussion needs to start here.” He called for a “full stop, let’s start this over.”

If the state wants to address housing, he said, the legislators could start by sending cities more money and repealing Costa-Hawkins and the Ellis Act.

Sup. Hillary Ronen went further, saying that “I don’t believe that increasing the supply of luxury housing will trickle down” and provide affordable units. “It’s never going to happen.”

And, she noted, the bill “gets rid of the entire discipline of city planning.”

Sup. Sandra Lee Fewer pointed out the bill would not provide funding for the public amenities, particularly the schools, that would be needed for all the new residents. “We are five schools short of what we need” with the existing approved new housing, she said.

Sup. Jane Kim said: “When you confer value to land, you are giving those landowners and developers money. This is a giveaway without asking anything back.” In her district, she said, she has sought to get some of that money back by demanding more affordable housing, parks, transit funding and other amenities.”

In the case of the recent Giants project, she said, by demanding that some of the new wealth the team received from upzoning be shared with the city, we got an agreement to build 40 percent affordable housing instead of 12 percent.

A local planning process, she said, allows for that.

“Government used to be in the business of building housing,” Kim said. “In 1980, Ronald Reagan decided that the private market should be responsible for building housing for all of us.” That’s been the policy ever since (through both Republican and Democratic administrations). The result: Homelessness and displacement.

Peskin argued that this sort of upzoning is going to run up land costs. The land on Haight and Stanyan, where a McDonald’s will be replaced with affordable housing, would have cost the city a lot more than $15 million if it were zoned at 85 feet.

Sup. London Breed, who yesterday refused to take a stand on the bill as she was being endorsed by Wiener (across from Leno’s Castro campaign headquarters), today said that she wouldn’t vote to oppose it. “The intent of the bill is to promote more housing near transit,” she said. “We aren’t doing enough to build housing and we aren’t doing it fast enough.”

Her position directly conflicts with what Ronen was saying and puts her on record supporting market-rate housing as a solution to the crisis.

It also has an impact on the mayor’s race: Kim and Mark Leno are opposing SB 827, and with Breed taking a public position in support of the bill’s basic idea and declining to oppose it, the three major candidates have a clear difference.

Peskin proposed amendments to the ordinance, which had been watered down in committee; he asked that the measure specifically put the city on record opposing SB 827. That amendment passed 7-4 with Breed, Ahsha Safai, Katy Tang, and Jeff Sheehy in opposition.

Then Breed said she would vote against the resolution and would work closely with Sen. Wiener to create more housing for San Francisco.

The final measure passed 8-3, with Katy Tang voting this time in favor.

So the San Francisco Board of Supes has taken a stand against SB 827, joining Los Angeles as a major city that doesn’t want to see the Wiener bill pass.

The vote came after a rally on the steps of City Hall by a broad coalition of neighborhood, tenant, housing, small business and community groups – disrupted repeatedly by a small group of Yimbys.

The coalition brought some 60 people to the event, with Sup. Aaron Peskin, Sup. Jane Kim, and former Mayor Art Agnos among the speakers. Also represented were leaders of community organizations from the Mission, Chinatown, Cow Hollow and Excelsior, the Sierra Club, the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, and tenant rights groups.

Things quickly devolved into cacophony as the outnumbered Yimbys chanted over every speaker who took the podium. In the merciful pauses between chants, speakers could be heard decrying the projected impacts of the bill. 

“I want to announce that we have the votes!” said Supervisor Peskin early in the proceedings. Yet chants continued unabated.

A small group of Yimbys tried to shout down the No on SB 827 rally. Photo by Dan Raile

“Look at these people and look at us, the people they are chanting over,” Shanti Singh of the DSA SF Housing Committee said from the podium. “Do you see any differences?” 

The Yimby delegation was overwhelmingly composed of young white men shouting over a diverse series of speakers at the podium. As Singh wrapped up her comments the Yimbys chanted “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, the status quo has got to go!” The larger group quickly countered with a chant of “You are the status quo!” 

Following is the letter that this unusual coalition sent the board:

We, the undersigned residents and organizations, represent communities across San Francisco— rich and poor, tenant and homeowner, newcomers and old-timers.  We stand together with others across the State of California to urge defeat of SB 827 (Wiener) in any form. 

This bill unilaterally removes the opportunity of residents in every part of this city to participate in basic decisions about land use, zoning, and the livability and sustainability of our communities.  It is fundamentally and irreparably flawed.

SB 827 forces a top-down, one-size-fits-all strategy that would destabilize the character of many of our neighborhoods, revoking power from our local elected representatives and planning departments, and silencing public input on new development — input that can and has resulted in more affordability, more jobs, and stronger communities.

In the name of ‘transit friendly housing’, SB 827 undermines the ability of San Francisco, the most transit friendly city in the state, to plan and support our publicly financed transit system and  it would discourage other cities from creating or expanding their own systems to avoid triggering SB 827.  In the name of affordability, it would reward real estate speculators with enormous windfalls and weakens our city’s ability to incentivize and create more affordable housing.  It would not require the actual building of a single affordable unit, but instead allows entitled projects to be bought and sold over and over again; making money for speculators and not producing critically needed housing.  And while it would include limited protections for tenants who are directly displaced by new market rate projects, it completely fails to address indirect displacement caused by rising real estate prices and higher rents.

Furthermore, SB 827 would incentivize the destruction of established commercial spaces and the displacement of neighborhood-serving businesses.  Such losses would accelerate the widespread cultural and economic displacement that many of our communities are already experiencing.

In addition to the direct and physical harm it would cause to our neighborhoods, SB 827 would more generally undermine our democratic processes and ability to protect the environment.

By overriding local planning and environmental requirements, SB 827 would also override our city’s efforts to be sustainable.  If the bill is adopted, new growth would be imposed by developers at almost any city location of their choosing, increasing demands on existing water and sewer systems, roads, utilities, schools, parks, and other public services and infrastructure. Such developments would be approved with minimal public review, without full disclosure or analysis of impacts, and without consideration of more sustainable and environmentally sound alternatives.

Advocates of SB 827 have created a false narrative.  The bill promises smart growth, but it would deliver the opposite.  It would require unplannedgrowth imposed by Sacramento at the behest of for-profit developers and real estate investors.  Yet contrary to the claims of those developers and their allies, there are better, more inclusive, and more sustainable alternatives when we are able to work together as a city. 

San Francisco has more housing density and more affordable housing per square mile than most cities in the country — not because of a mandate by Sacramento — but because of decades of action at a local level.  We have the most intensive public transit systems in the state —  not because of politicians in Sacramento — but because our residents vote to support and pay for it.  Through our own locally controlled planning process we have more than 60,000 fully approved new units of housing awaiting construction.  And we can do even more together.

Indeed, if it were not for restrictive laws imposed by politicians in Sacramento, San Francisco would have stronger protections for tenants against excessive rents and evictions, and we would require for-profit developers to build more inclusionary housing. 

Consensus building and local democracy can work if we are allowed to practice it.

For all these reasons, the assumptions, values, and logic of SB 827 are fundamentally flawed.  We therefore urge the Board of Supervisors to adopt a resolution to oppose SB 827.

Respectfully,

ART AGNOS, Former Mayor

AFFORDABLE DIVIS

Gus Hernandez and Charles Dupigny, Co-Chairs

AFFORDABLE HOUSING ALLIANCE

Mitchell Omerberg, Executive Director

ALLIANCE OF CALIFORNIANS FOR COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT (ACCE) ACTION

ANTI EVICTION MAPPING PROJECT

ASIAN AMERICANS ADVANCING JUSTICE — CALIFORNIA

Andrew Medina

THE BOOKSMITH

Christin Evans, Owner

CATHEDRAL HILL NEIGHBORS

CAUSA JUSTA :: JUST CAUSE

Vanessa Moses, Executive Director

CHINATOWN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CENTER

Rev. Norman Fong, Executive Director

CHINESE PROGRESSIVE ASSOCIATION

Alex Tom, Executive Director

COALITION FOR SAN FRANCISCO NEIGHBORHOODS

George Wooding, President

COMMUNITY TENANTS ASSOCIATION

Wing Hoo Leung, President

CORBETT HEIGHTS NEIGHBORS

Gary Weiss, President

COW HOLLOW ASSOCIATION

Lori Brooke, President

CULTURAL ACTION NETWORK\

D5 ACTION

Tes Welborn, Coordinator

DOLORES HEIGHTS IMPROVEMENT CLUB

Carolyn Kenady, Chair

DOLORES STREET COMMUNITY SERVICES

BECKY EVANS, Chair, SF Group, Sierra Club*

FACTORY 1 DESIGN

Larisa Pedroncelli and Kelly Scott Hill, Owners

FAYE LACANILAO, Communities United for Health and Justice*

GOLDEN GATE VALLEY NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION

Bob David, Director

GROW POTRERO RESPONSIBLY

HAIGHT-ASHBURY NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL

Bruce Wolfe, President

MATT HANEY, School Board Commissioner

HOMIES ORGANIZING THE MISSION TO EMPOWER YOUTH (HOMEY)

Roberto Eligio Alfaro, Executive Director

HOUSING RIGHTS COMMITTEE OF SAN FRANCISCO

Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, Executive Director

LIBERTY HILL NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION

Dr. Elizabeth Fromer Valenzuela, President

LITTLE HOUSE COMMITTEE

Nancy Wuerfel

LIVABLE CALIFORNIA

ERIC MAR, Educator,  Former Supervisor

 

MARINA COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION

Jason Pelligrini, President

MISSION ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

Luis Granados, Executive Director

MISSION NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER

Sam Ruiz, Executive Director

NOE NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL

Ozzie Rohm, Co-founder

PEOPLE ORGANIZING TO DEMAND ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS (PODER)

 

PRESIDIO HEIGHTS ASSOCIATION OF NEIGHBORS

Charles Ferguson, Board President

REDSTONE TENANTS ASSOCIATION

Gary Gregerson, Board President

RUSSIAN HILL COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
Kathleen Courtney, Chair Housing & Zoning

SAN FRANCISCO INFORMATION CLEARINGHOUSE

Calvin Welch, Board member

SAN FRANCISCO TENANTS UNION

Deep Varma, Executive Director

SAVE THE HILL

 SAVE MUNI

SENIOR AND DISABILITY ACTION

SHANTI SINGH, SF Democratic Socialists of America, Steering Committee*

SUNSET-PARKSIDE EDUCATION AND ACTION COMMITTEE (SPEAK)

Eileen Boken, President

TELEGRAPH HILL DWELLERS

Judy Irving, President

*Affiliation for identification only

Additional reporting by Dan Raile