Wiener upzoning bill dies in committee

SB 827 appears dead for this year -- but the senator isn't giving up

State Sen. Scott Wiener’s bill that would give the state more control over local zoning and mandate taller buildings on transit corridors died in committee today, but Wiener has vowed to bring it back.

Sen. Scott Wiener wants to force cities to allow more high-end housing, without giving them the tools or money to control the impacts

SB 827, which has galvanized tenant groups, anti-displacement advocates and neighborhoods around the state, lost 3-7 at the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

That’s a huge setback for Wiener, since the committee is by no means a center of progressive thought – and most of the members don’t represent cities that could be heavily impacted by the bill.

Wiener said that this is just the start of his effort to let the private market solve the state’s housing crisis:

“While I’m disappointed that Senate Bill 827 won’t be moving forward this year, I’m heartened by the conversation it has started, both with those who support the bill and with critics of the bill. The passion we have seen around this bill is driven by what we are all feeling – that California’s housing costs are unsustainable and our housing policies aren’t working. California needs to get at the heart of our housing shortage, not just work around the edges, or we will become a hollowed out state with no middle class …Now, my job is to take the conversation started by SB 827, and get to work on developing a proposal that meets the ambitious goals of this bill, while incorporating what we have learned since we introduced it. I will continue to work with anyone who shares the critical goals of creating more housing for people in California, and I look forward to working in the coming months to develop a strong proposal for next year. 

Sup. Jane Kim, who is campaigning for mayor in part on her opposition to this bill and its approach, released a statement tonight saying that:

“Today’s clear vote to reject SB 827 reflects the powerful voices of neighborhood, environmental, affordable housing, tenant and community groups who united to fight this fundamentally flawed bill,” said Kim.  “What San Francisco needs is to work together to build more affordable and middle-class housing – not more luxury condos.  Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, we can build more housing without destroying our wonderful neighborhoods or turning over decisions about San Francisco’s future to developers and lobbyists.  I have no doubt that the powerful forces behind SB 827 will try again, so this battle has just begun.  I stand with the voters who know that San Francisco is our city –we need to shape it.”

The debate over SB 287 sharpened the divisions in the mayor’s race, with Sup. London Breed backing the bill and Kim and Mark Leno opposing it.

Kim has particularly used the measure to seek votes on the west side – and now will have to make clear that the threat is not over. Wiener is nothing if not tenacious, and the idea that the state Legislature will do what is has done over the past two decades – take away the ability of local government to mitigate the impacts of growth and gentrification – has not gone away.

72 COMMENTS

  1. The article cited on “myths and facts” of SB 827 is from a YIMBY propaganda rag with no journalistic integrity. The author, Cathy Reisenwitz, is a disaster capitalist who has suggested privatizing Puerto Rico, getting rid of minimum wage requirements and Welfare benefits.
    https://fee.org/people/cathy-reisenwitz/

  2. Regular Joe’s bought the houses for less than $38k in 60s & 70s
    It’s the insane idiots who buy $4 toast that pumped the paper value up. Peeps on west side not sellinh. The prop 13 pass thru is too valuable

  3. But it doesn’t mean we can raise all the funds we need through development taxes (as opposed to property taxes).

    In other words, market-based solutions are not going to get us there.

    That one source of taxation would not be enough to implement a social program says nothing about whether “market-based solutions” work. As I said earlier, there is no “nexus” between housing development and housing unaffordability, so inclusionary housing is not a Pigovian tax. It’s just a revenue tax on those landowners who choose to build housing, and there is a limit to how high you can tax before it changes their decision.

    The effect on population income distribution is clear, exact and immediate. The effect on affordability is speculative, qualitative and undemonstrated, and is unlikely based on economic theory.

    What, in your opinion, is the effect of development (with inclusionary housing) on income distribution? What, in your opinion, makes the microeconomic effect of increasing supply on price “unlikely”?

  4. Opponents of SB827 sound like an orchestra of scorched cats – yet not a peep about the horrific Central SoMa Plan about to destroy our community. It is okay to dump this shit in our neighborhood? Wiener was proposing 5-11 stories. We’re facing 35-40 story monstrosities sprouting in our historic low/mid-rise neighborhood. Wake up folks and say something.

  5. But it doesn’t mean we can raise all the funds we need through development taxes (as opposed to property taxes).

    In other words, market-based solutions are not going to get us there.

    Based on economic theory, it’s the opposite; new housing on the market also makes existing housing more affordable.

    The effect on population income distribution is clear, exact and immediate. The effect on affordability is speculative, qualitative and undemonstrated, and is unlikely based on economic theory.

  6. Oh but Heart! Jane Kim had the audacity to use the term “high rise”! So that evens the score, doesn’t it?

  7. That’s not what I’m referring to. I am saying that a city should house all income levels alike.

    No argument there. But it doesn’t mean we can raise all the funds we need through development taxes (as opposed to property taxes).

    Any new housing with over 50% households/residents earning above the median will make it worse.

    On what basis? Based on economic theory, it’s the opposite; new housing on the market also makes existing housing more affordable.

  8. Spin and windy speeches about “bold” actions, “bold” plans, and “bold” visions are all Breed is good at. Don’t beleiev the hype! In the 3-4 way race for mayor, Breed is the only candidate to support SB 827. Breed is the only too 4 candidate to reject Prop F, the Tenants Right to Counsel. And London Breed has refused to take the “clean money” campaign pledge. And Breed has take big bucks from developers and serial Ellis Act evictors like realtor Bonnie Spindler. Even David Chiu and Malia Cohen refused campaign donations from people like that.

  9. We can do both at the same time through IZ and expanded public housing.

    We don’t, not enough, and never have.

  10. Building reduces rents for everyone. Why are you forgetting the wealthy SFH owners exist? We can do both at the same time through IZ and expanded public housing.

  11. So either 1. we build for the rich, hoping to catch up with the influx, and tell the non-rich to wait their turn until the rich have had their fill, or, 2. we tell the rich to wait their turn, until others have secure housing.

    Which is more fair? Which is going to reach income-balanced housing quicker?

  12. It sounds like you are probably referring to Tim Redmond’s article […], which is based on a bogus residential nexus study whose analysis stumbles right out of the gate.

    That’s not what I’m referring to. I am saying that a city should house all income levels alike. As an approximation, half the city’s housing should accommodate people earning at or below the median income. Right now the balance is moving toward richer people living in the city and others commuting in. Any new housing with over 50% households/residents earning above the median will make it worse.

  13. Again, you’re assuming that the BoS would not increase inclusionary rates to capture the value, which SB 827 would have respected.

  14. Gentrification happens because rich people want to move in and we don’t provide places for them to live, so they displace.

  15. Eastside Neighborhood plan already deregulated density in the gentrifying neighborhoods. So why is Tim Redmond against deregulating density in affluent West side neighborhoods to lower gentrification pressures?

  16. So it’s twice as densely populated. And is not home to world renowned technology, medical, and pharmaceutical companies.

    How does SF double it’s population density?

  17. 158-17 increases the affordable onsite rental units to 25% in the best case

    The main inclusionary requirement was actually 18% for rental units, with regular increases. The 25% requirement was only for neighborhoods with forthcoming area plans and were only set “Until such planning processes are complete.”

    That still means 75% unaffordable. This will keep gentrification going, if at a slower rate

    It sounds like you are probably referring to Tim Redmond’s article Why market-rate housing makes the crisis worse, which is based on a bogus residential nexus study whose analysis stumbles right out of the gate. It doesn’t answer the question of how high development fees should be to capture land value.

    (I haven’t read Elberling’s FB post, but his carefully reasoned dissent was added to the report.)

    Note that much of the uncertainty at the 2016–2017 Inclusionary Housing TAC was over how far back it would be possible to roll back land prices, as the regression in the Preliminary Report did not answer the question of what rent landowners can collect from existing or alternative uses instead of housing development. Without any numbers on alternatives to housing development, TAC members were left to wonder whether 2010 or 2012 would be a better baseline, or whether we can push land prices all the way to zero like Vienna (8/23/2016 recording, 1:23:00 to 1:40:00). There is less uncertainty for an upzoning; the baseline is the pre-uzponed land price.

  18. The committee did the right thing. But what’s up with senators who gave speeches about all the problems with this bill but wouldn’t vote.
    The yimby attacks against SB827 opposers in San Francisco covered in the press showed the yimby movement colors. No reasonable sensible politician wants to align themselves with this crazy, overly aggressive, hate mongering, divisive ‘party’ who hate anyone over 30 something and spin that single family homeowners are all old and wealthy and should die or retire soon to make way for them. They, and the big kahuna they helped get in office, are fronts/funded by developer/tech industry. They place no value on any lives but their own, and they’re chomping at the bit to bulldoze neighborhoods across California, that entitled Harvard grad Weiner, who grew up in a single family neighborhood in jersey, says are all wasting space and must be replaced with his unaffordable
    upzoned SB827 projects.
    The senators are not fooled.. upzoning increases land value, developers will not create affordable housing . This is nothing but a land grab for developers, who are the bulk of Weiner’s political funding.

  19. And at 39.3 square miles, Barcelona is smaller than San Francisco. And yet it supports a population of 1.6 million people with a better quality of life, ease of getting around, abundant parks and lots of public amenities. But it is also one of the most well planned cities on our planet. And guess what: infrastructure is improved ahead of any development and development is always based upon population goals – how many more people they want to house and what type of housing (luxury, public assistance, etc). I’m not saying that what they are doing would work in SF, but it is clear that HAVING A ROBUST PLAN THAT INCLUDES POPULATION GOALS AND PLANS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE AND SERVICES FOR THE PUBLIC is required for success. They do have problems, such as air pollution and petty crime, but those too are being dealt with, ever so slowly.

  20. These are not good enough. 158-17 increases the affordable onsite rental units to 25% in the best case. That still means 75% unaffordable. This will keep gentrification going, if at a slower rate. Incidentally, the ordinance contradicts the TAC report’s conclusion only five months earlier, that “Fees … which range from 14-18% onsite for apartment projects … are the maximum feasible requirements today.” (p. 9)

    (I haven’t read Elberling’s FB post, but his carefully reasoned dissent was added to the report.)

  21. Point taken, but we’re not Barcelona, which has; a. twice the population; b. likely better public transportation; c. apparently a lack laws covering property that municipalities will pay dearly for violating.

    Much of San Francisco’s lack of affordable housing is self-inflicted and the result of poor, if extant, leadership up and down the municipal ladder. So much so in fact that the city disposed of maintaining it’s public housing altogether.

  22. Aw shucks, ya got me! Here I was focused on the article and not the pictures. Oh well, so what? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. A slight exaggeration compared to your boy Wiener who misquoted a dead person who couldn’t stand him. But hey, I guess it’s even.

    You sound like a really nice person. Lets meet for coffee — you, me and Laura Foote Clark. We’ll have a few laughs.

  23. The “data” is that some neighborhoods are upzoned and others are not. And so long as that is the case, some neighborhoods are going to bear the brunt of big developments and other neighborhoods aren’t going to be touched. Your post above says that you think that’s unfair and that there should be a sharing of the pain. I agree. For whatever warts may have been in SB827, it seems like it could have helped change that dynamic. Now it has gone down in flames, for better or for worse. But that doesn’t mean that SF can’t change that dynamic, if our politicians had the will to do it. Meanwhile, the status quo remains: SOMA and other upzoned neighborhoods are going to be the ones dealing with large developments, and the Sunset and western neighborhoods get to stay how they are. I’m sure Norman Yee is very happy about that. Personally, i think those neighborhoods can handle some 4-5 story developments without their charm being affected. Reasonable minds can differ.

  24. Let’s see SF change IZ requirements first, to what it actually needs. I’m not convinced that it can or has the will to.

    San Francisco’s BoS is quite willing to push the limits to what is deemed feasible; see the inclusionary housing requirements (Ord. 158-17) passed following Proposition C and the TAC report. When more units become feasible upon the SB 827 upzoning, the BoS would have had the ability and willingness to capture that value. It’s disingenuous for politicians (particularly Jane Kim and John Elberling, who attended the TAC meetings and understand this stuff) to imply that they wouldn’t.

  25. This is a bit of good news, but the corporate developers will certainly be back after they pay off a few more pliable neoliberal politicians. There’s just too much gold in them thar flatlands….

  26. “We could have changed these requirements to capture the land value of upzoned parcels along with the SB 827 upzoning.”
    Let’s see SF change IZ requirements first, to what it actually needs. I’m not convinced that it can or has the will to.

  27. While the tone and objectives of the article are good, I reject the “data” is an apt for using to project what would happen. For one, the data has nothing to do with SB827.

    And if you don’t think that landlords in Chinatown, North Beach, the Marina, etc wouldn’t JUMP at the chance to be the next Angelo Sangiacomo, I think that maybe you need to get out more.

  28. Had you actually followed that link, you would have seen that the article in question contains a screen cap of Jane Kim’s ad, which has text reading: “UNLIMITED LUXURY CONDO HIGH RISES.”

    You’re really not very bright, are you?

  29. Thanks for alerting me that taking your claims seriously is a waste of time. No mention of high rises in that article. I guess you think you can attach a link and people will assume it substantiates your claim. More spin by the YIMBY squad.

  30. Thanks for that excellent example of spin: Nowhere in the above article or in my comment does it say “high-rises.” So, who are you quoting exactly?

  31. In reality upzoning means the developer proposes something as high as is permissible, with the least IZ permissible

    Inclusionary housing requirements (PC§415) are what is permissible. We could have changed these requirements to capture the land value of upzoned parcels along with the SB 827 upzoning.

    Only if the developer is the land owner. If the developer buys land after the upzoning, they’d have to pay so much more to the original land owner, who’d be reaping a windfall.

    The theory behind predictable inclusionary housing requirements, as described in the 2016–2017 Inclusionary Housing TAC Final Report, is that the cost of inclusionary housing is incident on the landowner and reduces the residual land value at the time that they become certain. The landowner does not get a windfall when high development fees go up at the same time as the upzoning.

  32. WUT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. ITS REALLY LOUD AT THIS SB827 DIED PARTY IM AT RN. ITS LIT AF ARJUNA

  33. So some neighborhoods bear all the burden while others just get to skate and never change? Give me a break.

  34. You should report that Breed is the only mayoral candidate who support SB 827. None of the other candidates do either. The message is clear, if you support the way San Francisco has been run since the tech community, big government and big tech took control of City Hall, vote for the candidate who supports NO CHANGE. If you are unhappy with the state of the city, vote for CHANGE.

  35. That’s not how it works. In reality upzoning means the developer proposes something as high as is permissible, with the least IZ permissible. If the locals scream bloody murder, the whole thing drags out until a “compromise” is reached: 25% IZ instead of 15%, 9 stories instead of 10, a few more 2 brs, a unit or two taken out for a bit more open space. If SF is politically incapable of getting maximum affordable housing out of the places which are already zoned high, it won’t be able to do so with newly upzoned land.

    “inclusionary requirements can now go as high as is feasible…SB 827 would have been an opportunity for San Francisco to increase the inclusionary requirements to capture almost all the increased land value from the upzoning.”
    Only if the developer is the land owner. If the developer buys land after the upzoning, they’d have to pay so much more to the original land owner, who’d be reaping a windfall. The land will be priced to the maximum that a developer can pay and have a profitable project, which means with the minimum affordability.

  36. Every year the Millennials are getting older and moving to the suburbs, just like the Baby Boomers before them. Wait a few years and YIMBY’s will be an endangered species. They will be crying for more single-family homes in the City.

  37. The nice thing about SF is the diversity of neighborhoods that are not equal; not homogenized and cookie cutter. These neighborhoods support a diversity of lifestyles.

  38. “California needs to get at the heart of our housing shortage, not just work around the edges, or we will become a hollowed out state with no middle class,”

    Wiener’s argument is now about the middle-class? Have there been studies to show the loss of the middle-class and the causes? And if we are losing the middle-class what are the negative consequences? So what if we are losing the middleclass?

    San Francisco has been losing the middleclass jobs and the middleclass workers for decades. The workers are following their jobs. How has that been harmful?

    The State argues that high housing costs threatens the current economic boom. At the same time, they say the economic boom caused the high prices. Slowing the boom will solve the housing crisis? If so, maybe a slower boom would be a good thing. Maybe a little loss in population would be a good thing.

    Overall, isn’t a boom better than a bust?

  39. You are really not very bright. But so full of hatred. Very entertaining.

    The good news is, rich Baby Boomers are a shrinking species. Every year, you get weaker. Time is on our side.

  40. Speaking of spin, perhaps someone could point out exactly which part of SB827 contained wording about “luxury condo high-rises.”

  41. And a minor setback for large developers who will now double-down on their efforts to undermine democracy with your help.

  42. Far from obsolete. She has proof that her position has a broad base of support, and Wiener, like the Terminator, has declared, “I”ll be back!” I’m sure the Breed machine is working furiously on how to spin Breeds support for 827. But of course, Breed is very, very good at spin. Very good.

  43. Homeowners all over the outer Sunset and Richmond are breathing sighs of relief, now that the blazing summer sun will continue to shine on their expansive lawns!

  44. We could always upzone the western neighborhoods a bit to make new construction a bit more equitable.

  45. Oh, and this is how a real city deals with a housing crisis:

    “Indeed, Barcelona has announced that it will appropriate five empty bank-owned properties that have been unoccupied for more than two years. That’s potentially just the start of it—there are more than 2,000 unoccupied homes across the city, much of it still fallout from the 2007 financial crisis.

    The homes will, pending appeal, be overseen by the city for between four and 10 years as medium-term residences for people on the public housing list. While the current list contains just five addresses, the city estimates that up to 600 empty apartments in areas of high demand could ultimately be pressed into public service using the law, helping to ease Barcelona’s affordable housing shortage.”

    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/04/barcelona-is-taking-over-repossessed-homes/558239/

  46. My guess is that SB827 would have done two things in San Francisco: Destroyed livable neighborhoods and drive up prices of single-family homes.

    Given that developers are in this for the money, most would not want to gamble by proposing to build an 8 story monster in the Sunset. It more likely that they would choose to build in our more densely populated neighborhoods such as North Beach, Polk Gulch. These are densely populated but livable “villages” and they would be overbuilt, eradicating any sense of neighborhood with ugly 5 and 8 story boxes, while the Richmond, the Sunset, a good part of Pacific Heights, St. Francis Wood, etc, remain as they are – single family dwelling neighborhoods.

    And, as developers are mostly building shoe box sized “homes”, the desirability of single-family homes would eventually increase as demand would increase when people would have to decide to continue to live here and start a family or head for the suburbs.

    Having denser neighborhoods potentially bear the brunt of this legislation was unfair.

  47. What you mean is, it would have provide a few token “affordable” units while building more an more luxury condos and apartments

    Read the bill. It’s not just “token” units. SB 827 would have respected local inclusionary housing requirements. And due to the Palmer Fix last year (AB 1505), inclusionary requirements can now go as high as is feasible. More inclusionary housing becomes feasible after an upzoning, so SB 827 would have been an opportunity for San Francisco to increase the inclusionary requirements to capture almost all the increased land value from the upzoning.

  48. What you mean is, it would have provide a few token “affordable” units while building more an more luxury condos and apartments. It would not have had any real impact on the housing crisis. But it would have made Wiener’s supporters very rich.

  49. Wouldn’t put it past some of the YIMBY’s with hurt feelings to have voodoo dolls of individuals they hate. Like Tim or Jane-

  50. Throughout his coverage of SB 827, Tim Redmond has consistently avoided complaining about the actual contents of the bill (the well-known impacts of height and density including shadows and loss of parking), instead filling his articles with straw man arguments that either mislead or lie outright. In this article, he writes that SB 827 would “take away the ability of local government to mitigate the impacts of growth and gentrification,” when SB 827 did not limit mitigations to growth (i.e., impact fees) or limit inclusionary housing used to reverse displacement. And he parrots Jane Kim’s pandering, which again implies that the bill prevents us from “build[ing] more affordable and middle-class housing,” when it would have enabled us to do exactly that by raising the inclusionary requirements.

  51. Well, now that that has been shelved, and the scourge of scooters has been dealt with, I really hope our BOS, Mayor, DA and blogosphere can address the situation down in Hunter’s Point. The massive fraud being perpetrated there is simply an outrage (almost as bad as scooters!) but I really haven’t heard a peep from those is power about what should be done.

  52. Wiener was furiously adding amendments, and promising more, to cover the unintended consequences of this bill. And even if it passed, more unintended consequences would pop up afterwards, which would again require action by the Senate and Assembly to fix.

    Wiener’s thinks he is so smart he can short-circuit the whole thing. Like other hubristic would-be disruptors, he convinced himself and a few fans, and not many others.