Does more density bring down housing costs? Come to the debate

Plus: Big changes in the campaign-finance laws -- and all the presidential candidates will be in town this weekend! That's The Agenda for May 26-June 6

The biggest change to housing law in California in decades – state Sen. Scott Wiener’s AB 50– is on hold, for the moment. But Wiener isn’t giving up, and at the latest, this bill could come back in January 2020.

And the debate over whether increased density will bring down housing prices in cities is by no means over.

Do we want Manhattan-level density in SF? Will it help?

One of the most compelling voices in that debate – UCLA economic geographer Michael Storper – will be in San Francisco Thursday/30to talk about the role of density in housing prices, his new study on the issue, and the future of the Wiener/Yimby agenda.

Storper is one of the most important academics challenging the notion – which oddly has become accepted dogma in the mainstream media and even places like The Nation– that more private-sector development will solve the urban housing crisis.

He suggests that

Policies such as blanket upzoning, which will principally unleash market forces that serve high income earners, are therefore likely to reinforce the effects of income inequality rather than tempering them … There is virtually no evidence that substantially lower costs would trickle down to the lower two-thirds of households or provide quality upgrading of their neighbourhoods, but it undoubtedly would enhance displacement in neighbourhoods currently at the boundary of higher-income inner metropolitan areas. Indeed, according to Zillow data reported in The Washington Post (August 6, 2018), rents are now declining for the highest earners while continuing to increase for the poorest in San Francisco, Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, noting that a boom in luxury construction in these areas has failed to ease housing market competition for cheaper properties.

 

The event is free, open to all. There will be plenty of time for audience questions and discussion. It’s at 6:30pm, at the LGBT Center Rainbow Room, 1800 Market, SF.

It will also be livestreamed on our site.  But if you’re in town, show up in person –you can ask questions and participate in the discussion!

There’s not much happening with the supes this week, since the holiday has meant that most meetings are cancelled. But the Ethics Commission will meet Wednesday/29to consider some major changes to the local campaign finance law.

In essence, the city hasn’t updated its rules for matching funds in some time, and supporters say it’s time to catch up.

According to Steve Hill, who is promoting the changes, the new rules would:

1) Increase the maximum amount of public financing that a candidate can receive to $255,000 in a supervisor’s race and $1.2 million in a mayoral race. As the cost of campaigns escalates, grassroots and under-funded candidates need to be able to be competitive;

2) Increase the spending limit for publicly financed candidates to $350,000 (supervisor) and $1.7 million (mayor). This will ensure that publicly financed candidates are not badly outspent by big money candidates and their independent expenditure committees;

3) Increase the match of public financing funds that candidates receive from the current $2 in public money for every $1 in private money raised, to $6 for every $1 dollar raised (a level that Los Angeles, Berkeley and New York City already have);

4) Increase the initial grant given to publicly financed candidates to $60,000 (supervisor) and $300,000 (mayor) from the current $20,000 and $100,000.

There are some who argue that the city should also start disbursing money to candidates earlier in the cycle; that, they say, could help grassroots contenders get started (since let’s face it, many campaigns now start at least a year before Election Day.) Hill wants the date to stay the same as it is now.

It takes four votes on the five-member commission to move legislation, and right now there’s a vacant seat (commissioner Quentin Kopp has resigned and not been replaced). So every member would have to vote Aye for this to pass.

The meeting’s in Room 416 at 2pm.

The state Democratic Convention is in San Francisco Friday/31 to Sunday/2.It’s going to be a scene – pretty much every Democrat who is running for president will be there. I will be there, too – and posting updates on everything that happens, from the sex-workers rally to the MoveOn “Big Ideas” event to the candidate speeches.

As they say, watch this space.