Friday, March 5, 2021
News + Politics Housing ABAG's regional housing plan is a fantasy

ABAG’s regional housing plan is a fantasy

The affordable housing won't get built, developers will get rich, and low-income communities will be devastated.


After two years of study, the Association of Bay Area Governments has approved new legally-binding “goals” for construction of future housing in the region’s nine counties to meet cumulative estimated economic/population Growth over the next 10 years to 2031 – the Regional Housing Needs Assessment.

ABAG’s plan is a recipe for more displacement.

According to the document, 58 percent of the 441,000 new housing units that will be required for that growth – 256,000 housing units throughout the Bay Area – will need to be affordable at below-market rents/prices.

For-profit developers can’t and won’t build it. Only higher-priced market-rate housing development “pencils out” as financially feasible for them to build. And they fight against any inclusionary affordable housing requirements for their market-rate housing projects that might provide some of it, maybe 10 percent, of the total need.

ABAG knows that.

All the existing local, state, and federal affordable housing programs add up to only 10 percent of the money needed to build this much affordable housing. And huge new federal programs are still just wishful thinking for who-knows-how long.

ABAG knows that too.

So 80 percent or more of this needed affordable housing – 200,000 units or more – just won’t get built, period.

ABAG knows that damn well.

Which means all their lofty words about protecting the Bay Area’s “diversity” and “equity” in their RHNA Plan are drenched with insincerity. And they also know that.

But that isn’t really “the plan” anyway. It never was.

The REAL RHNA PLAN is for private for-profit developers and private for-profit investors to:

  1. Take over the “transit rich” Central City neighborhoods of the Bay Area with property speculation of their developable sites and existing housing stock.
  2. Push out their longtime Black, Brown, and immigrant communities through gentrification.
  3. Use Yimby-inspired housing development “streamlining” and “density bonus” rules to build expensive new high-density housing projects there.
  4. Move in mostly white bourgeois new economy workers — people like themselves (or like their kids) — to replace those former lower-income, immigrants, and people of color neighborhood residents. Where do they go? Far away someplace (Stockton? Vallejo? Manteca?)

Of course, you need to get the homeless there out of the way somehow too. But that is proving more difficult – there are more and more of them. Hmmmm … wonder why.

But all this is environmentally responsible, ABAG says. Well, how about the environmentally sustainable alternative? How about instead slowing down economic growth to match the new supply of affordable housing that actually is built in the Bay Area? To maintain a jobs/housing balance based on reality? A year ago San Francisco voters approved Proposition E to actually do that by linking and limiting future office development in San Francisco to actual affordable housing construction.

Nope, ABAG is not interested in anything that would slow growth like that!

Growth, RHNA, Plan Bay Area, etc. – It’s really all about private capitalism making money, and the conquest and taking over of all the “good spots” in our Bay Area from whoever is in the way of those with money that want them. Sound familiar? Like … the history of America?


  1. When Newsom commanded Elberling hup to and kill anti-displacement boomproof zoning for Western SOMA in the 2000s, John folded like a chair for Gavin and the developers. TODCO’s city funding was thus never imperiled.

    Not to worry progressive San Franciscans, with people like Elberling, Cohen and Marti out there representing for us, everything is going to be alright. Now you’re just going to feel a little prick. There you go. Nitey night.

    What we’re seeing here is a sleight of hand, where “progressives” are drinking the YIMBY Kool-Aid and urging profitable upzonings for the West Side because the West Side piled up on the East Side with Eastern Neighborhoods and Market Octavia bogus TOD upzoning schemes that were luxury condo/TNC development.

    The response to their failure has been to try to generalize the misery. The nonprofiteers’ work will not be done until we are all equally miserable.

    If the choice is to side with San Franciscans who live in nicer neighborhoods or developers, I’m going with our neighbors, thanks.

    Mandelman and Temprano have cast their lot with the developers.

  2. kevinburke “You could use the property tax revenue from sixplexes in Forest Hill to build BMR housing wherever you want in SF.”

    Property taxes are supposed to fund ongoing government operations to support the households paying property taxes, not to be shunted off to fund projects like affordable housing. More people means more government services to support the infrastructure they rely on.

    If you think that the Muni Metro subway is a good transit connection and that it has capacity to handle greater loads, or if there are plans to buy rolling stock to handle added loads from intensification of land use, then it is obvious that you’ve never had to rely on these systems for your economic well being.

  3. This take is premised on the idea that SF will choose to upzone low income communities.

    If SF chooses to upzone its wealthy areas instead of its low income areas – places with good connections to transit, like Forest Hill, St. Francis Wood, West Portal, and Glen Park – how would this result in Black and Brown people getting displaced? Those communities have more white residents than the city average.

    You could use the property tax revenue from sixplexes in Forest Hill to build BMR housing wherever you want in SF.

    The median income in Forest Hill is over $200,000, it really can’t gentrify any further.

  4. “Move in mostly white bourgeois new economy workers — people like themselves (or like their kids) — to replace those former lower-income, immigrants, and people of color neighborhood residents. Where do they go? Far away someplace (Stockton? Vallejo? Manteca?)”

    Bourgeois, huh?

    Out of curiosity what do you think are the ideal quotas for the Bay Area by race? What is your big idea for changing the racial composition to something that better fits your personal preferences for non-whites over whites?

    And why bring up race at all? After all there are more poor whites than any other race.

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