I went to State Sen. Scott Wiener’s virtual town hall tonight, and nothing he said should have surprised me. But for the record, he said that the “best thing that’s happened” in San Francisco and California politics is the rise of the Yimbys.
He also expressed strong support for a giant project in Potrero Hill that is a case study in what can happen under state legislation he sponsored.
Wiener encouraged everyone attending (and because of the way his office controlled the Zoom room, I was unable to count the people online) to join a state or local Yimby group.
“I encourage you to get involved in the Yimby movement,” he said.
And he kept saying that cities like San Francisco and areas like West Los Angeles “haven’t built enough housing.”
For the record: Cities right now don’t build housing. Developers do.
And there is no evidence that developers, left unchecked as Wiener wants, will lower the cost of housing. In fact, much of the evidence says the opposite.
Wiener talked about a lot of the bills he’s introduced, and many of them are great. He wants to decriminalize psychedelics. He wants to repeal the law that lets cops target people (mostly trans women and people of color) for “loitering with intent to commit prostitution.” He talked about the need for safe injections sites. He’s managed to get state money for housing for transition-aged youth.
These are all things that a San Francisco state legislator should push for. (He also attacked PG&E and said he is a “longtime supporter of public power,” but that depends on the definition of “longtime.” The historic record shows that he didn’t submit or sign onto a ballot argument in favor of public power in the critical 2001 election. He didn’t push the issue in any significant way when he was a supervisor.)
But when it comes to housing, he was happy to promote his pro-developer agenda—including offering his complete, unmitigated support for a giant project at 300 DeHaro Street that is getting pushed through with no neighborhood input, and no Planning Department input, and no Board of Supervisors hearing.
The De Haro project will rise 120 feet at the foot of Potrero Hill, and will include 450 units of mostly expensive SRO housing—tiny rooms with shared bathrooms and kitchens that will appeal almost entirely to young, single people with plenty of money.
There are no family units.
The building will include 40 units – that’s eight percent—affordable to people who make less than $47,000 a year. Another 127 will target people making less than $75,000 a year. (Remember, this is individual income—none of the units, at 300 square feet, are designed for more than one person.)
It will, one neighborhood resident said, become a “glorified Airbnb hotel.” (It would, for example, be perfect for short-term corporate housing.)
The developer initially met with neighborhood folks, who were willing to negotiate for a project slightly small than the original plans. But there was never any serious discussion— in fact, the developer quickly stoped talking to the neighbors and used SB 35, a state law sponsored by Wiener, to almost double the size of the project and eliminate any community oversight.
It will be built without Planning Commission approval. There is no process for the supes to weigh in.
This is, apparently, exactly what Wiener was hoping for. He said tonight that “I’m really glad to see this moving forward. The developer tried to work with the neighbors but that doesn’t always work out.”
In fact, I spoke tonight to J. R. Eppler, president of the Potrero Boosters. He told me that what Wiener said was “patently false.” The developer, he said, “never tried to work with us.”
He added: “We have worked with numerous housing developers, and always wound up with a better project.”
Not any more. Not when the developer has the nuclear option of simply using Wiener’s law to ignore anything the community wants.
Oh, Wiener took questions, though the Q&A function on Zoom. I asked one: Do you opposed the recall of Chesa Boudin?
He read and answered all the others, then said there were no questions left and ended the meeting. I never got an answer.