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News + PoliticsHousingA (major) new twist on affordable housing legislation

A (major) new twist on affordable housing legislation

Last-minute Mandelman move seeks to allow widespread housing demolition—potentially dooming Chan's affordable-housing measure.

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The Board of Supes delayed consideration of an affordable-housing measure today after a hearing that showed how the fall campaign on this critical issue may play out.

The San Francisco Labor Council and some construction unions are siding with Sup. Connie Chan’s measure, which would give developers a valuable fast-track process for projects that are 100 percent affordable or contain a significant number of units affordable to people who make less than 120 percent of Area Median Income.

Sup. Rafael Mandelman throws a huge wrench into affordable-housing politics

But the Yimbys, who have their own ballot measure that raises the limit of “affordability” to 140 percent of AMI, have managed to get some labor folks, including members of the Carpenters Union, to side with them.

During public comment, a number of union members said they sided with the Yimby measure and opposed Chan’s plan.

That, Chan said, showed that the Yimbys were seeking to “divide the labor movement.” Chan’s measure sets higher labor standards for affordable-housing production.

Then we saw a perhaps unexpected twist: Sup. Rafael Mandelman offered an amendment to the Chan measure that would allow for-profit developers to get fast-track approval (that is, no public hearings, no appeals) to demolish existing housing in any neighborhood and build up to nine new units.

The only rule: Developers can’t tear down any housing built before 1945.

Mandelman said that he agrees the city needs more affordable housing, but said he also supports more market-rate housing, and this might be a way to encourage more projects.

He said that might be a compromise that San Franciscans “in the middle” could support.

His proposal had nothing to do with the original City Charter amendment, and it came as a big surprise to other committee members: “This arrived in my inbox late last night,” Chair Aaron Peskin told me.

And if it’s added into Chan’s bill, it would have, I think, two impacts: The Yimbys would both applaud and be confused because Mandelman’s measure goes even further than theirs—and it would get massive neighborhood opposition, probably enough to doom it and guarantee the Yimby version won.

People all over the city have different ideas of how to address the housing crisis, and that debate’s been going on for a long time. But I think there is going to be substantial resistance to large-scale bulldozing of existing housing—even if the rules require that existing tenants can move back at the same rent.

Demolition and reconstruction takes a year or more. People evicted for a demolition will move somewhere else, possibly out of town, because the law doesn’t require the developer to pay their (much higher) rent while they are waiting for the new housing to be built.

That concept has never worked.

So Mandelman’s amendments seem to me like a poison pill that would mark the end of the Chan approach. I can’t imagine that the board would include it in the final product.

That, along with all of the other Charter amendments, were continued until next Wednesday.

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Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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