Sponsored link
Monday, March 4, 2024

Sponsored link

News + PoliticsHousingNewsom tries to pressure SF to adopt a housing plan that will...

Newsom tries to pressure SF to adopt a housing plan that will never work

Governor's Office, in highly unusual move, lobbies local Planning Commission on Breed legislation.

-

In a highly unusual move, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Office is lobbying the San Francisco Planning Commission to approve a plan by Mayor London Breed that could lead to the wholesale demolition of existing housing on the West Side of the city.

Newsom’s Department of Housing and Community Development sent a letter June 16 to the SF Planning Commission urging support for the “Constraints Reduction Ordinance.”

The governor is pushing a housing policy that can’t possibly work.

That position is consistent with Newsom’s position on housing: The biggest problem, the governor insists, is that cities put too many rules on new development. His entire housing policy, such as it is, involves “constraint reduction.”

The letter, signed by Melinda Coy, who has the title of “proactive housing accountability chief” (I bet Newsom came up with that himself), states that

HCD’s determination that the City’s adopted housing element complies with State Housing Element Law was based in substantial part on the City’s programmatic commitments to amend the Planning Code in a way that would reduce discretionary and procedural processes, standardize zoning and land use requirements, permit group housing broadly throughout the City, and increase financial feasibility for housing projects. The proposed changes in the Ordinance would fully or partially satisfy some of the housing element’s commitments (set forth as Actions) ahead of the timeframes provided in the housing element.

By implementing the above programs, as well as other Planning Code changes put forward in the Ordinance, the City can increase certainty of approval for a wider range of housing projects, thus reducing the risk associated with building housing in San Francisco.

It’s a bit bizarre. The Governor’s Office is, in essence, telling local officials that they have to eliminate much public input into development projects to comply with a Housing Element that is, almost by definition, a farce.

The Housing Element mandates 82,000 new units in the city in the next eight years (now about 7.5 years). The city also promised that 46,000 of those would be affordable.

That’s simply impossible, unless the state and the feds kick in huge amounts of affordable-housing money, and everyone who has looked at the numbers and discussed them honestly agrees.

San Francisco can’t force private developers to build—and the reason no market-rate housing is getting built right now has a lot to do with the Federal Reserve, interest rates, and financing, and very little to do with local “constraints.”

San Francisco has already approved more new market-rate units than the Housing Element calls for, and very few are getting built, or will get built any time in the near future.

From the letter:

A housing element is not a paper exercise – it is an enforceable commitment to the state that a city or county will take specific actions on specific timeframes over an eight-year period … Recommending adoption of this Ordinance would represent an important step towards fulfilling the City’s obligations under State Housing Element Law, and would also further the laudable Goals, Objectives, and Policies around which the City’s housing element is centered.

The city’s Housing Element has, the state says, an “enforceable commitment” to creating financing for 46,000 non-market housing units. “Constraints” aren’t blocking that housing; a lack of money is. And Newsom is offering the city nowhere near the resources it would take to build even a fraction of that number of affordable homes.

Instead, Newsom is lobbying the city to adopt rules that would pretty much cut communities out of decisions, including on the demolition of existing housing.

As Sup. Aaron Peskin told me, “the process is set up to allow people to speak their piece. The decisions rarely go in favor of the neighbors, but at least they are allowed to raise issues.”

Peskin told me the letter “reeks of influence. The State of California ought to register as a lobbyist.”

He told me the last time he could remember the Governor’s Office trying to influence a local planning decision was more than 20 years ago, when then-Gov. Gray Davis sent a representative to the Board of Supes to argue in favor of filling the Bay to create new runways at SFO.

That plan, which even the airlines didn’t support, was soundly defeated by the voters.

Peskin said he hasn’t taken a position on the mayor’s legislation, but that it’s not a state issue. “We will deliberate on our city policies as per our City Charter,” he said.

And perhaps in those deliberations we will see a bit of evidence-based reality.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
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.

Featured

Campaign trail: Lots of ethics issues—and so far, low turnout

Mahmood, Philhour hit with allegations that they are combining their campaigns for supe and for DCCC. And when will the progressive precincts vote?

After 111 years, SF is finally moving to oust PG&E and create a public-power system

Cheap, reliable, green energy is only a few steps away—but the private utility is trying its best to delay the process and protect its illegal monopoly

Fun with campaign texts

I can't help it: I answer those annoying messages—and sometimes get replies!

More by this author

Campaign trail: Lots of ethics issues—and so far, low turnout

Mahmood, Philhour hit with allegations that they are combining their campaigns for supe and for DCCC. And when will the progressive precincts vote?

After 111 years, SF is finally moving to oust PG&E and create a public-power system

Cheap, reliable, green energy is only a few steps away—but the private utility is trying its best to delay the process and protect its illegal monopoly

Fun with campaign texts

I can't help it: I answer those annoying messages—and sometimes get replies!
Sponsored link
Sponsored link

You might also likeRELATED