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News + PoliticsHousingNo, the supes didn't 'punt' on housing bill

No, the supes didn’t ‘punt’ on housing bill

A measure that makes no sense is still on track; here's what it might mean for the city.

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No, the San Francisco Board of Supes did not, as the SF Standard reports, “punt” on a key housing bill.

The supes voted—unanimously, including with the support of the bill’s sponsors—to delay the measure for one week so they could include amendments by Sup. Rafael Mandelman addressing historic preservation and monster homes.

There is plenty of time to pass this bill, which many of the board members agree makes little sense, before the state starts a potential crackdown.

530 Howard will be built with no environmental review. Image from Pickard Chilton

If you want a sense of what the future under the bills promoted by State Sen. Scott Wiener and Gov. Gavin Newsom, take a look at 530 Howard St. The Chron notes:

“It will be the first major project that is utilizing state ministerial approval process — no (California Environmental Quality Act) study, nor a hearing at the Planning Commission,” said San Francisco Planning Director Rich Hillis. 

Hillis said the design will be reviewed by planning staff to make sure it complies with the city’s code requirements, but that it should be ready for building permits within six months. After entitlements are secured, the developer expects to spend about a year raising capital and an additional three years building the tower. 

Mayor London Breed celebrated the proposed project as a “significant investment” in downtown.

We’re talking about a 71-story building with 670 apartments—and no review under the California Environmental Quality Act. No discussion of the impacts on traffic, carbon emissions, potential historic resources, Muni, or anything else: It just gets a signoff from planners, and gets built (if there’s actually financing for it).

Only ten percent of the units will be affordable. The rest will be very high-end luxury apartments.

The developer, Paul Paradis, is very clear about that:

We’re seeing the transit-oriented, really well-located, high-end multifamily projects getting fully leased, and the rents are starting to get upward pressure.

But let’s go back to the Breed housing bill. Newsom’s Department of Housing and Community Development sent the city a letter urging the supes not to approve the Mandelman amendments. It’s part of a stunning pattern of the state trying to micromanage local housing policy—something that Newsom and Wiener support.

All Mandelman is seeking is some guarantee that the “streamlining” won’t open the door for giant McMansions (instead of more apartments) and some indication that housing built before 1923 can’t be demolished without a hearing.

These are not radical ideas. They will likely get strong, perhaps unanimous support. (Do any of the supes want to be on record supporting the demolition of irreplaceable Victorians that are a key part of the city’s historic legacy?)

In a normal situation, the mayor of San Francisco would be calling the governor to say: Hey, we’re doing 90 percent of what you want. Back off on the last ten percent.

Instead, Mayor London Breed is siding with Newsom, against her own city, in the interest of promoting a policy that promotes luxury housing at the expense of affordable housing.

What the supes are doing isn’t “punting” or even delaying the bill for no reason. They are following the rules, trying desperately to put some sense into the city’s complicated housing rules, and waiting just a few days for a final version.

It comes back Tuesday/5.

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.

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