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News + PoliticsHousingSF's state legislators have deeply damaged SF's ability to prevent displacement

SF’s state legislators have deeply damaged SF’s ability to prevent displacement

Wiener, Ting, and Haney bills undermine 'all that is sacred' in San Francisco. Do they know what the fuck they are doing?


It’s pretty stunning, when you think about it, how the people San Franciscans elected to represent them in Sacramento have worked to undermine the rights of San Francisco to protect tenants and vulnerable communities.

Assemblymembers Matt Haney and Phil Ting and State Sen. Scott Wiener are the lead authors of a series of bills that not only make life easier for big developers but dramatically cut what’s left of the city’s ability to fight wholesale displacement.

Sup. Aaron Peskin points out that the people we sent to Sacramento are deeply damaging the city.

We will see the latest example Thursday/14 when the Planning Commission votes on a measure supported by Mayor London Breed that would give planning staff the authority to sign off on almost any new housing development without public notice or a hearing.

The language in the resolution is seriously confusing:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that subject to the ordinance in Board File 230446 becoming effective as described in the findings above, the Planning Commission hereby delegates its authority to review and approve applications for Individually Requested State Density Bonus Projects under Planning Code Section 206.6 to the Planning Director for projects that do not require any additional entitlement from the Commission, unless the site was previously used for housing that was occupied by tenants and was demolished within the past 10 years.

Wait: If a site was previously occupied by tenants and has not yet been demolished, it doesn’t count?

How does this comply with the city’s Housing Element, which calls for protecting the existing rental housing stock?

I asked Aaron Starr, planning’s legislative director, but he hasn’t gotten back to me.

UDATE: Starr emailed me the following:

The demolition of existing rent-controlled buildings requires CU authorization, which is approved by the Planning Commission. This Resolution and the Constraints Reduction Ordinance don’t change that. Further, this Resolution only covers projects using the State Density Bonus law, which cannot be used if there is displacement.

The language is intended to capture project that may have been associated with displacement in the last 10 years, such as a displacement from a fire.

Almost every developer is going to try to use the Density Bonus Law.

This is all necessary because of AB 1114, a bill by Haney that forces cities to move projects on a very fast timeline, and bills by Wiener to eliminate many commission hearings.

At the Land Use and Transportation Committee hearing Monday, Sup. Aaron Peskin questioned a proposal, in Haney’s bill, that would require most “post-entitlement” building permits to be approved within 15, or in some cases, 30 days.

He first asked if the city had defined “post-entitlement.” No.

He then asked Starr: Can the Building Department really check and review very complex project applications in 15 days, and do it safely?

Starr, who works for planning, said he couldn’t answer that.

“I have the sneaking suspicion that the state has no idea what the fuck they are doing,” Peskin said.

Peter Papadopoulos, a senior policy analyst at the Mission Economic Development Center, said that under the state legislation, “the Mission expects widespread displacement of immigrant small businesses at Mission and 24th, the demolition of community murals, and the demolition of historic buildings and the loss of other cultural assets.”

That’s because the city’s Housing Element seeks to protect “Priority Equity” areas that are at risk of displacement—but the state bills allowing for expedited “density bonus” project have no such protections.

The Mayor’s Office also asked the committee to approve changes to the city’s laws on Accessory Dwelling Units, better known as in-law apartments, thanks to legislation by Ting that goes into effect in January.

The problem, Peskin said: The city can demand that ADUs are subject to rent control, but the state legislation pre-empts that, allowing projects to go forward with state authorization that do not include any rent-control requirements. Peskin:

I just want to say this for the record, so people that are watching, and I consider [Ting] to be a friend, that all of the things that we hold sacred in San Francisco are being undermined by the State of California by our own elected legislators. 

So now the Planning Commission is being asked to give away much of its existing authority. There’s not a lot of office space proposed these days; most of the serious issues planning deals with are housing-related.

If the commission goes along with the concept, “it will be signing its own death warrant,” Peskin said. There won’t be much need for a Planning Commission, and there won’t be much opportunity for the public to challenge bad actors who are trying to get permits for dubious projects.

That, apparently, is how our state legislators and our mayor want it.

I just wonder, as Peskin says, if they know what the fuck they are about to unleash on San Francisco.

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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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