City Hall 2015: dominated by housing crisis, capped off by political change

By  : sfexaminer – excerpt

San Francisco’s City Hall has said goodbye to another year of rising rents, evictions and an increase in homeless people.

But unlike the past several years, the year ended with a political shift in the election of Aaron Peskin in District 3 over Mayor Ed Lee’s appointee, Julie Christensen, which has already shaken up some of the entrenched policies and approaches to those aforementioned challenges since he took his seat Dec. 8.

Peskin’s victory was among the most significant stories of 2015, and the race largely colored the political inner workings of City Hall — as soon he threw his hat into the ring in March.

Housing policy dominates

Housing has remained on the forefront of City Hall politics as stories about the impacts of the housing crisis and the proposals to address those impacts continue to garner much attention. Mayor Lee announced a “blueprint” for achieving a goal of 30,000 new or rehabbed housing units — with one-third below market rate — by 2020, and succeeded in passing a $310 million housing bond. The Board of Supervisors approved the legalization of in-law units in District 3 and District 8. Supervisor Jane Kim also passed increased protections for tenants to counter “gotcha” evictions.

The year saw a number of large public gatherings at City Hall, indicating both the unrest and significance of the debates over housing policies.

One of the largest turnouts at City Hall by the public was a protest in support of a Mission moratorium on market-rate housing. Supporters argued the method was needed to place a priority on below-market-rate housing to counter gentrification and displacement. The board failed to approve the proposal in June and voters later rejected it as well.

Progressive shift

Another large turnout met with success in December. Those who opposed a new jail proposal, which cost $240 million without debt service, convinced the board to defeat the project as they called for greater investment in housing and rehabilitation services instead.

The jail defeat, which came after Peskin assumed his seat, was seen as emblematic of the political shift his presence has affected, turning the board into a progressive majority and challenging the mayor’s political agenda.

Politics under the influence…

The Arts Commission illustrated just how severe artist displacement was during the year. A survey found 70 percent of the nearly 600 respondent artists were displaced or were being displaced from their homes, workplaces or both. Twenty-eight percent, or 125, said they were at risk of displacement.

Looking into 2016

Many of the challenges of 2015 will continue into the new year. The debate over regulating Airbnb short-term rentals is expected to return to the board….(more)


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