Approval process for Balboa Reservoir project gets underway

By Ida Mojadad : sfexaminer – excerpt

The mixed-use development would turn 17 acres of public land into housing by CCSF

The Balboa Reservoir project received the first approval on Thursday needed to rezone 17 acres of public land into housing.

At its first-ever virtual public meeting Thursday, the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the initiation of a General Plan Amendment for the 1,100-unit Balboa Reservoir project in Ingleside…

“It’s public land, it should be used for the public good,” Worley said. “The PUC shouldn’t be handing it over to private developers.”…

The public hearing will occur on or after April 30th and go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval in the summer….(more)

Road map to a new start for San Francisco

By Connie Chan : sfexaminer – excerpt

We need to invest in working people

During this time of unprecedented public health crisis, I am as proud as ever to be a San Franciscan. I am grateful for all the hard work of our first responders, health care workers, educators and city workers, and for their dedication and service to keep our City safe and healthy. The quick actions from our city and state in response to COVID-19 may well save many lives in the coming weeks, and I remain hopeful that the City’s relief efforts will help provide some immediate support to our renters, working families, and small businesses..

Unfortunately, the social and economic impacts of this crisis will be devastating and far reaching. We may be facing a new era in which we need to fundamentally change how we live and conduct business. To address the impacts, I propose the New Start San Francisco plan. This plan will put forth transparent and coordinated efforts to leverage newly available state and federal funds to support job retraining and assistance for small businesses, invest in housing security for the homeless and working families and make much needed improvements to our public health system…

We must learn the lessons of COVID-19 and remember that for San Francisco to stay strong and thrive, we must invest in working people first.

Connie Chan is a longtime public servant, Richmond District resident and candidate for District 1 Supervisor...(more)

Balboa Reservoir Redevelopment Positioned for Approval, But…

Socketsite – excerpt (with drawings)

With the detailed Design Standards and Guidelines (DSG) document for the proposed redevelopment of San Francisco’s Balboa Reservoir having been drafted, the project team is now positioning to secure approvals from the City’s Planning Commission, Public Utilities Commission and SFMTA Board, after which San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors could then grant final approval for the proposed 1,100-unit, 17-acre project in the second half of this year…(more)

Stop the Privatization of Public Land in San Francisco

This is no time to sell public property. Why is the city buying expensive property in some neighborhoods and selling it in others? Due to the extensive changes anticipated in the coming months, the city should do what most of the public is doing and DO NOTHING until the economic conditions settle. Quit transferring property ownership. And, see other arguments here and send you comments and requst to the Planning Commission today if you hae not already done so.

During pubic comment, a speaker requested that the city suspend all non-emergency planning decisions during this emergency suspension of normal public hearings meetings and he gave good reasons for his request. We support this request while we are living under essential travel restrictions only.

More information and links ot contacts to write to:

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Mohammed Nuru’s worst offense

By Sam Lew : missionlocal – excerpt

Under Nuru, DPW routinely violated the rights of homeless people.

A $2,070 bottle of wine from a Chinese billionaire, a $5,000 bribe to an SFO airport commissioner, and a John Deer tractor for his vacation home in Colusa County.

These are just a few pieces of evidence that the FBI is using to charge Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru with fraud…

Following the investigation, there have been countless demands to end corruption and pay-to-play politics from the public and elected officials alike. Supervisor Hillary Ronen wrote  she was outraged; Supervisor Gordon Mar admonished the “casual culture of corruption.” Supervisor Matt Haney even called for a special investigator to be hired to further gut corruption in implicated city agencies.

But Nuru should have been fired long ago for something much more sinister: using the Department of Public Works as a tool to blatantly violate the civil rights of thousands of homeless San Franciscans… (more)


The Big Plan Behind SB50

Editorial by Zrants


In order to understand what is going on with the housing market in the state of California and what is behind SB50 we need to look at the big picture. Look at the high number of vacant units recently disclosed in the urban communities where the homeless are proliferating. Look at the changes we have seen in our communities and consider the constant demand for “improvements” the public is being asked to finance through a number of legislative changes that are being drawn up in Sacramento.

Proponents of SB 50 constantly attack single family housing. Their explanations and reasonings reveal some claims that are highly alarming, offensive, and easily disproven:

  • Single family homes are racist and inclusionary… only multiple family units can be built to accommodate “poor people and people of color”. (Tell that to the people of color who own homes in California.)
  • Single-family homes remove affordable housing.
  • No one can afford to build affordable single-family homes in California.
  • All single-family homeowners are rich and greedy unless they build more units on their property.
  • Single-family neighborhoods should “share the pain” with the dense housing mixed use neighborhoods.
  • Single-family homes and suburban neighborhoods are bad for the environment because they increase the use of private vehicles.

These statements and beliefs appear to be the backbone of the argument for state bills such as SB50 that remove local government control over zoning by eliminating single-family neighborhoods. SB50 supporters also claim that developers need to eliminate public review, debate, and environmental appeals to speed housing production, and they need financial incentives such as fee reductions for housing projects to “pencil out”. Note that all these “solutions” benefit developers at the expense of the public.

Opponents of SB50 point to other motivations for removal of single-family homes and neighborhoods in the state including higher profits for developers, state power grabs, privatization of public assets and higher taxes for the public.

Higher taxes will be next on the agenda. After the state takes over control of the development process, Sacramento politicians plan to incentivize developers to build more housing by cutting development fees. Since someone has to pay for expanding the infrastructure, public transit, water, sewer, energy, education, security and other services for the expanding population, state, local, and regional entities will need to raise taxes and public debt through bond sales.

Expect more requests by authorities for higher taxes to fix bridges and roads and higher fees for public access through establishment of toll roads and other revenue enhancing schemes. We will hear more promises to cut traffic and increase parking options. Parking turnover will be imposed by increasing costs and implementing shorter parking limits. This hasn’t worked so far!

The regional entities established by the state, and run by unelected appointees to manage transportation funds doled out by state and federal governments, have become powerful fiefdoms. They have been given the task of developing dense multi-use projects on government-owned properties, along transit corridors. Removing parking lots near transit hubs is their top priority. Along with building and managing housing they are expected to turn a profit for to generate a profit for the public transit agencies.

The regional authorities don’t work alone. They establish public/private enterprises and do whatever it takes to succeed. This works really well for the private corporate partners. A transit authority that controls parking, transit, access, and regulatory authority removes competition.

Next let’s consider the impact of removing single-family home production in the state on state property taxes. All mixed-use property is designated as commercial property. By cutting back on single-family homes and private home ownership, the state is forcing more people into tenancies in commercial mixed-use properties.

Prop 13 currently limits the property taxes on all property including commercial. The voters oppose paying higher property taxes, so the state legislators plan to offer a new deal that sounds good until you consider the divide and conquer tactic behind the plan. There is a state ballot initiative in the works that will give voters the option of removing Prop 13 protections for commercial property owners.

Beware of this friendly sounding bill. It has bad breath when you consider removing single-family housing from the future housing stock. Cutting back on single-family homes and private home ownership puts a greater number of residential units at risk of losing Prop 13 protection. How will this affect people who claim income from rental properties, tenants in multi-use complexes, and large commercial apartment buildings, and how many people know this is coming?

Mixed use properties have a few other poison pills. They pay higher utilities, insurance and other costs than residential properties. Higher taxes will get passed onto tenants and make California living even more expensive.

There is a plan to privatize much of the government and removing public review and discourse that will make the procedures a lot less transparent. We may start by asking some questions about procedural changes that have already been initiated.

Why is there a rush to build mixed use properties in all the residential neighborhoods? Why are developers building parking for businesses instead of residents in these mixed-use properties? Who benefits from reducing environmental review and appeals? Why are retail units being included in new development projects when retail is dying and there is a glut of vacant retail space on the market?

Given the recent announcement by the White House that most of the national environmental protections under NEPA are being scrapped, why is California reducing state environmental protections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?  The timing is uncanny for a state that prides itself on being environmentally ahead of the curve. This should give us pause to consider alternatives to killing our own CEQA process as we watch for more changes in the environmental protection laws unfold at the national level.

Find out more about SB50:
Check the map to see how your community will fair under SB50

The Decade Dominated by the Ultraluxury Condo

By : nytimes – excerpt

The 2010s saw the rise and fall of the super-high-end condo, and its impact will echo for years to come in Manhattan and the boroughs.

Developers used the 2010s to reshape the New York skyline with soaring condo towers — many of which will struggle to sell units well into the next decade.

But what began as a period of exuberance for investors ended with a dwindling pool of high-end buyers willing to pay record prices. Apartments are still selling, especially in the resale market, but often at marked down prices.

“We think of this decade as this boom of new product never seen before, but that’s a distant memory,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. “The second half was a reckoning with reality.”…


Homeless Women Who Took Over Oakland Home Gain Support

By Terence Chea and Julliet Williams : nbcbayarea – excerpt (includes video)

Some California lawmakers said they support a group of homeless women who have been illegally living in a vacant three-bedroom house since November, partly to protest real estate speculators who drive up housing costs in the pricey Bay Area.

Moms 4 Housing, a collective recently formed to support the Oakland women, interrupted a press conference on legislation to boost housing construction Tuesday at City Hall, shouting “affordable housing now.”

“I want to thank Moms 4 Housing for taking that house and for demonstrating that nowhere, nowhere should there be a vacant house anywhere in California when we have the housing crisis that we have,” said Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley. “And it was totally legitimate for those homeless moms to take over that house.”…

Not sure that the Moms buy it. We talked to their supporters after the press conference at Oakland City Hall.

Video by Zrants

The situation is so dire that Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a statewide rent cap on some properties.

Yet there are four vacant homes for every homeless person in Oakland, said Leah Simon-Weisberg, an attorney for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which is helping the mothers in court…(more)