Mayor London Breed’s huge political fumble on Prop. C

By Joe Eskenazi : missionlocal – excerpt

San Francisco’s mayor could have confounded and neutralized the city’s political left for years by embracing homeless measure Prop. C. Instead, she isolated herself, rejecting it with specious arguments.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

London Breed is the mayor, and you are not. We have “takes.” She makes “decisions.” The mayor’s decisions carry weight. They are tangible…

So, make no mistake: Breed’s firm rejection of homeless measure Proposition C — a choreographed Friday announcement coming in lockstep with Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman David Chiu — was a crushing and credibility-destroying decision.

This was rendered even clearer by Monday’s splashy announcement from Marc Benioff, the city’s favored benevolent billionaire, that he was going all-in on supporting Prop. C. The measure’s backers had, previously, likened themselves to David battling the Downtown powers-that-be Goliath… (more)

There are better places to live and work that have nothing to do with Prop C and taxes. Businesses have soured on San Francisco for the same reason we all have. A high cost of living should at least guarantee a high quality of life and San Francisco is not delivering. We are poor has-been version of a once great city and no one seems to know how to pull us out of a race to the bottom, or if they do, they are being ignored.

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New study says rent control doesn’t discourage new housing

USC researchers say the data shows that Prop. 10 wouldn’t stifle housing production. That’s a direct challenge to the real-estate industry campaign

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

The landlord lobby – and it’s one of the most powerful interests in the state of California – is spending more than $40 million to convince voters not to support Prop. 10 – a measure that would allow (but not require) cities to impose effective rent controls…

The USC study, sponsored by the California Community Foundation, suggests that rent control tends to keep rents lower even in uncontrolled buildings, helps preserve housing and community stability – and has little discernable impact on the construction of new housing.

The study’s authors are not economists. The lead author, Manuel Pastor, is a sociologist. The two other authors, Vanessa Carter and Maya Abood, are urban planners.

But unlike the Stanford economists who put out a complex study on the economics of rent control, complete with equations that almost nobody can understand, the USC report looks at the existing literature on rent control… (more)

The market appears to be in a self-correction mood that could slow development regardless of how the outcome of Prop C and the repeal of Costa-Hawkins.

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Grass roots opposition to SB 828 and AB 2923 mounts

By Richard Eber : capoliticalreview.- excerpt

Opposition within the legislature has been minimal in passing various bills intended to streamline the permit process to build so called affordable housing. However, not all the natives are pleased. Battle lines are being drawn in suburbia to fight “Big Brother” in Sacramento when they will be trying to enforce SB 828 and AB 2923 in the coming years.

It comes down to a case of “It’s not fair” that ordinarily refers to children complaining about their parents making them perform disagreeable tasks. Here it is reflected in a grass root political movement of outraged citizens fighting progressive government in Sacramento.

With the ink barely dry from Governor Jerry Brown signing SB 828 and AB 2923 into law, a similar out cry of protests is coming from communities throughout California. A lot of folks are upset by state taking urban planning decisions away from locals and giving them to unaccountable bureaucratic regional agencies they don’t directly vote for.

The purpose of these bills is to encourage the construction of much needed affordable housing by ignoring local zoning laws and streamlining the permit process. An outcry is being heard from cities who are unhappy with the impact these new construction will have on traffic, law enforcement, congestion, schools, recreational facilities and the availability of scare water resources… (more)

Canary in a Coal Mine

brisbane411 – excerpt

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For the first time in our state’s history, state legislators are threatening to pass targeted legislation to strip a single city of its authority over its own land. This is not just a threat to the City of Brisbane. It’s a threat to every city in California. Brisbane is the canary in the coal mine.

State legislators hijacked the public review process for a proposed mixed-use development on the Brisbane Baylands. Their highly questionable rationale for taking this drastic action is the contention even little cities are responsible for the crisis in affordable housing. In fact, corporate job creations, State policies, income inequality, and builders focused on the high end of housing construction are more responsible. Small communities like Brisbane have not been responsible for any of these phenomena. In fact, Brisbane has supported a high rate of housing development. Its reluctance to move rapidly on development in the Baylands has to do with the land itself – its status as an unregulated, unremediated contaminated landfill.

However, when the Taiwanese landowner/developer decided that Brisbane wasn’t moving fast enough or might not approve all the planned housing (triple the amount of the total housing units currently in Brisbane), it orchestrated a media campaign that falsely claimed that Brisbane was planning to build a huge commercial development without any housing. Legislators trying to enhance their reputations on the housing issue used the fabricated Brisbane story and crafted targeted legislation that was used to threaten the Brisbane City Council to change its General Plan, before the deliberations were complete, or be forced by this legislation to rubber stamp the developer’s project with minimal oversight.

The 660-acre “Baylands” was originally part of San Francisco Bay. Southern Pacific and San Francisco filled it in for their needs, railroad equipment maintenance and garbage dumping. Consequently, the landfill has 3 former Superfund sites that, to date, have not been remediated. Some of the many adverse environmental impacts called out in the EIR include serious health and safety risks from the highly toxic landfill, the unstable land that is a liquefaction zone between two major earthquake faults, no contracted water resources, severe traffic congestion from a lack of funding for roads or public transportation, the lack of sufficient resources to provide required public services such as fire, police and public works infrastructure and ongoing maintenance, and more.

Our neighborhoods look and feel the way they do because local leaders are empowered to make decisions that serve the best interests of the people who live there. When our right to determine our future is taken away, a core part of our democracy goes with it. Yet, there’s something more insidious at play here.

Remove all local planning controls and you open up historically low-income neighborhoods to gentrifying development at market rates. Entire communities are displaced. State legislators, beneficiaries of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from developers, are all too eager to repay their donors in kind.

The proposed legislation that eviscerates Brisbane’s right to self-governance is the logical endpoint of a state government committed to development at all costs. California law requires local jurisdictions to have General Plans that focus on sustainability, healthy communities, and quality of life. The proposed legislation disregards all three. Never have we seen a land grab this blatant or this bold.

What happens in Brisbane will be repeated in cities across the state. Strip our local government of its power and you’ve taken away our voice. Take the canary out of the coal mine and there’s no warning for what comes next… (more)

Read the proposed legislation here.

Brisbane is a small community just south of San Francisco, where the Global Climate Action Summit is taking place. Citizens of both cities have tried for decades to warn about the contaminated land at Hunter’ Point, Brisbane Baylands, and other areas around the bay where soil from the contaminated area was moved prior to proper testing.

Some studies unveiled at the Global Climate Action Summit do not support the state’s current plan to build dense housing on contaminated land at sea level. We could see some shifts in attitudes in Sacramento as voters go to the polls in November. We the story below and comment on the source.

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Axis Development abruptly abandons proposed 117-unit Folsom Street project

By Julian Mark : missionlocal – excerpt

A potential 117-unit residential project at 2675 Folsom Street will not be moving forward in its proposed current form, Mission Local confirmed today. Its developer, Axis Development, has put the fully entitled site up for sale, Axis Managing Partner Theo F. Oliphant said Thursday.

“I have no comment beyond that,” Oliphant told Mission Local. He declined to name the development company’s desired price and why he is not moving forward with the plans.

This is a surprise move following a fierce battle between community activists and the developer to offer more affordable housing and community benefits. It was resolved last May after District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen brokered a deal between the developer and activists.

With that deal apparently dashed, the land could potentially yet house a 100-percent affordable structure — and the Mission District’s affordable developers are already beginning to queue up… (more)

Upzoning property to raise the value of real estate appears to be a national past time for wealthy government officials of both parties. Neither party cares about protecting affordable housing for working class Americans.

The real reason for upzoning is not to build more housing. The real reason for upzoning is to raise property values and this project a prime example of how that works. For a closer look at the national trend under the current administration and how this program is being sold to to California read the New York Times article linked here.

Ben Carson, is the HUD secretary. He was recently sued for his part in raising rents of HUD-managed properties. His aides are quoted as saying, “…he is focused less on federal solutions than on prodding local governments to ease barriers to construction. He has ordered his policy staff to come up with proposals to push local governments to reduce zoning restrictions on new projects, especially low-cost manufactured housing. HUD will also begin working with landlords around the country to come up with ways to make housing vouchers more attractive and more inclusive, aides said.

Stop state overreach! Find out what you can do to stop SB 828 and similar bills attempting to remove local jurisdiction over zoning and development decisions from local communities. livablecalifornia.org

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HUD Secretary Ben Carson to be sued for suspending Obama-era fair-housing rule
Complaint filed against HUD Secretary Ben Carson

SF needs a mayor who will tax, spend, and regulate

By Calvin Welch : 48hills – excerpt

City-Hall-Chessboard

A new life-size Chessboard has appeared in front of City Hall as a reminder that old-fashioned political strategies can work as well, if not better, than money, media buys and sound bites. Sim City does not exist in the real world, people do and people vote. Regardless who wins, new games will begin after the June 5 election. photo by zrants.

Consider a short list of the realities facing our next mayor:

The social/economic/cultural transformation of the city through unchecked hyper-gentrification caused by a development policy that has, at its heart, maximizing speculative real-estate profit at the expense of existing residents and the businesses and activities that serve them…(more)

A local-government public sector dominated by bureaucrats, policies and programs that see “facilitating the market” as the primary goal of government…

An alarming under-investment in our urban public infrastructure …

A growing assault on local democratic government specifically aimed at San Francisco led by, at the state level, real estate speculators and their legislator allies seeking an end to “local control”…

The rapidly growing re-segregation of our civic life involving the toxic brew of race and income inequality,..

Given these realities, the June 5th election for mayor has the unmistakable feeling of being a directional election defining San Francisco’s future… (more)

The tax and spend part will be a matter or who is taxed and how the money is spent. There is a growing resentment of government overreach into citizens’ lifstyles and pockets that runs counter to government priorities that appear to favor more government employees and larger tax bases to support them. Workers and consumers, overwhelmed by the load now, are being asked to sign onto more debt. They may balk and repeal some of the taxes. At least one recall is in play now. More could follow.

The myth of long-term housing “underproduction”

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

Mission-Bay-at-Third

New Mission Bay condos on Third Street next to the T-Line near the ballpark, by zrants

Has California—and SF—failed to build housing for the past 50 years? The data show otherwise

In an interview with Phil Matier on CBS April 1, State Sen. Scott Wiener repeated a line I’ve heard from him, and from many others in politics and the news media, over and over:

“There’s a reason we don’t build much housing,” he said, “and it’s been that way for 50 years.”

This is one of the central pieces of the housing market mythology that defines the debate over SB 827 and the larger question of development policy in the city, the region, and the state.

And when you look at the actual facts, it doesn’t seem to hold up…

Here’s how Fernando Marti, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, puts it:…

What the data shows is that, while the rate of production generally tracked population growth, often faster, it crashed in 2008, and even with the booming economy, it hasn’t come back. The sooner we start understanding what’s really been happening since 2008, rather than blaming a fictitious “50 years of underproduction,” the sooner we can get to real solutions that matter.. (more)

Agents of Change: Civic Idealism and the Making of San Francisco

By Benjamin Grant : spur – excerpt

A city built and controlled by private enterprise

San Francisco was a village of 500 people in 1848, just wrested from Mexico and renamed, when news of the gold found at Sutter’s Mill reached the East Coast. By 1855, the population had reached 50,000.

Nineteenth-century San Francisco went from a rough-and-tumble boomtown to a Victorian city with cosmopolitan ambitions. Its familiar contours emerged as the arid peninsula’s hills were gridded, and its bayshore filled with sand, blasted hilltops and hastily abandoned ships. It matched astounding diversity and relative tolerance with gross inequality and greed, giving rise to an active labor movement marred by spasms of nativist race-baiting and violence.

It was a city built and controlled by private enterprise, and basic services like transit, water and recreation were speculative ventures tied to the city’s rapid growth. City government was corrupt and weak, and party bosses doled out patronage in the form of monopoly franchises for essential services. Private streetcar lines were extended into the dunes, opening adjacent land for rapid development, while the Spring Valley Water Company snapped up watersheds all the way to Livermore.

San Francisco’s development was driven by a small group of oligarchs who ploughed fortunes made in mining, timber and railroads into a new speculative venture: an urban economy based on manufacturing, finance, trade and urban development. These miners, industrialists, financiers and real estate speculators set out to forge a worldclass metropolis in a single generation, enriching themselves in the process. They built the city that would collapse and burn in 1906: an exuberant and frankly ambitious Victorian jumble that was  monument to its own explosive growth…(more)