Should we build lots more housing in San Francisco? Three reasons people disagree

by Julia Galef – excerpt

Some people, such as YIMBYs, advocate building lots more housing in San Francisco. Their basic argument is:

Housing in SF is the priciest in the country, with the average one bedroom apartment renting for over $3,000 per month (compared to the nationwide average of $1,200.)

The main reason rents are so high is because the supply of housing has been artificially restricted — new developments are constantly getting blocked by land use regulations and neighborhood associations. Meanwhile, demand to live in SF continues to rise. And since supply is not keeping pace, rents go up, as a growing number of would-be tenants outbid each other for the limited housing available.

Therefore, it’s important that we find a way to increase the rate at which we’re building new housing in SF, or it will be a city in which only the rich can afford to live.

I’ve been trying to understand why others are critical of this argument. I think there are three main areas of disagreement between what I’ll call the advocates and the critics, and I’ll briefly explain each in turn. (Note that I’m trying to present the strongest version of each argument, which may be different from the most common version.)… (more)

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Bicyclists Boycott Bernal Businesses Seeking Removal Of Bike-Sharing Stations

by Todd Lappin :  hoodline – excerpt

photo by zrants

An effort by some merchants along Mission Street in Bernal Heights to seek the removal of a new Ford GoBike station on 29th Street triggered a strong response from local bicyclists, with some saying they plan to avoid businesses that oppose the bike-share program.

Last week, the Examiner reported that the MIssion-Bernal Merchants Association (MBMA) asked the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to immediately remove a new Ford GoBike station installed in front of the UPS Store at 60 29th Street between Tiffany and Mission.

Bernalwood has confirmed that MBMA also raised concerns about the new bike-share stations on Valencia at Cesar Chavez and in Precita Park, as all three stations fall within MBMA’s membership “blueprint area.”

The association claims it wasn’t properly notified about the installation of the new stations, with most merchants only learning about them when notices went up a few days before installation began.

At least one other Bernal neighborhood organization echoes the complaint about notification…

In a statement sent to Bernalwood, MBMA president Eden Stein and co-coordinator Ani Rivera said:

“MBMA’s request to SFMTA is to immediately remove/suspend the Ford Bike Share Program on 29th Street and a comprehensive analysis (study and survey) to be conducted to determine if the program is suitable, desired and safe in any future identified locations.  In addition, we also request that SFMTA include in its outreach MBMA’s input when decisions and designs are being made that will affect any aspect of the MBMA corridor.”… (more)

RELATED:
KQED broadcast a program on the Ford GoBikes and their affiliations with a public/private corporate arrangement that uses public funds and is backed by Ford to ensure this program will “succeed” whether or not it makes any money. The point is not to make money. The point is to remove public use of public property by selling or leasing it to private entities. Nobody asked the taxpaying voters if they want to sell or lease their rights to use public property.

As subway construction drives away customers, SF debates helping businesses

 By Rachel Swan : sfchronicle – excerpt

It’s lunchtime, but the tables are empty at Oasis Grill, a Mediterranean restaurant that sits next to a bulldozed gully at Fourth and Howard streets in San Francisco. Several blocks to the north, work crews are jackhammering outside the stores of Union Square.

And farther north in Chinatown, shop owner Nancy Cai wipes away tears, lamenting the customers she’s lost since the city started building the Central Subway, which ends at a station under construction at Stockton and Washington streets.

While the $1.6 billion line is expected to bring a flood of development and tourists when it opens in 2019, some of the businesses along its route might not survive to see those benefits.

“It’s like a 60 percent drop” in business, said Cai as she surveyed her stock of traditional gowns, toy cable cars and other souvenirs languishing on the shelves of Nancy’s Fashion….

Peskin is proposing a controversial plan that centers on Chinatown but would affect the entire city: create an “impact zone” around Stockton Street, and offer financial assistance to businesses within the perimeter. Similar zones could be applied to other big projects….

Maybe there’s a solution other than handing out cash, Yee said. He suggested the city could provide indirect subsidies for these businesses, like exempting them from annual registration fees, gross receipts taxes or payroll taxes.

Peskin said Yee’s tax-exemption approach interests him, with the caveat that “the benefits being discussed (must) directly help small-business owners.”

Over the last few weeks, San Francisco’s infrastructure boom and its side effects have become a topic of interest at City Hall. Several officials, including Lee, are walking the political tightrope of celebrating new infrastructure, while wanting to protect small businesses… (more)

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Evicted by SFMTA: When living in your car is illegal

– excerpt

When your car is your home, SFMTA becomes your landlord. 

The following is a public comment statement by Melodie, a woman who lives in her vehicle, in regards to SFMTA’s Engineering hearing on Friday, August 4, 2017 regarding the establishment of new tow-away zones: Specifically, on the east side Jerrold Avenue between Barneveld and Bayshore and on the west side of Barneveld Avenue between McKinnon and Jerrold Avenues. The former would be no stopping anytime, while the latter would establish the tow-away zone between 10pm and 2am. While these may seem inconsequential to many, the hearing comes at a time as more and more families and individuals are forced to live in their cars—and there are less and less locations available in the city for people to park without being harassed by city officials. This industrial area is one of the last remaining areas in the city where people have been able to park their vehicles in peace. When there is no where else to go, courageous people like Melodie fight everyday to keep from being evicted from their homes—which often times may be a vehicle…(more)

SF family’s RV was their home. Then it got towed.

By Kevin Fagan : sfchronicle – excerpt

Marielle Lowes spent the past five years traveling the nation in buses and recreational vehicles as a dreadlocked hippie, trailing the remnants of the Grateful Dead and hitting Rainbow Nation bohemian gatherings while selling her art. Then, eight months ago, she gave birth to her first child, and she longs to go home to New Orleans “to settle down and be a mom.”

But she’s stuck in San Francisco. The recreational vehicle that she and her boyfriend have lived in for nearly two years and just fixed up to take them to Louisiana was towed by city parking officials more than a week ago — and they can’t get it back…

If Lowes and Wassell can’t pay the fees or get them waived, they will have to leave the RV behind and it will become city property to be sold.

Meanwhile, Compass Connecting Point, the city agency that places homeless parents and their children in shelters, has put the couple and their baby on a waiting list of 50 other families without permanent housing.

“We get this kind of thing several times a year, with a family losing a vehicle that was their home,” said Carla Praglin, agency case management director. “When you lose your car and your valuable documents like ID, it’s an additional trauma, can really set a family back on getting things done.”…(more)

Wasn’t there some sort of effort to drop charges or lower them for people with limited means? This has got to be an argument for that.

 

 

Emergency Resolution needed to preserve San Francisco businesses

Op-Ed

Here is an idea. SF has carved out hundreds of miles of car-free lanes for bikes and pedestrian-safe zones with no regard to the losses of the businesses that are effected by loss of traffic and parking. The streetscape programs have resulted in huge numbers of business closures and what appears to be an average 30% drop in income of the businesses that survive. No one is talking about the loss of jobs or the flight of the families those jobs once supported.

Why don’t we support the rights of businesses that require traffic and parking by setting up a SFMTA-free enterprise zone, that protects businesses that rely on customers who drive. We need a parking-protected zone to protect businesses while their streets are under construction.

We have see the future as it is being written by Plan Bay Area 2040 and they are anticipating a loss of 40% of the middle class by 2030 or 2040, depending on which report you read. As they extend the debt they extend the time to pay it off and the year of the study changes to meet that goal

Perhaps the Supervisors could legislate a temporary protected zone for businesses to escape from the SFMTA while their streets are under siege with protected loading and parking zones for motor vehicles only. We could use one in China Town and pretty much every neighborhood, The Supervisors can treat it as an emergency resolution to save middle class families by saving the small businesses and jobs they depend on them that are being killed off by the over-zealous SFMTA and developers.

We understand there is a history of placing limitations on disruptive construction projects in one area to protect residents and businesses from the negative impacts of too much construction in one place. Perhaps it is time to revisit that limit. Why not finish the major street projects now underway before starting any new ones.

Perhaps it is time for the Board of Supervisors to devise some method for curtailing city agencies and reigning them. There is ample evidence that the departments are not working well together or communicating changes to large projects as they rush to get them underway.

Perhaps we need new procedural rules to protect our citizens like the CEQA administrative amendments that were enacted to help developers a few years ago. Others are suggesting some Charter amendments may be in order. That will take time. We need some faster protections and we need them now to stop the damage to is being done to our city in the name of future plans.

This was inspired by story on ABC7 News on the plight of Chinatown businesses:

Chinatown merchants say Central Subway construction leading to business bust

by Leslie Brinkley : ABC7news – excerpt (includes video)

Up to 2 million visitors stroll through Chinatown per year. Locals hit the markets in the area too, but lately business is down…. (more)

These stories all have one thing in common. The Future is heavily featured as the reason for the disruption we are living in today. Always the promise of a better tomorrow and know consideration of what is being done to make our lives better today. How can you trust a system that doesn’t function today to make tomorrow better? Let us see some proof. Fix it now.

 

Is California about to Clobber Local Planning Control?

By Zelda Bronstein : citywatch – excerpt

PLANNING–The gradual decimation of local voice in planning has become accepted policy in Sacramento. The State Senate is now considering two dangerous bills, SB 35 and SB 167, that together severely curtail democratic control of housing.

SB 35: Housing Accountability and Affordability Act (Wiener)

SB 35 is pro-traffic congestion. It would prohibit cities from requiring parking in a “streamlined development approved pursuant” to SB 35, located within a half-mile of public transit, in an architecturally and historically significant historic district, when on-street parking permits are required but not offered to the occupants of the project, and when there is a car share vehicle located within one block of the development. Other projects approved under the measure would be limited to one space per unit…

Supporters include Bay Area Council, the lobby shop of the Bay Area’s biggest employers; BAC’s Silicon Valley counterpart, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group; the San Francisco and LA Chambers of Commerce; the Council of Infill Builders; several nonprofit housing organizations, including the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California and BRIDGE Housing; the Natural Resources Defense Council; the California League of Conservation Voters; and a panoply of YIMBY groups, including East Bay Forward and YIMBY Action.

Opponents include the Sierra Club; the League of California Cities; the Council of Community Housing Organizations; the California Fire Chiefs Association; the Fire Districts Association of California; a handful of cities, including Hayward, Pasadena, and Santa Rosa; the Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers; and many building trades organizations, including IBEW Locals 1245, 18, 465 and 551, and the Western States Council of Sheet Metal Workers…

If these bills—especially SB 35—become law, Californians will have lost a good deal of their right to a say the life and governance of the communities in which they live.

(Zelda Bronstein, a journalist and a former chair of the Berkeley Planning Commission, writes about politics and culture in the Bay Area and beyond. This piece was first published in Berkeley Daily Planet and Marin Post and most recently at New Geography) ... (more)

Please consider signing this Petition to Oppose SB35:
https://www.change.org/p/assem blymember-aquiar-curry-oppose-sb-35-unless-amended

And write letters if you can to the Assemblymembers listed here: http://assembly.ca.gov/assemblymembers

Sample message:

OPPOSE SB35 – PROTECT LOCAL CONTROL OVER ZONING. California citizens oppose by-right laws that override our local zoning and use policies and guidelines. Our city government has spent a lot of time and energy to create a specific plan and the citizens have had a hand in the decision-making process. It is not right for the state to step in and override our efforts. Many cities want to opt out of the by-right rules. That should tell you SB35 is not popular. We oppose this legislation.

Sincerely,

(signature), Concerned Citizen

SB 167: Housing Accountability Act (Skinner)

This bill, introduced by State Senator Nancy Skinner, who represents Berkeley and other East Bay cities, and sponsored by the Bay Area Renters Federation (BARF), is a companion to SB 35. It would prohibit cities from disapproving a housing project containing units affordable to very low-, low- or moderate-income renters, or conditioning the approval in a manner that renders the project financially infeasible, unless, among other things, the city has met or exceeded its share of regional housing needs for the relevant income category. (As of November 2016, HUD defined a moderate-income household of four people in Alameda County as one earning under $112,300 a year.)… (more)

RELATED:
LA Homelessness … and Rents … Will Skyrocket Under New Housing Proposals