Strangest thing: Some agreement in SF housing debate

Special by Joel Engardio : sfexaminer – excerpt

Not-so-odd Couple: SPUR director Christine Johnson, left, and Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods president George Wooding are supposed to represent opposite sides of the housing debate, but they agree on more issues than anyone expected.

In the simple version of San Francisco’s housing crisis, two giant generations are fighting over limited space in a peninsula city that isn’t configured to fit both.

Baby boomers bought up scarce housing decades ago, created their own piece of paradise and worked to preserve low-density neighborhoods by resisting new development. Now, there’s no room for millennials, who want to reshape San Francisco into a denser and less car-centric city.

The boomers won’t yield quietly.

“Neighborhood character is the hill I will die on,” said George Wooding, 61, president of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. “As more height and density becomes the norm, we’ll start to look like the row houses of St. Petersburg, Russia. There is a beauty to San Francisco worth saving.”

But millennials see preservation as a losing prospect…

Wooding and Johnson lead very different constituencies in the debate over what San Francisco should look like and who should live here. Yet, their personal views are less simplistic than their public roles suggest…

“We want the same thing — a city that’s livable and comfortable — but we have different ways to get there,” Wooding said…

CARROTS OR STICKS?

San Francisco has an unknown number of vacant units that add to the housing crunch. Some people fear renting out empty space in their homes. Strict tenant protections can make it difficult to reclaim the unit when the owner needs it for an aging parent or adult child.

Wooding supports giving skittish homeowners an incentive to rent to longer-term tenants and not just Airbnb tourists.

“I believe in rent control, and we can create a new option just for those empty units: a three-year contract with an escape clause at the end,” Wooding said. “There is great potential in older people sharing their larger homes.”

Johnson said a tax abatement program would be the right carrot to encourage people to open their homes to renters. She also backs a stick approach that would tax vacant units… (more) 

CLARIFICATION BY GEORGE WOODING: “Yet Wooding, who lives on the Westside, remained firmly opposed to new construction that encroaches on single family housing, RH-2 and RH-3 housing.”

 

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Whatever became of Berkeley’s neighborhood-serving retail?

Editorial by Becky o’Malley : berkeleyplanet – excerpt

Having lived in university towns for all of my adult life, I am very conscious of the difference in atmosphere when most of the students go home for summer vacation. One obvious benefit is that parking becomes infinitely easier. Yes, yes, I know that we’re not supposed to be driving, even those of us who are over 75 and a bit arthritic. Yes, I know that students never drive any more—well,hardly ever. It must be just a coincidence that many, many cars disappear from Berkeley streets in the summer—surely it’s not because the students are gone…

It will take more than inspiration to overcome what’s going wrong with small businesses in downtown Berkeley. They are getting evicted to make room for developments aimed at BART commuters to San Francisco, who will most likely do most of their purchasing in The City, and by UC offices for employees who drive in from distant suburbs with big box stores.

University Hardware, a stalwart for many years, was pushed or jumped from its wonderful location on University, complete with parking lot, to a dark and dreary car-free location on a side street. Now to add insult to injury the new store has lost access even for customers’ curbside pick-ups of large purchases to the city’s poorly conceptualized new bicycle routing.

There’s a host of similar examples of local businesses done wrong which give the lie to the perpetual myth of a Downtown Berkeley renaissance. Among other things, it’s past time to re-think Berkeley’s downtown area plan, which was jammed through by the previous city administration for the exclusive benefit of developers of mega apartment blocks for well-off consumers who’ll make their purchases elsewhere. A new and better plan would give much more respect to neighborhood-serving businesses and much less latitude to the smash-and-grab crowd who covet our downtown as potential building sites for commuter condos.

And don’t get me started on the way the University of California is sucking up downtown Berkeley as lebensraum for offices which don’t even pay property taxes. That’s a rant all its own, for another day… (more)

This story is repeating itself in communities all over California. The Berkeley story of disappearing local businesses is being exported to Napa County where the housing industry is getting ready to push the wineries out. What will tourists come for once the beautiful views, local wines and food are replaced by housing enclaves? What will people do with their time when the jobs are replaced by robots?

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.

 

How owner move-in reform will affect SF tenants and landlords

Op-ed by Cynthia Fong : sfexaminer – excerpt

Owner move-in reform unanimously passed through the Board of Supervisors on July 18. This reform adds enforcement mechanisms to protect tenants from landlords who abuse OMI evictions and never intend to move in. Here is what this new legislation means for tenants and landlords:

This legislation, aptly named “Administrative Code – Owner Move-In Reporting Requirements,” primarily impacts landlords by requiring new and improved reporting requirements. Landlords are now required to provide a declaration under penalty of perjury stating that they intend on residing in the unit for at least 36 continuous months. In addition, the Rent Board is now required to annually notify the unit occupant of the maximum allowable rent (which is the rent of the previous tenant) for five years after an OMI.

This reform also extends the amount of time that a tenant has to exercise their rights and keep landlords accountable…

Finally, and perhaps the most significantly, nonprofits like the Housing Rights Committee and the San Francisco Tenants Union will be able to exercise a “right of action” to enforce the law…

Effective enforcement mechanisms were passed because tenant advocates pushed for real solutions…

Cynthia Fong is a community organizer with the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco in the Richmond District... (more)

 

Parking-space spat may halt $400 million tower

By J.K. Dineen : sfchronicle – excerpt

Van Ness and Market is the location of the One Oak Street Project. This intersection is known for its powerful winds that sweep through the wide intersection. Photos by google.

The tower proposed for the northwest corner of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue is big and bold in every respect. It would rise 40 stories. It would cost more than $400 million to build. It would bring a European-style piazza, an expansive restaurant with 30-foot glass walls and 304 luxury condos to one of the city’s busiest crossroads…

In the case of the One Oak Street tower, which goes before the Planning Commission on Thursday for approvals, the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association is pushing the developer to trim the number of parking spaces by 60 spots, from 136 to 76. This would represent a reduction from .45 to .25 parking spaces per unit, or from nearly 1 for every 2 to 1 for 4…

“It’s a marketing tool,” Yarne said. “Nobody, myself included, expects people in this building to be driving everywhere. We don’t. But the marketing professionals will tell you until the cows come home that people want the option.”…

“We are in challenging times in San Francisco because construction costs are high and sales prices have flattened,” Yarne said…

If the Planning Department approves the development, it goes to the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee in July and later to the full board for final approval… (more)

The more famous SF becomes for being a parking nightmare the more people will demand parking, but this project sounds like it has more than just parking issues. The idea that the public space will be cleaner and more well-kept than most is the real page turner since this is ground zero for the needle brigade. Stay tuned…

After a short deliberation the Planning Commissioners approved the higher number of parking spaces. Commissioner Hillis said that he know of only one family in his childrens’ school that did not own a car. One assumes that his is not that family. AS they voted to approve the project the Commissions admitted that some day condos may be built without parking spaces but that day has not yet come. One need only look at the numbers of requests for parking to verify that is true.

Plan Bay Area 2040 Draft Plan

If you are one of the unhappy San Francisco residents or a middle class citizen this plan will not please you.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) will host an open house to receive comments regarding Plan Bay Area 2040.  The open house is Wednesday, May 17, 2017 between 6:30pm and 8:30pm at the MTC headquarters at 375 Beal Street ( about a 10 minute walk for Embarcadero Station). DRAFT PLAN LINK

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is now available; comment on the DEIR and the Draft Plan through June 1.

Some statistics include:
*  501,000 jobs added between 2011 and 2015
*  65,000 housing units built between 2011 and 2015
*  Regionally 1 house built for every 8 jobs created.

HOUSING
Where will the region plan for the 820,000 new households forecasted between 2010 and 2040.  Regionally by 2040, 3.4 million households are forecasted. 46% will be in the “Big 3 Cities”  — SF, Oakland, San Jose.

JOBS
1.3 million new jobs  (36% in the Big  3 Cities)

So what does it all mean?  Climate Change, Housing costs and displacement, Economic Development and Environmental Impact and Transportation.

A question raised at a recent MTC committee meeting was: Should cities seeking economic development take responsibility for housing?  (Think the Menlo Park Facebook Expansion).  The local Menlo Park approval for 6,000 more jobs has regional impact.

No mention of a Public Regional Express Bus System to move the population.   More Private Commuter buses operating on your residential street?

Draft Plan and Draft EIR at Plan Bay Area 2040 Draft Plan

RELATED:

It’s not surprising that President Donald Trump’s proposed tax plan would hollow out the middle class. Income tax reductions will be robust for corporations and those in the highest income brackets. Others won’t fare so well.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren warns of the demise of the middle class in her book, “This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class.” She writes about growing up in the 1950s, when minimum wage supported a family of four. In 2017, minimum wage can’t support a household of two.

But hold on a minute before simply bashing Trump. Are you surprised that progressive California Democrats are implementing strategies that increase economic inequality?…

Now Plan Bay Area 2040’s “Regional Forecast of Jobs, Population and Housing” shows the rich and the poor growing to the highest numbers, but not the middle. The historic bell-shaped curve is inverted…

The plan forecasts: “The ‘hollowing out’ of the middle is projected to continue over the next 25 years. Household growth will be strongest in the highest income category, reflecting the expected strength of growth in high-wage sectors combined with non-wage income — interest, dividends, capital gains, transfers.”…

Further: “Household growth will also be high in the lowest-wage category, reflecting occupational shifts, wages stagnation, as well as the retirement of seniors without pension assets.”…(more)

 

Longtime San Francisco residents unhappy with city, says poll

by : curbed – excerpt

SF-skyline

San Francisco’s view-killing wall on the waterfront seen from the bay is unpopular with many long-term residents – photo by Zrants

The longer you’ve been living in San Francisco, the less likely you are to be happy with it.

That’s one of the lessons from the 2017 San Francisco City Survey released Tuesday, in which those with more than 30 years of San Francisco living under their belts generally gave City Hall a thumbs down.

The controller’s office conducts the survey every two years to measure general satisfaction with public services.

Overall, public opinion seems fairly mellow this time; most of the 2,166 randomly selected phone respondents gave the city either a B or a B- grade on things like public safety, transit, and parks. Libraries got a B+.

The public ranked homelessness as the city’s biggest problem, with 33 percent of responses highlighting it as their top concern… (more)

What is to like about a city that sold its soul for a few buckets of gold. People used to come for art, culture, social equality and other non-material qualities of life because there was no money. The new San Francisco draws get-rich-quick schemers who believe their virtual reality and future vision is more important than anyone or anything else and can’t wait to kick us out of our homes.