The Big Plan Behind SB50

Editorial by Zrants

StopSB50

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:  https://www.livablecalifornia.org/act-now/
Check the map to see how your community will fair under SB50

The Sierra Club and the luxury-housing developer

By Zelda Bronstein : 48hills – excerpt

Northern Alameda chapter backs San Leandro project in a sign that the pro-growth forces are trying to take over the environmental group.

Are you a Sierra Club member who lives in Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, Alameda, Piedmont or San Leandro? If so, you fall under the aegis of the club’s Northern Alameda County Group, which is nested within the larger Bay Chapter.

Be aware, then, that the NAC Executive Committee is currently dominated by a pro-growth coterie that’s exploiting the Sierra Club’s cachet to push a pro-development agenda that violates the club’s commitments to affordable housing, neighborhood integrity, and democratic governance.

If you’re a Sierra Club member who lives elsewhere in the Bay Area, you should also be concerned. The growth boosters on the NAC Ex Com include two men who wield considerable influence in the Bay Chapter, Igor Tregub and Andy Katz. Tregub also chairs the chapter Executive Committee. Both he and Katz sit on the Bay Chapter’s Political Committee, which makes the Sierra Club’s endorsements of political candidates and ballot measures. In the Bay Area, where the club claims nearly 60,000 members, and environmental values are widely embraced, Sierra Club endorsements carry a lot of weight. (UPDATE: Tregub tells me he has stepped down from the Political Committee, which only makes advisory recommendations on endorsements.)

This is an alarming trend for the club; already in San Francisco, Yimbys have tried to take over the local chapter (and so far failed). But the pro-development forces know that placing people on the boards of all-volunteer organizations is not that difficult. There’s little doubt that “smart growth” advocates are trying to shift the influential Sierra Club in their direction, locally and nationally(more)

SF mayor, supervisor feud over use of site for housing

By Rachel Swan : sfchronicle – excerpt

The homeless Navigation Center that Aaron Peskin proposed for a North Beach parking lot has led to a power struggle between the supervisor and his longtime political foe, Mayor Ed Lee, who wants to use the site for affordable housing.

Peskin’s Navigation Center would likely interfere with the 178-unit development that’s scheduled to break ground next year at 88 Broadway, now a city-owned parking lot just off the Embarcadero. And last week a sympathetic constituent gave Peskin ammunition that could help him forestall the project, making room for his temporary homeless facility…

One North Beach resident, Marc Bruno, filed an appeal with the city Planning Department to stall the development because it would eliminate 180 parking spaces, which he says would create traffic congestion.

Bruno, who describes himself a fervent supporter of Peskin, told The Chronicle he is also concerned the affordable housing units, which would go to low-income seniors, families and formerly homeless people, wouldn’t serve “the poorest of the poor” in his neighborhood…(more)

 

 

Developments in Development: Decisions and Limbo

By Laura Wenus : missionlocal – excerpt

The nuns have won! It only took 20,000 signatures and three hours of testimony from 20 or so people, but the Sisters of the Fraternite Notre Dame will open a soup kitchen on Mission Street near 16th Street. This has been a drama unfolding over the course of a year or so, which you can follow via Mission Local stories starting from a self-help mogul buying their space for them to the first rumblings of opposition to fears of blight.

More advances in feeding people (though in this case not for free): A reader reports construction is advancing swiftly at the Grocery Outlet planned for the former DeLano’s market on South Van Ness Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets. This was approved ages ago, but it seems things are getting underway.

On the other hand, the city seems to be going through a bit of indecision…

the city is considering the impact of big housing projects on their surroundings, and two of those big projects now have to wait for the city to do so…(more)

Developer allies again try to take over Sierra Club

By Tim Redmond : sierraclub – excerpt

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For years, the San Francisco chapter of the Sierra Club has been part of a progressive environmental movement. The Club has worked on clean energy, better transit, and sustainable development – and has opposed giant, out-of-control projects like the Wall on the Waterfront. It’s worked with tenant advocates on affordable housing. The influential Club slate card typically endorses the same candidates as the Milk Club, the Tenants Union, and the Bay Guardian.

But for the past couple of years, developers and their allies have been trying to take over the chapter and change its politics. They want a more growth-friendly board that will support market-rate housing development and big commercial projects – and they want the club’s endorsement to go to developer-friendly candidates.

That would be a huge blow to progressive politics in San Francisco.

Last year, a pro-development slate of candidates was defeated after its controversial members attracted critical media scrutiny. But now a well-funded funded new organization, the YIMBY Party, is running a slate of stealth candidates for the club’s Executive Committee.

While the individual candidates have been vague about their “urbanist” agenda, their sponsoring organization promotes an explicit platform of weakening environmental controls on real-estate development in the city.

The YIMBY Party was formed this year by Sonja Trauss, who previously created the SF Bay Area Renter Federation (SF BARF).  Trauss and her cohort have a simple solution to the housing crisis: Build more luxury housing.  Last year, Trauss told 48 Hills:

          New housing is expensive, because it’s new, and SF has tons of rich people. It’s appropriate to build new, expensive housing for rich people in expensive neighborhoods. Sierra Club (and No wall on the waterfront) are just rich people using their political capital to block housing in their fancy neighborhoods.

Trauss, whose crazy comments about the Mission helped delay construction of a big project on South Van Ness, is not running for the Sierra Club leadership this year. Nor is her former colleague, Donald Dewsnup, who has been charged with voter fraud.  Instead, Trauss’s new YIMBY Party is running a slate of lesser-known allies who all recently joined the Sierra Club with the express purpose of taking over the local chapter…

The YIMBY effort to take over the local Sierra Club is being countered by a volunteer effort of club members who seek to protect the club’s independence and progressive record. If you’re a Sierra Club member, you can get more information here.

Voting for the Sierra Club’s officers ends December 16…(more)

Dense development is a developer’s wet dream. People who want to retain their privacy, and views, and build solar powered self-efficient homes prefer lower, less dense housing with shade free roofs.

Build your dense cities connected to desert-array power grid systems, on higher, more stable ground, up near route 5 so you can step off the train onto your bicycle and whiz home after your commute from LA or Sacramento.

San Francisco has a history and a reputation to maintain. People who don’t like it should go build their urban vision concept somewhere else and make a history of their own.

395 housing units, one of biggest projects in Potrero Hill, wins final approval

By : bizjournals – excerpt

A 395-unit housing project, one of the biggest ever proposed in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, won final approval at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in a contentious three-hour hearing. Opposition to the project underscored continued backlash against development in the area, which has seen a building boom with over 3,000 units approved or in the pipeline following the 2009 Eastern Neighborhoods Plan.

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 to uphold the environmental review of the project, comprised of two buildings at 901 16th St. and 1200 17th St., from developers Walden Development and the Prado Group. The Board rejected an environmental appeal from neighbors of the project who opposed its size and also alleged that the city didn’t properly study the project’s environmental impacts on the community. The decision affirmed a previous Planning Commission approval of the project.

Opponents of the project said it would exacerbate overcrowded streets with new residents’ cars, demolish 109,000 square feet of existing existing light industrial space that could potentially house artists and damage views and open space.

“The environmental review for this project is inadequate and fails to accurate analyze cumulative impacts,” said Alison Heath, a local resident and member of community group Grow Potrero Responsibly, who appealed the project, at the hearing.

Heath noted that as of February, 3,315 units have been approved or in the pipeline in the Potrero Hill and Showplace Square areas, which is more than the 2009 Eastern Neighborhoods Plan anticipated. But city planners have previously said that the level of growth matches what the city expected. She called for the city to reconsider the plan and provide more resources for infrastructure, particularly transit expansion. Other nearby projects include Related California’s 299-unit 1601 Mariposa St., which is approved, and Equity Residential (NYSE: EQR)’s 1010 16th St., which is completed, as well as Equity’s One Henry Adams and 801 Brannan in the neighboring Design District… (more)

But Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the lone vote rejecting the project’s environmental review, criticized the city’s Planning Department for not fully studying the project’s impact on the area and said the department had to do better in assessing future projects.

The meeting was also marked by an unusual moment between the developer and Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents Portrero Hill and had worked on the project’s review for years. Cohen was ultimately recused from the vote following an exchange with developer Josh Smith of Walden Development, where she called for more concessions to fund the nearby Jackson Park… (more)

Tape of the meeting is highly enlightening and slightly disturbing. http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=10&clip_id=25889

http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=10&clip_id=25889
Planning staff explains some things about the PDR reduction plans around (4:08:39)

Statement on the basis for rezoning PDR to UMU: is this what Peter is referring to?

“Let’s take it back to the Eastern Neighborhood Plan rezoning. Adopted in 2008, after 10 years of community conversation. The the basis of the plan was to protect industrial space, PDR. The zoning at the time was from the 1950’s. It was mushy. It allowed office as a right. It allowed housing as a right. It allowed (4:08:56 ???) housing as conditional use. It allowed retail as a right. And there was a ton of land use conflicts going on as land uses were moving next to each other and causing conflict.

We recognized the need to protect PDR jobs, blue collar jobs,. We recognized the need for housing and community benefits. And housing in concentrated areas that you could provide the transit and the parks and the child care in consolidated ways rather than disparately over a large area.

And so the Eastern Neighborhoods plan was that compromise. Half of the land that was zoned industrially became zoned PDR. Much more restrictive. No office was allowed. No retail was allowed. No housing was allowed. And the other half was approved as urban mixed use which isa neighborhood that allowed PDR, allowed some office, allowed retail, and allowed housing as of right for the first time, and also generated from the housing use a higher percentage of affordable housing than required elsewhere in the city, and also generated code benefits throughout the Eastern Neighborhoods benefit fee that was brand new of which we generate over 50 million dollars to date revenue that would not have been generated without the plan.”

RELATED: Many stories on this one, from Pokeman to serious.

Slip of the tongue: The art of squeezing developers for community benefits is nothing new in politics, especially when today’s hot real estate market gives elected officials leverage to extract cash for everything from affordable housing to parks…

395 housing units, one of biggest projects in Potrero Hill, wins final approval A 395-unit housing project, one of the biggest ever proposed in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, won final approval at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in a contentious three-hour hearing. Opposition to the project underscored continued backlash against development in the area, which has seen a building boom with over 3,000 units approved or in the pipeline following the 2009 Eastern Neighborhoods Plan
Heath noted that as of February, 3,315 units have been approved or in the pipeline in the Potrero Hill and Showplace Square areas, which is more than the 2009 Eastern Neighborhoods Plan anticipated. But city planners have previously said that the level of growth matches what the city expected. She called for the city to reconsider the plan and provide more resources for infrastructure, particularly transit expansion. Other nearby projects include Related California’s 299-unit 1601 Mariposa St., which is approved, and Equity Residential (NYSE: EQR)’s 1010 16th St., which is completed, as well as Equity’s One Henry Adams and 801 Brannan in the neighboring Design District…

Pay-to-play comment costs supervisor vote on Potrero Hill development 

San Francisco Bay: $12 parcel tax for wetlands has big financial backers

By Paul Rogers : eastbaytimes – excerpt

When environmentalists wade into political contests, they’re almost always outspent by big business.

But that’s not the case with Measure AA, a $12 annual parcel tax that will appear on the June 7 ballot in all nine Bay Area counties to fund wetlands restoration and flood control projects around San Francisco Bay’s shoreline.

Environmental groups have linked arms with big business this time around, in essence becoming part of the Goliath in the David vs. Goliath contest. The coalition is overpowering anti-tax groups in fundraising by a huge margin, according to campaign spending reports released Friday.

Through last week, the Yes on AA campaign had raised $2.3 million, while opponents have not formed a campaign committee and are relying on volunteer efforts. The yes campaign has hired heavyweight political consultants, conducted professional polling, sent out glossy mailers and begun airing ads on every major Bay Area TV station.

If approved by two-thirds of all the voters in the nine counties combined, the new tax would raise $500 million over the next 20 years to build levees and restore thousands of acres of wetlands and tidal marshes as a buffer to storm surges and floods in every Bay Area county… (more)

We hear that the $12 parcel tax is the first tax the SF Bay Authority plans on and they need billions of dollars. There are plans for a sales tax increase, a 10 cent per gallon gas tax increase, higher car license fees, and a number of other taxes and fees this non-elected, non-government entity wants to extract out of us in the name of cleaning the bay over the next few years.

For this and many other reasons we oppose this tax and hope that other people realize the gentrification effects that increasing taxes have on the area. Most people focus only on the rising costs of housing but, housing is only one element of the gentrification problem. We are looking at 100s of dollars of increased fees and taxes over the next few years. The opposition to this tax wants to limit the number of bodies that can tax us.