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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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.

 

Longtime San Francisco residents unhappy with city, says poll

by : curbed – excerpt

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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.

 

New California housing laws make granny units easier to build

By Kathleen Pender : sfchronicle – excerpt

California homeowners should find it easier and cheaper to build a second unit on their property, or turn an illegal unit into a legal one, thanks to two laws that take effect Jan. 1.

The laws, along with a third that took effect in September, will ease or eliminate the off-street parking requirements and often-enormous utility-hookup fees that homeowners face when they create a second dwelling, often called an in-law or granny unit.

One set of rules will apply if the second unit is created within an existing space — such as a bedroom, basement, attic or garage. Another set will apply if the new unit, whether attached or detached, adds square footage outside or on top of existing structures.

Homeowners will still have to comply with local building codes, find a contractor and arrange financing. Sylvia Krug, who is looking to convert bedrooms in her Novato home into a rental unit, said she interviewed three contractors “and they all have yearlong waiting lists.”…

The laws that take effect Jan. 1 — AB2299 and SB1069 — amend the state law governing second units and rename them “accessory dwelling units.”

About two-thirds of California’s cities and counties have their own second-unit ordinances, but the state law is more permissive than most of them. Jurisdictions that have not adopted or amended a local ordinance that complies with the new state law by Jan. 1 will have to follow the state law until they approve a compliant one.

Under the new law, second units are allowed on any lot with a single-family home, but local ordinances can say where they will or won’t be permitted based on factors such as water and sewer services, traffic flow and public safety… (more)

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Gov. Brown taps California’s Rep. Xavier Becerra to be state’s first Latino attorney general

By Sarah D. Wire and John Myers : latimes – excerpt (includes video)

Gov. Jerry Brown has tapped House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) to be the next attorney general of California. He will succeed Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.

Becerra, 58, has served 12 terms in Congress and was making a bid to become the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee when Brown called him unexpectedly to offer the job…

Becerra, who is the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, would be the state’s first Latino attorney general…(more)

Becerra is expected to uphold California’s environmental and deportation protection laws.

 

 

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.