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…


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.”



Developments in Development: Déjà Vu

By : missionlocal – excerpt

Does this sound uncomfortably familiar to anyone? Bloomberg reports that “Silicon Valley Elites Get Home Loans With No Money Down” and that “As the tech boom starts to show signs of cracks, there’s some concern that high loan-to-value mortgages are dangerous.”

Granted we’re not seeing mass foreclosures and willy-nilly lending (yet?). And 4 in 10 applicants for these zero-down home loans are rejected by the provider. But that means 60 percent are approved — with the primary criterion apparently being that they earn more than $200K a year. And as Bloomberg notes, the down payment on a house here could buy you a whole house flat-out elsewhere. What could possibly go wrong…

I wonder if any of those loans are going to condo purchases. A new crop is for sale in the Mission right now, including those at “Rowan” on Potrero Ave near Franklin Square that have hit the market. I didn’t know that this was the “heart” of the Mission, and I guess opinions are divided on whether that northeast corner is “flourishing” as The Registry says, but there you have it. The 70 new units are on sale in the Mission — 11 of them below market rate.

By the way, those of you who pay close attention to how projects are proposed, advocated for, and approved in this city may be interested to hear that the head of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition has stepped down. A hunt is under way for a replacement — you can read more about Tim Colen’s achievements here

Enough about finding a place to live in the city, let’s talk about buildings that have been around for a long time. Owners are running up against a deadline to earthquake-proof their buildings. I guess maybe “-proof” is a bit of a strong suffix given that we’re talking about earthquakes, but as the Chronicle reports, the seismic retrofit is no small undertaking.

A whole little industry has sprung up around it, and the cost is substantial — perhaps making it no surprise that property owners aren’t keen on jumping on top of that right away. Legislation allowing landlords to add units to their buildings when they do these retrofits have helped some, but roughly 60 days remain to see whether it’s enough of an incentive for one group of landlords to meet their deadline…(more)

City Cites Its Own Land for “Blight,” Gives Self 15 Days to Fix