SF Mayor Ed Lee’s legacy: Economic boost that exacerbated income inequality

By Carolyn Said : sfchronicle – excerpt (includes graphics)

By almost every measure, San Francisco’s economy boomed during Mayor Ed Lee’s six-year tenure, adding jobs, companies, housing and office space. Of course, that also exacerbated the city’s well-known issues: income disparity, congestion and transportation, and lack of affordable housing.

Whoever takes over at City Hall will inherit a vastly different climate than what Lee faced in January 2011 when the city and country were emerging from a brutal recession and local unemployment stood at 8.9 percent, higher than it was during the dot-com bust. It’s now an impressive 2.7 percent, among the lowest in the country.

San Francisco under Lee became even more of a mecca for technology, cementing its cachet as the nation’s startup capital. The number of venture-backed startups here more than doubled during his administration, while the number of tech jobs tripled.

San Francisco and Silicon Valley don’t have a hard border, or even a soft border,” said Terry Connelly, dean emeritus of Golden Gate University. “They’re one and the same. That’s a big change, and that happened under Ed Lee.”...(more)

The legacy of Mayor Ed Lee includes the huge impact his enthusiasm for sports and arenas had on the culture shift in San Francisco away from liberal, progressive humanitarian politics toward a much more competitive reach for gold. The increase in the tax base through fast-rising real estate valuations, has not been sufficient to off-set the damage done to our most vulnerable citizens who are losing their homes as the wealthy flood in to displace them. Solving this conundrum will be the job of the next mayor. San Francisco citizens must demand a plan of action before choosing the next Mayor as this will be the most important task. All candidates should prepare to show us their plans.

Mayor Lee the face of a new, enlightened SF



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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Developer allies again try to take over Sierra Club

By Tim Redmond : sierraclub – excerpt


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.

S.F. State Senate Candidates on Affordability and Tech’s Impact on the City

with Thuy Vu and Scott Shafer : kqed – excerpt – (video)

Jane Kim and Scott Wiener
One of the hottest races on the November ballot is taking off in San Francisco. City Supervisors Jane Kim and Scott Wiener talk about why they’re running for a seat in the California Senate…

The two candidates vying to replace Mark Leno as San Francisco state senator sat down for a conversation at KQED Friday and discussed a wide range of issues, from affordable housing to what it takes to get things done in Sacramento.

San Francisco Supervisors Scott Wiener and Jane Kim would both be considered liberal Democrats almost anywhere but San Francisco, where even a friendly relationship with a Republican can arouse suspicion….(more)

Comment on the source if you can

Supes’ move to avert Lee veto on development measure fails

By Lizzie Johnson : sfgate – excerpt

A motion by the Board of Supervisors that would oppose state “by-right” development legislation and skirt Mayor Ed Lee’s veto of a resolution against it failed at a special meeting Monday.

The legislation, by Gov. Jerry Brown, would make it easier to build new housing without going through an extensive permitting process. If enacted, the proposal would allow planning staff to approve housing developments that conform to the city’s zoning and include 10 percent affordable units, or 20 percent if the project is close to public transit.

The supervisors passed a resolution opposing the by-right legislation in July, but Lee vetoed it. The board ran out of time to override the resolution before the summer recess, pushing the issue into a special meeting. Board members wanted to pass the resolution in the form of a motion, which Lee cannot veto because it is a parliamentary procedure.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said a motion was an “irregular and really problematic” way to push the resolution.

“It is a procedural vote within the Board of Supervisors,” he said. “A motion is supposed to be about those of us within the board setting our own procedural rules. The mayor cannot veto it because it is not in his province to be meddling in the internal procedures. Putting that aside, the board is going to act the way it acts.”

It ultimately failed because a motion requires a board majority — six votes — to pass and it drew five votes of the seven supervisors present Monday. Wiener and Supervisor Katy Tang voted against the motion.

But Supervisor Aaron Peskin said the motion was a way for the board to express itself.

“The policy body may pass a motion to express itself as the policy body,” he said. “It’s legal, though I’ll admit, it is often not done.”

After confusion over whether the motion had passed or not, board President London Breed said it had “unfortunately failed.”…(more)

Better contact our state legislators if you want to stop the by-right law. Tell them By-right is Not Right. Oppose the governor’s By-Right override of local zoning laws.
State contacts: https://discoveryink.wordpress.com/state-legislators/

Developments in Development: Unplan

By missionlocal – excerpt

Watch out, planning process – big State Government is coming for you. Jerry Brown has proposed legislation that would make developments with certain percentages of below market rate housing approved “by right” – as in, no months of public meetings, no hours long planning commission hearing, no years long process. Projects would still have to respect zoning and density restrictions, but certain permits and reviews could no longer be required.

People who dislike the local bureaucracy might jump at that prospect, but it does indicate that as long as certain requirements are fulfilled, the thing (no matter how ugly or disruptive or one-size-fits-all or poorly engineered you may think it is) can and will be built – yes, in your backyard.

The measure is aimed addressing the outrageous cost of housing in California by ramping up production statewide. But then there’s that persistent question that needs to be contended with: Is production alone the answer to our housing problems? Experimental Geography blogger Eric Fischer took an in depth look at why housing is so damn expensive and concludes, more or less, that going back to the “good old days” is highly unlikely but building some 5,700 units a year would stabilize prices.

He also notes that income inequality makes the problem much more serious and is not something that will simply be magicked away by supply and demand: “It is a serious problem that the 5th percentile income is 10% of the median income while the 5th percentile rent is still 45% of the median rent, and it is a problem that housing construction alone can’t solve.” If you want to wade knee-deep into data, read the full piece(more)

STOP AB 2501 The State “Density Bonus” Power Grab
Let the State Assembly members now how you feel about AB2501 by signing the following:  http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51380/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18782  It takes only a minute to send your voice directly to our state electeds.


February 11, 2015

For Immediate Release         
Contact: Robert Oakes
February 11, 2015
916-651-4025  (Robert.Oakes@sen.ca.gov)

SACRAMENTO, CA – Adult bicycle riders in California will to have to wear helmets, according to a new bill introduced Wednesday (February 11, 2015).

California since 1994 has mandated that anyone under 18 wear a helmet when riding a bike. Sen. Carol Liu, D- La Cañada Flintridge, has now authored S.B. 192 to extend the helmet requirement to adults and also require all riders to wear reflective clothing when cycling at night.

“Any responsible bicycle rider should wear a helmet,” said Liu, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. “This law will help protect more people and make sure all riders benefit from the head protection that a helmet provides.”

Anyone riding without a helmet could be cited for an infraction and fined up to $25, the same as current law for youth cyclists.

Bicycle rider injuries in traffic accidents have increased steadily in California. Nearly 14,000 bicyclists were hurt in crashes in 2012, up from 11,760 in 2008, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Bicyclists who don’t wear helmets are far more likely to be hurt or killed in accidents. Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly were not wearing helmets, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported.

Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia require children and teenagers to wear helmets when riding a bike. No states require helmets for adults. The Pediatric Academic Societies, a national group, reported in 2013 that the states with mandatory youth helmet laws had significantly lower rates of fatalities and injuries after bicycle-motor vehicle collisions than states without helmet laws.

S.B 192 requires adult helmets to meet standards of either the American Society for Testing and Materials or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is the current state requirement for youth helmets… (more)

Sen. Liu represents about 930,000 people in the 25th Senate District, which includes Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Atwater, Loz Feliz, Sunland-Tujunga, La Crescenta, Montrose, Altadena, San Marino, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Bradbury, Duarte, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont, Glendora, and Upland.

Contact Robert Oakes if you have opinions on this law.