SF residential projects languish as rising costs force developers to cash out

: sfchronicle – excerpt

Just 3 miles separate 2675 Folsom St., a vacant former restaurant equipment warehouse in the Mission District, and 160 Folsom St., a former parking lot near the Transbay Transit Center where a condo tower is under construction.

But in the current economic landscape of the San Francisco’s housing development, the two properties are a world apart.

While the next crop of luxury condo towers like 160 Folsom, which developer Tishman Speyer has branded as Mira, continue to rise in the fast-growing eastern end of South of Market, other approved housing projects across the city, like 2675 Folsom St., are stalled and on the market because of soaring construction costs and fees, developers and other industry sources say.

The growing number of developers seeking to cash out rather than risk losing money on building is fueling concerns that residential production will start to decline even as the Bay Area’s housing crisis worsens… (more)

Some of us have been predicting this for months. It is easier to solve the housing problem once you take the “build more” option off the table. Keep people in their homes by keeping homes affordable if you want to solve the housing problem. Repeal inflationary bills at the root of the income disparity problem. Repeal Prop 6 and Prop 10 in November.

Repealing Prop 6 should lower the cost of all consumables, including food.

Repealing Prop 10 will allow individual cities to deal with rent control issues on a local basis. The voters can enact the control they want in their district.


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


State wades into S.F. waterfront height-limit fight

By John Coté : sfgate – excerpt

State land-use officials are questioning the legality of a proposed San Francisco ballot measure that would require voter approval to exceed height limits along the waterfront.

The measure, which supporters are trying to qualify for the June ballot, would affect at least three major waterfront development projects that are a central part of Mayor Ed Lee‘s vision for growing the city’s economy, including the Golden State Warriors‘ plans for a waterfront arena just south of the Bay Bridge.

The ballot measure is of “questionable validity,” according to a letter sent Monday to City Attorney Dennis Herrera by Mark Meier, the chief legal counsel for the State Lands Commission. The agency, which has authority over state lands, including the San Francisco waterfront, has “concerns about the legality of this proposed initiative” because it would supplant the city’s decision-making authority – which is supposed to be exercised on behalf of residents of the entire state – with a vote of the local citizenry…

‘Fatally flawed’

A separate legal analysis by Robin Johansen – an attorney at Remcho, Johansen & Purcell, which specializes in election law – contends the ballot measure is “fatally flawed” and runs afoul of both state and local law, in part by trying to take away authority from the Board of Supervisors granted under the City Charter without going through the much more difficult process of amending the Charter itself.

The city attorney’s office declined to comment, saying it was long-standing policy not to comment on measures that are before voters…

The Warriors are proposing to build a 125-foot-tall arena on a pair of conjoined piers where there is a 40-foot height limit. The project also includes building a 175-foot condominium tower and two 105-foot mid-rise buildings for a hotel on a lot owned by the port across the Embarcadero, where there is a 105-foot height limit.

The San Francisco Giants are proposing a pair of slender towers that could rise to at least 320 feet as part of an urban village with buildings of various sizes on a 16-acre site near AT&T Park that is currently their main parking area, which they lease from the port and which is zoned as open space.

Pier 70 plans

At Pier 70, a group of developers is preparing to restore about a dozen battered industrial buildings while adding as many as 1,000 housing units and 2.5 million square feet of commercial space, including two towers up to 230 feet, on port property where height limits vary from 40 to 65…

All of the sites are on property that was entrusted to the city in 1968 by the state under the Burton Act, which allowed the city, through what is now the Port Commission, to manage the day-to-day activities on what had been state land…

Under a tenet of common law that dates to Roman times, the waterways of California, including waterfront property, are held in trust by the state for public benefit and maritime use. The state “still remains the ultimate trustee of these granted lands,” Meier wrote in his letter as the top attorney for the State Lands Commission, a three-member panel that includes former San Francisco Mayor and current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

Proponents of San Francisco’s measure, though, say they are looking to ensure that the rules that are already in place – height limits – remain, unless voters decide there is a compelling reason to change.

“All this measure does is give the people the right to protect that waterfront,” Golinger said. “Anything the politicians can do, the people they work for can certainly do too.”… (more)