The risk of honest planning


OPINION At the Nov. 1 meeting of the land use committee of the Board of Supervisors, a seemingly straightforward statement of policy will be heard. It simply requires that the city apply its own General Plan guidelines to future development in the eastern neighborhoods.
But the legislation, proposed by Supervisors Sophie Maxwell, Jake McGoldrick, Aaron Peskin, and Tom Ammiano, is creating quite a furor. A senior planning official has testified that if it's adopted, the entire development boom in the eastern neighborhoods may be halted. The mayor has threatened a veto.
The policy in question calls for city planners to show how they intend to ensure that 64 percent of all new housing development is affordable to moderate-, low-, and very low-income San Franciscans. That's what the housing element of the master plan says is needed.
Land use development policy lies at the very heart of San Francisco politics. It's dangerous work for supervisors to attempt to determine that policy, especially if it calls for protection of existing neighborhoods and their residents.
Just ask Supervisor Chris Daly.
Don't for a minute believe that he is in the fight of his political life because he's rude, because he doesn't care about law and order, or because he prefers dirty streets upon which to raise his son. These petty and silly charges mask a far more serious objection: the way his opponents see it, Daly has been too slow in adopting the massive wave of market-rate housing slated for his district and is far too protective of lower-income residents in District 6.
Never mind that since Daly took office some 3,000 units of housing have been built in the South of Market portion of his district alone or that an equal amount wait in the pipeline at the Planning Department. Mayor Gavin Newsom and his market-rate developer allies are simply not satisfied with Daly's pro–housing development approach — because Daly has sought some balance in that development.
Likewise, the Maxwell resolution calls for plans that will be balanced, contain sustainable development policies, and guarantee a voice for residents against the headlong drive of the current administration to convert the eastern neighborhoods (South of Market, Potrero Hill, the Mission District) into vertical gated communities for Silicon Valley commuters. It states that it shall be the policy of the city that future plans explain not only how they will meet the affordability goals of the housing element but also how they will meet policies of preserving the arts and other productive activities; providing for public transit, pedestrian, and bike rider needs; protecting employment opportunities for current and future residents; and keeping families with children in the city.
There's a working majority of the Board of Supervisors willing to fight for current neighborhoods and residents and a future that includes them. The battle in District 6 shows that the fight is not without risk. Do the rest of us realize it? SFBG
Calvin Welch
Calvin Welch is a community organizer in San Francisco.