Truth about the eastern neighborhoods - Page 2

San Francisco is one of the world's great cities, but it isn't very big

And even the Hausrath report acknowledges that 4,000 more PDR jobs will be lost from the eastern neighborhoods under the city's plan. That's more than would be lost without any rezoning at all.

The vast majority — more than 70 percent, the report shows — of people who work in PDR jobs in San Francisco also live in San Francisco. Many are immigrants and people of color. A significant percentage live in Bayview–Hunters Point, where the unemployment rate among African Americans is a civic disgrace. What will happen to those workers? What will happen to their families? Where will they go when the jobs disappear? There's nothing in the report that addresses these questions — although they reflect one of the most important socioeconomic impacts of the looming changes in the region.

Then there's affordable housing.

According to the city's reports and projections, two-thirds of all the new housing that is built in the city ought to be available below the market rate. That's because none of the people who are now being driven from San Francisco by high housing costs — families, small-business people working-class renters, people on fixed incomes — can possibly afford market-rate units. In fact, as we reported last week ("The Big Housing Lie," 3/28/07), the new housing that's being built in San Francisco does very little to help current residents, which is why more than 65 percent of the people who are buying those units are coming here from out of town.

San Francisco is one of the world's great cities, but it isn't very big — 49 square miles — and most of the land is already developed. The 1,500 developable acres in the eastern neighborhoods are among the last bits of land that can be used for affordable housing. And in fact, that's where 60 percent of the below-market housing built in the city in the past few years has been located.

But every market-rate project that's built — and there are a lot of them on the drawing board — takes away a potential affordable housing site and thus makes it less possible for the city to come close to meeting its goals. The Hausrath report completely ignores that fact.

Overall, the report — which reflects the sensibilities of the Planning Department — accepts the premise that the best use of much of the eastern neighborhoods is for high-end condos. Building that housing, the report notes, "would provide a relief valve" to offset pressures on the market for existing housing.

But that's directly at odds with the available facts. The San Francisco housing market has never fit in with a traditional supply-and-demand model, and today it's totally out of whack. Market-rate housing in this city has come to resemble freeways and prisons: the more you build, the more demand it creates — and the construction boom does nothing to alleviate the original problem.

The new condos in San Francisco are being snapped up by real estate speculators, wealthy empty nesters, very rich people (and companies) who want local pieds-à-terre, and highly paid tech workers who have jobs on the Peninsula. Meanwhile, families are fleeing the city in droves. The African American community is being decimated. Artists, writers, musicians, unconventional thinkers — the people who are the heart of San Francisco life and culture — can't stay in a town that offers no place for them to live. Is this really how we want to use the 1,500 precious acres of the eastern neighborhoods?

The Hausrath study was largely a waste of money, which is too bad, because the issue facing the planning commissioners, the mayor, and the supervisors is profound.