Our three-point plan to save San Francisco - Page 3

A radical new approach to affordable housing isn't just an option anymore — it's imperative

"The solution we are striving for has not been achieved," said Chris Durazo, chair of the South of Market Community Action Network, an organizing group. "Should we be looking at the cost to developers to build affordable housing or the cost to the neighborhood to be healthy? We're looking at the cumulative impacts of policy, ballot measures, and planning and saying it doesn't add up."

In fact, Shoemaker testified before the supervisors' committee that the city is $1.14 billion short of the cash it needs to build the level of affordable housing and community amenities in the eastern neighborhoods that are necessary to meet the city's own goals.

This is, to put it mildly, a gigantic problem.



Very little of what is on the mayor's drawing board is rental housing — and even less is housing available for people whose incomes are well below the regional median, people who earn less than $60,000 a year. That's a large percentage of San Franciscans.

The situation is dire. Last year the Mayor's Office of Community Development reported that 16 percent of renters spend more than half of their income on housing costs. And a recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition notes that a minimum-wage earner would have to work 120 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, to afford the $1,551 rent on a two-bedroom apartment if they spent the recommended 30 percent of their income on housing.

Ted Gullickson of the San Francisco Tenants Union told us that Ellis Act evictions have decreased in the wake of 2006 Board of Supervisors legislation that bars landlords from converting their property from rentals to condos if they evict senior or disabled tenants.

But the condo market is so profitable that landlords are now offering to buy out their tenants — and are taking affordable, rent-controlled housing off the market at the rate of a couple of hundred units a month.

City studies also confirm that white San Franciscans earn more than twice as much as their Latino and African American counterparts. So it's hardly surprising that the Bayview–Hunters Point African American community is worried that it will be displaced by the city's massive redevelopment plan for that area. These fears were reinforced last year, when Lennar Corp., which is developing 1,500 new units at Hunters Point Shipyard, announced it will only build for-sale condos at the site rather than promised rental units. Very few African American residents of Bayview–Hunters Point will ever be able to buy those condos.

Tony Kelly of the Potrero Hill Boosters believes the industrial-zoned land in that area is the city's last chance to address its affordable-housing crisis. "It's the biggest single rezoning that the city has ever tried to do. It's a really huge thing. But it's also where a lot of development pressure is being put on the city, because the first sale on this land, once it's rezoned, will be the most profitable."

Land use attorney Sue Hestor sees the eastern neighborhoods as a test of San Francisco's real political soul.

"There is no way it can meet housing goals unless a large chunk of land goes for affordable housing, or we'll export all of our low-income workers," Hestor said. "We're not talking about people on welfare, but hotel workers, the tourist industry, even newspaper reporters.

"Is it environmentally sound to export all your workforce so that they face commute patterns that take up to three and four hours a day, then turn around and sell condos to people who commute to San Jose and Santa Clara?"



It's time to rethink — completely rethink — the way San Francisco addresses the housing crisis. That involves challenging some basic assumptions that have driven housing policy for years — and in some quarters of town, it's starting to happen.

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