After the bubble - Page 2

Eastern Neighborhoods Plan limps toward final approval as activists question its assumptions on housing and fear the mayor's veto pen

"Less than half [of these] have been funded by the project."

He characterized the approved parts of the plan as "pretty weak." "They're rezoning 500 acres of industrial land for housing — predominantly market-rate — right at a time when no one's building market-rate housing," Kelly said. He also said the plan lacked many creative financing ideas. "When the area plans were presented to our neighborhood back in 2006, the Planning Department outlined all the things a neighborhood needs. There was a chart with 18 different ways to pay for it. How many are now in the plan? One."

Ways to ensure that developer fees are used well and land doesn't sit fallow were introduced at the last minute. Amendments to the plan, made by Sup. Aaron Peskin, require audits of the neighborhood improvement fees and forcing developers to actually build rather than speculate — but they received a potentially fatal last-minute blow.

The Board's first vote on the plan occurred during the Nov. 18 meeting and the bulk of the plan received unanimous support (minus Sup. Chris Daly, who is recused from voting because he owns property in the plan area).

But late in the game, a standoff arose between Peskin and Sup. Sean Elsbernd, who opposed blindly rubberstamping the last-minute amendments offered by Peskin during the previous night's Land Use and Economic Development Committee hearing.

"We saw the actual language of this if you looked in your e-mail in the last two hours," Elsbernd said during the heat of the Board hearing. "I'd like a week to read the changes made by you last night."

The Board voted to continue the matter for a week, but then, at the end of that day's business, Peskin rescinded the vote and forced the issue. As promised, Elsbernd severed the four Peskin amendments — a legislative tactic that allows one supervisor to slice out parts of legislation and place them into individual files for separate votes.

Peskin countered by severing another amendment, added by Sup. Gerardo Sandoval, which would have allowed special height increases for two lots on Mission Street, where the New Mission Theatre and the Giant Value store currently sit. Gus Murad, who owns the properties as well as the adjacent restaurant Medjool, has been lobbying to convert the properties to commercial and residential space.

The supervisors shot down the "spot zoning" amendment that would let future buildings on the two sites to be built higher than what's currently allowed on Mission Street. MAC spokesperson Nick Pagoulatos later applauded the move: "It would have been a ridiculous exception to make and one that clearly favored one developer."

Despite Elsbernd's move to sever the amendments, all four passed, but didn't receive enough votes to block a veto from Newsom. Supervisors Carmen Chu and Michela Alioto-Pier voted with Elsbernd.

The mayor's ability to line-item veto some key protections sought by neighborhood activists was at the heart of the move. "That's absolutely right," Elsbernd told the Guardian, who added that although he hadn't spoken with Newsom and didn't know his intentions, "These are issues that absolutely concern me."

The amendments add "metering" and "use it or lose it" provisions to the plan. Metering is essentially an audit performed by the board every five years to ensure that collected developer impact fees are used properly. Peskin said that while they couldn't meet all the requests of neighborhood groups and housing rights activists, "this was something that we could do that made good public policy sense."

Elsbernd told the Guardian he didn't object to the concept of metering but would like oversight by the Controller's Office.