Weighing a landlord's promise - Page 2

Parkmerced developer says rent control will be protected under new plan, but tenant advocates voice concerns

An artist's rendering of the new Parkmerced, with more highrises and fewer garden apartments

The landlord's promise of continued rent control is written into a development agreement, a contract between the developer and the city that would be filed along with permits and entitlements for the property. Any subsequent owner would also have to adhere to the terms of the agreement.

Despite those assurances, tenant advocates speaking at the Dec. 9 meeting sounded the alarm that the guarantee could be called into question in court if the developer or a new owner ever sought to challenge it. The Costa-Hawkins Act, passed in 1995, prohibits rent control on newly constructed units, and San Francisco's rent ordinance guarantees rent control only for units built before 1979.

"It is disingenuous for the Parkmerced landlord and for city staff to assure tenants that they will have rent-controlled replacement units after their units are demolished," noted Polly Marshall, a tenant commissioner on the San Francisco Rent Board who spoke as an individual before the Planning Commission. "We simply don't know if this will be the case."

Marshall said the agreement could be susceptible to a legal challenge, given recent court rulings in Los Angeles and Santa Monica finding that the Ellis Act and the Costa-Hawkins Act preempted any contracts brokered with the municipalities. In each case, signed agreements between a developer and a city were dissolved in California courts.

"There's nothing in state law that says that when you demolish rent-controlled housing, it has to be replaced with rent-controlled housing," said Dean Preston, director of Tenants Together, a statewide tenant advocacy group. "I don't think the city or the developer can make those guarantees."

Preston added that the problem would be intensified if the property is conveyed to a new owner who didn't make the same commitments, and acknowledged that he didn't perceive a surefire way to guarantee enforceability. "It's not the developer's fault, and it's not the city's fault," Preston added. "Ultimately this needs to be addressed In Sacramento."

City staff and the developer seemed responsive to the concerns. In comments submitted to commissioners Dec. 9, Marshall said the development agreement should be amended to specify that the developer agreed to waive any rights to challenge the requirements of the agreement. The following week, at the Dec. 16 meeting, planning staff distributed revised copies of the agreement that had been changed to include that language.

During a staff presentation at the Dec. 16 meeting, mayoral development advisor Michael Yarne addressed the rent-control question in a detailed presentation. "The city wants to protect existing tenants," Yarne told commissioners. "It is not the city's intent to leave existing tenants vulnerable."

Under Costa-Hawkins, Yarne said, exceptions to the rent-control prohibition apply in cases where a municipality has made a valuable contribution to a developer for a residential project in exchange for the waiver of rights under Costa-Hawkins.

Yarne ticked off a slew of contributions he believed would pass muster in a court of law as enough to qualify for the exception. Among other perks, maximum density controls for the site would be eliminated; the height and bulk for new buildings would be increased beyond what's normally allowed; the city would not assess impact fees for the replacement units; the amount of permitted commercial mixed-use development for Parkmerced's zoning category would be substantially increased; and the development rights would be frozen for 30 years with no required milestones.

"We believe this satisfies the public-assistance exception," Yarne said. He noted that the document was drafted with feedback from City Attorney Dennis Herrera.


what is not included is;

a) the loss of openspace
b) the impacts of SFSU-CSU
c) cummalative impacts on Parkmerced as a single neighborhood by multiple developments.
d) lack of direct addressing of transit funding and major infrastructure.
e) a lack of preservation, and sustainable infill development
f) the lack of addressing of the existing towers that have NOT been structurally retrofitted.
g) use of the mills-act to look seriously at the feasibility of funding.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 21, 2010 @ 11:45 pm

Calvin Welch is a Haight Ashbury homeowner (acquired via eviction of previous tenants) and gets paid as the head of the nonprofit affordable housing developer cartel "Council of Community Housing Organizations."

Tenant rights activist? Puhleeze!

With Brown toadie P.J. Johnston and Calvin Welch in the mix, it is only a matter of time before Welch folds on command for a pittance of subsidy for CCHO's HOs.


Posted by marcos on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 10:59 am

We're supposed to read your critique of Calvin's bonafides and treat that seriously? You can disagree with his role and strategy, but Calvin has done more - through direct political effort - to protect low income tenants in this city than all of your holier than thou theorizing will ever accomplish.

Posted by yentu on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

The Tenants Union has shifted billions of dollars from the pockets of landlords into those of tenants over the past 25 years, not the CCHO and Welch.


Posted by socram on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

Another important point about the rent control proposal in the Parkmerced deal is that, even if for the sake of argument, we blindly assume the deal is somehow enforceable, the agreement is only with current tenants.

The whole point of rent control in San Francisco is to guarantee -permanent- affordable housing stock.

So even if the current tenants get a decent deal, San Francisco will still be losing over 1500 permanent rent controlled units by the middle of this century.

That loss is unacceptable.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 22, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

SFSU-CSU bought Stonestown Apartments and UPS blocks (part of Parkmerced) this purchase was a -1,000+ unit loss prior to any future build-out. With the increased TIC, condo-conversion, and owner-move-in efforts, we see steadily the effect in the suburbs of sprawl, and improper expenditure on roads to nowhere. We need adequate investment in infrastructure, build-up along ALL major transit routes, and sincere efforts not to improperly affect one community, without spreading the development into all neighborhoods cummalatively. CEQA is supposed to ensure a balanced approach, what is being presented terms itself "green" but is only green-$-greed, a wolf in sheep's clothing......

Pay attention to the developer agreement, what does a "washer-dryer-dishwasher" in every unit have to do with "sustainability"?

The MOU with SF-State was withuot "teeth" what makes the city think it is serving the public's best interests in these "negotiations" with corporations and financial sharks?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

For years, the suddenly militant languished doing nothing for themselves or their fellow residents. They in fact defaulted consistently on any commitments they made. This virus called "Parkmerced Action Coalition" is a hate based, poorly researched retaliation for the ills several very unhappy people have decided were caused by Parkmerced Investors, LLC. One former memberm, used her position to get employment through Rob Rosania for her daughter. Another "activist" moved out of Parkmerced when he could not gain a two bedroom townhouse at the same rate as a one bedroom flat. Another "militant" often flees to Humboldt county where she is undertaking her own property development. This list could go on and on, but these people discredit themselves each time they speak. They use fear tactics to gain support from fellow residents, and ignore the materials presented by a world-wide gathering of experts. Many resident comments were considered, but the "coalition" behaved like playground bullies towards anyone who varied in the least from their bigotry.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

The Jan 21 remarks of 'Guest' are total nonsense. I've been joining in with the residents of Parkmerced to fight this ridiculous, environmentally disastrous, demolition for profit scheme by Fortress investors, for several months now, in my role as an SF Green Party organizer, and personally witnessed over 150 current residents of the Parkmerced community turn out to one hearing to oppose this monstrosity.

They vastly outnumber the tiny faction of residents that has turned out to shill for the developers.

Why don't you name yourself 'Guest', so we can have a real public debate about this with people knowing just whose interest is being served by your deceptions.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jan. 21, 2011 @ 9:31 pm