The San Francisco Redevelopment Agency is gone, but questions remain about how its authority was absorbed by the Mayor's Office
Tiffany Bohee, interim director of the SFRA, said that the court's ruling was the "least desirable possible outcome." Bohee said the SFRA has spent recent weeks analyzing all enforceable obligations outlined by the ruling to make sure that the transition complies with the law and is as fair as possible to SFRA employees.
The positions that these 101 workers filled at the SFRA will no longer exist as of Feb. 1, and layoffs are underway. However, most will remain employed throughout a transition period that ends March 31, and Bohee said that many will find work in city agencies that will be charged with continuing the work of the SFRA, such as MOH and the Planning Department.
MOH was historically responsible for allocating federal housing grants to city agencies. In past decades, federal budget cuts have severely limited the grants to build affordable housing. Now, although MOH has some power over city housing policy and allocation of funds to build housing, many of those responsibilities had been transferred to the Planning Department — or, until recently, the Redevelopment Agency.
The Planning Department is governed by the Planning Commission with four mayor-appointed members and three members appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Department implements planning standards and signs off on structural changes to the city, ranging from homeowner requests to alter houses to developer requests to build high-rises.
In many ways, the Redevelopment Agency was redundant, shadowing work done by the Planning Department. When an area was designated an SFRA project area, the planning code and zoning restrictions no longer applied, and developers working in partnership with the city had the power to define new land-use regulations.
Many critics of the SFRA said that private developers were able to use this lack of regulation to take advantage of the significant amount of money reserved for the agency. Deepening this concern was the fact that the Redevelopment Commission, which oversaw the SFRA, was composed entirely of mayoral appointees, which some felt were less accountable to the public interest than the Planning Commission.
Some feel that the oversight board, composed entirely of mayoral appointees, will repeat the same lack of accountability to neighborhoods.
"The city is setting up a planning commission for the 1 percent. And the Planning Commission that we have is the for the 99 percent," said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, which works on land use issues. He said that with the dissolution of the SFRA, the city has an opportunity to facilitate the construction of affordable housing in a more democratic fashion. His organization expressed concerns to the Board of Supervisors, cautioning that the Oversight Board should not have undue power over land-use in development project areas and that the new structure in city government for facilitating development projects should be created with the input of communities. The Board of Supervisors made clear Jan. 24 that the Oversight Board and its appointees are a temporary measure to comply with AB26 by the Feb. 1 deadline. As Sup. Christina Olague said, "I just want to assure the public that this isn't the end-all, be-all of this discussion, that it will be ongoing, and we welcome any of your concerns at any time."