San Francisco's loss - Page 2

Heading East: San Francisco is losing much of its diversity, cultural edge, and working class to the East Bay -- can anything be done?

"I must say that Oakland is more fun," says City Council member Rebecca Kaplan of her city.

"We have to do a better job of monitoring and evaluating each project," Chiu said. "Every incremental decision we make determines whether this will be a city for just the wealthy."

The situation for renters is even worse. From 2001-2011, the report showed there were only 1,351 rental units built for people in the low to moderate income range, people who make 50-120 percent of the area median income, which includes a sizable chunk of the working class living in a city where about two-thirds of residents rent.

"The Planning Commission does not receive a sufficiently comprehensive evaluation of the City's achievement of its housing goals," the report concluded, calling for the planners and policymakers to evaluate new housing proposals by the benchmark of what kind of housing the city actually needs. Likewise, it concluded that the Board of Supervisors isn't being regularly given information it needs to correct the imbalance or meet affordable housing needs.

Policy changes made under former Mayor Gavin Newsom also made this bad situation even worse. Developers used to build affordable housing required by the city's inclusionary housing law rather than pay in-lieu fees to the city by a 3-1 ratio, but since the formulas in that law changed in 2010, 55 percent of developers have opted to pay the fee rather than building housing.

Also in 2010, Newsom instituted a policy that allowed developers to defer payment of about 85 percent of their affordable housing fees, resulting in an additional year-long delay in building affordable housing, from 48 months after the market rate project got permitted to 60 months now.

Tracy and the affordable housing activists say the city needs to reverse these trends if it is to remain diverse. "It's not even debatable that the majority housing built in the city needs to be affordable," Tracy said.

Mayor Ed Lee has called for an affordable housing trust fund, the details of which are still being worked out as he prepares to submit it for the November ballot. Chiu said that would help: "I will require a lot of different public policies, but a lot of it will be an affordable housing trust fund."


San Francisco's problems have been a boon for Oakland.

"With much love and affection to my dear SF friends, I must say that Oakland is more fun," Kaplan told us. "Also I think a lot of people are choosing to live in Oakland now for a variety of reasons that aren't just about price. We have a huge resurgent art scene, an interconnected food, restaurant, and club scene, a place where multicultural community of grassroots artists is thriving, best known from Art Murmur."

There is fear that Oakland could devolve into the same situation plaguing San Francisco, with rising housing prices that displace its diverse current population, but so far that isn't happening much. Oakland remains much more racially and economically diverse than San Francisco, particularly as it attracts San Francisco's ethnically diverse residents.

"We're not looking at a situation where the people moving into town are necessarily predominantly white," Kaplan said. "We're having large growth in quite a range of communities, including growing Ethiopian and Eritrean and Vietnamese populations...If you don't want to live in a multicultural community, maybe Oakland's not your cup of tea."

According to the 2010 census, a language other than English is spoken at home in 40.2 percent of Oakland households, compared to 25.4 percent in San Francisco. "Almost every language in the world spoken in Oakland," Kaplan said.

Also from this author

  • Tax equity

    With the business community divided, can labor and progressives force a business-tax reform that actually increases revenue?

  • Interviewing Anonymous

    We chat with one of the legion of hactivists using the Internet to organize allies and attack enemies

  • Occupy Nation

    Let's take back the country — starting now, by planning a tour to occupy the country