Developers should pay -- on time

It's boom time -- a good moment to end bust-time business breaks 


OPINION San Francisco used to be an eclectic city, filled with working class folks, people of color, lots of artists, and families. But that's changed dramatically. The black population has dismally plummeted, to 6.3 percent, according to the most recent census. Families of color are streaming out, expensive condos and sky-high rentals are shooting up, and the unique mix that once was the city and made it such a diverse and culturally rich place to live and thrive is changing.

Three years ago, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom decided that private developers in San Francisco needed a local stimulus boost. The housing bubble had burst and taken the economy down with it, but Newsom wanted to ensure that private development in the city continued. So he proposed that private developers be allowed to defer paying the neighborhood impact fees on their projects, thus delaying funding for safety-net programs that help existing residents of working class neighborhoods fight displacement.

His proposal passed in 2010, and since then the Eastern Neighborhoods, SoMa, and the Octavia/Market Area have seen an upswing in private development projects coupled with rising eviction rates and housing costs, while affordable housing throughout the city becomes harder and harder to find. Because neighborhood impact fees were deferred services that would help vulnerable populations were underfunded by a total of almost $53.5 million -- in 2011-2012 alone.

That lost money impacted affordable housing construction, affordable child care, development of parks and other types of open spaces, infrastructure and pedestrian-safety measures, neighborhood schools and libraries, and eviction prevention services.

Meanwhile, out-of-town private development companies are set to make millions of dollars building high-end rental units and luxury condominiums that the average San Franciscan can't afford.

Given that private market-rate residential development in San Francisco is speeding up regardless of displacement dangers, it's even more necessary today to strengthen and sharpen the tools our neighborhoods have for fighting displacement.

A longstanding question for San Francisco has been how to keep it from becoming a place where only the very wealthy can afford to live while the rest of us have to commute in to the city that we work in and love. Now as we field off another local housing boom fueled by speculation, we are faced again with needing to ensure that we prioritize San Franciscans over profit.

That's why tenant groups, affordable housing advocates, and San Franciscans fighting for the right to stay in their city will be urging the Planning Commission to end the fee deferrals. The Planning Department staff has studied the issue and recommends that the Newsom program be allowed to expire; that would bring back the funds needed to invest in the vitality and vibrancy of our neighborhoods.

Come join us in helping get San Francisco's priorities back on track at the Planning Commission meeting Thursday June 13th at 12pm in room 200 of City Hall. Private development is not worth more than the well being of working class communities, immigrants, families, LGBTQ, and tenant communities.

Maria Zamudio is a housing rights organizer for Causa Justa: Just Cause


along major transit corridors, particularly Market St. which has the best transit in the city, and which is mostly walkable into downtown anyway.

So any so-called "impact fees" should be mitigated because there is less, er, impact.

Of course you throw in the cheap "people of color " card (de rigeur for SFBG articles, apparently) but in fact SF has gained many Asians and Hispanics while the black population has declined, so SF is actually more diverse than when it was just a "black and white" town.

And those blacks are moving to the suburbs even while whites are returning to the city. If "white flight" was what harmed many cities then this is a good news, surely?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 7:16 am

"Of course you throw in the cheap "people of color " card"
"And those blacks are moving to the suburbs even while whites are returning to the city. If "white flight" was what harmed many cities then this is a good news, surely?"

Please crawl back into whatever ignorant racist hole you slithered out of and stay there. K, thanks, bye.

Posted by Trolllllllll on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 9:23 am

somehow don't like it anyway, so you play the R card.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 9:57 am

Guest, what an absolutely poignant response. Bravo.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 9:10 am

Any time. People endlessly playing the race card gets tedious.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 9:58 am

While it's hard not to be sympathetic to the plight of folks being priced out of the City's super-heated housing market, Ms. Zamudio's analysis seems to come from some parallel economic universe.

Yes, housing prices are becoming dangerously unhealthy for a city that purports to support diversity and inclusiveness. On the other hand, for the last few decades, we have made a collective civic choice that housing in SF should be, as Harvard urban economist Ed Glaeser noted, "scarce and expensive." Our City holds fiercely NIMBY cultural values. This ranges from the SFBG to our privileged residents on the west side.

We are apparently incapable of producing an adequate supply of housing relative to its demand. Worse for the non-wealthy, SF is becoming an "innovation hub," attractive to the country's most powerful economic sector. Thousands of highly educated, well compensated people have discovered that our City is a VERY desirable place to be. They are arriving in a City that's chronically short of housing. Any undergraduate economics student could have predicted what is happening (and probably did). The innovation economy is diffuse and represents many industries, but is backed by powerful, long-term forces that will not abate any time soon. More and more high-skill people will arrive, pricing out folks that cannot compete for housing on price.

As UCB economist Enrico Moretti explained, this process represents an enormous transfer of wealth from renters (relatively non-wealthy) to owners (relatively wealthy). It is becoming increasingly clear that, if SF is NOT to become a charming luxury resort, it must radically increase the amount of new housing it produces. The exploding housing prices do NOT come from new housing, but from competition for the existing stock.

For the last year data were available, SF Planning reported that 269 net new housing units were produced, in a time of rapidly rising prices. Some folks think that we're in a "housing boom". In spite of 8,000 units currently under construction, probably not! This "boom" would have to continue for many years before housing prices would reflect this.

Given our shared civic cultural values around opposition to change, one realizes the enormous challenge San Francisco faces.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

opposed to new development.

Not understanding that only by building homes can they be more affordable.

The SF left are intellectually bankrupt.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

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