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Affordable homes, not developer giveaways

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Shell Station and Car Wash at 400-444 Divisadero St. and 1048-1064 Oak St., July 1 2015. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)

In a recent op-ed published in the Examiner, Corey Smith, the paid Campaign Organizer for the citywide advocacy group for market-rate housing developers known as the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, or HAC, put on his “community hat.” The piece titled “Homes Not Cars on Divisadero” tilts non-existent windmills (no one is proposing any cars to replace any “homes” on Divisadero) in order to argue against a community-devised plan calling for more neighborhood-serving retail, affordable housing, and bike and transit improvements in exchange for a density giveaway after a recent upzoning of Divisadero.

Smith’s hasty dismissal of Affordable Divis made short work of the efforts of hundreds of neighborhood residents who devised the Divisadero Community Plan (www.affordabledivis.org) created over a four-month open planning process. The plan sought to balance the impacts of an ill-conceived massive density bonus conferred on the area by former Supervisor London Breed three years ago with no community participation.

Both SF Planning Director John Rahaim and Supervisor Breed later recognized the rezoning as deficient. In December 2015, Breed finally agreed with Affordable Divis that granting a huge development bonus without an increase in required affordability was an error, which she committed to correct by amending her rezoning legislation. No corrective legislation was advanced for over two years, and then the Mayor’s race took her complete attention.

Smith neglected to mention that both Breed and her appointee Vallie Brown eventually came around, due to community pressure. They now agree that such increases in allowable density and profits conferred by City action must also include an increase in the rate of affordable housing. Smith pretended that only Affordable Divis has such concerns. In fact, at the September 17th meeting where Smith asked his pro-development followers to attend and show support for market rate housing, Brown confirmed that she was willing to push for a rate of affordable housing greater than currently required, though she didn’t announce any specific plans.

Smith didn’t bother to recap this recent history nor burden himself with an understanding of the issues raised by the Divisadero Community Plan. Nonsensical slogans and off-the-shelf pro-market ideology were trotted out instead, claiming, with no supportive data, that making developers contribute to transit and affordability and to preserve neighborhood-serving retail space “would make virtually all housing projects infeasible.”

Unfortunately, Smith’s op-ed brought out reactionary, pro-development individuals wearing Homes Not Cars stickers, and one of them ended up berating and verbally assaulting several women in our group for wearing Affordable Divis pins. The situation got so tense that security had to intervene. This divisive and aggressive attitude towards our community is completely unacceptable. We will not be ignored, we will not be bullied, and we will not allow developer lobbyists to decide who is “pro” housing and who is “anti” housing. Our community plan makes it clear that Affordable Divis wants housing — sustainable housing with an adequate amount of on-site affordable housing.

Balanced development that calls for transit and bike access, housing affordable to existing residents, and the preservation of neighborhood-serving retail, reducing the need for cars—as called for by the Divisadero Community Plan—will result in more housing opportunities and more sustainable urban life. It is Smith’s proposal for an endless supply of high density market rate housing with off-street car parking and no increase in transit capacity that will continue to drive renters out of our neighborhoods, rendering them unsustainable.

Maya Chupkov, Lisa Awbrey & Tes Welborn are community organizers and leaders on the Steering Committee of Affordable Divis.

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