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Clock ticking on whether to put Mission housing moratorium on November ballot

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Many community members remain concerned about the high cost of housing in The City and evictions. Hundreds have made their voices heard at SF City Hall. GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER.
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With time running out to place the Mission market-rate housing moratorium on the November ballot, a decision is expected early as Monday by community members whether to do so — or wait until next year.

While some involved with the effort suggested early last week that the focus had shifted to the June or November ballot of 2016, a renewed interest in seeing the measure placed on this November’s ballot emerged later that same week.

Some community leaders feel momentum is in their favor — and bypassing this November would be a lost opportunity.

Still, deciding to go forward with the measure this November will be cutting it close. That would entail collecting 9,700 valid voter signatures by July 6 to qualify for the Nov. 3 election.

The collection of signatures has yet to begin, but could start today and continue for about three weeks. The measure’s language was already submitted to the Department of Elections and signed off on by the City Attorney’s Office.

Some members of the community turned to a ballot initiative after the Board of Supervisors voted after a nearly 10 hour meeting June 2 to reject an initial 45-day moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission. Hundreds came to City Hall to support the legislation, which was introduced by Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission neighborhood.

Another way to get it onto the ballot is with four signatures from members of the board — the deadline to do so is Tuesday. But Campos on Friday said his position has always been that any measure should be placed on the ballot by the community through signatures. Campos said he’s now focused on ensuring The City starts purchasing land in the Mission in the next few months for below-
market-rate housing developments.

Erick Arguello, president of Calle 24, a merchant and neighborhood association, said that a meeting for coalition members is planned for Monday, where they will decide how to proceed. Arguello favors a vote this fall. “There is a momentum right now. The polls are showing that there is a lot of support. I think it’s important to go early,” Arguello said. “It should be in November because it is urgent. It is a situation that is really hurting the community.”

Tenant rights attorney J. Scott Weaver, who drafted the ballot measure, said an official announcement is expected Tuesday on what the next steps will be. “It’s still a possibility,” he said of taking the issue to the Nov. 3 ballot. ‘I don’t think it’s impossible to get the signatures.”

Edwin Lindo, vice president of the Latino Democratic Club, has voiced his support of the moratorium. “The concern I have waiting is that we may not have properties to purchase through public funds,” Lindo
said.

The budget analyst has identified 13 sites conducive for nonprofit below-market-rate developments.
The moratorium, supporters say, helps them buy time to secure resources and negotiate the land purchases.

But Lindo said there are numerous factors to consider with the measure, such as if they can mount a strong enough campaign. “If you don’t have the resources or organizing around it then it’s not going to have the support it needs to win.”

The measure would impose an 18-month moratorium on market-rate housing of five units or more. The moratorium could be extended by the Board of Supervisors for one year with a majority vote. During the moratorium The City would be required to create a plan by Jan. 31, 2017, to ensure at least 50 percent of all new housing was affordable to those with middle to low incomes and to ensure current residents get priority to live in those units.

The plan is intended to preserve the diversity of the Mission and its Latino culture, which has diminished in recent years through rent hikes, evictions and an overall rise in cost-of-living, causing displacement.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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