Categories: Op-Ed

Homes not cars on Divisadero

People in the Divisadero neighborhood are trying to stop new housing by calling for fees (taxes) which would make projects economically infeasible.

Over the last few years, a neighborhood debate has been brewing on Divisadero regarding three different housing proposals on the Divisadero corridor. 400 Divis, 650 Divis, and 1355 Fulton have all become talking points about the future of a neighborhood that has changed dramatically over the last twenty years. In the midst of the region’s housing and affordability crisis, these proposals have been prime examples of why it’s become so difficult to create more housing at all levels of affordability. A CBS news segment back in April framed the debate in under 15 characters: YIMBY vs. NIMBY.

A number of different neighborhood groups have been involved in the process, some in support and others in opposition. One of those organizations is called “Affordable Divis.”

According to their website, they say, “New residential development must include at least 33% onsite units affordable to low- and moderate-income residents. The community favors projects in which at least 50% of the units are affordable.” People who want more new housing, and understand how taxes work, should be alarmed because this proposal will result in no housing.

A recent SF Chronicle article highlighted how a number of housing proposals are not being built because of high cost, partially brought on by the City. The combination of high city fees, a glacial planning process and unprecedented construction costs have resulted in thousands of homes being stalled or cancelled. The recently entitled India

Basin project is going to pay $181,000 in fees (taxes) per door on the 1,500 home proposal, totalling roughly $272 million. All the money is going to worthy causes, but it’s a risk to potentially overtax housing when we have a housing shortage.

Without diving too far into the economics, what Affordable Divis is asking for would make virtually all housing projects infeasible and ultimately result in zero new homes on Divis unless The City expends massive amounts of public dollars. Zero market rate homes, zero subsidized affordable homes.

One of the leaders in Affordable Divis is Dean Preston, who has already started his second run for the District 5 Supervisor seat, challenging Supervisor Vallie Brown in November 2019. While calling for a higher percentage of subsidized affordable housing is great politics, it’s an anti-housing policy. It’s a policy that would benefit homeowners in the area while making it even harder for renters like me to find a place to live with a limited supply of housing. Their call to push fees far beyond those agreed upon by Prop C (from June 2016), a level which is already killing housing, would essentially freeze the land market in place – with no new homes.

I’m a believer that replacing car washes and “historic” radiator shops with homes for people is a good idea. Preston and Affordable Divis, on the other hand, seem to have a different vision. Their actions speak louder than words: No new housing on Divisadero.

In contrast, I say “Homes not Cars.” Let’s get this housing moving and replace the parking lots and car washes with mixed-income, affordable, pedestrian-friendly housing and public spaces. Join in Supervisor Brown’s upcoming community meeting on September 17, 7-8:30 PM at Emporium SF, 616 Divisadero Street. Tell the city to say YES to new housing by emailing your support for these proposals to Supervisor Brown at BrownStaff@sfgov.org.

Corey Smith is a pro-housing community organizer and the co-founder of Haight Ashbury Neighbors For Density (H.A.N.D.)

Corey Smith
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