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Mission market-rate housing moratorium fails

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Gabrielle Lurie/Special to The Examiner
The Board of Supervisors voted 7 to 4 to adopt the moratorium

Fearing displacement and the loss of the historic working-class Latino culture, hundreds turned out at City Hall Tuesday to call for the temporarily halting of market-rate housing development in the Mission.

But after a nearly nine-hour long meeting, the Board of Supervisors shot down the proposal.

The Board of Supervisors voted 7 to 4 to adopt the moratorium, but the vote required nine votes for approval. Supervisors Katy Tang, Scott Wiener, Mark Farrell and Julie Christensen voted in opposition. Supervisors Malia Cohen, London Breed, David Campos, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, Norman Yee and John Avalos supported it.

While the meeting was going on in City Hall’s board chambers, a group of protesters walked in the hallways chanting phrases like “We are the Mission” and “No evictions” — at one point drawing complaints from Board of Supervisors President Breed about her inability to hear her colleagues in the meeting room. “People are terrified, terrified that the culture and diversity of this neighborhood will be lost forever,” said Campos, who represents the Mission and proposed the 45-day moratorium. “Please help us save the Mission,” he asked of his colleagues.

Public testimony came mostly from those who supported the proposal. Among them was mother Sandra Sandoval, who was born and raised in the Mission. “My Mission community is being completely kicked out and displaced.” Sandoval said. “I’m doing this for my son. I’m raising my son here. Just like my family did in the fifties.”

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Opponents, however, said the moratorium would only exacerbate the existing housing crisis. Farrell said the development fees are the primary funding source of below market rate housing and by halting it “we literally are going to be shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Similarly, Wiener said, “There is a lot we can do productively to create all sorts of new housing. We have to keep up the momentum to do that.”

Heading into the meeting, four supervisors hadn’t stated their position but also represented four votes needed to pass the legislation, which required nine of 11 votes to approve.

Among them, District 3 Supervisor Christensen, who is up for election this November, said she opposed it because “what I do not see today is a path that is going to achieve what they want.”

But Luis Granados, executive director of the Mission Economic Development Agency, a 42-year-old nonprofit, said that elements of a plan to achieve desired outcomes includes creating funding for land acquisition along with development and the prioritization of housing units for existing residents. “We’ve lost 8,000 Latinos in the last 10 years,” Granados said. “We are on pace to lose another 8,000.”

Under state law, a moratorium could last up to two years with subsequent board votes, during which time a more detailed plan would be developed.

In making his case, Avalos said recently-adopted city policies were missteps. Specifically, he said The City shouldn’t have reduced the below market rate unit requirement from 15 percent of total onsite units to 12 percent in the 2012 voter-approved Housing Trust Fund to fund housing development. He also said the tax reform, switching The City from a business tax on payroll to gross receipts, also in 2012, didn’t raise enough revenue. The tax change favored the high labor cost technology sector.

Some supporters likened development pressures in the Mission to what displaced the black community in the Fillmore during 1950s under redevelopment. Others more broadly took aim at city housing development policies, which favors a greater supply of market rate housing. For the past four years, rents have continued to increase along with evictions. The median rent citywide has increased to $4,225, according to Zillow, a real estate web site, a 16 percent increase from a year ago.

Campos had focused on 13 identified sites located in the Mission where 40 or more units of housing could be developed, which could generate a total of 851 below-market-rate units if The City purchased them, but about 102 under private development rules.

But the moratorium debate is seemingly far from over. Supporters say they will take the issue to the ballot this November.

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