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NIMBYism will lead to economic stagnation

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Mayor Ed Lee

By Steven Ring and Marc Intermaggio

Here we go again. The numerous projects presently being built or planned for construction in San Francisco have prompted that narrow-minded “not in my back yard” refrain to arise like a mummy rising from the grave. That mummy should stay buried. We should embrace the housing, arts and entertainment facilities, hotels and office space on the drawing board or being built, as they offer increased opportunities to live, play, eat, stay and work in San Francisco. Such projects add to our city's vibrancy and diversity, bring new jobs and more tax revenue for city services.

The new development envisioned or underway will provide further stimulus to San Francisco's economic growth, opening up The City to better accommodate more artists, designers, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs. Why not create enough housing for the middle-class so that parents don't have to flee to the suburbs to afford enough space to raise a family? How long will it be before there are almost no children left in San Francisco, just an aging population of hard-core naysayers? Why not share our great natural and cultural bounty with those who simply want to work and live here without having to commute two-plus hours a day, adding to our Bay Area's air quality problems? We have plenty of space available without compromising our ecology.

Radical NIMBYism will lead to economic and social stagnation. It is a slippery slope that restricts revenues vital for public services, like transit, public safety, libraries and the welfare safety net. It will cause the continued escalation of prices for everything from restaurants to taxi rides to entertainment. Companies are already wary of locating in San Francisco, since they cannot assure their employees of affordable anything.

Small business is the lifeblood of our economy, and yet small tenants are discouraged from locating in a city that restricts supply. Small companies provide essential services and products that fuel the prosperity of larger companies. We must keep The City open for new business formation of all sizes, and especially for small businesses. We can't do this if we're constantly fighting new development.

Instead of fostering policies that discourage job formation, real estate development and economic growth, policymakers should be encouraging greater densities, and greater heights for new housing, especially along BART and Muni lines. If we are to get more people to live and work in San Francisco, then we must reject NIMBYism as a selfish luxury we cannot afford. The City badly needs an expanding tax base to fund financial promises it has made to public employees and to pay for its essential municipal services. New developments add mightily to the public's well-being through contributions to The City's funds for affordable housing, parks, transportation and the like. All of this comes from economic growth and a sensible balance between what we are now and what we need to be moving forward.

The commercial real estate sector contributes significantly to San Francisco's public revenue base, with secured commercial parcels representing 30.4 percent of The City's asset valuation. Office buildings alone represent an assessed value of $45 billion. More than 27,000 people go to work every day to operate and service commercial buildings, an economic enterprise that adds nearly $4 billion in value to the San Francisco metro area.

San Francisco is truly blessed with the amount of new investment currently being made in our city. All of us should embrace these changes and new developments as opportunities to keep our city affordable and welcoming for all.

Steven Ring is president and Marc Intermaggio is executive vice president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco.

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