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San Francisco raises tobacco purchase age to 21; voters to decide affordable housing requirements

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An Academy of Art University graphic design student Shantih Cannon, 18, smokes a cigarette in front of his school on New Montgomery Street, Monday, February 29, 2016. “I feel like going to be a backlash, lot of people of my age will be upset,” Cannon said. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco became the first major California city Tuesday to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

The effort follows the lead of other major cities across the nation like New York, Cleveland and Boston.

“We will save lives,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who had introduced the legislation. The board approved the proposal in an 11-0 vote.

Supervisor Eric Mar said the age increase “helps to counter big tobacco’s efforts and strategies to target younger and younger people to hook them.”

The tobacco industry has threatened litigation in response to other cities raising the age to purchase tobacco. Healdsburg had passed a similar law, but suspended the law in October due to lawsuit threats by the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. The group has argued that raising the legal age is preempted by state law.

Wiener, referencing the legal threats, said, “To be clear, our law does not in any way interfere with or undermine state law. In fact, it makes the state law easier to enforce.”

An Institute of Medicine report released in March said if the legal purchase of tobacco products was 21, there would be a 12 percent reduction in smokers.

The law will go into effect July 1. During the first year, violators would first receive a warning, but repeat offenses could result in the suspension of a tobacco sales permit.

BELOW-MARKET RATE HOUSING

The future of San Francisco’s affordable housing development will rest in the hands of voters this June.

The board voted 11-0 to place on the June ballot a charter amendment that would remove from the city charter the current requirements that 12 percent of on-site units must be offered at below-market-rate.

That would allow the board to adjust the requirements through the legislative process, without having to go to the voters. If approved by voters, the measure would put in place interim controls of 25 percent below-market-rate housing in developments of 25 units or more.

That percentage includes 15 percent for low-income residents, which was the requirement prior to 2012, and adds a 10 percent requirement for middle-income earners, considered those who earn up to 120 percent of the area median income.

Supervisor Jane Kim introduced the measure with Supervisor Aaron Peskin, and drew criticism from developers warning of a construction slowdown with such higher percentages.

To shore up unanimous support on the board, the two talked with Mayor Ed Lee and developers about reaching a compromise. A framework of an agreement among those involved in the talks was enshrined in a resolution introduced Tuesday.

Per the agreement, the board would introduce and approve by April 19 legislation that would go into effect if voters approve the June charter amendment. The legislation would address grandfathering with “fairness and feasibility” when deciding which developments currently in the planning process would adhere to the existing affordable housing requirements as opposed to increased ones. In determining the grandfathering details, the board would make changes to  generate approximately 200 additional below-market rate units.

It also spells out that changes to the affordable housing requirements by the board would have to be accomplished using an economic feasibility analysis from independent analysts who consult with the Planning Department and the Mayor’s Office. Such an analysis must be performed at least every three years.

The first feasibility study would be completed by May 31, according to the agreement outlined in the resolution.

“Mayor Lee is always looking to maximize the number of affordable homes built in San Francisco, while making sure we don’t stifle housing production,” Christine Falvey, the mayor’s spokesperson, said in an email after the vote. “He believes the revisions are a strong indication of the board’s intent to address those concerns.”

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