The Board of Supervisors on April 3 voted 8-3 to oppose a bill that the Planning Department says will “result in the production of more affordable housing.” Senate Bill 827, proposed by state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Phil Ting, allows more housing to be built next to transit across the state by increasing the height limits.
The bill makes building apartments legal across San Francisco. The bill eliminates parking minimums in transit-rich areas, helping reduce the number of cars on the road. The bill will absolutely result in more housing creation at all income levels. Yet, the majority of the Board of Supervisors thinks that’s a bad idea.
The eight supervisors who opposed a bill that would create more affordable housing are Sandra Fewer, Catherine Stefani, Aaron Peskin, Katy Tang, Jane Kim, Norman Yee, Hillary Ronen and Malia Cohen. The three who stood on the side of smart housing policy are supervisors London Breed, Jeff Sheehy and Ahsha Safai. The opposition was particularly concerning since the eight opponents couldn’t wait until the first hearing in Sacramento before a knee-jerk reaction.
After the official vote at the board, Wiener introduced amendments that lower the height increase to one story above current city zoning.
The newest round of amendments also created affordable housing requirements in every California city that currently doesn’t have local requirements. These latest amendments are a step toward statewide affordability requirements, and San Francisco is officially opposing this proposal.
Wiener also added a delayed implementation of two years, allowing local jurisdictions to put proper tenant protections in place, and included a “no net loss of affordable housing” provision. If you are an individual that believes San Francisco, and the state as a whole, has not built enough affordable housing, you should be upset.
That said, we do recognize some legitimate concerns about the current version of the bill.
First, some are worried that allowing new housing next to transit will put current residents at risk of evictions and displacement. We believe that one of the best ways to keep people in their homes is building additional homes for newcomers that want to call this city home. There are also concerns about “value capture” associated with an upzoning. This is basically the thought that when we allow a builder to create homes, they should provide additional benefits to the public.
We believe that all new housing is a community benefit.
Further, by legalizing apartments across The City, we can begin creating affordable housing in parts of San Francisco zoned for single-family homes. Currently, single-family homes have zero affordability requirements. SB 827 creates potential for new homes for low- and middle-income San Franciscans.
For the last 40 years, small cities around the Bay Area and California have opted out of building homes for people, and this bill is part of the solution. There are legitimate concerns that are going to be addressed with the current version of the bill. Housing advocacy organizations, environmental organizations and national social justice leaders have all come out in support of SB 827. The resolution to oppose this bill is an embarrassment.
Corey Smith is a community organizer with the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, a pro-housing advocacy organization based in San Francisco.