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SF supes vote 8-3 to oppose Wiener legislation changing city zoning

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Supervisor Aaron Peskin holds up a map of transit zones that would be affected by California Senate Bill 827, a bill that would rezone most of San Francisco, allowing greater density and building heights near transit during a Land Use and Transportation Committee hearing on March 12, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to oppose state Senator Scott Wiener’s controversial housing bill that would change zoning regulations for all cities across the state to allow higher, denser buildings near public transit.

The board voted 8-3 Tuesday to support a resolution introduced by Supervisors Aaron Peskin that officially opposed Wiener’s Senate Bill 827. The vote comes a week after the Los Angeles City Council also voted unanimously to oppose the bill.

Peskin and other board members said the measure goes too far in taking away local control over development, confers huge values on properties by allowing increased heights without requiring more public benefits and puts existing tenants in jeopardy of displacement.

Peskin said he wanted to send the message that the bill should be dead in the water. “If the state wants to help, send us some money. Address the Costa-Hawkins Act. Address the Ellis Act. That I think is the right way to go,” said Peskin, referring to funding for affordable housing construction and laws around rent control and evictions.

The resolution, which came during a heated June mayoral race, forced two mayoral candidates on the board to take a stand. Board of Supervisors President London Breed, a mayoral candidate, opposed the resolution along with Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Jeff Sheehy.

Breed said that it was misguided to oppose a bill that is still being worked on and that she would like to see amendments that would focus on sites without existing housing on them to eliminate fears of displacement.

“Focusing growth around public transit just makes sense,” Breed said. “I’ve made it clear that while I support SB 827’s direction I also want to see amendments to ensure we are addressing displacement and other key issues.”

She continued, “What is clear is we have a deep housing shortage all across the state and we need to do everything we can to address it.”

Meanwhile, the other mayoral candidate on the board, Supervisor Jane Kim, supported the resolution.

“This is not the right way to build housing,” Kim said. “This is a giveaway to landlords and developers without asking anything in return for a city and community.”

She said The City would lose its power to negotiate with developers over increasing funding for such things as transit and open space in exchange for denser development. 

Some supervisors questioned whether it made sense to oppose the bill before more amendments are made to it. “The bill is a work in progress,” Sheehy said. “Opposing this bill right now is premature.”

But Supervisor Hillary Ronen said that the bill is “fundamentally-flawed and so much so that it’s appropriate to go on record right now opposing it.”

Supervisor Katy Tang, who is a member of the moderate bloc on the board, sided with her progressive colleagues, despite having supported greater housing density in the Sunset District, which she represents.

“SB-827 is far too overreaching in terms of not allowing local jurisdictions to have a say over what kind of development we want and where it would take place and what sort of public value we’d want to recapture out of developments,” Tang said, adding, “I am hopeful about amendments.”

Supervisor Catherine Stefani said that she heard from the District 2 residents she represents that the majority have “grave concerns” over the proposal.

“It’s time to send a strong message to Sacramento that community input is definitely valuable and necessary,” Stefani said.

Wiener is expected to amend his proposal as early as next week. The bill may also go before the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee as early as Tuesday.

Mayor Mark Farrell said he is withholding judgment until he sees the amendments.

“We need to build more housing to address the crisis – period,” Farrell said. “However, with  SB 827 the devil is  in the details. I know Senator Wiener is  working  on changes to address citywide community concerns and I look forward to reviewing the revised bill as soon as it is available.”

Wiener was critical of the board’s vote. He called it “a knee jerk opposition position against a bill allowing more housing near public transportation — a bill that, according to the Planning Department, will lead to more affordable housing.”

“Despite the vote, I’ll continue to dialogue with the board about the bill. I look forward to that collaboration,” Wiener said.

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