Housing may cost city thousands of jobs

San Francisco, say “So long” to industry and “Hello” to condos.

The City is expected to lose approximately 9,470 jobs throughout the next 16 years by converting nearly 5 million square feet of industrial space into housing units in four neighborhoods on the eastern side of San Francisco.

Under a rezoning proposal recently approved by the Planning Commission, the plan would grant housing developers access to huge swaths of industrial land that was previously available to them only with special permits. The zoning would allow housing development opportunities in east SoMa, the Mission district, Potrero Hill and the central waterfront, four areas with a rich industrial history that also make up about 7 percent of San Francisco’s 47 square miles of land.

Officials with the Planning Department told The Examiner recently that they expect so-called light industrial businesses — mostly auto-repair, printing, storage, furniture manufacturing, food production, catering businesses and some retail stores — to be pushed out because housing and office space generate far higher rents than industrial rent.

Among the first to leave will be the First California Press, a 40-year-old printing business on Folsom Street. It and a neighboring warehouse will be torn down by a developer and converted into 68 residential units and a parking garage, pending the appropriate permits, according to the Planning Department.

The printing press, which employs 11 people, will likely move to the Peninsula, owner Eric Biesterveld said.

“Between the taxes and the fact that [officials] don’t really want industry in The City any longer, it seems like they just want rich people to live here,” he said.

The rezoning plan, dubbed the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, has been years in the making. It was initiated by neighborhood advocates who were worried that The City was losing all of its industry to housing. City planners began looking for ways to rezone neighborhoods so that some areas would be reserved for industry, while other areas would be specifically rezoned to attract housing.

While the initial intent of the process was to protect industrial areas, the end result is far more detrimental. If no rezoning was done, between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs would have been lost, according to an environmental impact report. The estimated loss in the current plan is twice that, according to the Planning Department.

The new plan will bring in about 10,000 new households to The City, according to the EIR. New housing developers must devote a minimum of 15 percent of the homes for low- and moderate-income residents.

Rob Black, vice president for public policy at the Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber considers the plan to be “balanced,” but said it needs to be careful to protect existing businesses from being “zoned out.”

But for businesses like First California Press, that’s likely to be unavoidable — a fate that Biesterveld said is a shame.
“San Francisco’s becoming very homogenized,” he said. “The plans are for more town homes and Starbucks. That doesn’t seem like San Francisco to me. That seems like Los Angeles.”
kworth@sfexaminer.com

Rebuilding communities

Four neighborhoods in The City’s eastern areas will be rezoned for more housing at the expense of light industrial jobs, defined as production, repair and distribution industries.

  • 32,467 Industrial jobs in eastern neighborhoods in 2000
  • 95,547 Industrial jobs in The City in 2000
  • 22,998 Estimated industrial jobs in eastern neighborhoods in 2025, after rezoning
  • 26,416 Households in eastern neighborhoods in 2000
  • 329,703 Households in The City in 2000
  • 36,274 Estimated households in eastern neighborhoods in 2025, after rezoning

Source: Planning Department

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