San Francisco would temporarily halt development of market-rate housing in the Mission under a bold proposal to address The City’s ongoing housing crisis.
Supervisor David Campos, who represents the neighborhood, is expected to introduce the proposal Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors. It’s one of the most aggressive efforts to date to stop displacement of lower-income residents in one of the country’s hottest real estate markets.
Beginning around 2011, The City’s economy began to recover from the Great Recession at a higher clip than other parts of the U.S. That recovery was largely on the back of the booming tech sector, which brought new residents — and money — to San Francisco. Since then, stories of displacement and eviction have dominated the news, and city officials have been scrambling to address the impacts.
“The future of this neighborhood is riding on it,” Campos said of the moratorium proposal during a recent interview with The San Francisco Examiner in the Mission, which emerged as San Francisco’s working-class Latino neighborhood beginning in the 1940s. “If we don’t do this, we will lose the Mission. And if we lose the Mission, we will lose San Francisco. That’s why we have to act. And we have to act now.”
The proposal calls into question the institutional logic of San Francisco’s housing policies, which Campos said are simply not working.
To make his case, Campos said he will turn to a series of telling statistics, among them that “only 12 percent of housing built in the Mission in the past nine years has been [below market rate].” Currently, there are 478 housing units in the construction pipeline, yet only 7 percent would be offered at below market rate.
Since the proposal would ban planning approvals, demolitions and building permits, it would halt such controversial projects as the Maximus Real Estate Partners 330 apartments proposed around the 16th Street BART station.
The moratorium would not affect projects containing all below-market-rate units.
Under state law, it could last for up to two years. If the moratorium is approved, an initial ban would last 45 days. A subsequent vote would be needed to extend it for another 10 months.
A debate over the proposal erupted months ago when the idea was first discussed in community meetings in the Mission.
But the criticism has not deterred Campos and his backers — long-standing housing groups in the Mission and beyond — about the merits of the strategy.
One main argument in support of the proposal is to buy some time for the Mission Economic Development Agency, a 42-year-old nonprofit, to finish the Mission Action Plan 2020 in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the Planning Department, among others. It would improve upon the Eastern Neighborhoods Plan that was adopted in 2009 but has been criticized for not fulfilling promises and being out of touch with current economic and housing realities.
The Mission Action Plan 2020 would identify funding strategies, such as capturing property taxes or increasing development-impact fees, to fund more below-market-rate housing. It would also identify key parcels to build such projects.
Current economic pressures have contributed to the loss of Latino residents in the Mission, with 8,000 displaced from 2000 to 2013. At least 2,500 new below-market-rate units would need to be built by 2020 in order to keep pace with the loss of rent-controlled housing and the rate of low-income households being displaced.
“The City right now does not have a plan,” Campos said. “It doesn’t have a plan for this neighborhood.”
The proposed moratorium boundaries are: Cesar Chavez Street from Guerrero Street to Potrero Avenue, Potrero from Cesar Chavez to 20th Street, 20th from Potrero to Bryant Street, Bryant from 20th to Division Street, Division from Bryant to Valencia Street, and Valencia from Division to Cesar Chavez.
A recent poll showed voters are seemingly on board with the idea, which could help Campos convince his colleagues of its merits. But the opposition is fierce from developers. The San Francisco Action Coalition, a pro-development group, argues that halting market-rate housing development cuts off a key funding source for below-market-rate projects.
The progressive supervisor admitted that passing the controversial legislation on a Board of Supervisors with a moderate bloc will be difficult. It would take nine of 11 votes to pass the moratorium.
“We know that this is going to be an uphill battle. The real estate interests and the corporate interests control City Hall right now,” Campos said. “This is a debate and a conversation that needs to be had. We are facing an emergency in this neighborhood. The way you respond to an emergency is with bold steps.”
Supporters are also considering collecting signatures to place a similar measure on the ballot, which could include the Mission and other areas. The moratorium is the latest challenge to Mayor Ed Lee’s housing policies in a city where rents keep increasing. Another bold proposal from Supervisor Jane Kim last year called for requiring at least 33 percent of all units built in The City be below market rate. It failed amid mayoral opposition. And Supervisor John Avalos has a pending effort to double the mayor’s proposed $250 million November housing bond.
As for the timing of today’s introduction, which happens to be Cinco de Mayo, Campos said, “What better day to introduce something like this that at its core is about protecting the soul of the Mission, which is the heart of the Latino cultural heritage.”