Halt on building new Mission housing has support, poll says

AP Photo/Russel A. DanielsDiffused morning light spills on the Mission District in San Francisco

AP Photo/Russel A. DanielsDiffused morning light spills on the Mission District in San Francisco

Calling a temporary halt on development in one of the nation’s hottest ZIP codes for housing might not be such a radical idea.

It may be what The City wants.

Left-wing elected officials and community advocates concerned about the negative effects of gentrification — including displacement of nonprofits and businesses as well as middle- and low-income residents — have proposed putting a temporary moratorium on building new market-rate housing in the rapidly changing Mission.

According to a citywide poll conducted in late February, a wide majority of registered voters are on board.

Sixty-five percent of city voters polled said they’d support a ballot measure to halt “new project approvals in the Mission District for one year” while a plan to help businesses and nonprofits from being displaced is crafted, according to a survey of 602 likely voters conducted by David Binder and Associates in February.

Only 26 percent of voters said they were opposed.

No concrete plan for a moratorium yet exists, but the idea of a voter-approved “timeout” was floated last month by Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission.

“People are frustrated, and people are scared,” said Campos, who described the Mission — which, with neighborhood newcomers like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, could be The City’s choicest place to live for the tech boom’s youthful wealthy — as “ground zero for displacement.”

There’s no timetable as to when a moratorium proposal could appear before the Board of Supervisors or before voters, said Campos, who said that a halt on development “remains an option.”

In the meantime, longtime businesses and community-serving nonprofits are losing their places in an ever more-expensive city.

A recent push to increase city money available to nonprofits on the cusp of displacement was shot down at the Board of Supervisors.

“One thing is clear,” Campos added, “what we’re doing is not working.” The City’s population growth has long outstripped the construction of places for them to live.

San Francisco’s population has grown by about 30,000 people since 2012, according to most estimates, with a projected population of 890,000 by the end of the decade.

In the meantime, The City has built only 7,500 new housing units since 2010, according to a recent real estate survey.

Mayor Ed Lee has made building or rehabilitating 30,000 new units by 2020 a top priority. To date, about 4,000 units had been built or renovated, according to the Planning Department, about 25 percent of which are permanently affordable.

According to the Association of Bay Area Governments, The City will need to build 72,500 units by 2030 just to accommodate a burgeoning population — 60 percent of which need to be affordable.

In the face of such monstrous demand, efforts to build new housing in the transit-rich, low-density Mission — including a 345-unit complex proposed for the plaza above the 16th Street BART station — have been met with stiff neighborhood opposition.

This anti-development sentiment is baffling to some development advocates, who say that a housing moratorium would neither stabilize prices nor satiate the incredible demand for a place to live in San Francisco — and in fact, would achieve the opposite desired result.

“I just don’t get how [a moratorium] is going to solve anything,” said Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, which advocates for new housing. “We already don’t produce enough housing, so let’s wait a year or two, put a moratorium on new supply, and see if that’ll improve? I wish someone could explain to me how that works, economically.”

croberts@sfexaminer.comBay Area NewshousingMissionTech boom

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