Mayor Lee unveils housing ‘blueprint’ as critics feel voiceless at City Hall

As San Francisco rents continue to rise, Mayor Ed Lee recommitted Tuesday to his plan to create 30,000 housing units with a third below market rate by 2020, while detailing proposed policy changes to achieve it.

But a group of residents gathered Tuesday outside City Hall said the mayor’s affordability plans are falling short, while the interests of wealthy donors and corporate interests — like the real estate sector and prominent mayoral backer/tech investor Ron Conway — prevail.

The mayor, who discussed his housing plans during a press conference at City Hall, said he was well aware of the challenges residents are facing and is focused on addressing the housing crisis.

“I’ve been called a lot of names,” Lee said seemingly with humor. “But I do enjoy being called the housing mayor.”

Lee said the “blueprint” for achieving the 30,000 housing unit goal by 2020 — which he announced last year — entails the passage of a legislative package by the Board of Supervisors.

Proposals include a preference for existing residents to win a lottery for newly built below-market-rate housing units, height and density bonuses for developments that include increased below-market-rate units and bond financing for rehabbing dilapidated public housing units under the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program.

A third of the units, about 10,000, are targeted for those with very low income to those earning up to 120 percent of the area median income, which for a family of four is $122,300. Of those 10,000, nearly 4,500 are expected to be newly constructed and the remainder rehabbed public housing or preserved units.

The mayor’s critics made sure their voices were heard Tuesday. The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) organized the gathering outside of City Hall and dropped off a petition of 4,019 signatures calling for a report “that shows how money has influenced legislative, contract or other decisions within City Hall.”

“San Francisco’s pay to play corruption is fueling wealth inequality, rent hikes, displacement and hurting communities of color,” the petition said.

Ebony Isler, an ACCE member and Bayview resident said, “If you are not a big developer or a huge private company coming to San Francisco with lots of money you don’t have a voice, you don’t have city officials to represent you.”

She said the mayor’s housing plan “is not an adequate answer to the problem.”

Rents, meanwhile, continue to increase. Median rents for a one bedroom unit increased during the past year by 13.9 percent to $3,530, which is the highest in the nation, according to a September report by rental website Zumper.

Board President London Breed praised the mayor’s housing efforts, specifically for the public housing plans and the proposed neighborhood preference legislation, which the Planning Commission votes on Sept. 24.

“We have got to stop the clock on changing our neighborhoods,” Breed said. “We have to make sure that [residents] are part of any new development.”

The mayor’s announcement came the day the board resumed business following a more than monthlong summer recess.

In the Nov. 3 election, voters will decide whether to approve the mayor’s $310 million housing bond, whether to increase restrictions on short-term rentals and decide the outcome of the District 3 supervisor election.

In that race, the mayor’s District 3 appointee Julie Christensen is facing a tough election against Aaron Peskin.

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