SF supervisors' views mixed on Mission housing moratorium

A debate over how best to address the housing crisis in the Mission has taken political center stage after the Board of Supervisors was asked Tuesday to temporarily halt market rate housing development in the neighborhood.

The debate is expected to continue for weeks as the proposal’s supporters and Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission and introduced the legislation, will call on the board to approve the housing moratorium.

Whether Campos can secure nine votes to pass the legislation is unclear, though many say he won’t. On Tuesday five supported it: Supervisors Eric Mar, John Avalos, Jane Kim, Norman Yee and Campos.

Meanwhile four supervisors remained undecided, saying they needed more time to review the proposal. Those were London Breed, Malia Cohen, Katy Tang and Julie Christensen. Supervisors Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell opposed the legislation.

“You don’t address a housing shortage by putting a moratorium on the creation of new housing,” Wiener said. He predicted “enormous and growing pressure on our existing housing stock and that will increase displacement and eviction.”

There was no shortage of visible public support of the proposal Tuesday at City Hall. Longtime housing advocate Tommi Avicolli Mecca was at City Hall with some 40 supporters wearing “Save the Mission” stickers.

“More now than ever before the voters are with us in calling for radical actions to deal with this housing crisis,” Mecca said. “People are fed up that City Hall is doing nothing about this housing crisis. There is no end in sight of the rents going up.”

The proposal comes as San Francisco’s housing crisis – which includes issues of rising rents, evictions and displacement – remains a top concern of residents and particularly in the Mission where some 8,000 Latinos have left in recent years.

Supporters say the once thriving Latino culture of the historically low-income working class in the Mission will disappear if The City doesn’t act. Opponents and developers say halting market-rate housing development cuts off a key funding source for below-market-rate projects.

Despite claims by critics the measure is misguided, supporters contend The City’s housing policies are not working and a more aggressive approach is needed. “My district is in crisis,” Campos said. “And this crisis requires that the Board of Supervisors, that the Mayor’s Office, give this community the tools it needs to have a fighting chance to stay in San Francisco.”

Mayor Ed Lee is opposed to the moratorium, said mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey. The mayor’s strategy for the Mission includes “building more affordable housing by working with the neighborhood, cutting out government red tape and bringing resources to fund those affordable housing projects,” Falvey said. She added that “the mayor has a goal of building or rehabbing 30,000 homes [citywide] by 2020 with half for low income and middle income families.”

If the board would approve a 45-day moratorium, it would require the Planning Department to submit a report detailing what measures were taken to alleviate the need for an emergency halting of market rate development. Another vote would need to be taken to extend it an additional 10 months.

Supporters are prepared to place a similar measure on the November ballot that could include more locations than just the Mission, if the board doesn’t approve it.

“There is a great crisis in the Mission, and we need to act to address that crisis now,” said a statement from the Mission Economic Development Agency. “We need to look beyond the politics, and act on these strategies now.”

The nonprofit is working with other groups including the Mayor’s Office of Housing and the Planning Department to develop the Mission Action Plan 2020, which supporters say will better address rising rents, evictions and displacement in the neighborhood. But they need to halt development to have more time to finalize it. It would build on the work of the Eastern Neighborhood plans which were adopted by the board in December 2008, but which many say have clearly failed.

The plan would identify key parcels to develop for below market rate housing, consider ways to fund projects in the Mission and explore other policies like a neighborhood preference for Mission families for units in new developments.

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