A woman walks past homes along Sturgeon Street on Treasure Island on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Treasure Island director presents plan to extend relocation benefits to more residents

Newer residents facing displacement from Treasure Island’s redevelopment could soon get help to prevent them from being kicked off the 400-acres by the Bay Bridge.

The Treasure Island Development Authority Board of Directors held its first discussion Thursday on extending relocation benefits to more residents living on the man-made island, providing the first look on how the policy may change.

As it stands today, residents who were living on Treasure Island at the time The City approved the massive redevelopment agreement on June 29, 2011 have a right to choose from a menu of relocation benefits.

Among them, the right to move into the agency’s planned 1,866 affordable rental units at their current or lower rents. The agency is building these units in contract with affordable housing developers as part of the total 8,000 housing units planned for the island’s redevelopment under an agreement with Lennar Corp., Stockbridge Capital Group and Wilson Meany. Of the total units, 5,827 are planned for market rate rents.

Those who moved in after June 2011, however, have no such protections.

The changes proposed Thursday by Robert Beck, Treasure Island Director, would give the post-agreement tenants new housing benefits, but not the full menu of benefits afforded to the pre-agreement residents. The proposal would not impact development costs.

Post-agreement residents would have a lottery priority to move into the affordable housing units. But their incomes will have to qualify for those units and that will vary by housing project.

“They may be able to participate in some lotteries but not others,” Beck said.

He said of the post-agreement households “roughly 40 percent of them would income qualify for some form of affordable housing.”

Some rental affordable housing projects, for example, may limit units to those who earn between 40 percent to 60 percent of the area median income, which for a family of four is between $49,250 to $73,900 annually. Others may allow up to 80 percent or 120 percent of area median income.

Pre-agreement tenants are guaranteed housing in the 1,866 units regardless of income. Beck said when residents don’t have qualifying incomes, affordable housing tax credits and other funding sources can’t used to build those units and local funds are used instead, which could mean making up the costs with local funding of up to $300,000.

Beck said that giving post-agreement tenants the right to housing regardless of income qualification “would have very significant cost implications.”

Another change would give post-agreement residents a chance to buy homes or rent units during pre-marketing offers in the market rate development. The first pre-marketing offer is scheduled early next year for the 124-unit Bristol condo development on the adjacent Yerba Buena Island.

Pre-agreement residents have pre-marketing as an option as well, and, as in the case of the lotteries, they would retain a priority to housing opportunities over post-agreement residents.

Pre-agreement residents can also accept in-lieu of housing payments and leave the island. Beck is not proposing to extend the in-lieu option to post-agreement residents.

Beck said that of the eight households that have opted for in-lieu payments during the past four months, the average payment is between $26,000 and $27,000. The amount awarded is $6,286 per adult tenant, and an additional $4,191 for each elderly, disabled or minor tenant.

There are 141 households who have moved to the island since June 2011 and an additional 91 households that have a mix of pre and post agreement residents living in them. That means a policy change could impact 242 households. There are 100 households with all residents entitled to relocation benefits.

The proposal comes in response to Supervisor Matt Haney’s resolution pending approval at the Board of Supervisors urging the Treasure Island Development Authority to amend the relocation benefit policy to extend some benefits to post-agreement tenants. It is expected to come up for a vote before the board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee on Oct. 28, according to Haney.

Beck said Thursday he would present the proposed change at the committee hearing and that “hopefully” it would address Haney’s concerns and satisfy the intent of the board, which is expected to adopt the resolution.

Haney also sits on the Treasure Island board but was out of town and absent from Thursday’s meeting. He has yet to be briefed on what Beck proposed.

The Treasure Island board was generally supportive of the concept.

But Paul Giusti, vice president of the Treasure Island board of directors, asked if it was appropriate to give priority to affordable housing on the island to someone who moved there recently over someone who may have waited for affordable housing longer and is not on the island.

“I would just be concerned, are we being fair to everybody that is waiting for an affordable unit?” Giusti said.

Sharon Lai, chief financial officer on the Treasure Island board, said that before any vote to change the policy she would want to hear from the Mayor’s Office of Housing their “professional position on this,” since they will be handling the lottery process for the residents.

Ruby Shifrin, a Treasure Island board member, said, “I’m really glad that this board is considering this, because I do think that it is important given that this development was supposed to start in 2014 and now it looks like we are not going to be done in quite a while.”

It will be several years before residents must relocate.

“We don’t anticipate requiring any of the existing housing to be vacated for the purposes of development in the next five years,” Beck said. “2024 would be the earliest we would expect to start demolishing some of the existing housing to make way for development.”

Beck noted that if they extend the benefits they would have to make it apply to existing tenants and not future ones, which means any new tenants coming in afterwards wouldn’t be covered.

“By the time we have to vacate all of this housing, another decade will have passed,” he said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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