Wiener calls SF supervisors vote against SB50 a ‘sad day’

Yee: ‘We don’t want to be Manhattan’

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ continued opposition to a state-wide bill to increase housing density near public transit drew the ire on Tuesday of its author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, who called it a “sad day.”

Wiener’s controversial housing bill, which he plans to move forward again in January after it suffered a setback earlier this year, would raise the heights and densities of development near transit.

But in a 10-1 vote, the board passed a resolution opposing Senate Bill 50 unless there were major changes to the bill. The board passed a similar resolution earlier this year. Also, earlier in the day, the board members, sitting on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority , voted to oppose the bill unless it includes amendments like “provide sufficient new funding for local jurisdictions to deliver the additional transportation infrastructure and service needed to support the housing.”

The resolutions were introduced by Supervisor Gordon Mar.

“Housing development doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We must plan for increased housing density comprehensively — with improvements to transportation and other infrastructure, and services to go with the housing,” Mar said in a statement after the votes. “Transportation authorities should be concerned, and take action, on development bills that impact — and are directly tied to — our work. As a body, we need to stand firm on opposing a bill that undermines our community transportation plans, unless and until our concerns are addressed.”

Wiener criticized Mar in a statement after the vote.

“[Mar’s] time would be better spent actually addressing the housing crisis and focusing on getting more housing in his own district, which has lost housing units over the past decade and where apartment buildings and affordable housing are overwhelmingly banned,” Wiener said.

Wiener said that is “completely unsustainable” to “allow cities to zone only for single family homes near transit” and that “the whole point of public transportation is to allow more people to live within walking distance so that people can ride transit without having to drive.”

“It’s a sad day when an agency that calls itself a transportation agency takes such an anti-transit position,” he said of the transportation authority vote.

Supervisor Dean Preston, who was sworn into the District 5 seat Monday, said before the board’s vote Tuesday that “it is no secret that I think that SB50 is bad for our city as drafted.”

“The bill would make our housing market less affordable. The bill gives away valuable development rights in San Francisco, enriching developers at the expense of our communities,” Preston said. “And notably, the bill does not even require higher rates of affordable housing or transit investments in exchange for the development rights that it gives away.”

Preston added that “it’s a shame” so much time of tenant rights advocates “must be spent challenging the latest developer bill rather than focusing on real solutions to our affordable housing crisis here in San Francisco.”

Supervisor Ahsha Safai was the lone no-vote on the resolution. He was absent from the transit board meeting and did not cast a vote on that resolution, Safai said.

Safai said that SB50 creates an “uncomfortable conversation.”

‘You can approach it from different angles,” Safai said. “You can say that this is a developer giveaway. You can say that it is not sensitive to low-income communities. Or you can say where this bill started out and where this bill is today, it has evolved significantly.”

Safai said he has concerns, but that he wants to “allow this bill to have more time.”

Wiener said that he has been “responsive to feedback” and plans to “continue to work with the city of San Francisco.”

Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee said that he worried about losing aspects of a community process to determine development locally.

“As a native San Franciscan, born here, we need to somehow keep some of the character that makes San Francisco, San Francisco,” Yee said. “We don’t want to be Manhattan.”

He added, “It is not about everything looking the same. It’s about where to put it in a smart way.”

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