S.F. Democrats should support Campos moratorium

At the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee's meeting tonight, our local Democratic Party's governing body will consider a resolution sponsored by Supervisor David Campos and others to urge approval of a temporary moratorium on luxury development in the Mission, while continuing to allow the construction of 100 percent affordable housing.

By itself, of course, the DCCC resolution wouldn't change city policy. But the Democratic Party's support — widely considered to be among the most influential endorsements in San Francisco politics — could sway key members of the Board of Supervisors, four of whom currently serve as DCCC members. Next week, supervisors will begin considering the interim urgency ordinance Campos proposed.

As an elected DCCC member, I will vote for the resolution. But I'll confess, too, there was nothing easy or kneejerk about my ultimate decision.

I have serious philosophical reservations about housing moratoria generally. In fact, I agree with economic arguments many of the proposal's critics have made — that such controls risk exacerbating market pressure, which can make housing less affordable rather than more affordable. In solely economic terms, no production moratorium ever helped solve a supply crisis — and this one won't either.

But the factors city leaders should fully consider about a temporary moratorium aren't solely economic. They include human and moral considerations about our city's cultural and economic diversity. The Mission neighborhood's unique character, which has historically enriched San Francisco far beyond dollars and cents, is in many ways endangered by the unrestrained market forces currently at work. And the potential loss would be irrevocable.

The multitude of factors bearing on decisions like these, of course, aren't unknown to city supervisors, who regularly enact land-use controls on chain stores and housing developments for wholly valid reasons beyond cold economics. And they aren't new to San Francisco voters, whose strong recent support of waterfront height limits reflects imperatives at odds, strictly speaking, with expanded housing supply. The truth is San Francisco doesn't lack for other places to build new housing — including luxury housing — and city leaders and voters seem to acknowledge that fact in plenty of the policy decisions they make. It's a truth developers can learn to live with too.

After a lot of consideration, I've concluded the interim ordinance Campos is proposing is neither unduly onerous nor unwarranted. It is a narrowly tailored, temporary and ultimately necessary respite for the Mission and its residents, many of whom face disproportionate risks of displacement. It's a thoughtful and measured step to mitigate the human costs of unchecked market forces, which have already caused too much disruption, too quickly, for most San Francisco neighborhoods to endure.

In terms of the San Francisco Democratic Party’s vote on the resolution, I'm also powerfully persuaded that our party owes a measure of deference to district supervisors when they argue for policies they see as vital to the well-being of neighborhoods they represent. It honors the rationale for district representation and reflects that we, Democrats, should be small “d” democrats too, as a matter of principleA majority of DCCC members, including me, showed that kind of deference to then-Supervisor David Chiu when he argued the 8 Washington St. development was wrong for his district. We owe Campos nothing less on a policy of great importance to the district he serves.

In the final analysis, a temporary moratorium on luxury development, limited to the Mission, which still allows for 100 percent affordable housing development, reflects a “precautionary principle” applied to land use. Weighing good arguments on both sides, the balance of potential harms favors a prudent timeout before more residents are displaced, and the Mission becomes a neighborhood few San Franciscans will recognize.

Fully considered, it's an approach that's cautious, measured — and, yes, even moderate — with which Democrats across the political spectrum should be comfortable. I urge my DCCC colleagues to join me in supporting it.

Matt Dorsey is an elected member and corresponding secretary of the Democratic County Central Committee.


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