Despite having more than 70,000 housing units in its development pipeline, San Francisco is about to receive a cynical holiday present: state Sen. Scott Wiener is reviving California Senate Bill 50 (SB 50), which the Senate Appropriations Committee put on ice earlier this year. The result, if it passes? Roughly 95% of San Francisco will be taken over by even more luxury housing.
This Thursday, the Board of Supervisors will have a public hearing on a resolution to oppose SB 50 unless it is significantly amended. The resolution, co-sponsored by Supervisors Gordon Mar and Norman Yee and several other supervisors, addresses communities’ concerns of increased displacement and escalating housing costs that SB 50 would cause. If not amended, SB 50 would give the state the authority to dictate significantly denser development by “upzoning” large areas of the city, leaving many community residents vulnerable to its impacts.
SB 50’s top-down approach would undermine our communities’ ability to work with our elected leaders to plan our own visions of growth and change. In its current form, SB 50 won’t make housing more affordable and will harm San Francisco and its most vulnerable communities. The bill gives away too much power and windfall dollars to developers with no reciprocal affordability requirement. Worse yet, the bill will accelerate displacement and gentrification in San Francisco’s working-class and communities of color. It incentivizes the emptying out of smaller residential properties near BART and MUNI to capture the increased profits of building much taller. In displacing residents, this bill would worsen the impacts of congestion in The City by forcing residents dependent on transit to move farther out from their jobs.
San Francisco’s communities are tired of being decimated by displacement and ever-increasing housing prices. We don’t buy the deceptive message promoted by the so-called “pro-housing” sponsors of SB 50, like California YIMBY and the California Association of Realtors. Experience in our neighborhoods tells us that housing will not be more affordable if we just keep building more and faster market-rate housing.
There is a tinge of guilt built into SB 50. Acknowledging that market-rate development is destroying our communities, Senator Wiener has inserted a way for “Sensitive Communities” to be able to create a community plan and delay implementation of SB 50 for five years; unfortunately, state laws such as the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act and the Ellis Act restrict communities’ ability to protect themselves against displacement, and SB 50 itself restricts what Sensitive Communities can do to protect themselves.
Many San Francisco communities have been feeling how “sensitive” they are in the face of increasing development and speculation, including: Latinos evicted from the Mission; Chinese priced out of Chinatown; plus Filipinos and Latinos pushed out of SoMa and the Excelsior. These are all impacts from the luxury development that is already taking place. High infrastructure investments, such as the Central Subway, Geary BRT and plans for significant new development in areas such as Central SoMa, Park Merced and Mission Street from Duboce Avenue and south increase vulnerability pressures on our working-class and communities of color.
Whether residents live in city-subsidized units or in rent-controlled housing, their affordable housing will be destabilized.
Let’s be clear: SB 50 threatens to create a new class of financial predator: predatory developers who, like the subprime lenders who decimated communities of color with bad mortgages, are now poised to descend upon these communities to scoop up the windfall SB 50 will leave in its wake.
Let the Board of Supervisors know that you support the resolution to oppose SB 50 unless it’s amended significantly to address all of these concerns. Please attend the hearing this Thursday at 10 a.m. and speak during public comment, or write or call your supervisor and the Mayor. Let them know that you support the Resolution.
Norma Paz Garcia is policy director for the Mission Economic Development Agency, and Li Miao Lovett is an AFT 2121 leader, Sunset D4ward member, and Presidio PTSA’s legislative chair.
Editor’s note: Michelle Parker, vice president of legislation for the second district PTA, has asked to clarify that the California PTA has not taken a formal position on Senate Bill 50.