(Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez/S.F. Examiner)

The Potrero Yard housing plan is a bad deal for The City

By Simone Manganelli

Earlier this month, San Francisco released its first-ever “Jobs Housing Fit” report, an evaluation of the projected growth of jobs through 2026 compared to housing needed to match those jobs.

To anyone who has been following housing politics in San Francisco, it should come as no surprise that market-rate housing has been prioritized over all other types of housing. The City is set to match its market-rate housing goals by 2026, while affordable housing will fall short by almost 15,000 units.

The SFMTA’s plans to demolish and rebuild the Potrero Bus Yard are no exception.

The cost of land in San Francisco is one of the biggest — if not the biggest — impediments to building affordable housing in the City. So why aren’t we making better use of the public land we have? The Potrero Yard is already public, and the demolition and foundation of the building itself is completely subsidized by the SFMTA. The planning approval process costs are faster because this is a City project. The land is flat and stable. Constructing housing here should be cheaper than anywhere else in the City.

But the current proposal allows 50% of the proposed units in the building to be market rate. Again, remember that the City is already projected to meet its market-rate housing construction goals by 2026. Why build more, when we can make lives easier for the working class instead? That same Jobs-Housing Fit report details how low- and moderate-wage workers have been leaving the City in droves in recent years.

Here’s an idea: public land should be used for public housing for all — focused on the working class, with higher-income tenants subsidizing the poorest tenants. And one grassroots ballot measure, the San Francisco Community Housing Act (SFCHA), would help make this happen.

The City can raise the money to build 100% affordable housing on public sites like Potrero Yard. Many recent luxury buildings have paid fees to the City instead of including affordable housing, such as 1500 Mission Street, with 550 luxury apartments. We’re about to vote on Proposition A, and the city can use that money for this project.

Our proposal, the SFCHA, builds on this by providing a steady stream of funding for City housing: over $300 million a year by taxing large corporations. These corporations have fueled displacement by attracting higher-income workers, and they should pay their fair share.

On the topic of gentrification: the area surrounding the Potrero Yard is working class. Why is the City risking more gentrification by allowing 50% market-rate housing on its land? This project seems set to follow in the footsteps of other projects built on public land that have turned into mostly market-rate housing due to lack of funds: Balboa Reservoir and the former public housing sites in Potrero and Sunnydale are other examples.

On the other hand, the SF Community Housing Act would create housing affordable to everyone, because rents cannot exceed 25% of your income. And it caps incomes of prospective tenants in areas that are at risk of gentrification.

Working class people have been pushed out of San Francisco neighborhoods for years, and we need a proposal that reflects this reality. We need the City to rebuild its public housing infrastructure locally and dedicate public land to public housing. Now.

The SF Community Housing Act is our solution. Public housing for everyone. Rents guaranteed to be affordable to everyone. A place for community, with required amenities like rapid public transit and child care. Good-paying City jobs. And dedicated funding to preserve buildings in perpetuity.

To make this a reality, help us win our November 2020 campaign! And make it a habit to demand public housing on public land from your Supervisor.

Simone Manganelli is an advocate for the San Francisco Community Housing Act.

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