Senate Bill 50 would upzone areas near transit hubs, including some parts of San Francisco that have traditionally been zoned for lower density such as the Sunset District. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Senate Bill 50 would upzone areas near transit hubs, including some parts of San Francisco that have traditionally been zoned for lower density such as the Sunset District. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supervisors oppose state legislation that would increase housing density

A resolution opposing a controversial statewide housing density bill is set to move before the Board of Supervisors for a vote on Tuesday with the backing of eight supervisors.

Introduced by Supervisor Gordon Mar, the resolution opposes state Sen. Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 50, also known as the “More Homes Act,” and calls for amendments to protect tenants and communities vulnerable to gentrification and displacement.

SB50, a revised version of last year’s controversial SB 827, promises to tackle a statewide housing crisis by requiring cities to allow for denser, taller construction near transit hubs, “jobs rich” areas and “opportunity zones.”

The bill passed at the state Senate’s Housing Committee with a 9-1 vote on Tuesday and will move before the Governance and Finance Committee next.

On Thursday Mar, who represents the Sunset District, urged his colleagues to back his call for a stop to SB50 unless it is amended to “adequately guarantee housing affordability, protect vulnerable communities and protect San Francisco’s sovereign charter authority.”

“San Francisco has … one of the fastest growing wealth gaps in the world. We are not only in a housing crisis but we are in an affordability crisis,” said Mar, adding that he supports “increasing housing near public transit and increasing equity and opportunity through thoughtful development.”

Citing the San Francisco Planning Department’s Housing Pipeline report, Mar said that The City has already met 94 percent of its goals for above moderate income housing through 2022, while meeting less than 30 percent of projected moderate, low, and very low income housing needs.

“SB50 puts vulnerable communities at risk. We know that private market development left unfettered has negative social impacts and strings public transit and infrastructure,” said Mar. “It is a give away to private interests and developers and it is not the answer to affordable housing.”

The resolution was moved out of the board’s Government Audit and Oversight Committee with a 2-1 vote Thursday, but not before sparking an emotional back and forth between supervisors Vallie Brown and Sandra Lee Fewer.

Brown, who voted against Mar’s resolution, said that she wanted to see specific details about what amendments would be proposed and expressed concern that the board was “shutting The City off from further negotiations with Sacramento.”

Some members of the public who attended the hearing to denounce SB50 stood up — their backs turned toward Brown — in protest while she spoke.

Brown argued that “tight local zoning and land use controls that limit density have historically segregated this city along race and class lines.”

“For city workers, for families, teachers and restaurants workers, we need housing,” said Brown. “We need to break the cycle and look for real solutions.”

But Fewer fired back, arguing that her district houses “more city employees than any other district in San Francisco.”

“It is true that in Mar and my districts, we have not had a lot of [development] — we are in an older part of San Francisco and we have rent-controlled homes,” said Fewer, breaking into tears. “I want 100 percent affordable housing in my district. To say we are anti-density, that is ridiculous — build us affordable housing.”

During more than two hours of public comment, dozens of opponents of SB50 voiced their support for Mar’s resolution, citing concerns that the bill would further feed San Francisco’s ongoing affordability crisis by curtailing local control and fueling speculation among developers by failing to increase affordability requirements or community benefits.

“We agree that [SB50] would undermine community participation, planning and encourage speculation,” said Stan Hayes, president of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers. “SB50 will upzone 96 percent of San Francisco, all without a hearing. We can’t let SB50 strip away our fundamental right to decide on our own city’s land use future.”

Other speakers expressed concerns about SB50’s potential of exacerbating negative social and environmental impacts.

“Are we going to build 85-foot towers all over The City? Has anybody thought about evacuating those towers when The City burns? And what about sea level rise?” a woman who gave her name as Mary Hannibal wanted to know.

Another speaker suggested that since San Francisco has already meet its market-rate housing needs, SB50 should be amended to only apply to 100 percent affordable housing production locally.

Among SB50’s supporters are San Francisco Mayor London Breed, the California Labor Federation, the California Chamber of Commerce and the State Building and Construction Trades Council.

Rudy Gonzales, of the San Francisco Labor Council, urged The City’s supervisors to “take a pause and hear from working class families who also suffered in the affordability crisis and then think about how we can influence state legislation here in San Francisco.”

Sonja Trauss, a former District 6 supervisorial candidate and pro-housing advocate, advocated against Mar’s resolution and criticized him for not encouraging more development in his district.

“Districts 6 and 10, in the last few years, these districts built 80 percent of The City’s housing and District 4 built zero. This is inequitable development and SB50 will fix it,” said Trauss.


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