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In developer’s pitch to build tiny apartments, opponents rally for ‘family housing’

March 30, 2015

By Cory Weinberg : bizjournals -excerpt

1700 Market St., designed by Forum Design, would include studios as small as 295-square-feetmore

A developer pitching a housing project filled only with tiny studios and one-bedrooms on Market Street got a chilly reception from the Planning Commission on Thursday.

Paragon Real Estate Group’s 48-unit market-rate project was seeking the first exception in recent memory to the city law that requires builders in the Market-Octavia area to build 40 percent of the project as two-bedroom or larger units. Warner Schmalz, the project’s architect, said the property at at 1700 Market St. was relatively small and triangular, making two-bedroom units “distorted.”

The developer now will go back to the drawing board to present updated designs with two-bedroom units after the Planning Commission voted 4-3 to push back the project’s fate by a month. Paragon also said at the hearing that it would reverse course and build some on-site affordable housing, instead of paying a $2 million fee to the city as first planned. It still needs a conditional-use authorization to build a different unit mix than the planning code requires.

“By not building two-bedroom units, you’re precluding families from even getting a unit,” said Dennis Richards, a member of the Planning Commission. He added: “I don’t think giving money to the Mayor’s Office (of Housing) is illegitimate, but in Upper Market we’ve pushed for units on site so we have a real rich fabric for the neighborhood” and we are not segregating “people based on where they can afford” to live.

The Commission wasn’t looking to shoot down the project – just modify it. But the debate cut into several questions hanging over some development fights across San Francisco: Should developers get leeway if their market-rate projects include smaller units to make them “affordable by design”? Should they pay to build their own affordable units under the inclusionary housing law instead of paying a fee to the city? And are these questions slowing down projects and cutting back on the housing supply at a time when new units are desperately needed?

Some opposition to the project bubbled up at the last minute. The Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association’s letter to the Planning Commission to oppose the project’s two-bedroom exemption was filed Thursday, although the group had previously voiced its disapproval to the developer. (The group would support the same project if it adhered to the Market-Octavia zoning rules, said head of HVNA Jason Henderson.)…

Fernando Marti, co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, an affordable housing advocacy group that opposed 1700 Market, said neighbors may support these kinds of projects as long as they still helped pay for low-income housing and public open space.

At 1700 Market, the core issue wasn’t the size of the units but the mix of the units. The project also drew ire from Supervisor Jane Kim’s office. April Veneracion, a land-use aide in the office, told the Commission that “the supervisor is concerned about the policy precedent this sets. The 40 percent two-bedroom mix in Market-Octavia and other neighborhoods ensures the city has a mix of units as development occurs.”… (more)

Pro-density renters group grows, snags tech giant CEO gift

March 30, 2015

By Roland Li : bizjournals – excerpt

The San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, a group of activists who believe more market-rate housing will alleviate high rents, has gained a powerful backer from the tech industry: Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp.

Stoppelman gave a gift of $10,000 to the group’s founder, Sonja Trauss, a former private school math teacher who began working full-time on promoting real estate development at the beginning of the year.

Stoppelman first heard about SFBARF after his mom forwarded him a Business Times profile of the group, said Trauss. He was interested in helping to the group by participating at planning department hearings and supporting the group on social media, she said. That relationship led to financial support.

“I believe Sonja represents a massive segment of the population that’s been largely ignored in the discussion on Bay Area housing renters,” said Stoppelman. “I wanted to help her personally with a financial gift since she recently gave up her job as an educator to devote herself full time to activism. She’s quickly become one of the most passionate, candid, and talked about voices on this very important issue.”

The local tech companies have been targeted by protesters who argue that the firms’ new employees are exacerbate soaring housing costs and evictions under the Ellis Act. But Trauss believes that rising rents are directly related to a lack of new housing supply, a perspective that Stoppelman shares.

“It’s ridiculous to blame companies tech or non-tech for rapidly adding jobs,” said Stoppelman. “Remember 2008 when unemployment was through the roof and the city was desperate for economic growth? Fortunately, those days are long gone and now we have the ‘high class’ problem of plenty of jobs, but too little housing.”

Stoppelman has previously spoken about housing affordability at industry panels. He also taken a stand on other issues: he wrote an open letter Friday urging states to not adopt laws similar to Indiana’s controversial measure, which critics say allows businesses to refuse service on the basis on sexual orientation…

Critics take aim

As SFBARF grows, it has also attracted critics.

Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors passed legislation to halt the construction of single-family homes exceeding 3,000 square feet in Corona Heights, despite strong opposition from Trauss.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who sponsored the legislation, wrote on the SFBARF mailing list that he was perplexed by the opposition to a bill that he described as streamlining regulations for mansions…

Other housing activists question whether SFBARF really represents renters.

“I think this is a front group” for developers, said Donald Goldmacher, an independent filmmaker and member of Save Shattuck Cinemas, which opposes the 2211 Harold Way project. “It’s pro-development. It’s not pro-tenant.”…

“We’re not opposed to thoughtful, green development,” said Goldmacher. “That’s not what we’re seeing in Berkeley.”

“I think they are a sham group that is acting as a shill for market-rate developers and other pro-development groups,” said Sara Shortt, executive director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, a tenants group. “I find it offensive that they are purporting to represent the voice of renters.”…

I think it’s very deceptive,” said Shortt. “They haven’t proven themselves to be a representation of the community.”

Shortt’s group is pushing for Ellis Act reform, stronger rent control measures, and more community participation and planning for development. It opposes projects like Maximus Real Estate Partner’s proposal at 16th and Mission St., where activists are calling for 100 percent affordable housing or no new construction… (more)

Looks like we have one less math teacher and one more lobbyist.

Housing collective avoids eviction from Mission district home

March 30, 2015

: sfexaminer – excerpt

The Station 40 housing collective said that its landlord, the Jolish family, legally rescinded its eviction notice and will discuss allowing the residents to stay.

An 11-year-old housing collective that protested an eviction notice from the landlords of a building at 16th and Mission earlier this month announced Friday that it will be able to keep its home.

The Station 40 collective said that its landlord, the Jolish family, legally rescinded its eviction notice and reached out to the residents in “good faith” to discuss allowing them to stay. About a dozen people live in the unit at 3030B 16th St., which was built for commercial use.

“All this is a big victory, not only for us, but the neighborhood too,” Station 40 residents said in a statement. “Resistance works!”

Housing activists came out in full force March 2 to support Station 40 at a press conference to denounce gentrification and urge the Jolish family to accept an offer to buy the building from the San Francisco Community Land Trust… (more)

The mayor’s eviction bungle, Newsom dredges further into the muck, and EIR appeal

March 30, 2015

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

MARCH 30, 2015 – One day after tenant organizers worked hard to bring attention to an eviction attempt in Chinatown that demonstrated some of the serious problems of the city’s tech-first policies, Mayor Ed Lee and his appointed District 3 Supervisor, Julie Christensen, parachuted in to say they had saved the day.

After calling the landlord, Lee was able to get the eviction petition withdrawn – for the moment. But neither he nor Christensen ever once mentioned the work that the tenants and community organizers had done, and never acknowledged that the SRO hotel’s location on a Google Bus line was a factor in what will almost certainly be future efforts to raise rents on the site. They brushed it off as an anomaly.

And in fact, the landlord has not at this point promised to halt any future evictions or rent increases. There is no written contract guaranteeing protection for existing tenants. This could all be reprised after November…

Of course, some of the activists involved are not supporting Christensen (in the Sunday Examiner, Rose Pak says Christensen “doesn’t know jack shit about Chinatown”), and so they were cut out of the picture. But the tenants? They’re nothing but the mayor’s political pawns.

More fodder for Peskin’s campaign.

But beyond the bungled politics of this particular event, the larger housing question can’t be ignored. More and more people in the city are starting to put together the pieces, and they show this:

You can’t promote a jobs-producing tech boom that attracts thousands of new high-paid workers to San Francisco without either (a) first making sure existing residents are stable and protected, or (b) creating massive displacement…

And Newsom continues to look bad in the state’s lawsuit against the voters of SF.

The Board of Supervisors will hear an environmental appeal Tuesday/31 on a project at the end of Bryan Street, where a developer wants to convert industrial space to offices. There are various issues raised by San Franciscans for Reasonable Growth, but underling them all is this made rush to get rid of blue-collar jobs and the space they need and replace them with tech offices – often without the appropriate mitigation fees.

This is a site right off the entrance to the Bay Bridge. As SFRG lawyer Sue Hestor points out:

“There is no pedestrian access, no crosswalk. There is no visible edge to the cub for the site. How will office workers walk or bike to this site and leave during afternoon rush hour when cars line up at both 2nd Street and Beale St?”… (more)

Feinstein renews push to redefine homelessness

March 29, 2015

By sfexaminer – excerpt

Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants to redefine homelessness to include the many adults, children and families with no permanent housing.

Officially, there are an estimated 6,400 homeless people in San Francisco. But there are many more adults, children and families with no permanent housing in The City — and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants them under the same classification.

Thousands of people considered homeless by The City are not included in the official biannual homeless count tally because of differing definitions of homelessness. People doubled up with friends or family, couch-surfing, or living in single-room-occupancy hotels are not considered homeless by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. But that would change under legislation Feinstein, the San Francisco Democrat, introduced in Congress last month that would expand the federal definition of homelessness — and also expand the availability of housing services…

This is Feinstein’s second try at expanding the homeless definition, after similar legislation last year died in committee. The law would not include single adults living in similar precarious situations as the homeless. Advocates note that having more people defined as homeless would mean more money for services… (more)

Halt on building new Mission housing has support, poll says

March 29, 2015

By sfexaminer – excerpt

Calling a temporary halt on development in one of the nation’s hottest ZIP codes for housing might not be such a radical idea. It may be what The City wants. Left-wing elected officials and community advocates concerned about the negative effects of gentrification — including displacement of nonprofits and businesses as well as middle- and low-income residents — have proposed putting a temporary moratorium on building new market-rate housing in the rapidly changing Mission. According to a citywide poll conducted in late February, a wide majority of registered voters are on board.

Sixty-five percent of city voters polled said they’d support a ballot measure to halt “new project approvals in the Mission District for one year” while a plan to help businesses and nonprofits from being displaced is crafted, according to a survey of 602 likely voters conducted by David Binder and Associates in February… (more)

Mayor Ed Lee faces fire over who benefits as S.F. booms

March 29, 2015

: latimes – excerpt

The 656-condo Lumina complex promises a “transcendent living experience,” with a club lounge, climbing wall and pet grooming station. The smallest units start at about $1 million. The penthouse is priced at $49 million, a city record.

But on this day, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee had donned a hard hat and orange vest to tour a development farther away from the bay that satisfies the affordable-housing obligation for Lumina’s developer, Tishman Speyer: a complex that will sell 190 condos at below-market prices.

As the elevator doors clanged shut, Carl D. Shannon, Tishman’s senior managing director, told him: “Not everyone in City Hall agrees with me, but I think that building housing solves the housing crisis.”…

Lee, 62, a former tenants’ rights lawyer who spent more than two decades as a city bureaucrat before reluctantly becoming interim mayor four years ago, was ushered into a three-bedroom unit that will be sold for $300,000 — an unheard-of price in a city where the median price for a house or condo last month topped $1.1 million…

In the years since Lee became mayor and cozied up to tech, San Francisco’s unemployment rate has been more than cut in half, the skyline has been transformed, city coffers are plump, and philanthropists are stepping up to help fund everything from hospitals to schools.

But anxiety is skyrocketing along with housing costs, as many fear the city they love is vanishing. “Evict Ed Lee” graffiti abounds.

The boom, in short, is his legacy, his problem and his opportunity….

“The freaks and the hippies and the queers and the immigrants that really helped shape San Francisco into an exciting, cool, fun city of substance, all of that’s being chipped away at daily,” she said…

David Talbot is the founder of and author of “Season of the Witch,” which tracks the tumult of San Francisco from 1967 to 1982 — and lauds that other Lee, the young tenant defender.

“The tech elite has bought Ed Lee,” he said…

Lee’s mantra when he took office was “jobs, jobs, jobs.” But by early 2014, as protesters blocked the white buses that ferry tech workers to Google and other companies to the south, he revised it to “housing, housing, housing.”…

But some believe the high-end housing must be slowed. “At some point we will run out of land,” said Supervisor David Campos, who is calling for a market-rate freeze in the Mission District until affordable housing is expedited… (more)

San Francisco’s not anthem – Not My City Anymore


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