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On housing policy, is everything really “going to be OK?”

November 27, 2015

By Calvin Welch : 48hills – excerpt

NOVEMBER 24, 2015 — In a recent Chronicle Open Forum (November 20, “We Can Resolve Housing Crisis With Teamwork”) Gabriel Metcalf, Executive Director of SPUR, penned an oddly argued, personal, upbeat exhortation about how our affordable housing crisis is going to be solved if we just understand that “its going to be OK.” He says we can take his word for it: “I want to say to everyone already here, as compassionately as I can, is that its going to be OK.” He says that if we “take taller buildings,” “take more transit,” and “make room for more people” “it’s going to be OK.” That’s pretty much the sum total of his argument.

It seems clear that Metcalf’s reason for directing his remarks to “everyone already here” is that so many of us simply do not agree that under current development policy, strongly urged by Metcalf’s organization, SPUR, that “everything is going to be OK” for the obvious reason that everything, now and in the recent past, has not been “OK” and it’s clear for all to see which is why Metcalf’s musings are so odd. In the same edition of the Chronicle that his article ran — November 23 — three stories made this point.

A new market-rate development at Van Ness and Market will have only 20% of its units affordable to current San Francisco residents; the city is scrambling to find a short term $200 million “bridge loan” to continue the construction of the Transbay Terminal while having no idea how to finance the additional $2.5 billion to move CalTrain and other commuter transit service to the facility; and a front page report measures how the “Awful Commute is Getting Worse” in the Bay Area as the working class is priced out of Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose ( “all three are dynamic and growing” says the rather breathless Metcalf) and must commute, by car, from Tracy, Stockton and Ripon…

San Franciscans correctly understand that the housing crisis we face is one of affordability, that housing affordability is dependent on household income and that household income, for San Franciscans, is often dependent on the ability of local businesses to continue to be located in San Francisco. The three go hand in hand and are, all three, dependent on a system of informed local land use policy that integrates the three (see Section 101 of the San Francisco Planning Code, drafted by the people and made law by the passage of Prop M in 1986 ).

That’s what the six ballot measures on this November’s ballot were mainly about: housing affordability and jobs for San Franciscans. What Metcalf calls for is the disaggregation of local land use policy (“we need to make some different planning decisions”), centered not on the needs of San Franciscans but for “waves of new arrivals” even as the “new arrivals” of yesterday are being displaced and evicted today!…

We need a comprehensive development policy that places housing in its true social context, that protects and enhances our neighborhoods, communities and businesses, that preserves space for the arts, the very young and the very old. To do that will produce real social change that will preserve and enhance a city not only for us but all in the world who, like us, yearn for such a place to live.

Calvin Welch teaches classes in the development history of San Francisco at USF and SFSU. He was a founder of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods and the Council of Community Housing Organizations... (more)




Lee Radner Fights For The Right To Recreation

November 27, 2015

hoodline – excerpt

Last month, we asked readers to nominate local people, businesses and organizations that are doing good in their communities for recognition here on Hoodline. This week, we’re running a series highlighting those local do-gooders, based entirely on reader suggestions. Here’s one such story. 

The Bay Club at the Gateway—or “the club,” as many of its members know it—is much more than a fitness center.

Lee Radner, 90, speaks for many when he says, “I probably wouldn’t be sitting here if I didn’t have it. You don’t know what that swim does for me when I go. I can’t describe it. I feel like a new person. It’s my social life right now.”…

For the past 11 years, Radner has made protecting the Bay Club his mission. He became the chair of Friends of Golden Gateway (FOGG) in 2004, and has led the effort to prevent the club from being razed. Developers have long had their eyes on this prized piece of property at the Embarcadero and Washington Street, hoping to buy it and build condos on it, along with Seawall Lot 351, an adjacent Port of San Francisco parcel that’s currently a parking lot.

Each summer, Radner also leads the charge to round up donations from the community to send local low-income children to summer camp at the Bay Club. Radner has previously told us that just as he feels an obligation to the community to protect the recreation center, he’s moved to welcome a wide variety of people to experience it. These crusades are what led several neighbors to nominate him as a “do-gooder” in the community…

In a nutshell: Propositions B and C, which voters defeated in November of 2013,  would have allowed 8 Washington to be built. KQED summed it up nicely: “Prop. B would have allowed the 8 Washington development to go forward even though the project exceeded the neighborhood’s current height limit; the measure lost, with 62 percent voting no and 38 percent voting yes. Prop. C would have affirmed a Board of Supervisors decision to increase the height limit for the project; that proposal was defeated, with 66 percent voting no.”

Later, in June of 2014, the anti-8 Washington forces scored another victory on another Proposition B, winning 59 to 41 percent. That one requires the city’s voters to approve any development on Port parcels that exceed height limits. The State Lands Commission quickly sued to invalidate it, and it was tied up in the courts for a while, but after it was denied an appeal, it eventually “threw in the towel,” Radner said. [Update, 11/27: The State Lands Commission’s lawsuit to overturn Prop B has not been thrown out, and is up for its next procedural hearing before the judge on Dec. 16th. But a lawsuit to overturn the State Lands Commission’s EIR decision in the 8 Washington land swap case won at the trial court and just won again at the Court of Appeal, with State Lands choosing not to appeal to the CA Supreme Court.]…

“We’re not NIMBYs,” he said. “We wanted something the community, the people of the city and the tourists would be interested in.”

In order to save the club, Radner has spent countless hours attending meetings and hearings. He’s testified a multitude of times in front of the Port Commission and the Planning Commission. He’s talked to supervisors; he’s circulated petitions; he’s sent emails.

He says he couldn’t have done it all without help. “It takes a village to do it; it wasn’t just me,” he said. “Good attorneys, a corps of loyal volunteers, a real message. I wouldn’t be anywhere without Sue Hestor and Louise Renee, Susan Brandt-Hawley, Bob Iverson, Bill Benkavitch, Irene Glassgold—they’ve always been there when you needed them.”(more)



SF Considers Legal Parking Lots for Homeless RV Dwellers

November 26, 2015

By : sfweekly – excerpt

You’ll find them on the desolate side streets of Potrero Hill and Bayview, along Golden Gate Park in the Sunset, and in other outlying neighborhoods: Campers and RVs parked in rows, their curtains drawn. Some are empty and sitting curbside because their owners don’t have space to lodge them elsewhere. But others are full-time homes on wheels.

More than 250 people live in their vehicles, according to the city’s latest homeless count. Nicholas Kimura of the Coalition on Homelessness says the real figure is likely much higher. And he says it’s time for San Francisco to give RV residents legal parking. Other cities have designated sanctioned overnight lots for the “vehicularly housed,” including San Diego, Santa Rosa, Ballard, Wash., and, soon perhaps, L.A.

“[San Francisco] has plenty of money and plenty of surplus property,” Kimura says, adding that the city’s current efforts to restrict street parking for oversized vehicles is ineffective at best, and discriminatory at worst…

Like Kimura, Thornley supports the idea of city-sanctioned RV lots. The problem is determining which agency would oversee them. During the last two years, representatives from the SFMTA, the Coalition on Homelessness, and Mayor Ed Lee’s office have met to discuss the issue, but have made little headway….

What is certain is that the SFMTA doesn’t want to play a “gatekeeping” function. Vetting who gets to park in an overnight lot isn’t the business of a transportation agency. Thornley calls parking “a very tender topic,” noting that some neighborhoods will object to what’s essentially a legal homeless encampment.

“It’s a geometry of space problem,” he says. “A problem of space versus sanctuary.”…(more)


San Francisco real estate looking like it did before dot-com crash in 2000

November 22, 2015

By DANIEL GOLDSTEIN : marketwatch – excerpt

urging rents, skyrocketing real-estate prices and booming tech companies. Sounds like San Francisco in 2015, right? It also describes the city just before the tech bust of 2000, according to a recent report.

John Burns Real Estate Consulting of Irvine, Calif., and Pacific Union, a San Francisco real-estate brokerage, say that based on the appreciation (and apparent correlation) of venture capital deals and rent prices, the rise in the Bay Area’s rapid real estate and rent price appreciation today is looking more like a repeat of the dot-com bust of 2000.

“The San Francisco Bay Area is on our watch list for a correction,” said John Burns, his company’s chief executive, in an interview. He said that while San Francisco has become a permanently more expensive place to live and should be one of the most expensive places to live in the world because of its status as the center of the high-tech and Internet economy, the recent increases in home prices and rents have been fueled mainly by speculation.

“Affluent older buyers, often for investment reasons, have identified San Francisco as a place they want to own or live and have driven up prices dramatically,” he said. About a third of all-cash buyers in the Bay Area are purchasing property only as an investment, he said.



Sounds like a correction some people are praying for could be coming soon.




The myth of ‘no public funding’ for new Raiders, Warriors projects

November 22, 2015

By Ron Leuty : bizjournal – excerpt

When a sports team or politician pledges that no public money will be used on a new sports facility, politely nod, step back and call “bull.
Cases in point: the Golden State Warriors’ and Oakland Raiders’ planned billion-dollar palaces.

To some extent, public money always is involved — and needed, for example, to upgrade infrastructure that helps a broader development beyond ballparks, stadiums and arenas. But the extent to which taxpayers and future generations are on the hook depends on how creative — or disingenuous — politicians and teams are with the real-world implications of their “no public money” pledges.

Do they mean no taxpayer dollars will be spent on new stadiums at all, or just the construction of the structures? In the best-case scenario, how will an (insert realistic dollar amount here) investment of public dollars actually benefit the public? In a worst-case scenario, how much of a new-stadium bill would taxpayers foot if teams wiggle out of a city’s legal grasp.

At the core, we really should ask why it’s assumed to be a city’s responsibility to come up with a facility plan for multimillion-dollar businesses with unicorn-like valuations of more than $1 billion. But let’s not tackle that deeper philosophical question now.

Instead, let’s look at how the different approaches San Francisco and Oakland are taking on two vastly different projects.

In San Francisco, the use of public funds connected to the Warriors’ planned arena is much more defined (transportation upgrades), involves less money ($55.3 million) and, potentially, has a safeguard built in for the city. Still, the privately financed project has a potential public overhang of $30 million… (more)

C.A. Overturns Approval of San Francisco Bay Sand Mining

November 20, 2015

Originally posted on SF CEQA:

By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer :metnews – excerpt

The State Lands Commission violated the public trust doctrine when it approved the dredge mining of sand from sovereign lands under the San Francisco Bay, the First District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

Div. Four said the commission and a San Francisco Superior Court judge were wrong in concluding that an adequate review under the California Environmental Quality Act obviated the need for separate consideration of environmentalists’ claims that the plan was an inappropriate use of public trust land.

San Francisco Baykeeper, Inc., which has been fighting the project for years, sought a writ of mandate after the commission decided last year to renew, for 10-year terms, leases that were originally granted in 1998.

The leases allow three companies to extract sand from below Central San Francisco Bay, Suisun Bay, and the western Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, to be used in…

View original 122 more words

Even an Eviction Defense Group Can’t Stop Itself from Being Displaced by a Startup

November 19, 2015


Eviction Defense Group Displsced

Originally posted on Grassroots Actions:

By Lamar Anderson : SanFranciscoMagazine – excerpt

The dark side of the Twitter tax break

Two tenants’ rights groups, the Eviction Defense Collaborative and Tenants Together, are losing their mid-Market office space to coworking startup WeWork, in a twist of events that might be ironic if it weren’t so…inevitable. Add in the fact that the building that tempted WeWork falls within the bounds of the contentious Twitter tax break district, and you have a clash of old versus new San Francisco so self-referential and potent that we think we just heard David Campos’s megaphone short out. In fact, we’ll go ahead and call it: Welcome to Peak San Francisco.

Come January, the New York–based coworking outfit WeWork will take over the 12th floor of the Hewes building at 995 Market, which has served as the headquarters for the Eviction Defense Collaborative for a decade. Last year, 5,000 tenants came through…

View original 265 more words


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