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Governor’s housing plan would hurt San Francisco

July 14, 2016

By Art Agnos : sfchronicle – excerpt

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to offer one-time funding of $400 million in exchange for radically deregulating housing development in California cities is a bad recipe for San Francisco and other cities with overheated housing markets.

In cities flooded with development capital, local government would lose the ability to protect neighborhoods and the environment, and also to negotiate large amounts of affordable housing and community benefits. Developers would be enriched at the expense of residents.

Brown’s proposal would require that all new housing developments be automatically approved, bypassing public and environmental review, as long as they meet minimum zoning requirements and include as little as 5 percent affordable units.

In San Francisco, the minimum requirement for affordable units in a new development is a voter-approved 25 percent, and many developers are offering up to 40 percent to win support and approval.

Brown is willing to undercut these standards because he buys developers’ arguments that the high-end housing they want to produce will reduce the pressure on housing stock and drive down prices for everyone. Overheated housing markets, however, don’t work that way.

William Fulton, one of California’s foremost “Smart Growth” experts, captured the reality well in an article last year: “The problem is that under some market conditions, more supply doesn’t lead to market equilibrium because it actually creates its own demand.”

This is the dynamic that many lower- and middle-income neighborhoods are suffering, and opening the floodgates to more market-rate housing will accelerate it, displacing residents along with the local small businesses and nonprofit groups that define our city.

If Gov. Brown wants to help address California’s affordable housing crisis, here are some concrete steps he could take:


SF officials wary of governor’s efforts to streamline housing plans

Art Agnos is on the right track. Cities need to retain their rights to determine their own futures and voters need to elect officials that respect and empower them. Follow the money and vote against it.

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