Tackling the affordability crisis in S.F.

Your Humble Columnist

Thanks to the editors of the Marina Times for granting me a little corner of this fine periodical in my third term as District 3 supervisor. My intent is to share regular updates on the district and citywide work of my office, as well as my own personal musings on current events and politics in San Francisco.

Sincere thanks to everyone who supported our efforts — we worked hard to run a positive, issues-focused campaign and we are now bringing that energy to City Hall. After seven years out of office, City Hall has certainly changed, but the basic need for checks and balances has remained the same. It’s been an exciting first month, and I remember why I love public service so much.

The city that knows how. or the city that doesn’t know how to negotiate?

Some of my colleagues have posited that criticizing the city’s handling of the weeklong bonanza of Super Bowl promotional events is tantamount to “not being a real San Franciscan” because “this is a sports town.” Apparently they didn’t get the memo that this sports town has officially been rebranded Super Bowl City — and at a whopping $5 million (and growing) cost to taxpayers. Apparently, the city of Santa Clara is the city that knows how. Unlike San Francisco, Santa Clara negotiated 100 percent reimbursement for Super Bowl expenses. Not sure what our city officials have been doing the last two years, but it certainly hasn’t been negotiating on behalf of our residents. Supervisors Kim, Avalos, and I are working to recoup the costs of this Super Expensive for Taxpayer’s Bowl.

As a public servant, my job is to look out for the best interests of the city as a policy maker, troubleshooter, and yes, negotiator. That means asking tough questions of our departments, contractors, and our executive branch.

Do the darn deal!

My first day back in office, I was dismayed to see that an 18-month negotiation with an out-of-town developer had netted an objectively poor deal that flew through committee and was up for a full vote at the board. After researching the package, it became clear that the $80 million price tag was not only $7 million under the minimum bid, but that it was netting less affordable housing than the city committed to. With a resounding 7-4 vote, the Board of Supervisors decided to send the 30 Van Ness development deal back to be renegotiated. I know we can get a better deal when we’re selling off city land.

This is a perfect example of how the city’s lack of oversight and negotiation prowess is furthering the affordability crisis. While the voters elected watchdogs to mind the store, the city is selling the farm in the best interest of developers. Well, some of us are listening, and I’m enlisting your help to pass an important tool. Supervisor Kim and I have introduced a Charter Amendment for the June ballot that would double the amount of inclusionary affordable housing required by developers in new residential developments. According to a recent poll, 71 percent of us feel this is exactly the right direction. In fact, several developers have demonstrated they can do better than 25 percent by making 40 percent affordability commitments like the Giants did on the Mission Rock development. During the time I was out of office, the inclusionary requirements were actually reduced from 15 to 12 percent. The current red-hot housing market has demonstrated that we can require affordable housing creation without bringing development to a halt. The housing crisis requires bold action now, and you can count on us to bring that action to the ballot this June.

Short-term rentals? More like long-term housing crisis

Another key component of my plan to tackle the affordability crisis is taking on the illegal cannibalization of our affordable housing stock by the likes of Airbnb and the Academy of Art. According to a report released this month by the American Hotel and Lodging Association, nearly a third of the revenue generated by Airbnb’s top metro locales comes from full-time rentals. Let’s call a spade a spade: The hotelization of rental housing is stealing the roofs from over renters’ heads. When you compound that with the illegal conversions and massive decade-long planning violations of the Academy of Real Estate (or, as they are called in their promotional videos, the Academy of Art), it’s no wonder we’re losing 8 units of housing for every 10 that we build. The city simply hasn’t had the cojones to regulate these illegal operations, which ultimately escalated our housing crisis.

I’m looking forward to working with my colleague to the west of District 3, Supervisor Mark Farrell, on a wide range of issues that impact all of us. I’ve recently been assigned to serve on the Land Use and Transportation Committee, as well as to chair the Government Audit and Oversight Committee. My colleagues also voted to place me on the Golden Gate Bridge Authority Board. We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us, and I’m already enjoying rolling up my sleeves and digging in. We can’t do it alone, though, so I hope you’ll connect through the Marina Times and also drop by our office at City Hall. Feedback and suggestions welcome! I also hope you’ll get to know my three amazing staff members, Sunny Angulo, Lee Hepner, and Connie Chan. You can reach us at 415-554-7450 or [email protected], or e-mail me directly at Twitter: @aaronpeski

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District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin represents the Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gateway, and Union Square neighborhoods.