If you want to start a heated argument with a neighbor, bring up SB 827. It’s a bill put forward by our state senator, Scott Wiener, which would push communities to increase the density of housing around transit stops and stations.
Some people, like Wiener himself, see it as a way to be both environmentally and economically responsible, reducing commutes and producing badly needed housing. Others fear it means their low-rise neighborhoods will be filled up with corridors of tall buildings.
I have interviewed Wiener in the past for the Marina Times and have been impressed by his willingness to answer directly any question, no matter how critical. To get a sense of the heated feelings surrounding SB 827, check out Wiener’s back-and-forth with constituents and other commenters on his Facebook page (facebook.com/ScottWiener2). Though a few trolls intrude in the thread, it’s a surprisingly troll-lite discussion, which was nice to see; it was mostly people honestly giving their reasons for supporting or opposing the bill. Just like in his interviews, Wiener engages many of the commenters directly, even correcting them where necessary (no, it’s not true that Palo Alto and Menlo Park would be exempt from the bill; no, your neighborhood won’t be seeing high rises, “unless you think 4–5 story small apartment buildings — which already exist in your neighborhood — are high rises”).
Wiener wrote on Medium that if the bill passes, land “within a half-mile of high-connectivity transit hub[s] — like BART, Muni, Caltrain, and LA Metro stations — will be required to have no density maximums (such as single family home mandates), no parking minimums, and a minimum height limit of between 45 and 85 feet, depending on various factors, such as whether the parcel is on a larger corridor and whether it is immediately adjacent to the station. (Developers can, of course, decide to build below that height.) A local ordinance can increase that height but not go below it. SB 827 allows for many more smaller apartment buildings, described as the ‘missing middle’ between high-rise steel construction and single family homes.”
A Cupertino city council candidate writing in the Mercury News suggested the bill would actually exacerbate housing affordability problems. Though some of her claims were over the top (she claimed it suspended democracy and the key premise of the bill is that market-rate housing becomes affordable with time, which is a premise I haven’t seen floated by anyone else with regard to this bill; the only housing that becomes more affordable as it ages is a tenement), but she does worry about displacement of existing residents, which is the key problem facing all changes to California housing laws. It is also the key problem confronting the status quo, where the severe housing shortage results in the pushing out of the people who can least afford to stay and can least afford to find another place in the increasingly high-cost housing markets.
Responding to the displacement concerns, Wiener amended the bill to explicitly preserve local demolition controls and limitations, add protections for rent-controlled housing, and make other changes to protect existing residents.
Last year, 44 percent of San Francisco homebuyers made an offer on a home they had not viewed in person, according to Redfin.
RENTS OH-SO SO-SO
Rents in San Francisco dropped 0.1 percent between January and February of this year, but they rose 2 percent on a year-over-year basis, according to the latest report from RentCafe. The fastest-rising rents were in Odessa, Tex., which saw rents rise 38.9 percent year-over-year.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
When this column began many months ago, we poked fun at the new name given to a downtown neighborhood, so we need to keep up our tradition by noting that people who use “Smission” to refer to “South of Mission” should call it “Submission” and be done with it, because they’ll clearly follow any trend.
HOMEAWAY ORDERED TO TURN OVER RECORDS TO CITY
An appeals court in San Francisco ruled in March that HomeAway has to turn over to the city of San Francisco records on its local rental business activity to verify its compliance with rules for paying hotel taxes. The Austin, Tex.-based short-term rentals company, along with Airbnb, settled a lawsuit against the city last year over a requirement that they verify users of their sites have registered with the city.
ShareBetter SF, a coalition of housing groups, praised the judge’s ruling, saying it showed the viability of local authorities regulating short-term rental platforms.
According to the latest San Francisco market report from Paragon Real Estate Group, “Only about 2 percent of house owners are putting their homes on the market each year, which is incredibly low by historical measures. About 5 percent of condo owners sell their homes each year, plus the new-construction condos that come on the market. This dynamic has made houses into the scarce commodity, and has fueled dramatic house price appreciation.”