The more developer, tech, and Realtor dollars get dumped into Sacramento, the more local jurisdictions feel the pressures of gentrification and speculation locally. There is a direct correlation behind who is financing lobbying efforts in Sacramento and who stands to benefit from state legislative attempts to give hard-fought community planning controls over to developers and real estate interests.
The latest assault on urban localities purports to be a tool for forcing suburban areas to build their fair share of housing where they are creating jobs (and hypothetically transit for those jobs). This one-size-fits all approach absolutely does not achieve those goals. As the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) maps clearly reveal, the blunt impact of Senator Scott Wiener’s and Assemblyman Phil Ting’s SB 827 is to effectively upzone transit-rich cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, leaving development-adverse jurisdictions like Brisbane, Hayward and Lafayette virtually untouched.
As the supervisor of the densest district in the city, I have a long track record of championing housing creation and preservation, as well as transit-oriented development. The 60,000 units of housing currently in the pipeline are largely the result of area plans that my colleagues and I approved during my last term in office — which were carefully crafted through a genuine community planning process.
Yet the special interests controlling the state legislature have issued a directive that is completely disconnected from San Francisco’s values of equity, affordability, and environmental protection. San Francisco currently has the capacity to build 145,500 units of housing with no additional upzoning — so why the rally cries to “Build, Baby, Build” and “Bulldoze, Demo, Upzone”?
SB 827 is a luxury gift to the real estate industry, especially when you layer the State Density Bonus on top of mandatory minimum heights, effectively upzoning most of the city to 105 feet. That mandatory upzoning means increased land prices. In a city like San Francisco with limited land left to develop, this unchecked real estate monetization also means the city is left with fewer options for parcels to develop 100 percent affordable housing.
SB 827 also does nothing to increase affordability above what the city has already fought for. The affordable units in the pipeline are largely the result of city supervisors negotiating for the maximum amount of affordable units and community benefits. With little to no public financing support from state and federal coffers, the city has had to fend for itself. We have a duty to try to recapture value from every benefit that we give developers, and true value capture varies depending on underlying zoning, lot sizes, market conditions and whether there are vulnerable communities at risk of displacement without the housing security guarantees the state is unwilling to provide.
SB 827 also does not guarantee existing tenants protections from displacement, particularly those in vulnerable low-income communities. As house-flipping, serial evictions, and real estate speculation continue, we are still waiting for meaningful attempts from the state to reform the Ellis Act and Costa Hawkins.
In the words of former Los Angeles legislator Zev Yaroslavsky, “SB 827 is not a housing bill; it’s a real estate bill, intended to monetize real estate. This bill is not about yimbys vs. nimbys; it’s about wimbys: Wall Street In My Back Yard. With one stroke of the pen, the state legislature could totally transform the economics of real-estate development . . . while totally eviscerating decades of planning.”
My resolution to oppose SB 827 was heard at the Land Use Committee on March 12 at a two-hour long hearing that showcased the widespread opposition to the bill. Everyone from tenant advocates to neighborhood leaders decried the massive citywide upzoning that would allow an additional eight stories of market-rate development in virtually 96 percent of San Francisco, including Polk Gulch, the Marina and Cow Hollow. It was followed three days later by an informational hearing at the Planning Commission where commissioners expressed serious concerns about every aspect of a bill that would convey massive windfalls to land owners while exacerbating displacement and gentrification.
Supervisors Kim, Fewer, Yee, and Ronen have all joined me in opposition to the bill, as has former Senator Mark Leno. You can make your voice heard by contacting Senator Wiener and Assemblyman Ting and asking them to pull the bill. If the state would like to help San Francisco’s housing woes, they can start by passing Ellis Act and Costa Hawkins reforms now and follow it by giving us the funding we need to build more affordable and supportive housing — not letting Wall Street run our communities.