The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has long failed address our city’s ever-worsening housing shortage, displacement, and affordability crisis, but last week marked a new low when eight Supervisors voted to derail a development project that would have added 495 new homes in place of a Nordstrom’s valet parking lot and offered only flimsy excuses and tired NIMBY talking points for their actions.
In voting to overturn the SF Planning Department’s prior approval of 469 Stevenson, Supervisors Preston, Peskin, Melgar, Mar, Ronen, Mandelman, Chan, and Walton may well have acted in violation of state housing law and California’s Department of Housing and Urban Development are now investigating. Even more alarming, the San Francisco Chronicle is wondering whether these Supervisors’ actions were politically motivated by the AD-17 Assembly race, why Supervisors were encouraging developer negotiations with TODCO in ways that sound like extortion, and how Supervisors could possibly cite “gentrification” concerns when they voted to preserve a department store parking lot instead of building new homes in their place.
If the majority of Supervisors are going to reject a project that would add 500 new homes, 25% of which are affordable and 100% of which are built utilizing union labor, located next to public transportation and within walking distance to thousands of jobs, it’s time to reject the notion that this Board is serious about solving SF’s number one problem and let voters lead on housing instead. Here are three ways voters can take charge of the housing conversation and drive real change:
- Learn the facts about housing. Most Supervisors don’t seem to know, understand, or care that the laws of supply and demand apply to housing, that market rate housing is how most affordable housing gets paid for, and that academic studies show that building more housing actually reduces the risk of displacing residents. So it’s up to voters to educate themselves about housing basics and think tanks like SPUR and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley are great places to start.
- Put housing on the ballot. Pro-housing and urbanist organizations need to turbocharge their organizing efforts, bring pro-housing measures directly to residents, and let voters decide how to solve the problems they care most about and are most affected by.
- Vote your values. If you believe that homelessness should not exist, that SF should be affordable for residents of all income levels, and that all residents deserve to live in safe, healthy, and well-resourced neighborhoods then it’s time to start electing people who share your views and vote accordingly.
San Francisco’s housing and homelessness crisis are voters’ top concerns and our city deserves leaders who will work tirelessly and cohesively to advance city-wide solutions. Until we have such leaders on the Board of Supervisors, voters are our best (and only) hope.