May 29, 2017 Rob Poole

2017 Spring Symposium: “I Am Not Going To Vilify Newcomers.”

Spring Symposium

Left to right: Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Assemblymember David Chiu, Mayor Libby Schaaf, Senator Scott Wiener, Todd David, Gabriel Metcalf

Over 300 people attended our 11th Annual Spring Symposium last week at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. They came to hear from several of the region’s leaders about the role the capitol can and should play in addressing California’s housing shortage and affordability crisis. We were thrilled to host Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Assemblymember David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener. Moderating the panel was none other than Gabriel Metcalf, CEO and President of SPUR and arguably the ultimate urbanist.

The speakers delivered numerous memorable quotes that captured the politics and culture around housing in the Bay Area. Thanks to the San Francisco Business Times, the event’s media sponsor, we captured the highlights.

Opening remarks from Mayor Schaaf:

“We have now been warned. What happened in San Francisco is now spreading over to Oakland. What have we learned? What are the opportunities that we can catch that you all didn’t have the opportunity to catch?”

“We have allowed this great economic engine of the Bay Area to grow and grow, adding half-a-million new jobs…but nobody made them build the housing for those workers.”

“We all know this is a problem that has a been a long time in the making and certainly involves dynamics that don’t respect municipal boundaries.”

“I am not going to build a wall around Oakland and I am not going to vilify newcomers.”

Opening statements from the panelists:

“I believe in…a dual track approach. One, trying to provide as much housing supply as possible….And two, make sure that we’re providing adequate protection for tenants.” – Assemblymember Bonta

“It is progressive for us to want to create housing.” – Assemblymember Chiu

“At the heart of this problem…is we have created a system where each municipality is treated like it’s own imperial fiefdom that gets to decide whether or not it adds any housing, whatsoever.” – Senator Wiener

“The the state is the only entity…with the power to come in and say you’re all accountable, we’re all in this together and every community must do its fair share.” – Senator Wiener

If politics weren’t an obstacle:

“I’d wish for flooding the market with supply – a million, two million units, you pick the number – in California, immediately.” – Assemblymember Bonta

“If I could pass a bill tomorrow, it would involve three components. First, we have to figure out how to fund building affordable housing. Secondly, we have to figure out how to streamline the housing creation process. Third… We need to figure out to hold every jurisdiction, every city, every county accountable for building the housing that they should.” – Assemblymember Chiu

“If I could wave my magical political wand, I would ask for three things. Number one – by-right housing approvals statewide. If someone proposes a project that is within zoning, that should not go through a five-year process. Number two…is that we are paying our construction workers a living wage that can lift them up into the middle class. And number three – that the federal government would finally get it together and form a Marshal Plan to fund affordable housing.” – Senator Wiener

On local versus regional/state control:

“Local control is about how you meet your housing goals, not whether you meet your housing goals.” – Senator Wiener

“We have to think about how to revisit how we make decisions as a region.” – Assemblymember Chiu

“The decisions that we make here today have ripple effects down the street. Not only do I think we need regional governance, but we need a set of regional incentives and disincentives. If I could wave a magic wand, local jurisdictions that that did not hit their housing goals…shouldn’t receive infrastructure funding.” – Assemblymember Chiu

“We can’t hide from, escape or deny our regional interconnectedness. We’re in this together and everyone needs to do their fair share.” – Assemblymember Bonta

On Prop 13:

“I support commercial property tax reform. I think it’s necessary….This is a place where politics is everything. It’s a third rail. I don’t see it happening unless it’s done directly by the voters in a proposition.” – Assemblymember Bonta

“I see a big third rail right in front of us and I’m going to sit right on top of it. I think we need to reform Prop 13; We need to repeal 13; I would support any change to Prop 13.” – Assemblymember Chiu

“There are things we can to reform it in a way that perhaps doesn’t touch the third rail. For example, it is incredible hard to pass a parcel tax in California. We need to make it easier to pass parcel taxes to fund critical public services.” – Senator Scott Wiener

On San Francisco’s latest inclusionary housing legislation:

“I’m a supporter of inclusionary housing. But it’s important we get the percentage right…It’s important to keep in mind that people don’t live in percentages, people live in units. And so the goal has to be, ‘What percentage is going to yield the highest number of inclusionary units?’ If 25-percent sounds good, then 75-percent sounds great. But 75-percent of zero is zero.” – Senator Wiener

“I do have concerns about the deal that was struck. It sets it at 18 percent and then it escalates it, as I understand it, automatically. I don’t think that number should be escalating without, again, an analysis each time to make that we’re going to maximize housing overall and, particularly, these below-market-rate units.” – Senator Wiener

“It is important we look at the facts, we look at the numbers. We need to rely on what the data tells us….And the one concern I have around the deal that was struck is, what happens if the economy is no longer humming as it has been in the last couple of years….If we just look at history, we look at facts, the market goes up, the market comes down, and we have to be respectful of reality.” – Assemblymember Chiu

What about zoning…

“I do think that at some point there need to be stronger incentives for not just to say you have to approve within a reasonable time period, but then you actually have to create a certain amount of housing.” – Senator Wiener

“This history of zoning in our state and around certain neighborhoods in San Francisco are such that there are aspects of certain rules that I don’t think should be set in stone. For example in the west side of town, a lot of racial covenants were put in place to keep very low density…It’s up to us as policymakers to think about the past, but really think about what we need in the future.” – Assemblymember Chiu

Check out the photos from the evening, courtesy of Tony Bear, Communications Director at Mission Housing Development Corporation.

Symposium Photos

Rob Poole

Rob is the former Development and Communications Manager at SFHAC.

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