The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted down a proposed temporary moratorium on market-rate housing in the Mission District last night, putting an end to an exhausting eight-hour meeting.
Supervisors Mark Farrell, Scott Wiener, Julie Christensen and Katy Tang all voted against the bill. Their seven counterparts voted in favor, leaving the vote at 7-4, a mere 2 votes short of the 9 votes needed to pass the “interim emergency ordinance.” It's possible the near-passage of the measure could signal its resurrection at the ballot box, but more on that later.
The proposed moratorium on market-rate housing, as the Chronicle explains, would have gone into effect for 45 days with the possibility of an extension for up to two years, though advocates have called for just one. The logic of the moratorium often cites the numbers. Of the 627 housing units built between 2010 and 2014 in the Mission, fewer than 60 of them, or under 10 percent, were considered affordable for families making 120 percent of the area's median income (which translates to $122,000 for a family of four). Currently, the Mission has over 1,100 units across 80 projects in the development pipeline. Sparking much of the debate is one of those projects, the so-called "Monster in the Mission," a proposed development above the 16th Street BART station. There, developers have called for 24 percent affordable housing, doubling an original 12 percent but still falling short of a 33 percent goal.
Despite the bill's rejection, the debate, if last night is any indication, is only heating up. "This is not the end," said Supervisor David Campos according to the Business Times. "This is the beginning of a movement," he added, gesturing to the hundreds of moratorium supporters in attendance. “In my seven years on the board, I have never seen anything like what happened today."
Campos, who sponsored the bill and remains its staunch advocate, has painted its chief opponent, Supervisor Scott Wiener, as "the ghost of Ronald Reagan." That's for what Campos would describes as Wiener's adherence to a belief in trickle-down economics. Wiener has scoffed at the comparison, invoking instead the laws of supply and demand. According to the Examiner, at one point Wiener said, “There is a lot we can do productively to create all sorts of new housing. We have to keep up the momentum to do that.”
However appropriate to the situation, that language of "supply and demand" and "trickle-down economics" deeply informed the hours-long circus of public comments last night. That period included a man singing a snippet of Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" in reference to the protracted meeting. Advocates of the moratorium, who dominated the first two-and-a-half hours of comments, referred to the bill as a moratorium on "luxury" housing, some punctuating their speeches with Spanish and sharing raw stories of loss and grief.
Supervisor Eric Mar, who voted in the moratorium's favor, was unabashed in his comparison of the exodus of Mission residents to an “ethnic cleansing.” Though that comparison of gentrification to genocide is hyperbolic in the extreme, it's to the point. The central grievance of moratorium supporters, who billed the event on Facebook as "Board of Supervisors vote on saving the Mission!!," has been the loss of 8,000 Latino residents since the year 2000, leaving the district's Latino populace at less than 40 percent, down from 50. Landlords have also targeted Mission residents with more no-fault eviction than any neighborhood besides SoMa.
Campos' plan is that during a moratorium the City might purchase a specified 13 sites in the Mission that are currently in private hands, building them up as 100 percent affordable housing. The cost of doing so is unspecified. Jeff Buckley, who is senior housing adviser to Mayor Ed Lee, disputes that course of action, claiming that the City is “actively pursuing” the purchase of five Mission sites to yield 210 units of affordable housing.
“The mayor has a plan,” Buckley said. Part of that would seem to be the $200 million housing bond he reportedly hopes to see on November's ballot.
The moratorium, supporters like Campos say, is just a "pause," not an end, to development that makes room for more San Franciscans. Still, opponents fear its possible negative outcome. According to Curbed, Supervisor Mark Farrell, who voted the bill down along with Wiener, said "I find it hilarious that I'm getting random emails from owners in the Mission thanking me and Supervisor Campos for raising their property values... Whether we like it or not, affordable housing production in San Francisco is directly tied to market-rate housing. It's a fact. By stopping market-rate construction, the facts are, you are directly taking away from affordable housing."
Per a late February survey of 602 likely voters, 65 percent favored a "time-out" on “new project approvals in the Mission District for one year" while 26 percent were opposed. To see such a measure on the ballot, advocates will need to collect about 9,400 signatures. Judging from the outpouring of support moratorium advocates enjoyed last night, that's not too much to ask.
In the end, the Supervisors may have only delayed the inevitable, pausing the "pause" until November.