Yesterday was a big day for advocates of Proposition I, otherwise known as the Mission Moratorium, as proponents of the controversial measure took to the steps of City Hall to make their case to the public. Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos were joined by supporters as they explained how the measure would work to address the affordable housing crisis that has hit the Mission District particularly hard.
According to Mission Local, Campos told the crowd that “what Prop. I is about is having a pause so that the community can come together and actually engage in planning that looks at the needs of that community.”
Prop I would place a raft of restrictions on development in the Mission that is anything other than 100 percent affordable housing for 18 months, with the possibility of a 12-month extension if approved by a majority of the Board of Supervisors. The proposition would also require the city to come up with a "Neighborhood Stabilization Plan" by January 31st of 2017.
And, as SFist recently noted, Prop I would also have the consequence of killing plans to turn the Armory's huge Drill Court space, recently fitted with a new floor and sound-proofing, into a full-time concert and event venue. (New permits of all kinds, including "business development" and changes of use like this, would be halted for the duration.)
It's important to note Prop I supporters don't view the moratorium itself as the solution to the housing problems that have come to characterize the Mission District. Rather, the 18-month pause in the construction of market-rate developments would allow time for the creation of the aforementioned Neighborhood Stabilization Plan — a plan that supporters of Prop I. hope might begin to stem what they see as a tide of eviction and displacement.
The proposition's summary explains the goals of the Neighborhood Stabilization Plan:
The goal of this plan would be to propose legislation, policies, programs, funding, and zoning controls intended to enhance and preserve affordable housing in the Mission, such that at least 50% of all new housing be affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income households, and to ensure that those units would be available to residents of the Mission.So, in essence, the goal of the moratorium is to give city officials time to put their heads together and come up with a plan to address an out-of-control housing market.
In conversation with Mission Local, Sam Moss, the Executive Director of non-profit developer Mission Housing, further fleshed out the logic behind the moratorium.
Moss said the 18-month pause would be significant, giving non-profit developers such as Mission Housing and MEDA a competitive chance against private developers. These developers, Moss said, may be hesitant to purchase land if they have to wait a year and a half to develop it, especially if in that time the city requires them to build more affordable housing on their sites.Not everyone thinks this is a good idea.
“It gives us much more of a fighting chance than without it,” Moss said.
SPUR, an independent urban planning organization, acknowledges that the "rapid changes happening in the Mission neighborhood are real and of grave concern," but goes on to state that the "moratorium is only going to increase pressure on our existing situation, making the housing crisis worse for all — especially those with the fewest resources."
According to the San Francisco Business Times, specific ideas put forward at yesterday's press conference include increasing the mandated percentage of below-market-rate units in new developments, and increasing community impact fees. But just because they're proposed, doesn't mean they'd work. Or, even, that the ideas are legal.
But many potential solutions pitched Wednesday are now politically improbable, and some may not pass legal muster or would require dramatic changes to the ways that affordable housing gets funded in the city. Those include major bumps to 20 or 35 percent inclusionary requirements for market-rate development and funneling an increase in property tax dollars from new buildings into a fund to buy swaths of land for affordable housing.
Peter Cohen, the Co-Director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations (a non-profit advocate for affordable, low-income housing in San Francisco), told ABC 7 News that "sometimes you need a cooling off period, to step back, take a wider view of what's happening and come up with a solution."
What effect Proposition I will ultimately have on the housing market if passed remains unclear. With advocates declaring the proposition necessary to save a neighborhood struggling with its own popularity, and opponents decrying it as misguided and misinformed, the two sides will continue their pitched battle until the very last vote has been cast.
Maybe a few more press conferences would clear things up.