A few Sacramento lawmakers are squawking over the supes’ denial of a 495-unit project on what’s currently a SoMa parking lot, and a state agency is threatening a possible lawsuit.
The flashpoint of San Francisco politics over the last seven days has become the Board of Supervisors’ rejection of what would have been a 27-story residential tower near the corner of Sixth and Stevenson Streets. (They actually upheld an appeal against it, but same difference.) The 8-3 majority vote still allows the project to move forward eventually, that is, if the developer submits another Environmental Impact Review (EIR) that better addresses concerns with the foundation and bedrock, and maybe throws in more affordable housing sweeteners to the primarily market-rate deal. But that could all take a year or two.
In the meanwhile, the Chronicle has another reaction piece to this today, which claims that “state lawmakers are fired up” over the supervisors’ vote, though it only quotes one state lawmaker who’s upset over the vote (Assemblymember Buffy Wicks of Oakland), highlights a one-word tweet from another, and also quotes an Orinda state senator who spoke in favor of local officials turning down projects. For a better example of state lawmakers fired up, we turn to this Thursday Chronicle article wherein our state senator Scott Wiener says, “When San Francisco does something like this, it puts the proverbial turd in the punch bowl.”
This arbitrary rejection of new housing by the Board of Supervisors probably violated state law & certainly exacerbates our housing crisis.— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) October 27, 2021
Actions like this are exactly why we’re working so hard at the state level to reform California’s broken approach to housing. https://t.co/PcW7z7Delq
That Thursday Chronicle piece points to a more serious issue brewing, though. A state agency called the California Department of Housing and Community Development is threatening to sue the city, claiming the vote may have violated rules regarding the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or another piece of legislation called the Housing Accountability Act (HAA).
But they’re not sure which one it violated.
“It’s premature to say whether it’s definitely a CEQA issue or an HAA issue,” the agency's director Gustavo Velasquez told the Chronicle. “All I know is my legal team has already started gathering the facts and seeing if there is something we can act on.”
2. Dineen brings up a point at the end but doesn’t discuss in depth. The developer of Stevenson doesn’t own the land or have financing for the project. Build, Inc. has a history of obtaining entitlements for projects it never builds. It’s a major issue & important to this debate.— Hillary Ronen (@HillaryRonen) November 1, 2021
The supervisors who voted against the high-rise felt it didn’t include enough affordable units, and it being located in the SOMA Pilipinas Filipino Cultural Heritage District, it was not intended for low-income residents or people of color. They also were not confident in the project’s foundation, fearing another possible sinking Millennium Tower situation, or worse yet, a Surfside, Florida-style condominium collapse where 98 people died in June.
“You have the Millennium sinking, and the city on the hook for $30 million. You have tragedies in Florida,” Sup. Hillary Ronen told the Chronicle. “You would want some expert analysis on how you build there safely. This is a typical CEQA issue one would expect to have analyzed in the EIR.”
It sure sounds serious that a state department is investigating, and Scott Wiener says the supervisors “probably violated state law.” If those things are true, then the city is in very serious risk of… getting a warning letter. If they ignore the warning letter, then there could be a lawsuit, but that would also likely take years to resolve. There is a great deal of sturm and drang over this project, as if it represents some sea change in the local housing debate.
But it may be that the likeliest outcome here is just that the developer submits another proposal that is less likely to be appealed.
Related: Supes Shoot Down 27-Story SoMa Residential Tower Over Seismic, Displacement Concerns [SFist]
Image: Google Street View