Regional housing plan splits elected leaders

by Gennady Sheyner : paloaltoonline – excerpt

Casa Compact aims to promote new housing while overriding local authority

A sweeping package of proposals to preserve and expand the Bay Area’s housing stock by passing new renter protections, loosening zoning restrictions and expediting the approval process for residential developments is making its way to the state Legislature despite a flurry of opposition from local leaders, many of whom decry the proposed policies as unfair, anti-democratic and potentially counterproductive.

Known as the “Casa Compact,” the plan was hashed out over an 18-month period by a committee created by the regional agencies Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which focus on housing and transportation policies. The Casa Steering Committee, whose roster includes area council members, developers, planners, union leaders and representatives from large employers such as Google, Facebook and Genentech, voted unanimously on Dec. 12 to approve the new document. The MTC board followed suit with its own approval, by an 11-4 vote, on Dec. 19. The ABAG executive board is expected to follow suit shortly…

The compact has won the support of some elected leaders, including Schaaf, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and San Francisco Mayor London Breed (all three sat on the Casa Steering Committee). Yet the push for more state regulations has also galvanized pockets of oppositions, with many mayors of smaller cities and towns submitting letters that bemoan their own lack of involvement in the discussion. By imposing these policies, critics maintain, the package of laws threatens to upend existing efforts by cities to promote housing… (more)

There are good and bad things about globalization. Many people are concerned about climate change and want to support logical, well thought-out government policies, but, nobody wants to be forced into changes against their will or blind-sided by backroom government deals, which is what the CASA Compact feels like to the few people who are aware of it. That is why the bills being pushed in Sacramento this year will face a stronger resistance than they faced last year.

We have seen the future in our backyards and many oppose it and the politicians who brought it to us. In San Francisco, the YIMBYs lost every district they ran to represent. People who live in the small high-rise units in the transit-rich zones, appear to hate those neighborhoods. “Everyone needs to share the pain,” does not resonate very well with non-masochists.

Once you have lost the trust and hearts and minds of the communities who are living with constant stress and fear of displacement, you can no longer represent the populations that see governments partnering with corporations at their expense.

Something has to change, and it is easier to replace a few government officials than to change society. Our problem is to find good honest people to run for office who will not be bought out by the corporate greed and a hunger for more political power and control.

The language has changed along with a demand for instant answers to complex solutions. Cities that used to sell homes, unique cultures, and lifestyles are now pitching jobs, housing units, public transportation and digital toys. What is wrong with a society that relies on digital identities and communication and data at the expense of real relationships and understanding?

Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area

When: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 6:00PM
678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA
California Historical Society Headquarters

Cost: $10 General Admission,
Free for CHS Members, plus one guest per membership.

his conversation between Richard Walker, author of Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Lenny Siegel, Mayor of Mountain View, will take a hard look at current realities of life in the Bay Area in the midst of the tech boom which has transformed the metropolitan area in a number of ways – and not all to the good, despite the immense growth of companies, jobs and incomes. Despite its liberal leanings, the region is marked by grave inequality, millions of workers struggle to make ends meet, transportation systems are overloaded and, notably, an housing is in full crisis mode, featuring exorbitant rents, mass evictions and displacement, and rampant homelessness.

Mayor Siegel will respond to the book and discuss the challenges to local governments faced with housing shortages, low wage work, traffic jams, and much more, but hampered by insufficient revenues to invest in solutions, suburbanites reluctant to be urbanized, and the power of the tech corporations looming over everything.

Walker and Siegel are long-time observers and historians of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, who connect the present successes and failures of the region to its past and are well positioned to comment on how it has – and has not – changed over time… (more)

Excelsior youth say mixed-use housing proposal would feed displacement

By Laura Waxmann : sfexaminer – excerpt

Youth from the Excelsior District and surrounding areas protested a controversial mixed-use housing proposal Saturday that they said would accelerate gentrification and fuel displacement in the largely working-class neighborhood.

Plans to construct 175 units of affordable housing at 4840 Mission St. — the current site of the shuttered Valente Mortuary — have been in the works since 2014. But earlier this year, the site’s nonprofit housing developer BRIDGE Housing Corporation, partnered with developer Emerald Fund to also transform an adjacent Safeway at 4850 Mission St. into 253 units of market-rate housing…

Former District 10 Supervisor John Avalos supported the protest — while in office, Avalos said he advocated for “a larger housing bond that was passed by voters” that helped fund the affordable project at 4840 Mission St.

The current version of the project “has broken an agreement that had been made when I was in office by a backroom deal with developers,” he said.

“People want the whole site to be affordable. Politically that is something to fight for,” Avalos said, adding that “100 percent affordability is not out of the question.”… (more)

Broken Agreement: The current Planning Department system for processing agreements does not have any legal teeth. This is a problem that many organizations has been raising as the state and city team up to force gentrifying dense development on neighborhoods that do not want it. This is why the residents are fighting back in city councils all over the state. They know they cannot trust the authorities to protect them, even when they negotiate in good faith. Once the developer has the entitlement, there is no incentive to build what was agreed to. Quite often the land with entitlement is sold to anther party, who disregards the agreement that got the entitlement for the previous owner.

Instead of working to make the entitlement process go faster and smoother, we need our city and state legislators to put some teeth in enforcement of the development agreements and we need some caps on the longevity of those agreements. This would be a positive route to producing affordable housing by assuring it gets built within a reasonable time frame. This would be a win for the renters and residents who need protection from greedy property owners and unscrupulous developers, who are generally owned by, or backed by, banks or large corporations. Small property owners cannot are kept out of this market.

Wiener’s first bill could set off housing war

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

Should the state force cities to build more market-rate housing? Who decides how much?

State Senator Scott Wiener has wasted no time in wading into the statewide housing wars – just as affordable housing advocates have released a detailed policy platform for addressing the state’s affordability crisis.

A few hours after being sworn in to office, Wiener introduced SB 35, which states the intent of the Legislature to “incentivize the creation of affordable housing [and] remove local barriers to creating affordable housing in all communities.” That sounds perfectly reasonable (except that “incentivize” isn’t really a word): If some cities and counties go out of their way to refuse to accept low-income housing (and some have, and do), maybe the state should say: Hey, you can’t just preserve your rich enclave and keep poor people out.

But it also calls for the state to “streamline, incentivize [not a word], and remove local barriers to housing construction in jurisdictions failing to meet their regional housing needs contained in their housing element.”

Again: If that means Cupertino and Mountainview can’t approve massive tech offices and refuse to build any housing at all, good.

But if it turns out to mean that San Francisco, which is among the top three cities in the state in housing development right now, can’t block market-rate projects that lead to displacement, then Wiener is going to see serious opposition… (more)


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