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)

The Battle for Brooklyn: Eminent Domain Abuse Gone Wild

ReasonTV

The Battle For Brooklyn, a documentary about one man’s fight to stop a private developer from using eminent domain to take his home, recently opened in select theaters in New York City after a successful film-festival run…(more)

The question is always, who decides what is a public benefit?

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.

The not-historic laundromat project is being delayed again, developer threatens lawsuit against SF

By Dianne de Guzman : sfgate – excerpt

The will-they-won’t-they dance of whether a Mission laundromat will be turned into local housing has reached another roadblock in its quest, and this time the developer is threatening a lawsuit.

The 75-unit building proposed at the Wash Club situated at 2918 Mission St. recently passed the hurdle of the city determining whether it was a historic site. Spoiler: It’s not — but now the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are onto a new topic regarding the building.

Namely, its shadows.

An appeal was filed by Mission organization Calle 24 which called into question whether the shadow cast by the potential building would have an impact on two neighboring schools.

Sup. Hillary Ronen addressed the issue in a Board of Supervisors meeting, asking whether both schools were considered in the Planning Commission hearing for the building, according to SF Weekly… (more)

There is a bit more to it than is covered in this article. Stay tuned as YIMBY Action and caRLA get ready to flex their newly armored muscles thanks to Scott Wiener’s bills that are being rammed through the state legislation. Next up is a newly amended SB 828, that is stuck so far in the Assembly as the clock ticks toward looming deadlines. See page for actions to oppose the bill: https://sfceqa.wordpress.com/oppose-sb-828/

Legislative Website Info

Bayer-Monsanto Merger and Stack and Pack housing Is Bad News for the Planet

Op-Ed by Zrants

vineyards1

Grapes depend on birds and insects to reproduce. What will we use when the natural pollinators die off? Robotic insects? photo by zrants

Merging corporations are a huge threat to every industry, including food production. Ellen Brown generally writes about the economy and public banking. This article, The Bayer-Monsanto Merger Is Bad News for the Planet, goes back to her original focus on holistic heath solutions and deals with the problems that come from not upholding anti-trust laws. Too-big-to-fail banks are not our only problem. When you look at the issues raised over government involvement, or lack of oversight, in the global food industry in conjunction with government manipulations in the housing industry, the future does not look rosy.

Stack and pack development theories go beyond concerns over how to live independent lives. Sucking people into dense housing and work environments does nothing for the planet but it does force everyone to live in dependence of the government-sanctioned grids: electric, water, sewer, media, wifi, transit, and alt currency banking systems, to name a few. Landless Americans Are the New Serf Class, questions the legitimacy of the current development decisions by pointing out some of the major inconsistencies and problems with the way the government is directing us to live.

Our education system is turning out perfect on-demand consumers hooked on instant gratification, not independent thinkers capable of solving problems. Important jobs are unfilled because no one bothered to learn the skills. Do we know what we are losing or what kind of world we are building?

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Old and new versions of bus shelter designs photo by zrants

What kind of future are we designing and who is it for? We need designers who base design on science, not theory. Look at the new bus “shelters”, if you can call them that, for a perfect example of bad design. Whoever designed these non-shelter shelters should not be qualified to design anything. There is no utilitarian integrity in a bus shelter with less seats and no protection from the rain. The deal SFMTA cut for these non-shelters is indicative of what is wrong with the SFMTA and many government agencies. What did the public get put of the deal? a shelter that is not a shelter in exchange for ad space, that brings in less ad revenue.

We do not need an economy and society modeled on future projections on predictive behavior handed down to us from top level public-private entities that are more concerned with controlling public behavior than corporate behavior. What will it take for society to prioritize human development and creative thinking over financial growth?

please continue to support our efforts to control our land use and zoning by stopping bills like SB 827. Sign the petition and write your state reps.

 

Why A Laundromat Might be Considered ‘Historic’

By Joe Kukura : sfweekly – excerpt

A large housing project is delayed because a laundromat is being considered a “historic resource,” so we looked to see if this claim holds any water.

Some San Franciscans’ eyeballs were rolling on spin cycle last week when a 75-unit housing development was delayed four months, so the Board of Supervisors could consider whether the Wash Club laundromat (above) should be considered a “historic resource.” How in the heck could a laundromat constitute a valuable piece of San Francisco history? Why is the history of a laundromat holding up a development project in the midst of a housing crisis? SF Weekly dug through documents submitted to the Planning Commission, to iron out why a laundromat is being evaluated for possible historic significance… (more)

The arguments for historical significance are not what you would expect, but, are indicative of the creative minds working to preserve the SF Mission District for existing residents and businesses. The residents of the Mission stress quality of life over quantity of housing units.

California’s housing wars just starting

By Editorial Board : sfchronicle – excerpt

The Legislature’s long-delayed response to California’s housing crisis narrowly passed in September in a flurry of last-minute nail-biting and arm-twisting. Judging by the reception that has greeted one of the new year’s first housing bills, that was nothing.

The legislation, by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would overrule local zoning in favor of high-density residential development near mass transit. Sounds wonky enough, but fans of the idea have already declared that it would “change the shape of California housing” and, indeed, solve the housing crisis. Detractors, meanwhile, called it a “declaration of war on every urban community in California,” comparing it to the law that enabled Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears; and even posited that transit officials have been running empty buses up and down Berkeley’s Ashby Avenue just so developers can have their way with the surrounding neighborhoods once the bill becomes law…

A recent impasse over rent-control expansion in Chiu’s committee means a ballot-measure fight over the issue could be the backdrop of any debate over housing in the Legislature. The prospect of such an ultimately counterproductive response to the crisis makes legislators’ task that much more important…

It’s a problem that won’t be solved readily or easily, but the debate itself is yielding signs of progress. Officials in Brisbane, who have for years rejected a proposal to build thousands of homes on a closely watched site in San Francisco’s shadow, decided to reconsider this week, citing the mere “threat of … legislative action.”… (more)

The article makes no mention of the major cost of living increases that accompany the unlimited growth doctrine, pushed by Scott Wiener in SB 827, that is threatening the security of the middle class, gentrifying our neighborhoods, and pushing many people out of their homes onto the sidewalks and closing many businesses.

State control over local governments and land use is no more welcome than federal mandates on the states. Citizens want to control their lives and any government interference is unwelcome no matter what the excuse. Recall efforts are underway to replace at least one state legislator and more are threatened by angry constituents.

San Francisco’s former Mayor Newsom who is running for governor should not count on support from the home town he is suing over the right to override their waterfront decisions by claiming they are too stupid to manage their waterfront. (We understand this is one argument his attorney used for why the state should take back control of development of the waterfront the state handed over to the city to manage a few years ago.)

Voters are taxed out. An anti-tax movement is sweeping through the liberal political spectrum that normally supports raising taxes for social causes. Bills such as SB-827 that link dense development to transit rich corridors may turn off funding for public transportation as communities that oppose dense housing mandates strive to avoid being labeled transit rich. This sets up an interesting dynamic that unites the efforts of people fighting gentrification with those opposed to the policies of the SFMTA. This result in big changes at City Hall as well as in Sacramento, where the real damage is being done.

Panel backs huge project in the SF’s Mission District

By J.K. Dineen : sfgate – excerpt

The Planning Commission approved the largest housing development in the history of the Mission District Thursday night, despite over four hours of passionate commentary from residents and artists who said the project would continue to squeeze working families and artists out of the neighborhood.

Over the past year, the so-called Beast On Bryant at 2000-2070 Bryant St. has become a flash point for what most San Franciscans agree has become a crisis, the impact that an extreme influx of wealth and speculative investment is having on a neighborhood famous for its arts and working-class Latino community.

The plan, by developer Nick Podell, calls for two brick-clad buildings separated by a public alleyway. On the north side of the block would be 196 market-rate rental units, plus three affordable units to replace rent-controlled units that are being removed. On the other side would be a 139-unit, 100 percent affordable development, for which Podell has offered to donate the land, valued at $22 million…

The loss of the arts space became the crux of the 11th-hour negotiations Thursday night, after an 11-hour hearing, with Planning Commissioners convincing the developer to agree to include 19,000 square feet of space that would be set aside for artists and so called PDR, which stands for production, distribution, and repair. Some of the arts and PDR space will take up square footage that had previously been set aside for so-called “flex units,” which are similar to the live-work lofts constructed in the neighborhood during the dot-com boom.

A coalition of artists, residents, and building trades representatives opposed the development. Those groups wanted the amount of affordable housing to be increased to 50 percent and for 100 percent of the work to be done by union sub-contractors. That group — they called themselves “A Better Beast On Bryant” — tried to negotiate a deal where $10 million of private and union money would be put into the deal in order to increase affordable housing and arts. But in the end the groups offering to invest were looking for a market rate return similar to the financing Podell already had lined up.

Podell said that any more concessions would make the development “un-financable.”

“I showed my books to the city, as demanded,” said Podell. “I’m at the edge of what I can do.”

Several Mission District residents urged the commission not to approve any major projects before a new plan under development, Mission Action Plan 2020, is completed…

rick Arguello, Calle 24 Co-Founder/President, said that even the PDR and arts spaces would be too expensive for most Mission groups. “What’s necessary is 100 percent affordable housing,” he said.

The project divided a community that usually stands together: the San Francisco Building Trades Council, with the carpenters supporting it and plumbers and sheet-metal workers opposed.

Commissioners Katherin Moore and Cindy Wu voted against the project.

“After listening to powerful community comment I think this project is still too far apart on too many fronts,” said Moore. “For me, it is shocking to see the trade unions are not supporting it. This is the first time in my 12 years on this commission hearing this.”

Commissioner Rich Hillis said he sympathized with the criticisms, but that stopping the development would not slow the rate of change…

The Bryant Street project could be a bellwether for three other market-rate Mission District housing projects in the pipeline: the so-called Monster in the Mission at the 16th Street BART Station, which has been stalled by litigation between the property owner and the developer; the 157-unit project Lennar is proposing at 1515 South Van Ness; and Axis Development’s proposed 117-unit project at 2675 Folsom St… (more)

 

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