Senate Bill 827 has been reborn as Senate Bill 50, and despite all the tweaks and changes, on Thursday San Francisco supervisors took a small step toward voting against it unless amended.
In its weekly meeting, the Budget and Finance Committee passed a resolution opposing the bill, with Supervisors Gordon Mar and Sandra Lee Fewer supporting the resolution, and Supervisor Vallie Brown opposing it. With Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, Shamann Walton, and Hillary Ronen joining the yes votes as co-sponsors, the resolution has a high chance of passing.
“The question isn’t whether we build housing — we must,” Mar said. “It’s about what we build, how and for whom. A one-size-fits-all approach from Sacramento will harm San Francisco and other cities.”
If passed in Sacramento, SB 50 would institute changes statewide, but San Francisco would be particularly affected. The bill mandates denser housing near “job-rich” areas and transit hubs, the latter of which is defined as within half a mile of a rail transit station or a high-frequency bus stop, which is pretty much the entirety of San Francisco.
As the city and the region suffer from a severe housing shortage, supporters say we can build our way out of the crisis and need to speed up new developments. But opponents call it a “real estate bill” that rewards developers with speedier timelines for gargantuan projects at the cost of community engagement.
The resolution to oppose SB 50, authored by Mar, states that the bill “would undermine community participation in planning for the well-being of the environment and the public good, prevent the public from recapturing an equitable portion of the economic benefits conferred to private interests, and significantly restrict San Francisco’s ability to protect vulnerable communities from displacement and gentrification, unless further amended.”
State Sen. Scott Wiener, the bill’s author and San Francisco representative, shot back against this statement, telling the Examiner that the “knee-jerk local control, anti-growth position” is based in inaccuracies.
SB 50 includes a relaxed timeline for “sensitive communities” such as the Mission, which has undergone a sweeping wave of gentrification, displacing thousands of low-income and Latinx residents. Under the extension, these areas would have until 2025 to adhere to the new upzoning laws.
The more than 50 people who showed up for public comment represented the mix of response to Weiner’s bill. Many echoed Mar’s sentiments while others acknowledged liking aspects of SB 50 — like inclusionary housing requirements — or full-out supporting it.
Somewhere in the middle sits Brown, who said she had some concerns but supported the bill’s intent to bring needed development that would counter an “untenable” status quo.
“We should be working with him to get this right,” Brown said, referring to Wiener. “We cannot continue to allow input and language like we don’t want any more people to live here. This is the first legislation to seriously take on this housing crisis.”
The resolution does include a commitment to working with San Francisco’s state representatives to make amendments but Brown sought to attach specific suggestions to bring to the table.
Mar and Fewer pushed back on the idea the city’s west side, which they both represent, is filled with wealthy homeowners that don’t want density. Fewer called for 100 percent affordable housing in their neighborhoods, which they fear will instead include more unaffordable housing through SB 50’s requirements. While the city has already met 94 percent of its above moderate income housing needs through 2022, it has met just 13 percent of its housing goals for moderate incomes, 27 percent for low incomes, and 45 percent for very low incomes, according to the 2018 Planning Department pipeline report.
“Come see who lives in my neighborhood — seniors living under the federal poverty line that are eating cat food for dinner, you come and meet them,” Fewer said, voice rising. “To say that we are anti-density is just ridiculous. We are carrying the region here.”
While it’s a very heated issue in San Francisco, in the long run, our supervisors’ stance on SB 50 might not have a big impact; it is a state bill, after all. And despite their opposition, Mayor London Breed has publicly come out in support of it — as has Mayor Libby Schaaf in Oakland, and Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose.
Breed’s support, Mar said, adds weight to the Board’s resolution as it is otherwise assumed that San Francisco is on board with Wiener’s legislation. Supervisors are hoping another message breaks through.
“We’re always trying to put a Band-Aid on it. Let’s get to the root cause of it,” Fewer said. “Instead of NIMBY or YIMBY, let’s all be IHMBY — inclusionary housing in my backyard.”