Housing issues stood out as the main ingredient in the alphabet soup of propositions that headed to vote in San Francisco yesterday, and moderate positions generally prevailed. Efforts to slow new construction in a city starved for housing were generally unsuccessful, with the most talked-about prop of them all, the so-called Mission Moratorium, falling to defeat while height limit increases for the San Francisco Giants' Mission Rock development sailed through. So what does all of this spell out? San Francisco's housing future remains far from clear, but the election results provide a direction for the next several years.
Proposition A: The affordable housing bond put forth by newly re-elected Mayor Ed Lee provides up to $310 million for below-market-rate housing for low- and middle-income residents. The measure had a strong coalition of support behind it that enabled it to meet a super-majority requirement (two-thirds approval required to pass). A big chunk of that money has already been reserved for the Mission, while other funds will repair dilapidated public housing, assist teachers and middle income first-time homebuyers, and build or rehabilitate housing for low-income residents. There was a big-money campaign behind this proposition with lots thrown in by developers and techies, including early Facebook investor Sean Parker. The bond will be paid off by a charge of about $56 a year on homes assessed at $500,000, an increase that will virtually disappear as other old bonds are paid off. But with the costs of land and construction soaring, how far can $310 million really go?
Proposition D: The San Francisco Giants' Mission Rock development has been in the works for years, and now it has the height limit increases that it needs to move forward. The proposal had to go on the ballot because of last year's Proposition B, which mandated voter approval for any waterfront development on port property exceeding current height limits. To get the win, the Giants announced that they would put aside 40 percent of their planned 1,500 units of housing as below-market-rate and dropped planned heights of the buildings from 380 to 240 feet. The majority of the 28-acre property will remain open space, and no buildings will rise within 100 feet of the bay. Now that the prop has passed, three towers will hit 240 feet, while buildings facing the bay will be at 120 feet. So what comes next? It will likely take a year to finish off Mission Rock's environmental impact report.
Proposition F: It's easy to analyze the effects of the "Airbnb prop" because, at least on the surface, nothing will change. The most contentious proposition up for vote failed by a decent margin, showing that voters weren't up for major new penalties and limits on vacation rentals. One of the most divisive parts of the proposition gave neighbors the ability to sue those who rented their properties as vacations rentals. Airbnb put $8 million into the defeat, but a swing to the left on the Board of Supervisors with Aaron Peskin's victory over Julie Christensen could still mean that restrictions grow in the future.
Proposition I: The Mission Moratorium was expected to be a neck-and-neck race, but it fell to a fairly resounding defeat. The proposition would have stopped all construction of market-rate housing in the Mission for at least 18 months (although the somewhat misleading ballot language referred to just "certain types of development projects in the Mission District.") The moratorium concept has now fallen short at both the Board of Supervisors and at a public vote, and it's unclear if there will be further attempts to stop market-rate building. There are currently somewhere between 1,200 and 1,452 units in the Mission at some stage of the planning and permitting process, and it looks as though, at least for now, they'll be able to move ahead.
Proposition K: This was the least-talked-about housing measure on the ballot. The City of San Francisco currently owns a whole array of underdeveloped land, and this measure requires the city to compile a list of all those sites and determine if any can be sold for below-market-rate development. The proposition also broadens limits on that land, allowing middle-income (people who earn 120 percent of area median income) as well as low-income residents (people who earn 60 percent of area median income) to qualify for these units. In larger developments of 200 units or more, housing would be opened up even further. The proposition passed easily.
BONUS! District 3 Supervisor Race: Although it's not a housing proposition, the victory of Aaron Peskin over Supervisor Julie Christensen in District 3 could have plenty of implications for San Francisco's housing landscape. Peskin has been a supervisor before, from 2001 to 2009, when he termed out. Housing has always been a major issue for Peskin, and he was known during his earlier terms as an opponent of new development in San Francisco, notably fighting the redevelopment of Treasure Island. Peskin ran on a platform of expanding inclusionary requirements for developers, hitting 33 percent affordable housing rates across the city, and growing the city's program to acquire rent-controlled apartments. He also wants to expand rent control; give tenants, land trusts, and co-ops the first right of refusal to purchase buildings; and restrict the conversion of housing to vacation rentals. Peskin's reelection moves the balance on the Board of Supervisors from a moderate majority to a progressive majority, meaning that the political housing debate could change significantly in the coming months.