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Mission Moratorium on Market-Rate Housing Fails; Ballot Measure Still Possible

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After seven hours of public testimony, the Board of Supervisors tonight voted down Supervisor David Campos's proposed 45-day moratorium on market-rate housing construction in the Mission District. Members of the public crowded into City Hall for the hearing, spilling into the overflow room, and, once public testimony began, lining up dozens at a time to speak. As proposed, Campos's moratorium would have permitted only housing projects with 100 percent affordable units to move forward for 45 days, or potentially two years, because of an extension permitted under state law. The measure would have affected 33 projects currently proposed in the Mission and stalled 1,574 planned units of housing. Though the measure met defeat, garnering only seven of the nine votes it needed to pass, a ballot initiative is currently in the works to put a similar moratorium on the November ballot.

Campos and other supporters of the measure presented the moratorium not as a solution in itself to the housing crisis, but as a brief "pause" on market-rate development that would allow time to study strategies for building more affordable housing in the Mission. "Relying on luxury housing in order to build affordable housing in this community has simply not worked and will not work going forward," Campos said, referring to the inclusionary housing requirement, which funds affordable units through conditions placed on market-rate developments of nine units or more.

According to Campos, only 7 percent of housing units in the current pipeline would be below market rate. The San Francisco Business Times notes that the Mission has added 627 housing units since 2009, 9.6 percent of them affordable for low-income residents.

In his remarks opposing the moratorium, Supervisor Scott Wiener noted the neighborhood's lackluster housing production in general. The Mission added 75 units last year, he said, and for the past five years has averaged about 100 units per year. "This moratorium is not going to stop a single eviction; it's not going to build a single unit of affordable housing; it's just going to pour fuel on the fire," he said. "If I thought that this moratorium was going to keep people stable in their housing, I'd be supporting it in a heartbeat."

In one of the more memorable remarks of the afternoon, Supervisor Eric Mar compared displacement in the neighborhood to demographic intimidation. "If we follow your logic," he said, in response to Supervisor Wiener, "we'll see an ethnically cleansed, racially cleansed Mission District."

Supervisor Mark Farrell voted with Wiener. "I find it hilarious that I'm getting random emails from owners in the Mission thanking me and Supervisor Campos for raising their property values." He added: "Whether we like it or not, affordable housing production in San Francisco is directly tied to market-rate housing. It's a fact. By stopping market-rate construction, the facts are, you are directly taking away from affordable housing."

For nearly the first two hours of public testimony, every person who spoke supported the moratorium. Reverend Amos C. Brown quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ("'Thank God Almighty we are free at last'—from gentrification"); Diamond Dave, the self-described poet of the Mission, quoted Bob Dylan ("Money doesn't talk, it swears"); and mayoral candidate Amy Farah Weiss quoted Twisted Sister ("We're not gonna take it anymore"), though she suggested that the quote could easily have been spoken by Thomas Jefferson.

The hearing got well into public testimony—two and a half hours, perhaps? we lost count—before someone stood up and unambiguously spoke against the moratorium. As the hearing wore on, more anti-moratorium speakers turned up, ranging from staff of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition to the College Democrats from San Francisco State to developer Joey Toboni, whose firm is behind the proposed rental project at 600 South Van Ness.

Campos showed a map of 13 sites in the Mission, currently in private hands, that could support 40 or more units of housing—sites he and moratorium supporters would like to see slated for 100 percent affordable development. But, as Mayor's Office of Housing director Olson Lee explained, zoning alone does not guarantee feasibility for the kind of development Campos has in mind. "The process of looking at those sites is really much more than doing an analysis of the capacities of the site," Lee said. "It would take us going out there and talking with the individual owner and seeing whether the owner was actually interested in selling that site and at what price."

· Mission Housing Moratorium Could Become Ballot Measure [Curbed SF]
· Mission Moratorium Won't Have Votes to Pass Board of Supervisors [SF Business Times]
· More Units in the Mission Are Rented on Airbnb Than Were Added in All of 2014 [Curbed SF]
· As More Mission Rentals Seek Approval, a Small but Vocal Opposition Raises Its Voice [Curbed SF]