People Power at the Planning Commission

28 04 2017

On Thursday April 27, an impressive outpouring of hundreds marched from the Federal Building to City Hall, sending a strong message that connected the national and local, and that we will not stand for cuts to low-income housing. Afterwards, through a six-hour hearing, the Planning Commission heard compelling testimony from dozens of grassroots advocates, from SRO families to Mission and Chinatown residents, on the need to secure housing for low AND middle-income San Franciscans without pitting workers against each other, and without granting giveaways to developers.

As expected, the Commission accepted the lower total inclusionary of 18% for rental and 20% for condos, without incorporating the windfall profits of the state density bonus on on-site feasibility. But the mobilization and voice of the community made a difference. In a surprise move, the Commission voted to reject the extreme reduction of lower-income inclusionary housing in the proposal promoted by the Mayor and Supervisors Safai, Breed and Tang. Even a Commission with a majority of mayoral and “moderate” appointees had a hard time abandoning a pillar of Prop C: recognizing the acute needs of lower income tenants.   The acceptance of the 18% for rentals and 20% for condos was not a surprise given their reliance on the ‘expert’ Controllers report.

The vote count on the income levels was 4-3 with Commissioner Johnson joining the progressives. For rentals, this means that two-thirds of the affordable rentals would remain at 55% AMI, and 1/6 each for 80% and 110% AMI, and that two-thirds of homeownership units would remain at 90% AMI and 1/6 each for 120% and 140% AMI. It seemed the Commission also recommended other improvements to the Mayor’s proposal, spurred by public outcry: maintaining the current 55% AMI level for smaller projects under 25 units, requiring that any “middle-income” BMR unit actually be 20% below neighborhood market rates, and adding a requirement for family housing, with a minimum of 40% large bedroom units and 10% 3-bedrooms. While these recommendations are far from where we would like them to be, they are a good marker. But they will still need to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors, and may still face tough opposition.

Thank you all for the great turnout and an uplifting people-powered event. From here, it goes to the Land Use Committee on May 8, where public comment will again be critical, and for a first vote at the full Board on May 9.