S.F. Mayor’s housing task force pushes new affordable housing policies

29 10 2014

By Cory Weinberg, SF Business Times, full story here.


sf-city-hall 600xx3264-2176-0-136San Francisco has the least affordable housing market in the country. The number of rental housing units available in the city meets the needs of just half the 86,000 very- and extremely-low income households in San Francisco, according to a report this fall from the California Housing Partnership Corp. As of last spring, about 1,500 affordable units under the inclusionary housing law were in the pipeline to get built. The city already has about 16,000 affordable units. The real difficulty in delivering affordable units is the exorbitant cost of building any housing in San Francisco — affordable or market-rate — which clocks in at approximately $500,000 minimum per unit.

Under current law, developers who build market-rate residences in San Francisco have to help pay for or build housing that low- and middle-income residents can actually afford. Those developers have three options: build 12 percent of the below-market rate units on the same site as their market-rate project, build 20 percent of the units on a separate piece of land or pay a fee equivalent to 20 percent to the Mayor’s Office of Housing. More and more, developers are opting to pay the fee, slowing the pace of affordable housing construction.

“Part of the objective here is to find new avenues for developers to actually build units rather than just pay their fees,” Council of Community Housing Organizations co-director Peter Cohen said, a member of the mayor’s working group.

SF Chronicle Backs Real Estate Speculators

27 10 2014

By Peter Cohen, in BeyondChron, October 27, 2014, here.

Wow, the San Francisco Chronicle is really showing its colors with escalating rhetoric about the City’s gentrification and displacement crisis.

First, the editors took a position opposing Proposition G — the anti-speculation tax—with the rationale that it “could have the unintended effect of aggravating the housing shortage” while Prop G is in fact about stopping housing “flipping” and tenant evictions, not increasing housing supply.  Simultaneously the editors took a position opposing Proposition K — the affordable housing goals — which is about increasing housing supply and affordability.

That’s a strange contradiction to the Chronicle’s supply-side rationale in opposing Prop G.  Hmmm.

Then last week the Chronicle opined there is no evictions crisis in San Francisco, since 2,000 evictions in 12 months (about 5,000 evicted residents) is not enough to be considered a “crisis.”  The editors paired that with a manifesto about the “City on the Edge” which essentially said that gentrification and evictions are simply “side effects of prosperity” and that “the city shouldn’t fear the success it’s encountering.”

In other words, a few thousand displaced residents is acceptable collateral damage from the gains of economic progress.

Like the realtors and other vested business interests opposing Proposition G, the Chronicle has taken the position that denying there is a crisis of gentrification and displacement and unaffordability is easier than actually trying to do something about it.

Finally, in an opinion piece two days ago the editors took it up one more notch, with a statement that Proposition G is a “landlord shakedown measure.”  The one upshot is the Chronicle finally tells the truth that Prop G is aimed at rental property landlords/investors and not about homeowners, as realtors have been attempting to mislead voters.

But for the Chronicle editors to characterize Prop G as a “shakedown” is a stunning defense of real estate speculation.  Wow.


The CCHO Affordable City Voter Guide

16 10 2014

This November offers voters the chance to set the course for a progressive future of San Francisco and make great strides in addressing the housing crisis and income equality. The way you vote on November 4th will have direct impact on the affordability of our city.  We hope you take a few moments to read our voter guide, and more importantly, place your vote on November 4th!



YES on G to stabilize our neighborhoods!

16 10 2014

CCHO’s op-ed in today’s SF Examiner, counters the lies of the “No on G” campaign.


Evictions and soaring housing costs are rapidly changing and destabilizing our neighborhoods and communities. In the last three years, Ellis Act evictions are up 170 percent, and we have already lost 3,610 units of rent-controlled housing due to the Ellis Act. Families like those of seniors Gum Gee Lee, her husband, Poon Heung Lee, and their disabled daughter, Shiu Man Lee, driven out of their apartment of 34 years last year by an Ellis Act eviction, are bearing the brunt of this speculator-driven market.

The majority of these evictions (and many unreported buyouts) occur within the first few years of a real estate speculator buying an apartment building in order to make a killing by displacing our long-term residents. Their actions drive up housing costs for everyone and have made The City one of the most expensive places to live in the county.

We must protect our long-term and most-vulnerable residents and bring some sanity back to the housing market. As Mrs. Lee said at a recent rally, “It is up to us to stand up against displacement.”


Proposition G, the anti-speculation tax, offers a real solution, and is our best shot to stop these unfair evictions. The measure will stop speculators while protecting homeowners and tenants.

Prop. G will impose a surtax ONLY on the resale of multiunit apartment buildings that are bought and sold in less than five years. But it also protects homeowners by excluding ALL single-family homes, condominiums, owner-occupied tenancies-in-common, new housing such as legalized in-law units, and small-property owners who are in the long-term rental business. Only speculators will pay the tax.

Today, the speculator-driven market is in part responsible for soaring housing costs and making it so hard for average families to buy or rent a home in The City. The opponents of Prop. G have amassed a $1.5 million war chest to try to defeat Prop. G, most of which is from the National Realtors and the California Realtors, as well as the San Francisco Realtors, the Apartment Association, the Small Property Owners and the Coalition for Better Housing (“a coalition of the leaders of San Francisco’s largest rental properties”).

The misinformation campaign has been flooding voters nonstop, spreading lies to cause confusion and fear among homeowners, who of course are exempt from Prop. G and will never pay the anti-speculation tax at all. The No on G campaign lies when it says the tax will hurt homeowners.

Real homeowners are not subject to the tax in any way — all owner-occupied housing units are exempt — if you live in your home then your home is exempt. And single-family homes and condominiums are completely exempt, whether they are owner-occupied or not.

The proposed tax on speculation only applies to speculators who buy and resell certain multiunit buildings.

Prop. G is actually very simple — you will never pay the tax unless you are buying and flipping multiunit apartment buildings. City Controller Ben Rosenfield’s statement in the ballot handbook shows how narrowly targeted Prop. G really is: He estimates that in a typical year over the last eight-year period, approximately 60 properties would have been subject to the anti-speculator tax had it been in effect.

That makes it quite clear that what Sen. Mark Leno is talking about: “Prop. G is drafted very narrowly to go after a specific problem — speculators.”

Neighborhood leaders, housing- and tenant-rights groups, labor, and social-justice organizations are joining forces to promote three historic ballot measures in November, part of an agenda to maintain San Francisco’s historic diversity — the YES on G, Stop the Evictions, Yes on J, Raise Up SF and Yes on K, Keep an Affordable Housing Balance — that will help keep The City livable for working families (the three measures are endorsed by the San Francisco Democratic Party and the San Francisco Labor Council). The three propositions directly address the crisis of affordability and economic inequality facing San Francisco.

Says Dan Nguyen-Tan, a Western Addition homeowner: “The most interesting neighborhoods in The City reflect tenants and homeowners of various economic means. Prop. G and these other propositions will encourage economic diversity, detract speculators, and help residents who want to invest in San Francisco to stay in The City.”


Peter Cohen and Fernando Marti are co-directors of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, a coalition of 23 nonprofit housing developers and tenant advocates that works to support resident leadership and to craft policy for a vision of San Francisco where all can afford to live, work and thrive.


SF Examiner endorses Propositions G & K!

14 10 2014

From the SF Examiner, by Joshua Sabatini, October 12, 2014:

As rents and evictions have increased in San Francisco, housing has become the top political issue of the year. And voters have a chance to weigh in on measures to address the challenges with a proposal intended to curb real estate speculation and another to encourage below-market-rate construction.

The anti-speculation tax, Proposition G, would tax the sale of multiunit properties bought and then sold within five years. The hope by supporters is that it would curb the practice of developers buying buildings, clearing out tenants and reselling at a profit, or flipping them. The effort comes as evictions are on the rise. Between March 2013 and February, there were 1,977 evictions reported to the Rent Board, a 13 percent increase from the previous year’s 1,757. That includes 216 Ellis Act evictions, up from last year’s 116.

Also on the ballot is Proposition K, which addresses below-market-rate housing. It’s on the ballot as a result of a dispute over whether to mandate that at least 30 percent of all new construction of housing units hit the market as below market rate. It comes as the mayor has established a goal of rehabilitating and constructing 30,000 housing units by 2020. The policy goal is to have more than 50 percent of the units affordable for middle-income households and at least 33 percent affordable for low- and moderate-income households.


Prop K Offers Housing Balance for SF

13 10 2014

No one needs to be convinced of the current housing affordability and displacement crisis – San Francisco now has the largest income gap in the country, rents are three times higher than the national average, with median rents at nearly $4,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, and median home prices hitting the $1 million mark. The City has lost more than 5,000 children and youth over the last decade, with evictions up 170% over this latest “hot market” cycle. The housing market is in truth a hot mess.

There is no single “silver bullet” solution to this crisis, nor simple quick fixes. But we can set out a comprehensive plan of immediate actions to turn that tide. And that is what Proposition K—what we call the Housing Balance measure—is intended to do.


For CCHO, as one of the originators of Prop K along with base organizations in the South of Market, including groups such as SOMCAN and TODCO that have been fighting gentrification and displacement for decades, this measure is part of a working class electoral agenda for San Francisco. We are supporting Propositions G, J, and K on this November ballot: for tenants and neighborhoods, for jobs with dignity, and for affordable housing.

As one part of that vision the Prop K Housing Balance policy and work plan will make City Hall accountable to a number of commitments:

1) Achieve a minimum one-third citywide balance between affordable housing and market rate housing production and establish a quarterly housing balance report and require annual public hearings to hold the City accountable to its affordable housing commitment.

2) Develop a comprehensive funding, site acquisition and land use strategy sufficient to sustain the minimum one-third housing balance.

3) Set a minimum one third affordability target whenever the City creates new “plan areas” and rezonings for increasing development, beginning with the Central SoMa Plan to be adopted next year.

4) Make market rate developments pay their fair share of affordable housing obligations, and explore new fees on luxury housing and pied-a-terres.

5) Establish a funded Neighborhood Stabilization Trust to begin to decommodify housing, acquiring small to large apartment buildings to take them out of the speculative market, preserving them as permanent affordable housing for the tenants who live there.

6) Create immediate Interim Controls to protect arts uses and light-industry in SOMA from displacement.

Since 1990, San Francisco has had a fairly impressive track record of building close to 30% affordable housing– but that ratio is quickly slipping away as new market-rate approvals far outstrip funding for affordable housing. In many parts of our city, this imbalance in housing affordability is opening the door for displacement and gentrification at an unprecedented level, as long-term residents find they can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhoods. The Housing Balance measure, originally developed as legislation for the Central City neighborhoods, was intended to link market-rate development to affordable housing production by setting a goal of at least 30% affordable housing and establishing stricter conditions on approvals of market-rate housing whenever the city fell below this minimum balance. In June, Supervisor Kim seized the moment to extend the reach of the housing balance measure across the entire city, and to consider taking the measure to voters. That provoked an exciting summer of extensive negotiations between the Mayor’s office and Supervisor Kim’s office, resulting in Prop K, which CCHO supported as a pathway to more immediate and substantive outcomes.

Though “compromise” is often considered a dirty word in politics, this measure represents a real win for affordable housing. The new ballot measure and the workplan terms establishes a package of policies and funding to be developed over the next eight months that will set the conditions to reach the 33% minimum housing balance goal.

While an SF Chronicle article last week derided the significance of Proposition K, the critique hinged mostly on the fact that this is a policy measure coming out of negotiations rather than a showdown with the Mayor, and therefore “it doesn’t mean much,” according to the academics interviewed for the article.

That’s an unfortunately over-simplistic conclusion, and fails to appreciate that sometimes less dramatic tactics can be just as useful leverage. Getting the one third Housing Balance commitment memorialized by the San Francisco voters will give the city electorate and the housing advocacy community a mandate to hold the Mayor, and the Board of Supervisors, accountable to those commitments. Supervisor Kim said as much in the Chronicle piece. Sure, it will require persistence and struggle over the next year to turn policy statements into substantive outcomes. It is a clear road map for actions to be taken over the coming year, including potential measures for the 2015 and 2016 ballot, and sets up the conditions for a future Housing Balance. The goal is the same—a minimum one-third citywide affordable/market-rate balance as a permanent standard—it is simply a less politically dramatic pathway to get there.

No silver bullets, no quick fixes. But a vision, a set of voter-backed commitments, and a lot of hard work in the trenches. We see the Proposition K Housing Balance as a measure that constitutes a step towards addressing San Francisco’s ongoing affordability crisis and stabilizing neighborhoods facing rapid gentrification, and we call on progressives of all stripes to support it, win it and own it.


Originally published on BeyondChron, September 29, 2014.

Regulate short-term rentals, protect SF’s housing stock!

24 09 2014

CCHO commends the Board of Supervisors for attempting to find a pathway to legalize and regulate a popular but currently illegal activity—the ability for owner-occupants and tenants to rent their units or extra bedrooms for a limited time during the year. However, as currently written, affordable housing advocates cannot support this proposal.


At its most basic level, the proposed system lacks transparency and enforceability to prevent abuses of “the rules.” The profitable industry of short-term rentals presents the very real risk of continuing to erode the City’s housing stock for permanent residents and continuing to drive up housing prices. It would appear that the only supporters of the ordinance are companies in the home-sharing industry such as Air BnB and their front group, Homesharers of SF, which represent the interests of those who would presumably profit by this legislation. Most of the Planning Commission’s own recommendations have not been adopted, including two critical issues:

  • Tracking and enforcement, such as tracking the number of nights STRs are rented to the enforcing agencies, identify units in the City’s Property Information Map, making listing on a hosting platform without registration a violation, and providing adequate funding for enforcement by Planning
  • Maximum annual limit on “hosted” rentals

Following is a set of recommendations set forth by affordable housing advocates, that would begin to make this a workable piece of legislation:

  1. Enforceability. The crux of it all is the question of enforceability. We recommend that, in alignment with Planning Department’s own recommendations, the legislation should AT A MINIMUM, require monthly or quarterly reporting the number of nights STRs are rented to the enforcing agency, identify on the City’s Property Information Map units registered as STRs, make listing on a hosting platform without registration a violation, provide adequate funding for enforcement, and allow “private right of action” so third parties can sue violators to enforce the laws.
  2. Three-Year Sunset Provision. It is impossible to assess the unintended consequences of the blanket change to zoning definitions created by this legislation. Barring a more thorough review of these changes by land use category or geography, we recommend either a maximum cap on STRs by neighborhood and/or zoning district, AND/OR limiting the length of this legislation to a 3-year pilot, with a “hard sunset” provision, and requiring a thorough study of the impacts and unintended consequences before reauthorizing for more years.
  3. Maximum Annual Limit. Presumably, the primary reason people use “home-sharing” hosting platforms in the first place is to rent out an apartment or room while the permanent resident is away on vacation – and it seems far-fetched that many people in this city can take more than three or four weeks of vacation per year. Allowing up to 90 days of “short-term” rentals and unlimited year-round “hosted” room rentals creates a “market” temptation to profit from STRs, adding another incentive to raise rents, raise sales prices, and hold housemate bedroom rentals off the market. We recommend reducing the total duration of allowance for STRs to something more reasonably aligned with typical vacations, say a total 30 days per year, and no more than 90 days for “hosted” rentals.
  4. Prohibition on Subsidized Housing and New In-Law Units. The legislation as currently written, seems to allow anyone receiving the benefit of subsidies for permanent affordable housing, public housing, master-lease subsidies, or subsidized first-time homebuyer loans, to potentially cash in on these benefits for their own profit. We recommend adding a clear prohibition to exclude any units receiving City subsidies, in whatever form, from taking advantage of these public subsidies. Additionally, legislation recently passed by the Board of Supervisors to legalize in-laws and promote construction of new in-laws was meant to address the critical need to provide more housing supply for City residents, not to create small hotel units. We recommend that in-law units should also be prohibited entirely from use as STRs.
  5. Finally, tenant advocates have raised critical issues to protect tenants from possible eviction and to provide a “private right of action” without undue bureaucratic hurdles to ensure enforceability.



What Muni needs is new revenue and transit equity, not Prop B

19 09 2014


Since the 1980s, when our CCHO member organizations were instrumental in developing the City’s transportation impact fund, CCHO has seen transit funding as integral to our community development mission. That is why we support Proposition A, the $500 Million General Obligation bond for transportation infrastructure on this November’s ballot, despite some of the vagueness of the uses specified. On the other hand, we believe that Proposition B, the additional MTA set-aside from the General Fund put on the ballot by Supervisor Wiener, is bad politics and bad policy.

At a most basic level, the proposed increased set-aside for MTA has to come from something else in the General Fund. And typically cuts in the General Fund come from community services of various kinds, whether that’s social services or neighborhood improvements. Without a new revenue source to offset such an increase in MTA expenditures, the measure is tantamount to “stealing from Peter to pay [more] to Paul.” For example, two years ago, when CCHO proposed the Prop C affordable housing set-aside, we worked equally hard to ensure that a companion measure, the Prop E business tax reform, would bring in enough new revenue to cover the affordable housing commitment and other uses.

Second, Prop B was put on the ballot with little involvement of transportation advocates, transit users, or the city’s communities and neighborhoods. This is not how good policy should be developed. We need to support Muni by incorporating not only new funds, but an emphasis on how those funds would be used, including operations funding that directly supports service improvements and equity priorities that address service deficiencies across the system. That is how to ensure a robust transit system that supports the broadest range of transit users, especially transit dependent neighborhoods and communities such as seniors and people with disabilities, and not just “choice rider” commuters, as the transportation planners call them. For the past year and a half a broad set of transportation equity stakeholders, convened by POWER, Senior and Disability Action, Chinatown TRIP, CCHO, Human Services Network and Urban Habitat have been developing just such a proposal. This had culminated with a Transit Equity charter amendment proposal by several members of the Board of Supervisors for the November 2015 ballot, along with a package of progressive revenue measures, including a vehicle license fee measure and an update to the city’s Transportation Impact Fee, extending the program to market-rate residential developments which currently pay no fee to cover their transportation impacts.

What came as a surprise was a last-minute measure to increase the annual General Fund Appropriation to MTA tied to population growth, but without a revenue measure to match the increased appropriation, and with no tie in to the equity baseline concept that CCHO and the transit justice coalition had worked on over the past year.  In fact, it simply undermines that policy goal. CCHO has taken a principled position opposing Prop B and will continue to press all parties to work toward a charter amendment and a complete package of funding measures to win at the 2015 or 2016 ballot.

There are much better ways to support Muni than Proposition B. Vote No.

Just Released: New Report on Affordable Housing from CHPC

29 08 2014

The California Housing Partnership Corporation just released a report on the state of the housing market in San Francisco and its inability to meet the housing needs of low-income residents.  Making clear the dire need for affordable housing in our city, the report discusses the impacts of both federal and state cuts to funding for affordable housing and offers local policy solutions based on CCHO’s work.

Check out the report here.

The report has garnered a great deal of media coverage this week, also worth checking out:

SF Examiner: “New Report Highlights SF Shortfall in Below-Market-Rate Housing” by Jonah Owen Lamb

SF Gate: “Surprise, Surprise: SF Falling Far Short on Affordable Housing for Low-Income Resident” by Heather Knight

SF Business Times: “San Francisco Has Affordable Housing Shortfall of 40,000 Units, Report Says” by Eric Young

Hopefully this report and the resulting media coverage will continue to draw attention to the need to support affordable housing in our city, starting with a YES vote on Prop K this November!

Updates on the Housing Balance and Neighborhood Stabilization!

2 08 2014

This piece was recently published in the SF Bay Guardian.  Check out the article here.

Since 1990, San Francisco has developed an incredible track record of building close to 30% affordable housing – but that ratio is quickly slipping away as new market-rate approvals far outstrip funding for affordable housing. In many parts of our city, this imbalance in housing affordability is opening the door for displacement and gentrification, as long-term residents find they can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhoods. A measure known as The Housing Balance was introduced in April and promoted by CCHO members TODCO and SOMCAN with the hope of addressing this crisis. Originating in the West SoMA planning process and developed as legislation for Central City Neighborhoods, this measure was intended to link market-rate development to affordable housing production by setting a goal of at least 30% affordable housing and establishing stricter conditions on approvals of market-rate housing whenever the city fell below this minimum balance. In this way, the Housing Balance measure was meant to compel all sides – the City, market-rate developers, and affordable housers – to work together to achieve a minimum of 30% affordable housing over time.

In June, Supervisor Jane Kim revised the Housing Balance to introduce it as a measure for the November 2014 ballot, extending the reach of the measure to not only establish a 30% affordable housing requirement in District 6, but across the neighborhoods of the city. Perceived as a threat by developers, this new proposal compelled the Mayor’s office to put its own measure on the ballot – a so-called “poison pill” that would over-ride the conditions placed on market-rate development by the Housing Balance. Since that time, the Mayor’s office and Supervisor Kim’s office have been engaged in extensive negotiations, which CCHO supported as a pathway to more substantive outcomes than simply a ballot “war.”

On July 29th, negotiations resulted in a compromise measure—a policy statement that was introduced for the November ballot and agreed-upon terms for a workplan to take the policy statement into action. Though “compromise” is often considered a dirty word in politics, this measure represents a real win for affordable housing. The negotiated outcome allowed Supervisor Kim and housing advocates to up the ante to 33% affordable housing instead of the original 30%, and to get more immediate solutions for the housing crisis started right away. The original Housing Balance was a tool to create leverage, without itself creating ways to produce more affordable housing. This new ballot measure and the workplan terms establish a package of policies and funding to be worked on over the next eight months that will set the conditions to reach the 33% minimum housing balance goal.

If approved by the voters, this new measure will formalize the City’s commitment to maintain a one third affordable housing goal and set expectations for the City’s work plan on how to get there. While lacking the conditional use requirement “teeth” of the original Balance legislation, the policy and work plan sets up the conditions for a future Balance by compelling the City to do the following:

1) establish a housing balance report and require public hearings to hold the City accountable to its goal of minimum 33% affordable housing

2) develop funding and site acquisition strategies

3) develop a strategy to maintain one third affordability citywide, to be adopted concurrently with the Central SoMa rezoning next year

4) make high-rise luxury developments pay their fair share of inclusionary obligations

5) establish a funded Neighborhood Stabilization Trust to acquire small to large buildings and take them out of the speculative market, preserving them in perpetuity as affordable housing for the tenants who live there

6) create immediate Interim Controls to protect PDR (production, distribution, repair/service) businesses and artists in SOMA from displacement (a temporary solution until more permanent protections are established next year)

The pieces of this agreement constitute a step towards addressing San Francisco’s ongoing affordability crisis and stabilizing neighborhoods facing rapid gentrification. It may seem less dramatic than the prospect of a ballot battle with developers, but it is a package to work with that was leveraged from the process of negotiations. However, we must keep an eye on the larger goal of real city-wide affordability. Though 33% affordable housing production is higher than what we’ve achieved in the past, we must not forget this is only a floor – realistic given the funding goals of this measure, but an incremental step toward achieving the affordable housing we need to house all San Franciscans fairly.


Thanks for coming to the 2014 CCHO Party!

20 05 2014


Thanks to all of the Friends of CCHO who came out and made our 2014 CCHO Party a success!  It was great to see you all there, and to be reminded of how many friends and allies we have in the struggle to make affordable housing a reality in the San Francisco Bay Area.CCHO_5_14_001

And congratulations once again to this year’s honorees: Sara Shortt, Marcia Rosen, Phil Morgan, Jane Martin, Bob Allen, Angelina Yu, and Jessica Lehman.

Want to see more photos from the party?  Check out the album.  (And if you are feeling nostalgic, there are also photos of the 2012 & 2013 CCHO parties!)


CCHO_5_14_057 CCHO_5_14_097 CCHO_5_14_052 CCHO_5_14_202 CCHO_5_14_191 CCHO_5_14_162 CCHO_5_14_130 CCHO_5_14_111 CCHO_5_14_098 CCHO_5_14_068 CCHO_5_14_054 CCHO_5_14_050 CCHO_5_14_045 CCHO_5_14_007CCHO_5_14_010 CCHO_5_14_023 CCHO_5_14_025 CCHO_5_14_048 CCHO_5_14_196 CCHO_5_14_208

See you tonight at the Party!

2 05 2014

CCHO 2014 Postcard

“Not enough is being done…”

10 04 2014

From the SF Chronicle, on the Housing Balance:

“San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood is ground zero for the city’s housing construction boom, and Supervisor Jane Kim is worried that not enough is being done to ensure a good portion of that housing is affordable to low- and middle-income citizens. Kim believes that at least 30 percent of new housing construction in her district, which also includes the Tenderloin, should be earmarked as affordable. On Tuesday, she introduced legislation to maintain that “floor” by requiring developers to justify their projects to the City Planning Commission if the amount of affordable housing in District Six dips below 30 percent, where it has been historically.”

Housing Balance Act introduced at Board of Supervisors today

8 04 2014

From the SF Examiner: Supervisor Kim proposes ordinance seeking a balance between market rate, below market rate housing

“There’s been a lot of talk over the last year in this very, very hot market about housing for all and a balance of housing needs but unfortunately we don’t have any mechanisms that really ensure that kind of outcome,” Peter Cohen said. “So the intent here… is to create that kind of expectation and give some real meaning to the notion of a balance.”

Microsoft Word - Housing Balance Summary.2014-04-07.docx

The Housing Dashboard

7 04 2014

Here is the latest Planning Department data published last week, which shows that, as of fourth quarter 2014, the City has built or entitled TWICE as many of the market-rate units needed by job growth, only half the needed low-income units, and a measly fifth of the needed moderate income units. So how do we ensure a balanced housing development pattern for all?


Preserving SF’s light industry through the power of magical thinking…

10 02 2014

On Thursday, February 6, 2014, the Planning Commission heard one of the first proposals for a major modification to the 2008 Eastern Neighborhoods plan which many CCHO organizations worked hard to develop. Unfortunately, this new proposal is yet another example of Planning Department and Office of Economic Development staff’s power of magical thinking. The proposal allows new buildings with 2/3 office spaces (ie, high-end tech sector spaces), in exchange for 1/3 PDR, in the last few areas left for PDR uses. PDR, or Production, Distribution and Repair, is the Planning Departments language for light industrial. There is no guarantee that the PDR space will be affordable, or that there will be any local hire, job training, or placement with local schools or workforce development programs. Allowing potentially 2 Million s.f. of tech uses (according to Planning Department data) in otherwise PDR-only areas could well result in driving up land prices in the surrounding PDR zones, and create yet another incentive for further rezoning to change the remaining PDR uses to tech office.

In line with the magical thinking paradigm, Planning and OEWD staff promote this as similar to inclusionary housing. It’s completely different – inclusionary housing requires a minimum percent of permanently affordable, price controlled uses, and it is not used to promote housing where it is currently illegal (as this proposal does for office).

While there may be some good things in the proposal (in fact, this sets up a useful precedent when considering other changes to restricted PDR uses, such as is being contemplated in the Central SOMA Plan), the fact that OEWD and Planning staff have not consulted with any of the PDR employment advocates in the Eastern Neighborhoods, means it has a long way to go to be fully baked.

Our fundamental recommendations would be to ensure that these are truly affordable, price-restricted PDR spaces, with requirements for local workforce hiring. And given the uncertainty of the proposal, to develop this as a “pilot program,” with a maximum of 500,000 s.f. of tech offices (about the size of two Twitter offices), with careful anlaysis before choosing to build more.

Chosen_Hamm's(Painting by Dan McHale)


Some History

Since the heyday of multiple story industrial buildings in the 1930s and 40s, buildings which in great measure have been allowed to be converted to residential and tech uses, we have arrived at an economic reality where it is simply infeasible to build new industrial space except for one story (and sometimes two) tilt-up concrete buildings, an unrealistic development typology for premium-priced real estate in San Francisco. This is why so much of SF’s once-again growing manufacturing sector is moving out to places like San Leandro, where zoning, building typologies and economic reality actually match.

In the late-90s to mid-2000s, most of our traditional industrial zones were still defined by the M zoning (for Manufacturing), which was intended for industrial uses. This zoning from the 1950s had the misfortune of being relatively flexible and allowed other uses, such as live-work lofts and dot com businesses, masquerading as “light industrial” and “business services,” to begin moving into these lower rent areas, displacing PDR and driving up land prices. Moreover, the industrial areas did not have the appropriate transit and infrastructure to support either residential uses or the higher worker density of dot coms, which is often closer to one employee per 100 s.f.. The existing PDR uses (auto shops, print shops, small manufacturers, sewing factories, etc.) employed many immigrants and people with limited educational attainment. This was a big part of why folks in local organizations such as PODER, MEDA, and DSCS, as well as CCHO, pushed for the retention of PDR uses through the 8-year Eastern Neighborhoods rezoning process.

The original intention of the Eastern Neighborhoods PDR policy was:

  1. To identify certain transitional areas of industrial zones, and to allow those higher intensity uses that would knowingly drive up land prices. This resulted in the new “mixed-use” zones (MUO, MUR, UMU) from former industrial areas, with a huge boon to land developers with assured certainty of their office and residential proposals.
  2. To create harder controls around the much fewer remaining industrial uses, now called PDR, to not allow residential or office uses that would drive up land prices and drive out industrial uses. While Planning and OEWD staff seems to see this as “taking” allowable development from the landowners, it was entirely consistent with the intent of the previous M Manufacturing zoning.
  3. To allow some creativity for PDR uses and bonuses for developers that might create other advantages, such as the new IPDR category that allowed up to 2/3 office in exchange for certain “disadvantaged” workforce hiring policies.

From the community’s standpoint, the city already gave away the farm when it rezoned so much of the Manufacturing areas into MUO, MUR, UMU, and allowed a spate of “legalizations” of illegal office uses (and soon to be before you, legalizations of illegal live-work lofts). While protecting a few remaining PDR buildings, the Planning Department simultaneously zoned for PDR uses on certain parking lots but also zoned for heights on those parking lots that were not realistic for industrial developers, but brought dollar signs to the landowner’s eyes, thus halting any potential industrial development on those sites. Now, with a resurgence of San Francisco’s manufacturing sector, we are seeing that the last few remaining PDR buildings are now at capacity, and a business sector that we very much want to remain in our city is facing some hard choices. The rampant conversion of the city’s industrial spaces allowed by Planning policies of the last decade is perhaps water under the bridge now, but we can’t escape the simple fact that neither Planning Department or OEWD have the best track record in leaning forward to preserve or promote industrial uses for the long haul. So, we implore caution as the Planning Commission considers yet more creative ideas about modifying the City’s limited remaining PDR lands.


Office/Tech Bonus for 1/3 PDR

Rather than rezone the heights on “under-utilized” sites to be appropriate to the economic reality of tilt-up concrete industrial buildings, the thinking here seems to be allowing a tilt-up concrete building on the back of a site, and a five story tech office building along a fancy new boulevard (getting to the 1/3 PDR to 2/3 office mix). Extrapolating forward with this zoning vision, 7th Street becomes lined with tech offices along a beautiful new boulevard. Is that appropriate land use policy for the area?

Note that the 16 parcels combined that would be subject to the change allowing new office on 2/3 of each parcel, would allow a total of over 2 Million square feet of tech uses in the PDR districts. 1.5 Million of those would be in the area along 7th Street, including Recology and various parking lots, a truck rental place, and a mini-storage. A squishy definition may leave it open to political re-definitions, as we have experienced in the past such as with the Furniture Mart, extending it to even more parcels.

Even if this creative idea will work as it is currently presented, creating new PDR spaces, can you guarantee that these will actually be affordable spaces, at the $1.25 to $1.50/s.f. that current local manufacturing can afford, or that the community will get the local jobs benefit that PDR promised? The proposed zoning has no guarantee that the PDR space will be affordable, or that there will be any local hire, job training, or placement with local schools, City College, or workforce development or entrepreneurship programs, or any future relationship to Promise Zones. Planning and OEWD, along with SF Made, instead presents a hypothetical “business plan,” that the site developer would work out for hypothetical future PDR users. If this quid-pro-quo is at all to work, the City needs much harder assurances.

The ordinance puts a big stress on the CU process for these types of projects, saying in considering whether to approve a project, the planning commission shall consider, among other things: “(A) The likely viability of the new PDR space created by the development, as influenced by such factors as whether the project sponsor has developed a PDR business plan, has the commitments of established PDR tenants, and/or a demonstrated relationship with organizations established in the PDR community.” This “demonstrated relationship” needs to be spelled out specifically to include workforce development and economic development organizations, industrial and entrepreneurship programs at City College or local high schools, and a relationship with existing or future economic development models, such as Promise Zones.

  • Recommendation:   Slow this process down to allow full vetting of the development scenarios and the PDR/Office ratio proposed by Planning Department and Office of Economic Development.
  • Recommendation:  Particular parcels subject to Section 219.1 should be specified by Assessor Parcel Number in the legislation, in the “Geography” section of the ordinance, rather than allowing any ability for loopholes.
  • Recommendation:   Only allow up to 500,000 s.f. of office as a pilot program under this mixed-development program, then call for a hearing and discussion on whether to extend to allow full use, and at what ratio of PDR to Tech. This would be a similar approach as has been used in the “micro-units” legislation.
  • Recommendation:   Allow the new office bonus only if developed pursuant to a Development Agreement with the city, with full collateral agreements involving workforce development organizations, for any projects approved under this new optional zoning classification, so that the city and community can hold the developer/owner accountable to the promises they make. Since what is contemplated is only about 20 properties, each over 20,000 s.f., this should be a reasonable approach.
  • Recommendation:   Require that these developments result in deed-restricted permanently affordable “inclusionary” PDR space (with lease rates maximum $1.50/s.f., to be reset on a regular basis based on the citywide average of prevailing rental rates for restricted PDR uses)
  • Recommendation:   Define precisely restricted “PDR” uses allowed in this PDR space.


IPDR (Integrated PDR)

The longstanding “accessory use” allowance for PDR/industrial districts has been maximum 30%. The Planning Department and Office of Economic Development argue that whatever they can come up for the new construction space (ie, a CU process and “the PDR Business Plan” can simply be applied just as easily to the IPDR). But the IPDR concept was a far different one – to demand job hiring and training in exchange for this higher allowable office use, ie, PDR with 50% office. Local organizations originally wanted harder local hiring and training controls, and only 50% accessory office, but this is what we got. The current proposal does away with the “disadvantaged” hiring policies within IPDR, but still allows PDR uses with 2/3 office use on otherwise PDR-only areas.  As SF Made has told us, there has been no interest since the IPDR category has existed for PDR spaces with any accessory use beyond 1/3, so there should be no real constituency for this (except perhaps landowners/developers that may want to use it to their advantage). “Cherry picking” pieces of the IPDR zoning category and eliminating others as is proposed by Planning and OEWD staff represents no one’s public policy interests except as a potential for future land speculation.

  • Recommendation:  Do away with IPDR entirely, since it does not seem to work, and the only reason for it originally was to promote local hire and job training. Without the workforce requirement, it is a giveaway for property owners to convert PDR buildings into Tech buildings.


SEW (Small Economic Workplaces)

The Small Economic Enterprise (SEW) buildings represent a different kind of creative-thinking problem: creating a flexible use category (like the old M-zoning) that now runs up against changed economic realities of “higher and better uses” that can take advantage of this flexibility. By allowing up to 100% office uses in spaces up to 1500 s.f., the current legislation actually encourages dropping a series of 5M tech incubator buildings in the PDR districts, pushing out PDR once and for all.

In the mid-2000s, SEW responded to a new building type, exemplified by ActivSpace on 18th and Treat in the Mission. The original idea from Planning was to incentivize these buildings, by allowing small spaces with office and personal services in PDR-restricted zones. For PDR uses, these small spaces demand a far higher per s.f. rate (above $3.50/s.f.) than typical PDR spaces (closer to $1.25 to 1.50/s.f.), but does work for some small upscale manufacturers. Planning staff argues that the office allowance in SEW buildings is already allowed in the 2008 EN Zoning. However, when the EN was passed, the idea of a dot com hub of small incubator spaces did not exist. While the Planning Department and Office of Economic Development may now wish to promote such spaces in other zoning districts appropriately served by transit and other infrastructure for high density workplaces (such as 5th & Mission where the 5M incubator hub is located), these office uses would not be appropriate in PDR districts and would easily displace lower margin industrial uses.  Planning and OEWD staff argue that uses like ActivSpace need some flexibility that may vary over time in order to make their finances work. We agree that we should allow some flexibility up to a certain amount. For example, allowing 1/3 office as primary uses, when combined with the 1/3 office accessory in the rest of the PDR uses, could allow SEW buildings to have up to a total of 50% office uses, which is considerably more than adjacent PDR buildings, but may be necessary to make this model work financially.

The ordinance also allows, “(3) Where permitted, S.E.W. Buildings are exempt from the controls in Sec. 230 limiting demolition of industrial buildings.” SEW should not permit demolitions of existing viable PDR uses, potentially demolishing viable larger floor plate PDR spaces that will never be brought back.

  • Recommendation:  Allow ONLY up to 1/3 office uses as primary use in the SEW, consistent with PDR accessory uses elsewhere.
  • Recommendation:  Allow demolition of PDR only if under .5 FAR of existing PDR building on site.


Plaza 16 Rallies for Affordable Housing

10 02 2014

The latest from people.power.media, covering the Plaza 16 Coalition rallies for affordable housing, and against the high-rise condominiums proposed to be built at 16th and Mission, one of San Francisco’s busiest intersections.


The Plaza 16 Coalition / Plaza 16 Coalición is made up of several CCHO member organizations based in the Mission District, including Dolores Street Community Services, Housing Rights Committee, MEDA, and PODER, as well as allies Causa Justa :: Just Cause and Mission Neighborhood Resource Center.

The Plaza 16 Coalition builds on the decades of planning and organizing in the Mission which created El Plan Popular / the People’s Plan, and won funding for much-needed community infrastructure, protections for light industrial jobs, and sites for future affordable housing and a new park in the Mission District (such as 17th & Folsom and at Shotwell & Cesar Chavez).

From their statement: The Plaza 16 Coalition / Plaza 16 Coalición has come together to advocate for the 1979 Mission Street site to be used for much needed affordable housing in the neighborhood. We envision a 16th St and Mission Street that has:

  • Welcoming streets for grandmothers, kids, tenants, homeless people – streets that reduce hazards, and increase pedestrian safety and cultural vibrancy
  • Increased public open space
  • A local economy of small businesses that serves the needs of local residents and workers and supports the creation of good jobs for community residents
  • Planning that is conducted by people who live and work in the neighborhood
  • A strong local ecosystem of resources and services that create healthy neighborhoods
  • No more market rate housing development until the needs for deeply affordable housing are met


Tenants Rising!!!

9 02 2014

Congratulations to the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition, and to our allies in the Housing Rights Committee, Tenants Union, Causa Justa::Just Cause, AIDS Housing Alliance, and so many others who made it happen, for a successful Citywide Tenant Convention, with 600+ people packed into Tenderloin Elementary, charting a future for tenants and affordable housing in San Francisco! We look forward to next steps in flexing our power, as labor, community and tenants come together, to stop the displacement of our working class from SF!


(photo by Andy Blue)

CCHO’s Housing Plan for 2014

27 01 2014


Click here for a pdf of the CCHO 2014 Housing Agenda

On January 17th Mayor Lee delivered a seven-point plan meant to address San Francisco’s housing crisis. We applaud the priority this Mayor has given to housing affordability, and how could he not? It’s the number one issue for San Franciscans today. The Mayor’s plan has many laudable goals, including his emphasis on protecting tenants and at-risk rent-controlled units and increasing affordable housing production, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. The particular policies and prioritization of resources the City chooses in the coming months will make or break those big goals.  We live in a constrained, dense and largely built-out 48-square mile land area, and the Mayor’s plan makes clear that it will take much more than a blind faith in the real estate market to get us back on track to housing affordability. The Council of Community Housing Organizations couldn’t agree more.

The Mayor’s plan calls for building 5,000 units per year, with at minimum a third to be affordable to low and moderate income families (up to 120% of median income, which is $116,500 for a family of 4). We’re already building 3,500 market-rate units per year, with no additional incentives needed for the private market. But the other 1,500 new homes would have to be permanently affordable, and that will require a heavy lift. We’re down for that, and our community housing organizations are ready to get to work with the City on achieving that goal. But only hard commitments with guarantees and accountability will get us there.

Following is CCHO’s Housing Agenda for how the City can get to this guarantee of a minimum 1,500 low and moderate income affordable units per year. To achieve this, we need to commit City resources and public sites to the production of new low-income housing, rebuild our public housing with the needed resources, work to take our most at-risk rent-controlled stock out of the speculative market, make sure “the market” meets its obligations to moderate-income residents by building inclusive mixed-income communities, and ensure complete neighborhood infrastructure and a bus system that works for all. Underpinning all this has to be real accountability to guarantee that we continue to build at the very least the City’s historical Housing Balance of a minimum of 30% housing affordable for households up to 120% of the median income.

  1. Public Sites for Affordable Housing

  2. Rebuild Public Housing with the Right Resources
  3. Reclaim Rent Controlled Buildings from the Speculators
  4. Make the Market Build Mixed-Income Communities
  5. Ensure Equity in Transit and Neighborhood Services
  6. Guarantee Balanced Housing Development

Public Sites for Affordable Housing

  1. Sites. Any underutilized publicly-owned sites, including those owned by the City’s enterprise departments, that are viable for affordable housing, should be prioritized for 100% affordable housing, in line with our the policies of the General Plan Housing Element and the existing Surplus Properties Ordinance.
  1. Permitting. Affordable housing and mixed-income developments should be prioritized with an accelerated permitting process, with a dedicated ombudsperson position to shepherd these project through.
  1. Revenue. We need to ensure that Prop C funds are prioritized for new production of affordable housing as was intended by the voters, and develop new revenue sources: e.g., possibly update the Jobs-Housing Linkage with added categories for tech and for-profit educational institutions; and extend the Hotel Tax to Air-BnB units and corporate suites

Rebuild Public Housing with the Right Resources

a.    Dedicated Resources. We commend Mayor Lee for taking the unprecedented step of confronting the Federal abandonment of Public Housing. Our community housing organizations are committed to working with our public housing tenants to rehab and rebuild their homes the right way with a community based housing model. But we know that public housing can’t and shouldn’t be rebuilt “on the cheap” as was done in the past. If we are not going to “rob Peter to pay Paul” with the Prop C funds that support the citywide pipeline of new affordable housing development, the City needs to commit a separate dedicated source for the public housing renovation program.

b.   Services. Key to the success of our community housing model is breaking down isolation and integrating our communities with the surrounding neighborhood and social services, all of which require a sufficient City commitment to resources for the public housing initiative.

Reclaim Rent Controlled Buildings from the Speculators

a.    Acquisition program. The city loses hundreds of rent-controlled units each year to condo conversions, and even more through Ellis Act and demolitions leading to TIC speculation. We’ve had a program on the books for 5 years for a small sites acquisition/rehab program to target those vulnerable buildings and purchase them to preserve as permanently affordable mixed-income housing. Now is the time to put that program into action, with resources for a rapid-response acquisition fund. We appreciate that the Mayor is strongly supporting this as a priority.

b.       First Right of Refusal for Tenants. For an acquisition program to really help vulnerable tenants, we need legislation to give existing residents in these small buildings a first right of refusal and a waiting period to arrange financing to purchase.

c.       Speculator Tax. We finally need to finish the work Harvey Milk began 40 years ago with an anti-speculation transfer surtax, to disincentivize speculators who evict tenants and flip houses within two years, by levying a significant tax on their profits.

d.    TIC controls. This has unfortunately amounted to an unregulated loss of rent controlled units. We need to define TICs in the Planning Code, require permitting and tracking of this change, and ensure Building Code compliance.

Make the Market Build Mixed-Income Communities

a.     Inclusionary Housing Units. Ensure on-site and off-site “below-market-rate” units in all private developments, as was the intention in the city’s inclusionary zoning legislation.  This can be achieved with incentives for off-site units, raising the price of fee-outs to reflect real costs, and giving priority to on-site and off-site buildings in the permitting process possibly resulting in three or four times as many middle-income units as we produce now.

b.       Secondary Units. Legalizing and allowing new secondary units can harness the private market, but we need to ensure that these do not lead to a new wave of speculation. A successful secondary unit program must ensure rent control in all units in pre-1979 buildings, prevent speculation through conversion to condos or TICs, and help low-income homeowners with rehab loans.

c.     Privately-Funded DALP. We can’t put public subsidy into anything for incomes over 120% of median income (which is $116,500 for a family of 4), limited equity, etc. But a privately funded DALP, for example by the tech sector, could service their workforce with higher household incomes up to 150% of the median income.

Ensure Equity in Transit and Neighborhood Services

a.       Transit Equity Charter Amendment. Make construction of new housing easier – both in City departments, with more staff and less process; and in the neighborhoods, by giving those neighborhoods the infrastructure they need to thrive with growth. Transit improvements should ensure low income and transit-dependent communities will have the service capacity and reliability they need.

b.       Revenue for Transit. In the context of true guarantees for equity in the use of funds, we support the new revenue that the Mayor’s VLF may bring in. But revenues should also come from those who most benefit from public transit and who have the greatest impacts: e.g., update the Transit Impact Development Fee program with fees for the new tech industries and new residential development.

c.    Nonprofit rents. Find solutions to the private-market rent burden faced by critical social and health service providers in our neighborhoods, including a possible commercial inclusionary policy.

d.     Small business displacement. Gentrification is not simply about the displacement of tenants, but about the wholesale transformation of people’s neighborhoods and commercial districts.  We need policies to stabilize local-serving small businesses.

Guarantee the City’s Affordable Housing Balance

  1. Development Tracking “Dashboard”.  This requirement for real-time tracking of all development approvals and construction projects by affordability level in comparison to the City’s General Plan Housing Element goals was approved by the Board and signed into law by the Mayor in December 2012.Yet it has never been implemented by the Planning Department. The Mayor should insist that this tracking program be given the highest priority and be operational before the end of the first quarter of 2014.
  1. Housing Balance Policy. The concept of an Affordable Housing Balance keeping to the city’s historic ratio of building at least 30% affordable housing, while far below our State-mandated goal of 62%, will ensure that whatever overall goal the City sets for new development (whether it’s 3,000 or 5,000 or however many units per year), will achieve the minimum 30% affordability. This kind of balance wraps all the City’s housing programs together into a continuum addressing the needs for a diverse base of residents. Without that balance, the goal of “Housing for All” and true progress toward meeting our General Plan Housing Element goals are simply aspirational and there is little incentive for all of us to work together.


What you gotta do to run a city…

4 12 2013

From the New York Times, “Making San Francisco Accessible to More Than the Tech Elite:”

“They come to San Francisco,” said Peter Cohen, co-director of the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations, referring to workers in the industry, “they’re paid a premium for whatever they do, they don’t know the impact they’re having.”

“But I think there’s a point at which you become complicit and you can’t just say, ‘I’m doing my job and I don’t know what’s going on,’” he added.

… Kevin Starr, a professor specializing in California history at the University of Southern California, said it was the responsibility of politicians and real estate developers to support the middle and working classes.

“If you leave it to the free market alone, the system will collapse because you won’t be able to run a city,” he said.