Environment, Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods, & Public Health, vs Corporate Real Estate
From 2010 to 2023 there have been multiple attempts at the local and state level to block San Franciscans' access to environmental protections that help us challenge bad corporate real estate projects that gentrify cities, driving rents sky high and destroying neighborhoods and affordable housing.
These corporate attacks always attempt to 'streamline' (i.e. get rid of) environmental and community notification and review that allows San Franciscans to push the pause button on real estate development to make sure it will be good for the city and its neighborhoods. Behind the corporate attacks Big Real Estate always has the same objective - to more easily and quickly build unneeded, greenhouse gas polluting and gentrifying, high priced condos and rental high rises, to trade like gambling chips on Wall Street.
The Fake "Housing Shortage"
These pro luxury housing bills are always peddled with the constantly repeated and completely false claim that housing is too expensive because there is somehow a "shortage" of housing, and if we just build more housing (no matter how high priced) this will supposedly lower the price by increasing the "supply".
What these claims absurdly leave out is the fact that nearly every city and state in the developed West has a vast surplus of vacant housing. According to the U.S. Census, San Francisco has over 61,000 vacant housing units! Los Angeles has over 200,000 vacant units, and the state of California has a whopping 1 million vacant units! That's not a "shortage" its a huge glut of extra, mostly overpriced homes - enough to house every homeless person several times over!
This myth is relentlessly repeated over and over again by the Big Real Estate funded, fake "nonprofit" front group known under multiple names such as "GrowSF". But its most well known name is "YIMBY" (standing for Yes In My Back Yard). For an exposť on this industry front group and its funding, see: YIMBYs: The Darlings of the Real Estate Industry.
The YIMBYs make expansive claims of supporting afforable "working class" housing while doing exactly the opposite, and they have even engaged in disrespectful racist attacks on lower income people of color who are fighting to stop Big Real Estate gentrification from driving them out of their neighborhoods.
Local Victories Against Deceptive "Housing" Bills
In 2010 and 2012 Our City coordinated a broad coalition of environmental, neighborhood, environmental justice, and housing justice organizations, to fight back against deceptive San Francisco "Housing" ordinances (which were cynically launched by politicians like Scott Wiener and others who get major campaign donations from the real estate industry). The coalition not only sent Wiener and the corporate gentrifiers packing, we won stronger environmental and community protections.
State Level Attack In 2017 Worsens The Fight
SB-35 has made it much easier for Big Real Estate backed local politicians like Mayor London Breed, along with Supervisors Joel Engardio, Matt Dorsey and Myrna Melgar, to justify local San Francisco bills that seek to pull the rug out from under environmental and community review. These attacks are being led by Mayor Breed who won her last election with the support of massive real estate and corporate landlord donations to her campaign.
Local Coalition Fights Back!
As in 2010 an 2012, Our City is again coordinating a coalition, San Francisco California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Defenders, to fight back against the new attacks. The first of these in 2023 was an ordinance from Supervisor Myrna Melgar who intends to vastly expand 4-plex, 9-plex, and 12-plex luxury condo and apartment construction.
Together SF CEQA Defenders and the housing justice coalition REP SF (with the help of Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Dean Preston) fought hard to heavily amend Melgar's bill. When the ordinance passed on July 31 2023, local neighborhood noticing of all housing construction was restored, the demolition of rent controlled housing was banned, and stronger protections against corporate real estate speculation were included.
The Mayor's Bad Bill
But the fight is not yet over. The Mayor and Supervisors Engardio and Dorsey have a far worse measure waiting in the wings that would gut almost all environmental and community noticing and review, and decimate affordable housing. Strong opposition from Our City, SF CEQA Defenders, and REP SF has so far kept the Mayor's bill in the dog house, but there is still a danger the Mayor could move it directly to the Board of Supervisors without a public committee hearing.
When City Hall and the Mayor's office return from summer break in September 2023, we'll be there to resume the fight.