In a look back at 2005, Randy Shaw of BeyondChron, denounces Chris Daly's Rincon Hill deal, which allows more than 3000 luxury, highrise condominiums downtown in exchange for $58 million in development fees:
The luxury towers approved for Rincon Hill have become akin to the Bryant Square project in 2000 that galvanized opposition to the "build everything" policies of Mayor Willie Brown. Progressives increasingly believe that the community benefits obtained in exchange for luxury development are outweighed by the social costs. Since Rincon, many are asking why San Francisco has approved thousands of new luxury housing units that do not provide first-time homeownership opportunities. This housing instead allocates prime land and beautiful views for second, third and fourth homes for multi-millionaires. ("San Francisco Faces Major Battles in 2006," Jan. 3, 2006)
Yes, well put. But, while Mayor Brown has been rightly blamed for his pro-development planning policies, Shaw seems reluctant to pin the blame for the Rincon Hill fiasco on anyone in particular, probably because one of his favorite politicians, Supervisor Chris Daly, is in large part responsible for these grotesque projects. But Mayor Newsom, too, must share the blame, since he also supported the luxury condos on Rincon Hill. Let's apportion the responsibility: Supervisor Daly, Mayor Newsom, and a majority of the Board of Supervisors---including District 5 Supervisor Mirkarimi---were in favor of the luxury condos on Rincon Hill in a city that needs affordable housing, not more housing for the rich.
In an interview in today's SF Examiner, Mayor Newsom is allowed to muddy the waters on the Rincon Hill issue:
It's a terrible deal. It's a terrible precedent. It cannot happen again. I will veto any legislation that's along those lines. If it happens in mid-Market, I will veto it. As I made clear in a strongly worded letter to the Board of Supervisors, I did not condone what happened in that case---the threats, the backroom deals. Everything that had been criticized during the Brown years was happening here. It has no place in city government. ("The Mayor at the Midpoint," SF Examiner, Jan. 5, 2006)
The interviewer then asks the mayor, "So why didn't you veto the Daly deal?" The mayor's response: "It was very difficult for me. I thought it could put into peril the entire project and subsequently put into peril, broadly speaking, other projects." That is, it wasn't allowing 3000 luxury condos and 50-story highrises to be built in that part of town that bothered the mayor; it was "the Daly deal": extracting $58 million in mitigation fees for the city from the Rincon Hill developers.
There's no byline on the Examiner interview, though Justin Jouvenal's name is on the sidebar next to the first page of the interview. The interviewer didn't seem to know enough to challenge the mayor on the specifics of Daly's deal, the $58 million in fees and what those fees will pay for and where. Nor did he ask the mayor why he is encouraging the construction of thousands of luxury condos in a city that has a chronic affordable housing shortage.
In short, the city does indeed have a plan for housing in San Francisco, but it's a plan that calls for radically increasing the city's population density with more market-rate housing, not affordable housing.
But Randy Shaw's discussion is also deficient in specifics. Nor does he seem to understand how aggressively pro-development the whole city bureaucracy is, especially the Planning Dept. City progressives have collaborated on this policy so far because of their misguided notion that building massive amounts of market-rate housing on or near the city's transit corridors will somehow alleviate the city's affordable housing shortage.
Shaw on city planning:
The problem, as activists of all political persuasions have long pointed out, is that San Francisco does no real planning for its housing needs. Developers decide what they want to build, and they almost always get what they want---the only issue is the extent of mitigations.
Well, yes and no: Why don't the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Dept., and the Planning Commission rein in developers? Because they are complicit in what I call the We Need Housing movement in SF, a political tendency that allows any and all large, market-rate housing projects under the illusion that they will alleviate our affordable housing shortage. After all, the Rincon Hill development wouldn't have been possible without the city's waiving height and density regulations to allow it. This is what the Housing Element is all about. The same is true for the Mid-Market Plan and the Market and Octavia Plan, both of which are being pushed by the Planning Dept. This approach to housing in SF will not only not alleviate our affordable housing shortage, it threatens to destroy neighborhoods that have the misfortune to be anywhere near a transit corridor.
Shaw also indulges in his tendency to refer to unnamed "activists" as a source for what are really his own opinions. In fact, South of Market community activists failed that part of town and the city by collaborating on the Rincon Hill fiasco.
Having failed on homelessness---the most important issue in SF in the last 20 years---the city's left is now botching the housing issue by raffling off the city's neighborhoods to the highest bidders.
Labels: BeyondChron, Chris Daly, Gavin Newsom, Highrise Development, Willie Brown