Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Chris Daly: Shakedown artist

Supervisor Daly's latest blog rant is a two-fer: We get a puerile attack on Mayor Newsom and his staff and a defense of the indefensible Rincon Towers, highrise condos for the rich to supposedly meet the city's chronic housing shortage.

Daly claims that 2200 highrise condos on Rincon Hill is a "responsible development," while sneering at "Team Gavin's" lack of aggressive leadership on "housing production" in the city, even though Newsom too supports the Rincon Hill atrocity. Maybe the Mayor just didn't think the city could shake the developers down for so much. Daly insists that we need 20,000 units of affordable housing "right now." 

He doesn't say where that number comes from, but, even if it makes sense, surely development should be done more carefully in what is, after all, a small city geographically. 

To provide a sense of how large the Rincon Hill project is, consider that the large, circular housing tower on Cathedral Hill has only 100 units, and Fox Plaza a mere 200 units. What the city is allowing with 2200 new housing units in one project is really a Neighborhood Prevention Plan, wherein one mega-development will both obliterate whatever previously existed there and prevent a real neighborhood from emerging within normal city regulations and planning.

Residential highrise development is evidently a bad idea whose time has come, since Planning wants to put more residential towers in the Market/Octavia neighborhood, the crucial part of which, unfortunately, is also in Chris Daly's district, not that Supervisors Mirkarimi and Dufty, who represent the neighboring districts, have shown much concern about this shocking planning concept.

Chris Daly is the de facto leader of the alarming We Need Housing Movement---an alliance of progressives, the Planning Dept., and, of course, developers---that wants with a reckless urgency to build housing in the city. Daly and Mayor Newswom, alas, essentially agree that encouraging massive amounts of new housing quickly is good planning, that somehow all this new housing for the rich will trickle down some benefits for the rest of us. What this movement really does is threaten the city's neighborhoods, infrastructure, and quality of life.

Daly sneers at the Mayor's staff as "Team Gavin" and "Gavin and his gurus," and the Mayor's Communications Director is a "hotshot." This is a Daly tendency I've written about before. When I call Supervisor Daly a "Punk Progressive," it's not a mere insult; it's an analytical category that defines a gratuitous, in-your-face political incivility. Daly jeers that a press release from the Mayor's office is "one of the worst written I've seen..." Yet Daly's blog entry reads like a 12-year-old trying to imitate Hunter Thompson.

An SF Chronicle editorial gets the Daly scam right:

Daly has strong-armed developers hoping to build a half-dozen giant condo towers in his South of Market district to put up $68 million for affordable housing...Deals of this dubiousness usually happen behind closed doors. The outrage is that no one at City Hall is stepping forth to stop it ("Shakedown at City Hall," Aug. 10, 2005).

Maybe Daly was worried that a private shakedown would get him in trouble with the Sunshine Commission. Yes, it's an outrageous deal: First, raffle off a large section of your district to developers with the lure of waiving height and density regs for a huge luxury housing project. Then shake down the chosen developer for huge development fees for the privilege of trashing your district and your city. How's that for "progressive" leadership?

A so-called community leader in the neighborhood that will soon be obliterated, April Veneracion, is under the delusion that this massive project can somehow be "mitigated":

A well-funded, properly developed infrastructure in the SoMa area, which is targeted for new high-density development, will ultimately mitigate the effects of the Rincon development citywide (SF Chronicle, Aug. 1, 2005).

No, it won't. No matter how many millions the city gets in the shakedown and/or future tax revenues, a project this large can't really be mitigated, as an artist's rendition of the project accompanying Veneracion's opinion piece clearly shows.

The real outrage is that encouraging massive residential highrises is considered good planning in "progressive" circles. And exactly who is "targeting" the South of Market area for "high-density development"? Our own Planning Dept., with the crucial help of the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission, and Chris Daly's We Need Housing movement.

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At 12:24 PM, Blogger JJ said...

You might actually get some commentary if you allowed blog comments.
Anyway, can you tell me what Rincon hill highrise is going to have "2200" units in just one building?
I think you'll find that none do.
You are vehemently anti housing.

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The Rincon Hill development proposes 2200 units for the whole project. Of course all the units won't be in one building, a claim I didn't make. There may be up to five highrises---up to 50 stories high---in the project, with the project covering 12 square blocks. I am not anti-housing, whatever that means. I just think it's a terrible idea to allow projects this big in San Francisco. I bet it's the largest housing development in city history. San Francisco is a relatively small city geographically, and housing needs to be planned a lot better than this to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water. And, finally, the Rincon Hill project will consist of condos for the well-off, thus accelerating gentrification, making the city even less affordable for working people. As far as I know, by the way, every blog posting in D5 Diary allows for comment at the bottom of each item. You got your comment in, so what are you complaining about?

At 2:24 PM, Blogger JJ said...

I had to create a blog just to leave a comment on yours - something a majority of people are obviously not willing to do.
Regardless, you wrote "What the city is allowing with 2200 new housing units in one project is really a Neighborhood Prevention Plan, wherein one mega-development will both obliterate whatever previously existed there and prevent a real neighborhood from emerging within normal city regulations and planning.
Rincon hill is not "one project"
It is a rezoning of an area to allow taller residential towers. These towers are all going to be developed by different developers from the bay area and the US. Each planned highrise is a separate project.
I dont follow your point about SF "being a relatively small city geographically" - Manhattan is half the size of SF and is 10 times as built up.
Exactly what baby is being thrown out here?
You cannot gentrify a surface parking lot, or an empty seismically unsafe warehouse.
Do you not think providing new housing for those awful rich people eases the demand for housing in the neighborhoods? Housing that would otherwise go to "working people"
You have written pages of screeds against housing in hayes valley, in rincon, in market/octavia..etc
It's always the same thing.. Too much for the area, too many new people, too many cars.
I've not read one blog post from you where you mention a housing development and speak positively about it.
You are a nimby. Can you point me in the direction of any blog post that proves otherwise?

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

What's wrong with the normal city zoning on density and height? Why not encourage developers to build within normal density and height limits? You actually want to Manhattanize the city? Whether the highrises are all built by one developer or not is beside the point, which is whether they should be built at all. Where's the evidence that building condos for the well-off will, except for more tax revenue for the city, help the rest of us? Sounds like the old trickle-down theory the Republicans trot out when they push tax cuts for the rich. You certainly can build on parking lots and where warehouses now stand. In fact, some of the old Central Freeway parcels used to be parking lots; they will soon have new housing units. The baby being thrown out is the quality of life in S.F., unless you assume that the more people in the city the better life will be for all of us. If you like Manhattan so much, maybe you should be living there. I've written about the UC proposal to put 424 housing units on the old Extension site, which I think is a bad idea, not only because it's too big a development for that neighborhood, but because it would be a shame to let UC cash in on property zoned for Public Use, property they have had tax-free since 1958. Let the cheap bastards bring the site up to code and continue to use it, instead of leasing space downtown for more than $2 million a year. The Market/Octavia Plan, too, is way over the top. Again, why is the city encouraging a lot more development in a neighborhood that is already densely populated and has 900 new units already on the drawing board for the old freeway parcels? In a neighborhood that just "improved" Octavia Blvd. to six lanes, not to mention the freeway ramp that hasn't even opened up yet on Market St? And Planning wants to put still more highrises in that area, on top of all the rest! Call me a nimby if you want; I don't give a shit. I just think this city shouldn't be Manhattanized---or Vancouverized---just because ABAG or the state thinks we need to produce more housing. Let San Francisco evolve as it would/should without encouraging grotesquely large projects like Rincon Hill. I didn't know about the problem with posting comments to my items. I'll check it out.

At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just curious about this : "Let San Francisco evolve as it would/should without encouraging grotesquely large projects like Rincon Hill."
The current evolution of San Francisco features a decimated middle class. As new people move in and housing stays relatively constant (SF has built a minscule amount of housing in the past 20 years)who do you think is able to bid successfully on these homes which used to go to middle class families? It isnt the middle class families. So continue on with the notion that large amounts of new housing is bad, and that new residents in the city is bad. You are actually ensuring that the gentrification and loss of middle class you fear so much WILL happen.
SF is widely known across the country as having the most artificially constricted housing market in the country. Every other US city is building high rise housing. Phoenix!! is building high rise housing. I suppose the people who already have housing dont really care about a median home price in the mid 700's - just as long as their provincial notion of San Francisco as the small town main street is forever enforced.

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, so why build condos for the rich as a remedy as in Rincon Hill? The problem with highrise development is that it will actually stimulate demand because of the spectacular views that will be the big selling point for these condos. I'm saying that large amounts of housing in mega-projects like Rincon Hill are essentially a reckless experiment in planning, even while the Planning Dept. has a huge backlog of projects that it hasn't even processed yet. My criticism is only directed at the over-large development proposals, like Rincon Hill, the Market/Octavia Plan, and the UC proposal for its old extension site. Gentrification may be an unstoppable historical process no matter what we do, but surely 2200 condos for the gentry (Rincon Hill) is not a prudent approach to the city's housing shortage. Let Phoenix and other cities build residential highrises. No, I don't think of SF as a "small town," but it is a relatively small city that already has more than 776,000 people. I just think we need to grow more carefully. This mega-project, quick-fix approach is bad planning. And it's based on the naive, Free Market assumption that the more housing we build the lower home prices will go.


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