Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Scott Wiener and the housing industry

Robert Brokl
June 14, 2019

You have to hand it to Senator Scott Wiener. He never gives up flogging for the housing industry. Last year, SB-827, this year, in slightly modified form, SB-50. Wiener's bill has stalled in the Senate, but his mantra and methods haven’t changed much. Cite a manifest problem, in this case homelessness and a lack of affordable housing, relentlessly posit the same, and only, solution over and over---just build more housing, and the problem will be solved. Repeat.

But why should he change? The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) has picked Wiener as Legislator of the Year, and the bulk of his campaign contributions come from builders. (from “Scott Wiener’s SB 50 is a WIMBY Bill.” (Wall St. in My Back Yard.)

As Naomi Klein explained in Shock Doctrine, even crisis and calamities can be opportunities for consolidation and amassing of power and profit.

SB-50, and SB-827 before that, would preempt local zoning "near transit and jobs," eliminating local controls or input to allow up to 85 feet high condo and apartment buildings. In San Francisco, this definition would mean almost all local zoning control would be eliminated by state diktat to solve the housing “crisis.”

But there are reasons why the bills have so many skeptics, including the very groups and people that might seemingly benefit. More market rate housing is NOT going to get housing for people sleeping on the streets or in cars, nor assist the working poor (those with "low-mod” income levels in the Bay Area would be considered wealthy in many parts of the country) who could really benefit from affordable housing. 

According to the June, 2018 Fortune, households of four people in San Francisco, San Mateo, or Marin counties earning $117,000/yr. are considered “low income” according to HUD guidelines.

Wiener and his developer allies make the simplistic argument that building more housing, even all luxury housing, will ultimately bring down the cost of all housing, the-supply-and-demand solution. Never mind that “trickle down” originated with Reagan and that Trump's single-minded pursuit of the recent tax cuts, supposedly to lift all of us up, disproportionately benefited the wealthy...

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California's shameful history

In today's SF Chronicle (Newsom apologizes for native 'genocide'):

...In 1850, the state passed a law that removed tribes from their traditional lands, separated children from their families and forced Native Americans convicted of minor crimes such as loitering into indentured servitude.

The following year, according to the order, California’s first governor, Peter Burnett, told the Legislature that “a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.” 

The state spent $1.3 million subsidizing dozens of militia campaigns against Native Americans over the next decade.

Various scholars have estimated that between 133,000 and 705,000 native people lived in what is now California when Europeans first arrived in the 18th century. The 1900 U.S. Census counted just over 15,000 Indians. Today, about 741,000 Californians identify as American Indian...

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