Livable City Recommends

Livable City’s recommendations for San Francisco’s November 3, 2015 election

Yes on Prop A, Affordable Housing Bond
No on Prop D, Mission Rock Development
 on Prop F, Short-term rental regulation
No on G/Yes on H, Clean energy
Yes on Prop J, Legacy Business fund
Yes on Prop K, Surplus land for Affordable Housing

Yes on A – Affordable Housing Bond

San Francisco is in a housing affordability crisis. Proposition A will invest $300 million to build and rebuild permanently affordable housing for San Franciscans at a range of incomes.

No on D – Mission Rock Development

The Mission Rock development site encompasses two parcels on San Francisco’s waterfront – Pier 48, an historic pier building, and Seawall Lot 337, bounded by China Basin, 3rd Street, Terry Francois Boulevard, and Mission Rock Street. These lots, and the adjacent public streets, are public trust lands, held in trust for the benefit of all the people of the State, with the Port of San Francisco as trustee. The 1990 Mission Bay Plan designated Seawall Lot 337 as an open space. It is zoned Mission Bay-Open Space (MB-OS) but the park was never built. After 2000 it was leased to the Giants for use as stadium parking. Several years ago the Port signed an exclusive negotiating agreement for development of the site with a development consortium led by the Giants. In June 2014, San Francisco voters approved Proposition B, which requires voter approval to increase the allowable building height on lands in Port jurisdiction. Reuse of Pier 48 is unaffected by Prop B, because it is an existing building in a 40′ height district, but development on Seawall Lot 337, which is zoned for open space, requires voter approval.

Proposition D, authored by the Mission Rock developers, authorizes height increases on Seawall Lot 337, designating a portion, mostly at the north end of the site near China Basin, as open space, creating a pattern of internal streets, and rezoning the rest to allow buildings from 40′ to 190′ in height.

Proposition D also contains various policies which go far beyond permitting height increases. These include:

  • 33% of the housing built should be affordable to households earning up to 140% of median income
  • The development will include 2300 parking spaces in a new above-ground parking structure, and approximately 800 additional parking spaces.
  • parking taxes collected on the site, which currently fund Muni operations, would instead be used to pay for transportation improvements specific to the development.
  • property taxes and jobs-housing linkage fees would also be used by the developer to fund open space and affordable housing on the development site.

After the ballot measure was filed by the developers, Supervisor Jane Kim negotiated a separate agreement with the developer that 40%, rather than 33%, of housing on site would be permanently affordable.

The right combination of open space and mixed-use development, oriented to transit and with a large component of affordable housing, could be a wise use for these public trust lands. However Proposition D falls short, and several of its major provisions led us to recommend a ‘no’ vote:

  • Ballot box planning. This measure furthers a recent trend towards large projects writing their own rules. Voter approval of height changes is now required, but Prop D goes much further, bundling in voter endorsement of controversial project elements, like the number of parking spaces and uses of public funds, that should be decided through an open and participatory planning process.
  • Parking and congestion. Mission Bay is already over-parked, and the 2300 parking spaces called for in this project will worsen traffic congestion, pollution, and traffic danger in the neighborhood. Because of its location on landfill, most of Mission Bay’s parking is in freestanding structures, which dominate portions of the neighborhood and its streets. The Warriors arena EIR reveals that over 9000 non-residential spaces already exist in Mission Bay, and most of these are used only during the weekday. If managed intelligently, that parking could also accommodate any reasonable parking needs that the Giants’ and Warriors’ stadiums may have, and new parking structures are unnecessary.
  • Freestanding parking structure. This project proposes a 10-story freestanding parking structure on public trust land, occupying an entire city block. Waterfront public trust lands are a scarce resource, and freestanding parking structures are a poor use for waterfront lands. Prop D specifies a new aboveground structure, and does not require that it be wrapped in active street-facing uses as generally required by the Planning Code.
  • Diversion of citywide taxes and fees to fund a private development project. The policies in Prop D direct the city to divert Jobs-Housing Linkage Fees, Infrastructure Finance District (property tax) revenues, and Parking Tax revenues to the project, rather than fund citywide operating and capital needs. This will set a bad precedent for other private projects, and the Warriors arena project is already trying to copy the precedent.

Yes on F – Short-term rental regulation

Short-term rentals through firms like Airbnb have burgeoned in recent years, and without proper regulation could convert thousands of homes and apartments, including many rent-stabilized units, from permanent housing for residents into hotels. The best way to regulate a fast-growing, and fast-changing industry like short-term rentals is through the legislative process, not at the Ballot box. Late in 2014, the Board of Supervisors approved the first comprehensive short-term rental regulation. However, before the administration of that legislation could be set up, the Board voted in June of 2015 to weaken it. Faced with the unappealing dilemma of regulation at the ballot box or weakened legislation, we chose to support Proposition F. It will permit short-term rentals of dwellings up to 75 nights each year, with robust provisions for registration and enforcement.

No on G, Yes on H – Clean energy

San Francisco has been slowly moving towards Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which will allow the City to broker energy from various providers and offer it to San Franciscans. San Francisco’s program, called Clean Power SF, aims to replace fossil fuel and nuclear power with renewable energy sources to the extent possible, and is an important element of San Francisco’s climate protection strategy. Under Clean Power SF, PG&E would distribute and meter power through its network, but would lose its local monopoly as a power provider.

Proposition G, placed on the ballot by IBEW Local 6, was intended to disadvantage Clean Power SF relative to PG&E. The Board of Supervisors worked with clean power advocates and IBEW on a consensus measure, Proposition H, which sets a goal of 100% clean and renewable power for the Clean Power SF program, and requires reporting on energy sources consistent with the State’s renewable energy standards. IBEW has joined clean power advocates in opposing Proposition G and endorsing Proposition H.  When two measures dealing with the same topic appear on the same ballot and both measures pass, the one recieving the most votes prevails.

Yes on J – Legacy Business Fund

Proposition J authorizes a loan fund to support long-term leases for legacy San Francisco businesses, protecting such businesses from displacement in neighborhoods with surging rents, and providing them with capital to make necessary upgrades to their facilities. Legacy Businesses are defined as local businesses that have been continuous operation for two decades. The measure authorizes the City’s Office of Small Business to administer the loan fund and establish criteria. The measure does not set aside funding, leaving it to the Board of Supervisors to decide how much to fund the program through the City budget process, or through grants. As the City grows and changes, Prop J  will help stabilize local businesses and preserve the jobs they support.

Yes on K – Surplus Land for Affordable Housing

Current City and State policy requires that surplus public land be made available first to other government agencies, and then for affordable housing. Proposition K will create a procedure within the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to catalog and document surplus and underutilized public properties in San Francisco, assess them for their suitablity for affordable housing, and recommend to the Board of Supervisors how they should be used. In a compact city, publicly-owned land is a key resource to enhance affordability, and Proposition K will create rigor and clarity around the city’s priorities for vacant and underutilized land, which to date has been a haphazard process.