Randy Shaw of THC urges rezoning in The Mission, saying that the alternative is leaving the land to sit. He proposes a compromise of market rate housing that includes affordable units and businesses only at street level.
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After Proposition L: rezone the Mission for housing!
When gentrification stalked the Mission during the 1970s and 1980s, activists moved quickly to stem the tide. New commercial and high-rise development was restricted throughout much of the neighborhood in 1978 and more than a decade later an Industrial Protection Zone (IPZ) was created to protect the Mission’s northeast border from threats posed by the biotech industry. Today, dot-com mania requires new land-use controls: the entire Mission should be rezoned for housing use with new non-residential uses limited to the ground floor.
San Francisco desperately needs more housing and the northeast Mission can help provide it. An all-housing rezoning proposal would find broad support. SPUR and the SF Weekly, both of whom oppose rent control and criticized Prop L, have strongly advocated building new housing. The Residential Builders Association, an anathema to many Prop L supporters, would use its vaunted political clout to expand housing in the Mission.
Downtown interests fought Prop L because of its limits on office development, not because they cared about dotcom expansion in the Mission. Such interests would be unlikely to mobilize to defeat a Mission rezoning, and even if they did, they would lose. It has always been easier to defeat a large, complex measure like Prop L than a simple, straightforward neighborhood rezoning, de-linking the Mission’s needs from citywide development issues will pave the way for victory at the Board of Supervisors and win mayoral support.
But pursuing the best strategy for preventing a dot-com takeover of the Mission requires many to abandon two deeply held views. First, it means relinquishing the vision of the northeast Mission as the future home for machine shops and other light industrial uses. The sad reality is that such businesses can no longer afford the neighborhood. Trying to attract such operations by reserving a portion of the community for their operation simply perpetuates the manipulation of this loophole by dot-coms. Banning new non-residential uses above the ground floor ends the threat of new dot-com development. It will also reduce land values so that building housing is economically feasible.
Activists must also reconsider their opposition to any new housing that is not affordable to low-income people . The current zoning for the northeast Mission prohibits market rate housing other than the controversial live/work lofts. Although affordable housing is permitted in the district, no units have been built. Why? Because our city’s non-profits, including Mission Housing Development corporation, lack the resources and capacity to build the number of affordable units the neighborhood desperately needs.
The only way we are going to meaningfully increase the supply of affordable housing in the Mission is to work out a deal that provides such resources, in exchange for permitting market-rate development. The alternative-letting the land sit fallow—will only worsen the city’s housing crisis.
The notion of making a “deal” to get affordable housing built in the Mission evokes skepticism from many activists still unhappy over a similar agreement reached surrounding Mission Bay. But this is a false analogy. Disenchantment with the number of affordable housing units to be (someday) created at Mission Bay stems from feeling that the public was excluded from the process. Regardless of how many public meetings and hearings were held, activists remain convinced that Mission Bay was a backroom deal that betrayed the community. Unfortunately, it is in the nature of the negotiations that such criticism can never be dispelled. The goal should be to ensure that the Mission Bay is avoided in negotiating for affordable housing in the northeast Mission.
Even those skeptical of reaching an acceptable agreement on creating affordable housing in the northeast Mission should admit that it’s at least worth a try. The steadily increasing evictions and displacement of long-term residents demands: a response. A contrary rezoning strategy, one that simply bans office development without encouraging housing, does nothing to increase our affordable housing supply. Worse, a “no housing” agenda will likely increase evictions, as upscale renters will simply use the Ellis Act to take over the units of longtime Mission residents.
Those of us at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic have not enjoyed spending the past few years trying to stave off the eviction of one Latino family after another from their homes, neighborhood, and the city they love. It’s well past the time to pursue more creative strategies for expanding our affordable housing supply.