Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wonky Wednesday Morning

(The future posts for Wednesday will be written by me, and I will be
covering the events at the Board of Supervisors, as they relate to
Eastern Neighborhoods. )

I will use this post to articulate the policy recommendations in the
People's Plan for Housing, Jobs and Economic Development. Today, I will speak to our Mission Street rezoning recommendations.

The Mission Area Plan as passed by the Planning Commission is recommending that heights along Mission Street be set at 85 feet and citywide affordability requirements apply. It will increase the allowable heights along Mission Street from 17th Street to 23rd Street. In other words, landowners would be allowed to build 8 story tall buildings without an increase in affordability requirements.

We object to the increase in allowable heights and propose:
• 55 feet height limits
• At least 30% of all units be sold/rented at below market rate
• Inclusionary units for sale – at 80-120% SF AMI
• Inclusionary rental units – at 60% SF AMI
• Inclusionary units affirmatively marketed to existing Mission residents

As many of you have noticed, most of the buildings along Mission
Street are below 55 feet or 5 stories, so why did the Planning Commission support increasing the height limit to 85 feet (8 stories)? Damn, those will be some tall building along Mission Street. We propose that new developments keep within the heights of existing buildings. If developers want to exceed the height limits, we propose that they contribute more affordable housing units to society in exchange for being granted an exemption from the planning code (law).

Allowing a developer to build more units than what is currently allowed is called a density bonus. In planning and policy classes, we learn that density bonuses are a powerful tool to build more affordable housing units. Generally, density bonuses are only granted if the developer is willing to provide a greater percentage of affordable housing units than is required. The Planning Commission, against our recommendations, decided to grant developers a density bonus without requiring enhanced affordability levels.

We essentially appose the increased height limits because they are out of character with the neighborhood, do not provide an increased percentage of required affordable housing units, and will result in high priced condos that the vast majority of San Franciscans cannot afford.

We are also proposing an enhanced inclusionary requirement of 30% because there is a need in the city and the neighborhood in particular for affordable housing. According to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), 64% of all new units will have to be developed at affordable levels to meet the affordable housing need of San Francisco's residents. We are arguing that the market has failed to produce affordable housing in the City. When there is a market failure, it is the responsibility of the government to correct the failure.

The city of San Francisco can correct this failure by adopting the
aforementioned polices from the People's Plan.

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