Compromise measures - Page 4

Housing and business tax propositions don't solve the city's problems, but both sides say they're the best we can expect

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A pair of fall ballot measures would spur affordable housing development in San Francisco.
PHOTO BY MIKE KOOZMIN/SF NEWSPAPER CO.

"We fared pretty well, the royal 'we,' with the mayor starting off from the position that he wanted a revenue-neutral proposition," Chris Daly, who unsuccessfully championed affordable housing ballot measures as a supervisor before leaving office and becoming the political director for SEIU Local 1021, the largest union of city employees.

Both sides say they gave considerable ground to reach the compromise.

"Did we envision $28.5 million in new revenue? No," said Lazarus, who had insisted from the beginning that the tax measure be revenue-neutral. "But we also didn't envision the Affordable Housing Trust Fund."

Daly and Avalos also said the measures need to be considered in the context of current political and economic realities.

"We were never going to be able to pass — or even to craft — a measure to meet all of the unmet needs in San Francisco," Daly said. "Given the current political climate, we did very well."

"If we had a different mayor who was more interested in serving directly the working class of the city, rather than supporting a business class that he hopes will serve all the people, the result might have been different," Avalos said. "But what's significant is we have a tax measure that really is progressive."

Given that "we have an economic system that is based on profits and not human needs," Avalos said, "This is a good step, better that we've had in decades."

 

THE HOUSING CRISIS

The tax and housing measures certainly do address progressive priorities — bringing in more revenue and helping create affordable housing — even if some progressives express concerns that conditions in San Francisco could get worse for their vulnerable, working class constituents.

"I don't know if the proposal before us is aggressive enough in terms of dealing with a crisis," Campos told his colleagues on July 24 as they discussed the housing measure, later adding, "As good as this is, we are truly facing a crisis and a crisis requires a level of response that I unfortunately don't think we are providing at this point."

Not wanting to let "the perfect be the enemy of the good," Campos said he still wanted to be able to support both measures, urging the board to have a more detailed discussion of their impacts.

"I wish this went further and created even more funding for critically needed affordable housing," Sup. Eric Mar said before joining Campos in voting for the proposal anyway. "I think they need to build 60 percent of those units as below market rate otherwise we face more working families leaving the city, and the city becoming less diverse."

Yet affordable housing advocates are desperate for something to replace the $56 million annual loss in affordable housing the city has faced in recent years, creating an immediate need for action and potentially allowing Lee to drive a wedge between the affordable housing advocates and labor if the latter held out for a better deal.

Many have heralded the mayor's process in bringing together developers, housing advocates, and civic leaders to build a broad political consensus for the measure, particularly given the three affordable housing measures crafted by progressives over the last 10 years were all defeated by voters.

"One of the goals of any measure like this is for it to gain broad enough support to actually pass," Sup. Scott Wiener said at a Rules Committee hearing on the measure.

In the measure's grand bargain, developers receive a reduction in the percentage of on-site affordable housing units they are required to build, from 15 percent of units to 12 percent. The city will also buy some new housing units in large projects, paying market rate and then holding them as affordable housing — the buying power of which could be a boon to developers while creating affordable housing units.