Economic cleansing, part two

Don't let realtors' cash determine the future of San Francisco


EDITORIAL Over the next two years, tens of thousands of San Franciscans will face the loss of their homes. If the current tech boom is anything like the last one, the impact on the city will be the economic equivalent of a massive earthquake, with displacement transforming entire neighborhoods and low-income tenants, artists, writers, musicians, small merchants, cheap restaurants, and nonprofits getting chucked aside to make way for an influx of wealthier people and the businesses that serve them.

That's why the supervisorial races are so critically important — and why groups like the Association of Realtors, which wants to limit tenant protections, is throwing such a huge amount of money into two district races.

San Francisco in the late 1990s was a terrible place for anyone who wasn't making a lot of money. Housing prices quadrupled in just a few years. Evictions doubled and tripled as dot-com money flowed in and young white people with pockets full of cash forced older, low-income people out of "hip" neighborhoods like the Mission, Soma and Bernal Heights. Families were driven out of town. Community-serving businesses and nonprofits were displaced as landlords sought higher-end tech companies who paid wildly inflated commercial rents. In a famous essay, writer Paulina Borsook denounced "how the Internet is ruing San Francisco."

We called it "economic cleansing." And it's starting to happen again.

When reporters talk about candidates like David Lee, who's challenging Sup. Eric Mar in district 1, supporting "rent control," they're missing the point. Nobody running for office in this city is going to call for a repeal of the city's weak rent-stabilization law. Even the realtors aren't talking about that.

And for good reason: Rent control only applies to units built before 1979 and applies only to the current occupant. Once the place is vacated, for whatever reason, rents can go up to market rate. And market rate in this city is far beyond what most people who work in San Francisco can pay.

Meanwhile, it's perfectly legal under state law for a landlord to clear every tenant out of a multi-unit building and sell the place to buyers who want tenancies in common — a backdoor way of doing a condo conversion. It's the worst kind of class struggle, often pitting working-class renters against somewhat better-off people who want to buy but can't afford a single-family home.

So rent control isn't the issue; it's eviction protections, condo conversion limits, rent subsidies, affordable housing funding, taxes and fees that discourage speculation, and other policy measures that seek to protect and preserve vulnerable communities — before allowing any new development.

Mayor Ed Lee has made it clear whose side he's on in this coming battle for the city's future. He's about bringing in tech companies, cutting their taxes, and hell with the consequences. He's doing it in the name of "jobs," although seriously: How many unemployed young people in Southeast San Francisco who lack college degrees is Twitter going to hire? And what exactly are the new tech giants doing to help the public schools and City College? (Very, very little).

No, Lee's creating jobs for people who don't live here, who will force out people who do. Just as his old pal Willie Brown did during the last boom.

And the only possible check is a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors that can attempt to control, at least a little bit, the insanity of the next gold rush and make sure that there's still at least some chance for an economically diverse San Francisco.


Why are progressives always condemned to play defense, to play catch up, to plaintively scare the shit out of a terrorized voting base in order to barely tread water against the tide?

Where is the affirmative, inclusive, majoritarian message? Oh, yeah, the professional progressives hold the majority of unrich San Franciscans in contempt.

What we've got here are loser professional politicos who insist on losing on behalf of the losers in society. It is not that those who don't come out on top are less worthy of anything. No, it is that we are all worthy of a competitive and vigorous political movement capable of uniting San Francisco residents against the corporate interests that are squeezing our city dry of San Franciscans to move their neoliberal agenda.

It is like the only reason to vote for Prop 32 is so that labor can have more money to fight the next Prop 32, not so that labor can advance any proactive agenda that puts corporate power on the defensive or anything like that.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 10:06 am

it will inevitably go away. Every year, several thousand RC units are lost through natural turnover and TIC's. Eventually there will be a majority opposed to RC and it will go away, as it has in NYC, Boston and various other places.

So we are quibbling over when, not if. Standing in the way of the steamroller of progress has never been a prudent strategy, and even the SF activist and non-profit mafia have become home-owners,

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 11:26 am

It seems all the SFBG wants to do is preserve the status quo. Every new housing development seems to be opposed for various reasons. Ironically Progressives are really becoming conservatives, obsessed with keeping things from changing and progress. Sure Lee supports job creation- apparently the only ones that don't support job creation are progressives.

Oh- and nice race baiting with the hordes of young white people taking over the Mission image. Cause you know neighborhoods never change- like the Castro was Always gay- going back to the Gold Rush, etc.

Posted by D. Native on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

Tax the Techies!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

It's progressive that this editorial almost recognizes that TIC owners are not the enemy. Most simply want an ownership position in the city and work really hard for that opportunity.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 01, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

Mar caused thousands of children who live in his District, the Richmond, to not get into school there. They go into a lottery, and if they lose, they have to take a bus across town, be driven, etc. This makes people suffer, and many leave SF. It drives families out just like spiraling rents. Mar lied to make Prop H lose, said kids would switch mid year, if it passed. 60% of the Richmond wants neighborhood schools. Many are volunteering for David Lee because they had to take 2 buses to school or drive their kids, losing 10 hours a week.

Lee supports strong rent control and affordable housing. Lee is the true progressive in this campaign because he wants kids to walk or bike to school, which is greener. If you cut the average kids' commute time, grades and performance in school will improve.

Posted by Joseph on Nov. 02, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

What is wrong with the status quo? Why do people move to San Francisco if they don't like it as is? San Francisco residents revere our city as a jewel, like Paris, to be preserved with our views, quaint neighborhoods, and distinct cultures intact.

Being progressive is of no political consequence when the primary decision is whether to preserve the city as it is or tear it down and rebuild it. This is where the denser population along a transit corridor argument begins to distort reality.

Look behind the green mask of the SFMTA's allegiance to Transit First anti car plans and you will find the connection between the "greening" argument and the green money of the developers intent on displacing property owners as fast as they can so they can grab up their land on the cheap.

Ask the folks in Potrero Hill, Parkmerced, and North Beach about the city's plans to dislocate them, or crowd them out with tall buildings blocking their views. Then look at your own neighborhood and watch them rezone portions of it to lift height limits. Or, watch the efforts to turn your residential neighborhoods into mixed-use commercial and residential zones, so they can deny you residential parking rights and implant meters in front of your homes.

Do you want to restructure San Francisco into a high tech futuristic city devoid of views and historic buildings, or do you want to preserve what we have? That is the question voters need to concern themselves with. Who best represents your interests?

We have some statements from Supervisors and candidates here if you are still undecided:

Posted by Guest: on Nov. 05, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

My turn to get on the soap box, I use to reside in San Francisco, moved there in the late 80's, moved out in the early 90's. I didn't have far to go, was born and raised in Mountain View, it seemed when i lived there everyone was from some place else. I saw rents go up, more people came to SF, the rents would go up again. Build housing, sounds easier then done, jobs one big thing people use to come for, city had lots of shiny office buildings, the rents would go up again.

I wouldn't move back to the city, rents are way high, most of these techies commute out of the city, funny thing is they live in the city and work in Mountain View which has caused the rents to jump there. We need housing, better transit.

Posted by Garrett on Nov. 06, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

The SPUR Developers who are bankrolling these green non-profits are playing a dangerous game. By getting rid of affordable parking they are depressing the local economy and forcing out businesses who operate on slim margins.

This allows the developers to pick up the property at a distressed price and replace it will a "stack and pack" highrise that has no parking requirements. Developers have basically bought their way into City Hall by hijacking the Green anti-car movement.

Posted by District 6 on Nov. 12, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

San Francisco is becoming the Manhattan/Boston of the west. The city is being seized by over educated, hi tech, east coast, pinheads, hipsters and "it girls", who came out here on their daddy's money seeking fortune and fame and think the world revolves around them and their friggin phones! Do you really think those folks are Giant fans? No, Pac Bell is the hipster place to be right now. Watch what happens when the Giants have a few losing seasons! As a native of the Bay Area, in my opinion, they are ruining S.F. You think the dotcom bust was bad, the next bust will be horrific if you let this short lived (historical context) social media rage take over the city! It's all an illusion, don't believe the hype, save the diversity and the neighborhoods, they will make sure that SF stays the special place that it is!

Posted by Guest:Gary Patton on Nov. 28, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

That' s exactly what is really wrong with SF. Vested interests want to freeze the city in time as some hopeless homage to a long vanished past.

Every other city in the land would give an arm for the kind of economic growth that we are seeing here, but of course there are always a few Peter Pan's, negative nellies and NIMBY's who just cannot accept progress.

'Twas ever so, sadly.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 17, 2012 @ 4:32 pm

when there was a large working class in this city. Those voters didn't give a shit about the identity and class politics of progressives who now claim to speak in their name - they just wanted a decent place to live. It was only when the present poverty pimps of Non Profit Inc, joined by professional leftists like Bruce, Tim, Calvin, Carole Migden etc... took over that things for this group really went downhill. 40+ years on look at what's happened - the city is essentially a place for the wealthy with the poor and even tinier middle class banished to the margins and despite all of that Tim, Steven, Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin and the like keep pushing EVEN HARDER for stricter and stricter implementation of the same policies which have essentially destroyed the middle class in San Francisco. They totally deny the connection between mandatory busing and strict land use policies which have pushed middle class families out of this city. It's such a joke that limousine liberals like Bruce claim to be "for" the middle class.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 17, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

the middle and working class are just too dumb to understand it. If the world would wise up to the genius of progressive (middle class studies majors) those benighted people would gain a lot. What they would gain is more government employee's to support.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 17, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

polarize SF into rich and poor, and forever banished the honest middle-classes to the hinterlands of the Bay Area. It's well known that there is a global correlation between the price of housing and the strictness of land use regulations.

All power groupings cultivate their constituency, but sadly without necessarily caring about them or doing them any good.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 17, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

think they're doing everyone a favor (because most narcissists generally do think they're doing everyone a favor by generally breathing the same air as others) when they campaign against every attempt to build new housing or rehab anything old - they, along with the awful members of the SFUSD board, have been the chief architects of middle class destruction in this city. The "middle class set asides" they claim will revitalize the city are instead reserved for their connected friends and allies - people like Rose Pak, who snagged a nice, subsidized apartment for herself or Chris Daly who did the same. Meanwhile everyone else moves out to Castro Valley or Pleasanton. And then Jane Kim or David Campos whine about "the destruction of the middle class in San Francisco" without realizing (or perhaps just not caring) about the staggering level of cognitive dissonance in their statements.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 17, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

and so have a vested interest in suppressing supply because it increases the value of their own properties.

Hypocrisy and greed, pure and simple.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 17, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

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