Measuring displacement

It's time for official reports for planned developments that "could lead to significant displacement of existing San Francisco residents."
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EDITORIAL You can't build much of anything substantive in San Francisco without doing an environmental impact report. You can't pass significant legislation without doing an economic impact report. But the most important issue facing San Francisco today is largely ignored by those studies — and is only rarely even discussed as part of the city's economic development and planning policies.

At a press conference and rally Dec. 19, housing activists decried the huge upswing in evictions in San Francisco this year. At least 26 buildings are facing Ellis Act evictions — where every tenant must go so the landlord can sell the place vacant — "and those are just the ones we know about because a tenant has sought help," said Housing Rights Committee organizer Tommi Avicolli Mecca.

In every case, longtime San Franciscans — many of them low-income, disabled, families, or people of color — are being displaced from their homes, and probably from the city. Nobody at City Hall even measures the full numbers year by year, but the Tenants Union reports that Ellis Act evictions have tripled since 2011.

These aren't just random acts by individual property owners; they're part of a much larger trend created by city policies. And they ought to be tracked, measures — and mitigated — the same way environmental or economic impacts are.

Let's call it a Displacement Impact Report.

The outline could be exactly the same as an EIR. A designated city official, either in the City Planning Department or working for the city's economist, would analyze every piece of legislation and every proposed development of more than a certain size to determine if it "could lead to significant displacement of existing San Francisco residents." If the answer is no, the project or bill gets a green light to move forward; if the answer is yes, the sponsor, or the city, has to prepare a DIR.

A DIR would look, for example, at the impact the Twitter tax break would have on Ellis Act evictions. Not an impossible task at all — environmental and economic consultants do this sort of work all the time. You look at how many jobs the tax break will create, how many of those jobs will go to people who are not current SF residents, how much they'll be paid — and what the residential vacancy rate is for apartments and houses in the range they can afford. Add into the mix current plans for housing construction in that range, and plans for low-income housing for people who might be displaced.

Historical data could easily create models for how many new highly paid employees it takes to create one individual or family displacement. It would be at least as accurate as a lot of the economic and environmental models used every day in city and regional planning agencies.

If an environmental impact report turns up significant and unavoidable effects, the project sponsor is required to look at mitigations — and decision-makers can be held accountable for whether that happens. For example, a tax break that is expected to lead to the displacement of 50 low-income San Franciscans would have to be accompanied by the construction of 50 new permanently affordable rental units, or the creation of rent subsidies adequate to protect the vulnerable populations facing the loss of their homes.

Politicians and business leaders routinely complain that some legislation will lead to job losses — but the loss of people's homes isn't in the mix. It should be.

Someone on the Board of Supervisors ought to draft and introduce a bill adding DIRs to the list of requirements before major policy and development changes are approved. It could be the most important bill of 2013.

 

Comments

San Francisco needs to build more units, more all income levels, rentals and ownership homes. Simple and easy, no with NIMBY and all the other little things about San Francisco, it is easy to push people out, or build high income units due to the fact after wait so long you will get a better ROI.

Posted by Garrett on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 11:45 am

But stopping progress isn't something progressives should sign onto. SF has always been in transition, and it always will be.

You want affordable housing but you don't want to build any new housing? Dream on.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 11:58 am

It's easily the worst idea I've seen here in 2012, and there's some tough competition.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

We typically don't sign Guardian editorials, but everyone knows I write them. SO go ahead and complain about me.

Posted by tim on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:37 am

Actually, it's a great idea.

There should also be some way to measure and compensate the small independent business owners who are displaced by rising rents and chain stores.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 6:58 am

You want to freeze the city in time, making it unflexible and static and rigid. That's a nonsense. I've probably had 20 different jobs and 30 different homes. It's called progress.

We want a dynamic city that grows and progresses, not a sclerotic theme park.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 7:14 am

like real estate speculation.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 7:35 am

it was just a natural progression and a willingness to be flexible.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 8:06 am

20 jobs and 30 "homes?"
Not everyone wants to live like that.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 7:36 am

don't really deserve or can't really afford is not a healthy way to live. We need a mobile, flexible workforce to succeed in this marketplace and people refusing to move leads to a sclerotic economy.

This is America and things constantly change and evolve - you should embrace that, not fear it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 8:08 am

What?

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 10:57 am

But feel free to make a point yourself.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:04 am

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 8:49 am

and pro-business agenda and platform.

So on what conceivable, credible basis do you feel there is any mandate for an anti-development, anti-jobs, anti-housing mandate like this piece of putative bureaucracy?

Do you ever ask the voters what they want instead of trying to ram down their throats what they clearly have said that they do not want?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

That is not true.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

the final tally, versus 40% for Avalos.

Avalos clearly stood on a platform of more regulation and more tax, and a quite anti-growth platform.

Lee made it absolutely clear that his #1 mandate was pro-growth, pro-development, pro-jobs and pro-business.

There is no mandate for more regulation whose only purpose is to suppress the local economy so that nothing ever changes and nobody ever has to transition to new digs.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 8:50 am

So far the Planning Department has done little to enforce our regulations and laws (witness the ongoing equivocation over the Academy of Arts violations), nor does it appear from the record that they ever enforced the law requiring an inventory and economic impact before any new hotels could be built (a law from Sue Bierman in 1992 and signed by Frank Jordan).

The city's annual housing element required for state and federal housing aid includes a survey of population by income levels and requires a plan to meet those needs. But only very rarely has any city been sued for failure to meet the requirements.

Those who claim that the proposed DIR involves a substantial new policy or halts progress apparently are unfamiliar with the existing legal requirements. However, they appear all too aware that no one is enforcing the laws. In effect, the city's "official family" has acted to nulify the laws passed by the voters when it was in the interest of donors to officeholders and those who owe their job to officeholders.

Posted by CitiReport on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

enforcement of "rules" that seem outdated and inconsistent with a city much changer since the always obstructive Sue Bierman tried to freeze this city in time.

Governments do more than just write laws; they also prioritize which rules to enforce and which to be more relaxed about.

We need new investment and jobs far more than we need a vast bureaucracy whose sole purpose is to ensure that nothing ever changes.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 8:51 am

So far the Planning Department has done little to enforce our regulations and laws (witness the ongoing equivocation over the Academy of Arts violations), nor does it appear from the record that they ever enforced the law requiring an inventory and economic impact before any new hotels could be built (a law from Sue Bierman in 1992 and signed by Frank Jordan).

The city's annual housing element required for state and federal housing aid includes a survey of population by income levels and requires a plan to meet those needs. But only very rarely has any city been sued for failure to meet the requirements.

Those who claim that the proposed DIR involves a substantial new policy or halts progress apparently are unfamiliar with the existing legal requirements. However, they appear all too aware that no one is enforcing the laws. In effect, the city's "official family" has acted to nulify the laws passed by the voters when it was in the interest of donors to officeholders and those who owe their job to officeholders.

Posted by CitiReport on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

CEQA should only analyze environmental impacts, but has bloated to deal with social impacts as well because there are no other options for those to be seriously considered.

I'd like to see a Social Quality Act that requires social impacts to be enumerated, a set of mitigations outlined and presented to decision makers for their call.

In that way, CEQA could be put back into its box and the social impacts could be analyzed in parallel.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

Otherwise how could there be fees like the transit impact fee that puts the costs of additional infrastructure on the developer. Oh, and of course the affordable housing setasides for new-build residential.

But we cannot measure such indirect impacts such as the effect on Ellis Act evictions. They always spike when the local economy booms so trying to stop a few evictions can only come at the cost of rejecting more growth and jobs. That reduces the taxbase which means cuts in services and loss of public-sector jobs. Meaning those people will probably be evicted anyway - for cause: non-payment of rent.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

Some social impacts are considered. Some that are considered are partially mitigated at times. All social impacts should always be analyzed just like all environmental impacts should always be analyzed. There are no short cuts when you're doing the last 15% of any engineering problem.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

Direct, provable infrastructure additions? Sure.

But a possible increase in Ellis Act evictions? No way. There is no way to show the correlation. Ellis Act evictions correlate to a successful economy, and good luck selling any policy that makes SF look more like Detroit.

If you really want a city that never changes, move to Detroit. Affordable too - you can buy a house for a dollar. Progressives would surely be in their dreams there, so why don't Welch, Hestor, Redmond etc. move to a place where the weather suits their progressive clothes?

Fact is, the "social" impact of a development is arguable and speculative. Consideration of it would be a bureaucratic nightmate, although of course some Progressives love those.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 26, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 8:53 am

and *completely* cut out the bullshit.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 4:42 am
Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 7:04 am

so your comment represents more Anonymous ignoramum trollery.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 8:48 am

So any introduction of either is gratuitous.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 9:08 am

Race, ethnicity, skin color, age, class, economic status, and gender will always matter, especially in the United States.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 3:10 pm
Posted by Anon on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

It's one of your favorite cards.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

But if someone else plays the card, I will call them out on it.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

Troll.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

We already have all sorts of reports that look at direct impacts based on projections and available evidence. You want to build a highrise office building in SF? You have to look at how much traffic it will add to the Bay Bridge during rush hour. Can you prove that any one car directly came from that building? No -- but you can say that it will house 1,000 new workers, and based on existing data and historical trends, you can project that, say, 40 percent of those workers will live in the East Bay, and of those, 20 percent will drive to work, and those 80 cars will be added to the number seeking to cross the bridge every morning and evening, and then you can determine if that, combined with the cumulative impacts of all the other buildings the city is approving, will make traffic (and air quality) significantly worse.

That's how these things are done.

You can project how many new jobs will be created by, say, a tax break ; the city economist already does that. And you can project their annual salaries (else how would you know the payroll tax?) and project how many will come from out of town and want to live in SF. Combine that with the existing and projected housing stock and you can come to some valid conclusions.

I'm not against progress or housing construction. I just think the housing we build should match the workforce -- and since the housing market, unregulated, goes where the most money is, and right now that's high-end condos, the city can't meet its housing obligations just by letting developers do what they want.

Posted by tim on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:48 am

should be building exactly what it is building - lots of market-rate condo's on the east-side for knowledge workers who are relocating to SF to work in our booming IT and finance sectors.

New market-rate housing takes the pressure off the lower-end of the amrket because it stops the affluents chasing down TIC's in the Mission etc.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:22 am

The City has tens of thousands of units of unmet housing obligations after the market has failed to meet them, and the only solution you offer is to ignore that unmet need and to further allow the corrupt market to determine what kind of housing gets built?

Any mayor who was acting in the interests of existing constituents would demand that development deals meet existing unmet need as a condition of being allowed to meet projected need. The poverty nonprofits and mayor lowered that bar with Prop C last November which cements the housing nonprofits overhead into the City budget while reducing the hit on developers for inclusionary. This will probably produce fewer units over time than the existing arrangements.

One side is fighting for keeps, the other side keeps on playing nice.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

judgment. ALL new housing eases the pressure on the existing housing stock, and makes existing homes cheaper. If we build enough market-rate housing in the SE of the city to reieve the pressure on older hosuing stock, then that becomes more affordable.

There will always be some who cannot afford to live in SF, just like I cannot afford to live in Aspen or Aruba, but there are options for those as well. Oakland is 10 minutes away and half the price. Go further afield and it gets even cheaper.

There's only one way to make housing more affordable. Build more of it - as much as possible, and at all price points that make economic sense.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

This. Progressive insanity on housing is destroying their purported constituencies

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 8:56 am

How many units would we need to build before we saw downward pressure on price? How much downward pressure would we see? How long would that last? What do we do after that? What about the transit?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

Or at least estimated, within some margin of error.

But what you are citing here is an indirect impact. You are trying to claim a correlation between, say, a business relocating to or growing in SF to the number of Ellis Act evictions.

You can estimate how many new homes might be needed by, say, Twitter employing an extra 5,000 people making 100K pa here. You can guess how many of them will live in SF, and where they are likely to want to live.

But you cannot estimate the number of evictions that will take place because that is an individual decision by a property owner. We can note that Ellis Act evictions happen more when SF is booming, but not predict which buildings, where, when or why.

If you really want to know how to get to zero Ellic evictions, maybe you should visit the neighboring counties which, despite sharing the same economy, have ZERO Ellis evictions. It is rent control that causes Ellis evictions - not growth, investment and prosperity.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:43 am

Our growing family will invoke the Ellis Act next year. It is a very difficult decision. My family cannot continue to provide lifelong housing at such an unrealistically low rent. Why have we created a system which puts this responsibility on individual property owners?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 31, 2012 @ 11:58 am

property owners is very simple. If the voters had to pay those subsidies themselves thru higher taxes, they would never vote for rent subsidies.

But the number of landlords is relatively small, and so their votes don't add up to much compared with the 2/3 of voters who rent, and therefore see a free lunch here.

That wasn't too onerous back in the day that only large landlords were rent-controlled. But in 1994, small mom'n'pop owners of 2-4 unit properties were suddenly covered by rent control and it's been a disaster. Owners have responded either by not spending any money on the property, or Ellis'ing the building, or by keeping their units vacant, or doing only short-term corporate or vacation lets.

It's called the law of unintended consequences and nobody will blame someone in your situation from taking the ultimate Ellis solution.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 31, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into petty, mean spirited, personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 16, 2013 @ 8:58 am

Oh, and by the way: The economic problems facing Detroit have nothing to do with environmental impact reports, Nimbyism or housing regulation. Detroit is suffering from the deindustrialization of America and the shift of decent-paying manufacturing jobs to other countries. Not even remotely similar to SF, which hasn't had an economy based on manufacturing in a long time.

I will say that Detroit suffered from a monocrop economy; when the auto industry tanked, so did the city. SF got hit hard by the recession in the early 1990s in part because we were so dependent on finance, insurance and real estate. Now, tech. It pays to have a diverse economy; more resilient.

Posted by tim on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 10:51 am

The financialized economy that hollowed out the rust belt is the same one that is financing the speculative booms in time sponge tech and housing that are hollowing out San Francisco, not to mention the Yucatan.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:04 am

It's becoming a center of excellence for knowledge work - not just IT and banking - but also law, architecture, biotech and medicine, insurance, fund management

Like Detroit, we've lost our two major companies - BofA and Wells Fargo (to Charlotte and Minneapolis respectively) and yet, unlike detroit, we are flourishing. Much of that is due to the pro-business policies of neighboring counties, and of SF itself when we are not trying to sabotage our prosperity.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:31 am

San Francisco's desirability is based on its physical beauty and social capital, two facets which are viewed as infinite sources and sinks, if not as problems in and of themselves.

The dominant urban ideology has these problems "solved" by city planners and development boosters in ways that just happen to involve greater development envelopes that drive windfall profits to the connected and have existing residents make up any shortcomings.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 9:02 am

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