Measuring displacement

It's time for official reports for planned developments that "could lead to significant displacement of existing San Francisco residents."

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.



Not many SF'ers grew up here. We came here for the economy - finance, tech, medicine, law etc. Without high-paid jobs, SF is just a backwater. Even as is, it is Silicon Valley that under-writes much of SF's economic viability.

The fact that SF has a scenic setting doesn't guarantee economic success. Plenty of pretty places are economic dumps.

It's the economy, stupid.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 9:21 am

Welcome to 3rd and King!

Posted by marcos on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 9:35 am
Posted by Guest on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 9:46 am

3d and King has all of the elements deemed essential to contemporary visionary planning, multimodal transit, wide sidewalks, landscaping, density, the works, and all we get is a windswept bleak suburban office park feel that could be any suburb anywhere.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 10:19 am

South Beach and Moscone conference centerpieces toSFmoma to the ball park, all with waterside views and a dynamic economy. SOMA works, and you cannot say that about much of SF.

Oh, plus great weather, low crime, lots of top-rated dining options and, most importantly, many well-paid jobs in biotech, media, IT, finance, law - exactly the businesses that SF excels at.

All with great freeway and transit access. No wonder you hate it. It succeeds and progressives hate siuccess and progress.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 10:56 am

Top-rated dining options at 3d and King? Are you mad, man?

Posted by marcos on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 11:13 am
Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 11:35 am

3d/King = Desolate death zone of restaurants.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 11:45 am

SOMA is the one area of SF that is actually vibrant and successful, which is why the city is expanding there and has been for 15 years.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

SOMA is a place where previously industrial zoned properties are poised for quick monetization as office or condo. Eastern SOMA is already a condo desert, bereft of street activity, it is all auto oriented. Western SOMA is described as hideous and in need of upzoning to make it vibrant.

The only solution you offer is to give free stuff to developers under the religious belief that they will build stuff that makes the City better over time.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

But visit any major western city and former industrial and warehouse districts have become fashionable places for living, working and entertainment. Think South Street Seaport in NYC, Faneuil Hall in Boston, Covent Garden in London.

It's the most cost-effective way of transitioning area's of this scale and structure for the 21st century. And it's working, if popularity is the key.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 29, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

Given the policy of driving down wages in the US that is supported by libertarians, it is quite likely that currency exchange rates and wages will converge at a place where manufacturing becomes viable again in the US.

It is premature to sacrifice transit oriented job sites for transit oriented high end residential that will only attract auto owners.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 30, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

If you want a car-centric lifestyle, you would not choose the downtown location of a major US city.

But yes, the falling dollar is the natural response to Us workers being paid too much, along of course with outsourcing, importing and illegals. Those could reverse themselves in time if the USD falls enough, but many of our trading partners pegs their currency to the USD, including much of SE Asia, so I would not hold your breathe waiting for those industrial jobs to some back to the US.

And if they do come back at all, it will more likely be as with the auto industry - non-union jobs outside the rustbelt.

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

Unfettered, illegal immigration is what has driven down wages, along with free trade agreements. So, in addition to Libertarians, please include the "open border" people as supporting the driving down of wages in the US. thank you

Posted by Richmondman on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 10:04 am

uncompetitive levels is not a good long-term policy. If you are being paid too much, you should be paid less.

Right-wing nutjobs who blame everything on illegal immigration fail to understand that, even if immigration could be stopped, outsourcing would then increase.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 29, 2013 @ 10:46 am

of the auto business elsewhere. and in fact much of that migration wasn't overseas, but to non-union plants in the south.

The auto business, and Detroit, was brought to it's knees by unions, excessive pay and benefits, too much tax and regulation - exactly the same factors that would kill SF is we allowed such things here.

Posted by anonymous on Dec. 27, 2012 @ 11:28 am

Be careful out there.

And grateful.

Posted by guest on Dec. 30, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

Except that Detriot is a desolate speck of urbanism on a great glaciated plain of middle America and San Francisco is a port on the Pacific Coast embedded in some of the most spectacular terrain on the planet. All real estate on the West Coast that comes close to touching salt water has retained and increased in value amidst a generalized economic slump.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 30, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

Most places on a coast in the US are fairly poor e.g. the Atlantic, Gulf and Great Lakes coasts. Fair parts of the OR and WA coasts are hardly super rich, and we have some dumps on the coast closer to here too e.g. Pacifica.

Cute scenery doesn't necessitate economic success. If Silicon Valley had grown up more around Boston or Austin, SF would be a second-rate city now.

Posted by guest on Dec. 30, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

But the lack of coastline does track with impoverishment.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 30, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

So does north Korea.

While affluent Switzerland is landlocked.

Another grand Marcosian economic theory bites the dust.

Posted by guest on Dec. 30, 2012 @ 4:25 pm

San Francisco is not Bangladesh or Korea.
It is much closer to being a principality, like Monaco.
This is the richest city in the richest state in the richest country in the history of the world. The world class weather and scenery attract world-class minds, although reading these posts lately I have begun to wonder.
San Francisco is the most unique convergence of resources in the world. Again, not Detroit. And we could easily bring back light manufacturing, like 3D printing or food processing, to expand our capital base for when the next SoSo networking bubble bursts.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

think that San Francisco is the smartest or the richest city in the world. I could name many cities smarter and richer, like New York, London, Paris and so on. SF is, in fact, rather provinical and second-rate in many ways. and but for silicon valley, might be having real problems.

But the point in this case was simply to refute the notion that home prices are proportional to proximity to the coast. A sea view can help with RE values but there are plenty of poor places on coasts, and plenty of rich places not on coasts.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 03, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

San Francisco is (was?) the world leader in original thought, technical innovation,
and quality of life. London? Paris? NYC? Those dirty, noisy, overcrowded cities actually are provinces! Where is their equivalent of Silicon Valley, Stanford/UC/USF/SFS/CCSF, redwoods and whales, and clear sunny days in Winter like today? "A sea view?" Try, the best "sea views" in the world! Of course I'm a native, and so am somewhat biased, but that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:17 am

For any other industry, it's elsewhere.

While almost every nation has coastline - we've mostly overbuilt ours.

Arts and culture. San Francisco is only known for "experimental" art (i.e. bad art). It's got nothing on truly world-class cities.

Sorry, you can like SF all you want, but it's a second class city by the standard of the great cities of the world. Heck, most of the restaurants here are shut by 9.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:34 am

Then why are you here?
Are you a "second-class" person?

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:18 am

He is here to hijack a progressive forum so that we don't get to talk amongst ourselves to work through our agenda unless it is on his troll terms.

He is in San Francisco because the speculative frenzy offers ample opportunities for get rich quick schemes for the ethically compromised sociopaths that are today's libertarian capitalists.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:33 am

it could be Provo, Utah for all we know.

Here's a site which lists the range of discourse they have in that neck o' the woods:

I'm thinking that compared to the SFBG, the terms of service on the LDS Freedom Forum are strict. What's apostate speech mean, anyhow? I can only guess I've been guilty of that...

I think the troll storm -- to the degree to which is isn't mostly one dedicated miscreant -- could reflect the concerted effort of several such like-minded oafs who meet up on some right wing site; I've seen these types of anti-speech vandalism programs described by the term "field trip."

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

tendency for any website that is, by it's very nature, this polarized to be a target for those who oppose it? And, if so, is that really so bad?

If nobody with a contrary opinion ever ventured here, then you'd never get to practice your lines except on sycophantic and fawning groupthinkers. Yet in the real world, if you want to achieve anything rather than just carp from the sidelines, then you have to engage the enemy.

The irony here is that, while you attribute rabid categorizations about mormon bigamists and "off the grid" anti-government rebels, this particular observor is a registered Democrat who never voted for Bush. If you think I'm a right-wing interloper, then you're in more trouble than I thought.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:29 pm


Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

world's greatest city? Why? Don't most of us live in the place where our job happens to be? I've lived in 5 different cities because of job offers. Where I live is secondary to that because, in the end, most places are the same and you tend to do the same kind of things and associate with the same kinds of people wherever you live.

This whole "SF is special" thing leaves me cold because, having lived in 5 cities, I know Sf is just another city.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:33 am

no need to be obnoxious about it... except in your own very diseased imagination.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

That's a pretty weird, not to mention self-absorbed, perspective.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

Perhaps ""diseased" is a bit strong. Then again.....

Maybe you simply don't know where you are.
London, Paris, NYC represent the way things were.
San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver represent the way things are going to be, i.e. "the future."
And the question is "quality of life." Nowhere else on Earth has the Bay(s), the coast and Coast Range, the Sierras, and Monterey in their "backyard." The City has perfect weather (anyone who complains about the fog just doesn't get it), beautiful women (and men, I guess), food, and music. Unfortunately, the "art scene" and the art industry here make access to the good stuff difficult, but I'll take Mona Caron over your East Coast/Euro Art Mafia any day.

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 9:09 am

I'd take the coastal urban culture crucible that has been exterminated via speculative displacement but you can never go back. Our task is to keep speculation from displacing whatever is not nailed down rather than take the nonprofit approach and negotiate away the last of it for temporary payments now.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 9:18 am

There are a whole bunch of reasons why SF isn't world-class in the way you imply. It's really a small town, with a parochial and rather self-absorbed attitude. Even it's location, while cute, places it so far to the west that it tends to have less influence because the day ahs gone by the time we are up and about.

Talk about London/Paris/NYC being "old" and SF being "new" reminds me of nothing so much as Runsfeld's ludicrous designation of old and new europe. such vast over-generalizations are not helpful.

Look, you're free to claim SF is the world's best city just as i'm free to regard that as a self-serving delusion. I still don't know what you want to do with that fact - you seem to be simultaneously both saying that SF is "new" AND yet opposing change. And that strikes me as inconsistent.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 9:43 am


Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 9:55 am

Imp Troll

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 10:10 am

Look, I'm kind of new at this. Is a troll someone who is just parroting Chamber of Commerce propaganda, or someone who just doesn't "get it?" You know, like "pearls before swine?"

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 10:13 am

CoC flacks whose charge is to disrupt discourse and organizing and deflect attention from their political crimes.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 10:34 am

but I'll add to it:

Troll's aren't here to convince typical SFBG readers of anything except perhaps that they should feel discouraged.

Troll's pretend to engage in debate, but never quit trying to make the same points even though they have been disproven; they are like scratched CDs that play the same riffs again and again.

Troll's incorporate all sorts of racist or otherwise societally-toxic premises and preconceptions within their commentary so that simply responding to them is fraught with the danger of tacitly approving of such effrontery.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 10:45 am

attempt by one person to get the constituency here to ignore the posts of another person by alleging that that other person is not offering genuine contributions but merely seeking to disrupt.

However, in practice, allegations of trollery do not contribute anything, while the other party is accused precisely because he is contributing.

So if A calls B a troll here, then it is indicative that either A is losing the debate and knows it, or that A is afraid of the truth and power of B's argument. When losing, distract and deflect - that's the strategy.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 10:44 am


Posted by marcos on Jan. 05, 2013 @ 10:55 am

I know of 10 -12 in my neighborhood alone, some I knew very well and only a few sought help. It is really a sad and shameful day, when two old ladies (sisters I believe) who have liven in the same unit since the 70's, now have to figure out what to do, how to do it, or even where it might be, or if there is even an it. They seemed like they would be okay and they are getting a few bucks from the stinking landlord who I hear wants to put in another god damn Condo Unit, where now a beautiful Pink SPanish Revival couple of homes is with a beautiful courtyard in the center and a fountain you can hear all over the cul-de-sack, instead of the sobs of old women ....

Posted by Guest on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 2:48 am

means they leave "voluntarily" because then the Ellis can be rescinded, enabling a fastpath to condo.

If these ladies have had subsidized rent since the 1970's then they have done very well indeed. Worry more about young people seeking their first home.

Posted by anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:31 am

For a heat map of housing prices in the US, see:

Note the positive correlation between proximity to water and price, a correlation that is broken only by the libertarian tax taking states.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 11:55 am

For California by county:

Posted by marcos on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

since high RE prices are typically associated with urban conurbations, then obviously there will be some correlation between price and population, and therefore price and proximity to the sea.

But that doesn't explain why the gulf coast of Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle is dirt cheap while several zip codes in Illinois and Colarado - 1,000 miles from the sea - are pricey.

However, you are right about one thing. People do buy property in low tax places like Wyoming which was recently voted the most tax-friendly State in the US (Alaska aside, which is a special case).

The most glaring correlation I have seen is that between RE prices and restrictive land use laws. That is the real reason why NYC and SF have the most expensive RE in the nation.

Posted by Anon on Jan. 04, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

NYC and the San Francisco bioregions have the highest real estate prices in the world precisely because they are NOT Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois, or Wyoming.
They ARE two of the most culturally, economically, and politically significant places in the world. Lots of people want to be in SF and NYC. The Dirty South? A place with "lake effect snow?" Not so much. SF and NYC are expensive because everyone in the world wants to be there. Or here.....

Posted by Joseph Thomas on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 9:20 am

For instance, there is almost a linear relationship between RE prices and the restrictivness of land use laws.

Or how about being bounded by water. Manhataan is an island, San Francisco is bounded by water on three sides. Same foe other expensive places like Hong Kong.

But while NY and HK build up, SF really doesn't, except commercially downtown. Go to NY or HK and there are residential highrises everywhere. Not here. So SF has NY RE problems without being a heavyweight city like NY, but just because of water, and land use laws.

Again, Alabama etc. are cheaper also because they have unlimited land. But there are crowded places with low RE prices, e.g. Detroit, and places with land that are pricey (Aspen).

So in the end, it comes down to politics. SF can be cure or it can be cheap. It cannot be both.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2013 @ 11:04 am

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