Shit happened (Oct. 23-29) - Page 2

Tenant proposals and Guardian forum address eviction crisis; Students fight suspensions; Techies to NSA: Stop spying!

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Tenant advocates rally Oct. 24 on the steps of City Hall.
Mike Koozmin/SF Print Media Co.


"The evidence is clear. We are facing not only an eviction crisis but also a crisis associated with the loss of affordable rental housing across the city. Speculative investments in housing has resulted in the loss of thousands affordable apartments through conversions and demolitions. And the trend points to the situation becoming much worse," the coalition wrote in a public statement proposing the reforms.

Evictions have reached their highest level since the height of the last dot-com boom in 1999-2000, with 1,934 evictions filed in San Francisco in fiscal year 2012-13, and the rate has picked up since then. The Sheriff's Department sometimes does three evictions per day, last year carrying out 998 court-ordered evictions, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told us, arguing for an expansion of city services to the displaced.

At "Housing for Whom?" a community forum the Guardian hosted Oct. 23 in the LGBT Center, panelists and audience members talked about the urgent need to protect and expand affordable housing in the city. They say the current eviction epidemic is being compounded by buyouts, demolitions, and the failure of developers to build below-market-rate units.

"We're bleeding affordable housing units now," Fred Sherburn-Zimmer of Housing Right Committee said last night, noting the steadily declining percentage of housing in the city that is affordable to current city residents since rent control was approved by voters in 1979. "We took out more housing than we've built since then."

Peter Cohen of the Council of Community Housing Organizations actually quantified the problem, citing studies showing that only 15 percent of San Franciscans can afford the rents and home prices of new housing units coming online. He said the housing isn't being built for current city residents: "It's a demand derived from a market calculation."

Cohen said the city's inclusionary housing laws that he helped write more than a decade ago were intended to encourage developers to actually build below-market-rate units in their projects, but almost all of them choose to pay the in-lieu fee instead, letting the city find ways to build the affordable housing and thereby delaying construction by years.

"It was not about writing checks," Cohen said. "It was about building affordable units."

Discussion at the forum began with a debate about the waterfront luxury condo project proposed for 8 Washington St., which either Props. B or C would allow the developer to build. Project opponent Jon Golinger squared off against proponent Tim Colen, who argued that the $11 million that the developer is contributing to the city's affordable housing fund is an acceptable tradeoff.

But Sherburn-Zimmer said the developer should be held to a far higher standard given the obscene profits that he'll be making from waterfront property that includes a city-owned seawall lot. "Public land needs to be used for the public good."

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