After much speculation on how exactly Proposition I, the 18-month pause on market-rate development in the Mission District, would help combat the city’s housing crisis, proponents of the measure presented their framework for affordable housing during a press conference yesterday.
“The way that the city and county of San Francisco is doing planning today doesn’t really make sense,” said Supervisor David Campos, who was joined by Supervisor John Avalos, Planning Commissioner Cindy Wu, and other city and non-profit leaders in front of city hall. Developers have too much influence in the housing process, Campos said, and the community is rarely heard from.
“What Prop. I is about is having a pause so that the community can come together and actually engage in planning that looks at the needs of that community, ” he said.
Proposition I would halt large market-rate developments in the Mission District for a year and a half and require the city to draft a housing plan for the Mission District. The framework presented yesterday outlines what that plan might do: strengthen tenant protections, build more affordable housing, purchase rent-controlled units, and ensure that private developments include more affordable housing than they do now.
The funding for that plan and some other details were sparse, however.
“Those specifics would be ironed out during the planning process,” said Gabriel Medina, a policy manager with Mission Economic Development Agency and campaign manager for “Yes on I.” During that process, the city would work with neighborhood organizations and host public meetings for residents, where Medina hopes community input will influence the shape of the plan.
And the community isn’t alone in calling for a pause. Commissioner Wu said that the planning commission also needs guidelines for how to assess new developments in San Francisco, saying a plan would help commissioners “think about the city holistically” while doing their job.
“We need the time to come up with a plan to be able to use it in our week to week deliberations,” she said.
Dennis Richards, another planning commissioner, also supported the proposition. In a prepared statement, he said that he supports the Mission’s “democratic right to decide its future course with the support of San Franciscans.”
There are some specifics, including a plan for $10 million a year for buying rent-controlled units through the small sites acquisition program and $50 million a year for affordable housing in the Mission District.
But where that money will come from or whether it’s enough to make a dent in the housing crisis is unknown.
“We’re talking about billions and billions of dollars,” said Sam Moss, executive director of non-profit developer Mission Housing, about how much might be needed to address the housing crisis. Moss thinks it would be many times the historic $310 million housing bond also on the ballot in November — which already dedicates $50 million to the Mission — and that bond is historic for San Francisco. “This really is a drop in the bucket.”
It’s a first step, however, and Moss said the 18-month pause would be significant, giving non-profit developers such as Mission Housing and MEDA a competitive chance against private developers. These developers, Moss said, may be hesitant to purchase land if they have to wait a year and a half to develop it, especially if in that time the city requires them to build more affordable housing on their sites.
“It gives us much more of a fighting chance than without it,” Moss said.
It’s also a strategic choice. Maria Zamudio, an organizer with Causa Justa :: Just Cause, said fighting market-rate development “project by project” is not ideal, and that Proposition I would give non-profits and organizers time to focus on how the Mission should be developed.
“We want to make sure that our folks in San Francisco and in the Mission have a level of say in what happens in their neighborhood,” she said. “And that means we need to be able to decide what gets developed and for whom.”