San Francisco, CA — On Tuesday, April 3rd, community groups from around San Francisco hosted a rally against SB 827 outside City Hall, with dozens of people of color sharing stories of their own housing struggles in the city as well as their fears at the gentrifying impact the pro-development measure would have on their neighborhoods. But their voices were repeatedly drowned out by chants from a young, largely white group of YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) affiliates, shouting slogans like “WE WANT HOMES”.
SB 827 is a bill penned by State Sen. Scott Weiner that seeks to upzone California cities, allowing for taller developments around transit centers, a move that housing advocates say could incentivize the displacement of low-income tenants near transit systems poor communities of color depend on for survival. YIMBYs claim they want to help these same communities, arguing that more development means lower housing prices over time that may trickle down to renters.
But it was renters from these very communities that YIMBY organizers like Laura Foote Clark, Executive Director of YIMBY Action, shouted down at this rally against SB 827. Trauss was escorted from the demonstration by police after aggressively penetrating the gathering and yelling in the faces of demonstrators.
Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Chinatown-based Community Tenants Association, was quoted in the SF Examiner; “Our members were intimidated by YIMBY. They felt threatened. I think the YIMBY have no heart.” The paper also reported that one elderly Chinese woman was taken from the protest in an ambulance when she fainted after YIMBY agitators yelled in her face.
After days of pushback by community leaders who felt disrespected and marginalized by the behavior of YIMBY counter protestors, YIMBY Action issued a public apology. Laura Clarke herself wrote a letter acknowledging that “it was beyond insensitive to chant over speakers from Chinatown, the Mission, the Western Addition, and the Excelsior,” and promising to take a break from Twitter to re-evaluate her conduct. But other tweets undermined her apology, as she accused those she had supposedly apologized to of “gaslighting” and “white erasure” while implying that the people of color who organized the demonstration were puppets of white, wealthy homeowners.
Since the demonstration, Weiner has proposed amendments to the legislation, lowering the height allowances and increasing the number of “affordable” units required for new developments. But housing advocates say the changes will not prevent the displacement of long time residents. In Los Angeles, 50% of the stock of single-family homes would be affected by the upzoning legislation.
“If you pass any amendments they will be the sugar coating on the poison pills in the medicine that the state wants every community in California to swallow,” said Lorraine Petty member of Senior and Disability Action said on the steps of City Hall.