By Kat Calloway
Housing is a central issue in the City’s 2015 election. Five propositions on the ballot deal with housing and development. Proposed solutions for the shortage of available housing are an essential element to candidates’ platforms.
On the Official Ballot, Prop I will ask the following: “Shall the City suspend the issuance of permits on certain types of housing and business development projects in the Mission District for at least 18 months; and develop a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan for the Mission District by January 31, 2017?”
Proposition I proposes establishing an 18-month moratorium on issuing permits for the development of new market-rate housing projects larger than five units in the Mission District. It would also prohibit the granting of permits for the “demolition, conversion, or elimination of Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) use” buildings. This includes many business-related structures such as those used for industrial, automotive, storage and wholesale. Construction projects made up of 100% affordable housing units are exempt from the moratorium.
The 18-month hold will allow the community to come together to create a plan to preserve the Mission’s character while promoting affordable housing.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Plan required by the proposition would propose legislation, policies, programs, funding, and zoning controls intended to enhance and preserve affordable housing in the Mission. This would be accomplished with requirements that at least 50% of all new housing be affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income households, and to ensure that those units would be available to residents of the Mission.
The Coalition supports the break on issuing permits for market-rate housing in the Mission in order to develop a sensible plan for the future development of this vital community.
The moratorium would allow time for the City to develop a reasonable plan for the sustainable retention of existing Mission residents, preserving the unique diversity and community that makes the Mission what it is, and slowing runaway gentrification resulting largely from the Mayor’s courting of tech firms that have become his political sponsors.
Opponents of Prop I claim that fewer units on the market will increase rents. A simple application of supply and demand, they claim. Opponents say the moratorium will stop the construction of 200 BMR (below market-rate) units and 1,100 market-rate units. The arguments ignore rent control and the specified length of the moratorium. Rent-controlled units will not see uncontrolled rent increases and construction that is in progress will not be stopped. The moratorium prohibits issuing permits, not continuing the progress of approved developments. Some opponents of Prop I use this argument to justify their position in a kind of reverse position agreeable to Prop I supporters: They claim the moratorium will only increase construction once it is lifted.
It is difficult to understand how an 18-month moratorium (with the right to an additional 12 month extension granted to the Board of Supervisors) on permits will have such an impact. The Mission is a unique neighborhood that should be preserved with thoughtful planning, not sacrificed for big money political support from developers.
Although housing and development have been the chief focus of both support and opposition campaigns for Proposition I, the issue of permits for zoning conversions surfaced as another important aspect of the debate. Prop I is opposed by Armory Studios, owned by administrators of the porn website Kink.com. Armory Studios and Kink.com renovated a music and entertainment venue called the Armory Drill Court in 2014, and are seeking a change of zoning of the facility from PDR to Entertainment to allow for more frequent events and shows. Proposition I would prevent such zoning changes during the moratorium.