Map of effected areas in SF indicates 96% of the city property will be up-zoned if SB 827 passes.
(Courtesy of the SF Planning Department)
Senator Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 827 received great criticism on many fronts, including these two topics:
(1) Demolition Protections: The up-zoning SB827 imposes will accelerate demolition of existing housing. Wiener amended his bill to incorporate language that local demolition laws will remain.
(2) Anti Displacement & Eviction Protections: SB827 would lead to developers evict low income tenants building developments that would be offered at higher rents that would displace low income residents.
In February 2018 Scott Wiener made amendments to the bill in an attempt to address these amendments. These amendments are invalid and ineffective for the reasons described below.
Claim: Local Demolition Laws Will Remain
Scott Wiener summarizes his amendments as follows:
“Rent-controlled housing may not be considered for demolition permits unless a local government certifies by resolution, after the passage of SB 827, that the city will consider demolition permits for rent-controlled housing based on criteria and processes set forth in the resolution, and affirm that every displaced tenant will have a Right to Remain Guarantee (#4). After the resolution passes, the city retains full discretion to deny, restrict, or limit issuance of these permits in accordance with its policy.
All local processes for evaluating demolition permits shall apply to SB 827 projects. These local processes may include reviews through a Planning Commission or City Council, or even be categorical bans on certain types of demolition. Additionally, a demolition permit may not be issued for an SB 827 project until an adequate Right to Remain Guarantee for all displaced tenants – regardless of whether the housing was rent-controlled or not – has been approved by the local government.”
Rebuttal: Why these Demolition Amendments are Ineffective
Currently, the Planning and Building Code for demolition controls are routinely ignored as evidenced by illegal demolitions that continue to take place. Case in point is J.K. Dineen’s article from January 7 of the Chronicle that featured 3 homes. We have many more that have yet to be ajudicated. The additional height and number of dwellings offered by SB827 will incentivize more demolitions in a city that is already plagued by illegal demolitions.
Claim: SB827 Introduces the Strongest Possible Eviction Protection Measures & Gives Renters “Right of Return”
Wiener’s bill introduces clauses stating the following:
- All moving expenses for tenants moving into and out of interim dwellings are paid while the project is being built.
- Up to 42 months of rental assistance that covers the full rent of an available, comparable unit in the area is provided.
- Right of first refusal for housing units in the new building is guaranteed, including new lease at the rent previously enjoyed by the tenant in their demolished unit.
Why these Anti-Displacement Amendments are Ineffective
a) Developers Can Easily Circumvent These Provisions: In reality, “renovictions“, buyouts, and Ellis Acting will occur long before any application for permit is filed. Because Planning does NOT check whether or not an address was previously tenant-occupied, developers can get away with this. Planning doesn’t keep an inventory of rental units and as such, cannot identify what property is renter-occupied.
b) No Agency is Accountable to Enforce the Provisions: What agency would provide the oversight for any of the so called displacement protections? Who is going to enforce the right to return for tenants that have to move out? Who would determine what a comparable unit is? Would something in Antioch be comparable for tenants in the Mission? A city that has a heck of a time enforcing its current Planning and Building Code will not be able to administer unenforceable requirements such as these ones.
c) Unscrupulous Use of Construction Delays: All construction cycles are unpredictable by nature. Delays happen all the times because of the market or developers who just want to get the entitlements and then sell them to the next developer. What if the build cycle goes beyond 42 months? When does the clock still ticking on that 42 months? From the time that the developer applies for permit or from the time that the construction begins. It’s easy for unscrupulous developers to game the system and drag the permit and construction process to go beyond 42 months.
Amendments Are Not the Answer
We are not seeking amendments to Senate Bill 827 to address these concerns. We believe Senate Bill 827 is entirely the wrong approach to solve the housing crisis as it:
(1) Invalidly presumes market rate developers will build enough units to stabilize or reduce rents. This invalidly presumes trickle down (now referenced as “filter down”) economics work, and markets are efficient. It ignores that increasing units generates additional demand from speculators and a continuous flow of new employees to the region.
(2) Removes local decision making imposing a one size fits all mandate that overrides local considerations such as environmental issues (E.g. nature preservation, risk of flood, fire, etc…) and local issues (e.g. capacity of transportation infrastructure, local services such as police, fire and schools, etc…).
We respect that California is facing a housing crisis and advocate solutions focusing on providing truly affordable housing that respect local and environmental considerations and that protect communities of color and low income communities.
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Sample letter written by Marina Communities Association