Opponents spar over Mission housing moratorium

Hundreds of San Franciscans descended on City Hall today to voice their opinions prior to a vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on whether a 45-day moratorium on market-rate housing development in the city’s Mission District could help or hinder the creation of affordable housing.

San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission District, proposed the moratorium in order to halt residential development in his district while the community comes up with a plan to buy and develop the remaining 13 parcels of land that have been identified by the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Legislative Analyst as feasible locations for affordable housing.

A large crowd of moratorium supporters, many of whom are artists and Hispanic residents for which the Mission neighborhood is known, rallied and chanted inside and outside City Hall throughout the day.

A group of opponents to the moratorium who also chanted and rallied ahead of the board’s expected vote gathered to express their disagreement with the plan.

Supervisor Mark Farrell, who represents the Marina District, said he opposed the moratorium, calling it the “wrong approach” and arguing that it would “only cause housing prices to rise.” Farrell called the moratorium “short-sighted” and said that the city is in the midst of a housing crisis and needs to produce more housing at all income levels, not less.

Farrell said that there is no guarantee that the 13 properties proposed for affordable housing will be sold to the city at a reasonable price and said that there is no clear funding source for those developments.

Individuals who gathered to protest the moratorium said that legislation would halt all housing creation, further exacerbate the lack of housing and maybe even drive up rent in the Mission.

According to Sonja Trauss, the founder of San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation, the only solution to the housing crisis in the city is an increase in market-rate housing.

Trauss said she believes that increasing housing capacity will protect residents from facing evictions.

Others who spoke out against the moratorium advocated for an increase in height limits to 16 stories in the Mission District, arguing that if people want to stay in the Mission District, the neighborhood needs to accommodate its increasing population.

Rafael Picazo, 50, who was born and raised in San Francisco, said he had to move out of the city because he couldn’t afford it any more.

Picazo couldn’t stand to listen to anti-moratorium supporters as they made speeches on the steps of City Hall today and interrupted the speakers.

“We’re the ones getting kicked out,” Picazo interrupted, explaining that he is a city worker, not a tech employee, which means he can’t afford to live in the city:

“I have to make over $100,000 to live in the city.”

Picazo believes that if a moratorium were to be enacted in the Mission District, the community would come together to find the funds to purchase the land and develop affordable housing:

“We’re all being evicted and it’s not right.”

Andy Blue, an activist with the Plaza 16 Coalition, said that there are available funds from developers who decided not to build below market rate units in new buildings. He said that the remaining 13 available parcels need to be bought for affordable development, even if they aren’t developed right away.

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro District, said he agrees that the city has not done enough to build affordable housing, but like Farrell, he doesn’t think a temporary halt on market-rate development will have the intended outcome.

Wiener said the proposed moratorium won’t stop a single eviction.

“It’s only going to undermine our efforts,” Wiener said.

Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, said today’s hearing is not so much about the proposed moratorium, but about crafting a plan where San Franciscans can afford to live in The City.