Affordable housing vote faces SF voters

San Francisco supervisors Tuesday voted to place a charter amendment on the June ballot that would give the board the power to increase affordable housing requirements for new developments.

The vote today came after an extended political struggle over competing affordable housing measures between Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin.

Both the mayor and Kim and Peskin sought to remove the current 12 percent affordable housing requirement for new developments from the city charter, where it cannot be changed without a vote of the people.

However, the mayor had introduced a ballot measure that would require an economic feasibility study before any new requirement was set to make sure housing development was not compromised.

Kim and Peskin’s legislation, on the other hand, includes an interim ordinance that would effectively double affordable housing requirements to 25 percent, a level that developers have argued would make many projects financially unfeasible and slow development.

They had also introduced a separate ballot measure that would set 25 percent as the minimum required level of affordable housing for future developments, but withdrew that measure last week in what Peskin called a “show of good faith” in negotiations with the mayor’s office.

Kim today said it was clear developers could reach 25 percent affordable housing while turning a profit because that level had been reached before through negotiations.

“We must build more housing that’s affordable to the majority of San Franciscans,” she said. “This measure is not only needed – it’s a very reasonable solution to this problem.” The charter amendment was the subject of heated debate at last week’s board meeting, where supervisors ultimately voted 7-4 to reject amendments, backed by the mayor and introduced by Supervisor Malia Cohen, that would have required the board to seek an economic analysis before setting any new affordable housing requirements.

The charter amendment won unanimous support today after Supervisor Norman Yee introduced a companion resolution calling for the board to include a “grandfather” clause for projects in the pipeline and requiring the city to conduct an economic feasibility study on affordable housing requirements by May 31 and at regular intervals afterward. The resolution calls for the board to adopt an ordinance by April 19, prior to the June election.

“This is a resolution framing how we will move forward,” Yee said today, calling the resolution a compromise between the mayor’s office and the charter amendment’s authors.