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Competing housing activists raise din over transit-centered units

San Francisco housing activists opposing a bill that aims to increase housing near public transit statewide called on the city’s Board of Supervisors Tuesday to take a stance against it.

But the group’s calls were drowned out at times by other housing activists in support of Senate Bill 827, as the two groups shouted and chanted over each other during a rally held outside San Francisco City Hall.

Introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, SB 827 would exempt approved developers of housing near major transit stops and transit corridors from various local requirements, including controls on density, height limitations, floor area ratio, and minimum parking requirements, among others.

At today’s rally, opponents of the bill argued that it takes away power from local jurisdictions and communities by preventing them from participating in decisions regarding land use, zoning, livability and sustainability and applying a one-size-fits-all strategy to the state’s housing shortage.

Several San Francisco organizations and individuals opposing the bill have banded together, with support from supervisors Aaron Peskin and Jane Kim, to write a letter urging the Board to adopt a resolution to oppose SB 827.

The letter said:

“In the name of affordability, it would reward real estate speculators with enormous windfalls and weakens our city’s ability to incentivize and create more affordable housing. It would not require the actual building of a single affordable unit, but instead allows entitled projects to be bought and sold over and over again; making money for speculators and not producing critically needed housing.”

Additionally, opponents say if passed, the bill would lead to higher real estate prices and higher rents, resulting in displacement.

Peskin said:

“A few months ago the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to rebuke the bad days redevelopments. We took the name of Justin Herman off of that plaza at the base of Market Street.”

Peskin added:

“We learned from our mistakes on displacement. In mowing down neighborhoods. It was called redevelopment. Are we going to repeat those darks years?”

Proponents for SB 827 at Tuesday’s rally included members of the group YIMBY Action.

YIMBY Action member Sonja Trauss, who’s also running for District 6 Supervisor, said that there’s a clear housing shortage and not building more housing would lead to displacement:

“The people say this will cause displacement by tearing down existing rent control housing or existing multi-family housing and that is not true. … There are people who are legitimately concerned about preventing displacement and I’m one of them.”

“The path to doing that is to strengthen the demolition controls we already have, that are already strong, and to expand rent control and just cause [eviction] around the whole rest of the state,” she said, in addition to providing tenants with access to lawyers.

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