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Politics & Policy

Supervisors Preview: It Takes A Potemkin Village

Written by Mike EgePublished Jun. 13, 2022 • 2:24pm
A Laguna Honda Hospital employee walks into the administration building from the hospital and treatment center’s courtyard in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, May 16, 2022. | Camille Cohen

At this week’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors is poised to pass housing legislation that likely won’t amount to a great deal of new housing. That includes an upzoning plan that was introduced by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, but picked apart in committee. Supervisors will also examine how, or if, Laguna Honda Hospital can get back on its feet. (As always, wonks looking for the full kit and caboodle can check out the complete agenda.)

So Much for Housing

When Mandelman introduced legislation last year to legalize denser housing in districts zoned for single-family homes, there was some optimism among housing advocates. Since that time, the legislation has endured the political equivalent of development hell, with multiple amendments in committee and at the Planning Commission. The result premieres tomorrow, for better or worse. 

  • Over time, supervisors offered amendments aimed at creating varying levels of affordability requirements; these evolved into making new units developed under the ordinance subject to rent control and other potentially onerous restrictions.
  • The Planning Commission suggested amendments which are, at best, a mixed blessing for the original goals of the ordinance. The current version will allow duplexes in districts zoned for single-family housing, but in doing so also exempt San Francisco from state laws that expedite approval for such projects. That means a return to the discretionary permitting model favored by NIMBYs.
  • Also on tap tomorrow is legislation from District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin that would essentially ban certain kinds of efficiency studio apartment projects in the Tenderloin and Chinatown. It’s been paired politically with the upzoning legislation, so both are expected to pass.
  • The two bills are the latest round in the city's housing policy shell game that housing advocates, including Mayor London Breed and state legislators like State Senator Scott Wiener, say supervisors have been playing against their wishes and those of the public. 
  • Another showdown over the future of housing in the city is coming to the November ballot. The mayor and a coalition of housing advocates are gathering support for Affordable Homes Now, which seeks to expedite many affordable and market-rate housing projects.
  • District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan has fielded a rival measure with more stringent affordability requirements. Meanwhile, Peskin has proffered a measure that would expand rent control to certain types of new housing, and District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston has a measure that would spin off and reorganize the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

Saving Laguna Honda, Again

Tuesday’s Board meeting will also feature a special hearing at 3:00 p.m. on the fate of Laguna Honda Hospital, which faces closure and the eviction of its patients after months of escalating federal warnings over conditions at the facility. 

  • Laguna Honda currently houses about 700 patients receiving different kinds of long-term care, from rehabilitation to hospice care. It’s the kind of facility that most other cities have given up on. The hospital has been in operation in one form or another for over 150 years. 
  • Federal regulators had issued a number of warnings to the facility over deficits in sanitation, patient monitoring, administration and other issues. These culminated in a decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to terminate Laguna Honda’s participation in its programs, which provides up to two-thirds of the hospital’s budget. A closure notice was issued in May, and patients are in danger of eviction
  • The hearing will review Laguna Honda’s plans for recertification, and interim plans for closure and shifting of patients. There will be a presentation by the Department of Public Health, and very likely commentary by supervisors and members of the public on the future of the hospital. 

Budget Process Goes Smoothly—For Now

Supervisors will also likely approve interim budget and salary ordinances so that the city can keep operating while they review the main budget. The interim ordinances were passed out of a special Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting last Friday with recommendation. 

  • The Supervisors’ budget review process continues at Budget and Appropriations Committee meetings this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, where budget proposal presentations will be made by each city department. 
  • Of special note, the Department of Public Works will be among presentations on Wednesday; the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing will present on Thursday; and the Police Department on Friday.

Mike Ege can be reached at

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