This week’s Board of Supervisors meeting featured some compelling political theater around housing policy, as it failed to override Mayor London Breed’s veto of a “fourplex” bill and submitted only one of two controversial ballot measures.
Plus, a new department dedicated to early childhood care and education was approved, and an extension for car-free weekends on the Great Highway is in the works.
Fourplex One Falls and Rent Control Reincarnates
It marked the end of a legislative saga in which the bill endured almost a year of development hell in committee and the addition of consensus-breaking amendments before passing in June with a 6-4 vote on first reading.
The bill got an additional vote at a July second reading, but eight votes were required to override Breed’s veto. In the end, the vote to override only got seven.
- The pressure was on for board President Shamann Walton to change his vote to override, but he wouldn’t budge. His reasons for voting against the legislation? That it wasn’t stringent enough on market-rate housing. Fellow supervisors, on the other hand, voted against it because they said it was too stringent.
- Other opponents, including District 11 member Ahsha Safai, reiterated objections over amendments they felt would make building more units too difficult.
- Mandelman, in a speech before the vote, acknowledged the bill wasn’t perfect, but urged his colleagues to give it another chance because it still represented a start to building more housing in the neighborhoods. He said he was “puzzled and dismayed” by Breed’s veto and characterized it as purely political.
- Other supporters voiced similar sentiments. District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, often the board’s point person on housing issues, alleged that Breed didn’t offer any rationale for her veto, and District 5 member Dean Preston called it “political theater.”
- After the vote, Peskin then asked staff from the mayor’s office present at the meeting, perhaps rhetorically, for any “smoke signals” as to what legislation Breed would find acceptable.
Meanwhile, only one of two controversial charter amendments on housing was approved for the November ballot, as Peskin moved to withdraw his measure to expand rent control to new projects built under density bonus or other upzoning incentives. That said, supervisors made a very vocal commitment to expand rent control wherever they could.
- The Affordable Housing Production Act, sponsored principally by District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, promises to speed up projects that are 100% affordable or that add more inclusionary affordable units. It was submitted for the ballot in a 7-4 vote, with Mandelman, along with District 6 member Matt Dorsey, District 7 member Myrna Melgar, and District 2 member Catherine Stefani in opposition.
- Opponents including SF YIMBY and the Housing Action Coalition (HAC) argue that it’s a facile measure that will make building housing harder. HAC also alleges the measure lacks proper review under the California Environmental Quality Act and is exploring legal action to block it.
- Peskin moved to pull his rent control measure after an impassioned speech essentially blaming politics for the move. He argued that real estate and pro-housing groups like HAC would bankroll an unbeatable campaign to defeat the measure and alleged that these groups were more concerned with limiting rent control than building more housing. He also argued that many landlords had no issues with the measure.
- He then turned his speech into a call for the board to make it a policy to expand rent control wherever possible in new legislation.
- That new legislation may include “Fourplex Two.” Safai’s version of the measure recently received recommendation from the Planning Commission, and he recently told The Standard that he would consider amendments to apply rent control to some new units built under the legislation.
Help for Kids
Also submitted for the ballot was a measure to create a special fund to help out schools, as well as legislation to create a new department devoted to early childcare.
- The “Student Success Fund” charter amendment from District 9 member Hillary Ronen would use some of the city’s excess Educational Revenue Augmentation Funds to support academic achievement and student support programs at public schools. It was submitted for the November ballot unanimously.
- Later in the session, the supervisors unanimously approved legislation sponsored by District 7 member Myrna Melgar to consolidate multiple city agencies and initiatives to improve early childhood care and education into a single new city agency, the Department of Early Childhood. The department will coordinate policies in support of children during their first five years.
New Business: Laguna Honda, Great Highway, harsher permit penalties … and Shrooms
New legislation included a last-minute resolution urging state and federal agencies to intervene in the ongoing crisis at Laguna Honda Hospital, as well as setting the term for the Great Highway Pilot Project, increasing penalties for unpermitted construction, and decriminalizing psychedelics.
- The board unanimously approved resolutions urging U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to suspend the directive by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services forcing Laguna Honda Hospital to relocate patients, and asking Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Health Director Tomas Aragon to halt the transfers.
- The transfers have proved to be very dangerous for patients—so far, four have died. Additionally, most patients have had to be transferred to facilities outside of San Francisco. Federal regulators have made the hospital’s ability to reapply for funding contingent upon the transfers.
- Melgar, sponsor of the resolutions, deemed the situation “a human rights atrocity.”
- District 4 member Gordon Mar introduced legislation to codify the Great Highway Weekend Pilot Project, and extend it beyond the current emergency order for three years. He described the current project, where the road is closed to car traffic on weekends, as “an effective compromise” but one that still needs agreement on exact closure times.
- Ronen introduced legislation to increase penalties for unpermitted residential construction to as high as $1,000 per day. She cited the recent experience with a notorious project on San Bruno Avenue, where a building approved for 10 apartments had another 19 illegally shoehorned into it, with resulting safety and nuisance problems. The developer settled for a $1.2 million fine, which in Ronen’s mind may not be an effective deterrent against similar wrongdoing.
- Finally, Preston submitted a resolution calling for the state and federal governments to decriminalize “entheogenic plants” such as psychedelic mushrooms. The resolution is parallel with legislation by state Sen. Scott Wiener in Sacramento. Public comment was dominated by supporters of the resolution.