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Happy one-year anniversary to SF’s peak NIMBY moment

A person is holding up a handmade sign that reads "RIP 469 They blocked paradise, and kept up a parking lot." with the date "October 26, 2021".
At a protest at San Francisco City Hall, a housing advocate holds up a DIY tombstone that reads, “RIP 469 'They blocked paradise and kept up a parking lot.' October 26, 2021,” which references the one year that has passed since a housing project at 469 Stevenson St. was struck down by the Board of Supervisors. | Camille Cohen/The Standard | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

Housing advocates leaned into the Halloween spirit on the anniversary of the denial of nearly 500 housing units on a Nordstrom’s parking lot at 469 Stevenson St., which were shot down by the Board of Supervisors in an 8-3 vote just one year ago. 

At a rally outside City Hall on Wednesday, Mayor London Breed, state Sen. Scott Wiener and Supervisor Matt Dorsey joined advocates holding gravestones marking the “deaths” of “affordable housing” and “[Board of Supervisors] credibility,” calling on San Franciscans to head to the polls to vote for Proposition D, which would allow certain housing projects to bypass the board.

“No matter what you propose, no matter how good a project, […] you might still get shot down because of politics,” Wiener said. “Let’s make lemonade out of lemons.”

Wiener and other housing supply advocates see Prop. D as a way to make sure that future housing projects don’t suffer a similar fate to 469 Stevenson. 

Supervisors who voted against that project cited its potential effect on the environment and concerns that the project’s 100 affordable units were too few. But the denial sparked a furious backlash among those who attributed the project denial to the political sway of the Tenants and Owners Development Corporation (TODCO), led by John Elberling, which filed the appeal of the project. 

Today, the Nordstrom parking lot remains—and so does the anger from advocates who want to see more housing of all kinds built across the city. 

Amid a slowdown of new projects in San Francisco and skyrocketing building costs, Breed and her allies hope to tear down barriers to building and take individual housing approvals out of the political arena entirely.

But those aspirations face a key test at the ballot box on Nov. 8, where Prop. D will compete directly against Prop. E, an alternate plan put forth by members of the Board of Supervisors that would preserve board approval for some projects. 

“Enough is enough,” Breed said. “It’s still a parking lot because organizations like TODCO didn’t get their cut so they killed it at the Board of Supervisors.”