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Blocked Downtown Project Emerges as Sticking Point in AD17 Race

Written by Mike EgePublished Mar. 29, 2022 • 3:17pm

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Voters in the eastern half of San Francisco received another reminder of the city’s fractious fight over housing in their mailboxes as the Matt Haney campaign sent out a large mailer featuring the candidate at the site of 469 Stevenson Street, a proposed housing project delayed by the Board of Supervisors and now subject of a lawsuit against the city. 

The mailer includes the copy: “Matt Haney voted to build 495 units of housing for working families here – his opponent, David Campos, wants to keep it a valet parking lot,” with the word “valet” highlighted. It also characterizes opponent David Campos’ record as anti-housing, including mention of his support for a moratorium on housing construction in the Mission while he was supervisor. 

The two candidates are vying to represent California’s 17th Assembly District in the state legislature, and will face off in an April 19 special election

A Matt Haney mailer photographed on March 29, 2022. | Mike Ege

Asked by the Standard for a reaction to the mailer, Campos’ campaign accused Haney of flip-flopping on housing and disputed the level of affordable housing the Stevenson project had pledged. 

“Matt Haney went from a candidate for office who opposed the YIMBY platform to a politician who embraced it… He supported a proposal that reserved just 6% of units for low-income San Franciscans,” said Joy Zhan, spokesperson for the Campos campaign, in an email. “Campos did not oppose housing on the site – he opposed unaffordable housing that would lead to displacement and rent hikes.”

The 469 Stevenson project promised to include up to 118 affordable units, or not quite 24 percent. 

Currently a parking lot owned by Nordstrom, developer BUILD Inc. planned a 27-story residential tower on the site. The project was approved by the city’s Planning Commission. The Board of Supervisors declined to move the project forward in an Oct. 26 vote, upholding an appeal by John Elberling, the politically connected president of the Tenants and Owners Development Corp., an affordable housing operator. Supervisors reversed the planning commission’s environmental impact report, citing what they saw as inadequate review and concerns over seismic issues, shadows, and gentrification.

Haney, along with Supervisors Catherine Stefani and Ahsha Safai, voted in favor of the 469 Stevenson project. It was also supported by Mayor London Breed. But it’s now the subject of a lawsuit by housing advocacy group YIMBY Law, as well as scrutiny by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. 

469 Stevenson has become a symbol for the city’s struggle to build more housing in a market where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment hovers at around $3500 a month. The denial by the Board of Supervisors has also been described as an example of the need for reform of the California Environmental Quality Act, an idea that Campos has publicly opposed. 

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In interviews with The Standard last year, Haney and Campos described varying ideas on how to solve the housing crunch locally and statewide.

Campos raised the possibility of a statewide bond to build affordable and middle-income housing, saying: “I’m not against market rate housing, but I think that there has to be a balance. And for that balance to include affordable housing, state government has a role to play.”

Haney, meanwhile, acknowledged that his views on housing have changed over the course of his term as District 6 supervisor, and told The Standard that cities must find an appropriate balance between state housing mandates and local control over housing projects.

“The fact that David Campos vocally opposed the project demonstrates a clear contrast in leadership in this race and in how we would approach housing…and the consequence of that position is that this site will remain a valet parking lot,” Haney told the Standard on Tuesday. “I think it’s important that San Francisco voters know that David Campos would go to Sacramento and block housing, including projects that would be built by union labor with high levels of affordability and units for families.”

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Mike Ege can be reached at [email protected]




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