This week’s Board of Supervisors featured compromises both elegant and ugly, as a deal was reached in a combative budget process and an extensively reworked housing development bill was finally passed.
The board also declared the June 7 election results final, paving the way for Mayor London Breed to appoint a replacement for recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Budget Deal Reached
The meeting kicked off early as negotiations over the budget, which began on Monday, extended into the following morning. A quorum of the board approved a finalized budget, based on a compromise between Mayor London Breed and the supervisors, at a celebratory 12:30 a.m. Tuesday meeting.
- Budget chair and District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen described the process as “less contentious than previous years,” despite a series of confrontational hearings.
- The compromise apparently has minimal impact on Mayor Breed’s favored programs, and restores some funding to neighborhood community hubs and other services championed by Ronen and other supervisors.
- Additionally, another compromise over conflict between Breed and District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston over affordable housing financing appears to have been at least partially reached through a debt financing plan.
Housing Bills: Weak Sausage?
Two controversial housing bills were finally passed by supervisors, providing a look at the current ideological divides over development policy at City Hall.
The first, sponsored by District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin, bans “micro-unit” efficiency studios in the Tenderloin and Chinatown, to prevent gentrification of those neighborhoods’ stock of single-room occupancy hotels. The second bill, which will legalize more dwelling units in single-family neighborhoods, squeaked by with a 6-4 vote.
- During discussion of the latter “fourplex” bill, the original sponsor, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, described the almost year-long road the legislation took to finally get passed, as “beautiful and frustrating at the same time.” Despite the many amendments added in committee he continued to urge support, calling the legislation “a small, imperfect, positive step” that at least moves the city closer to building more housing in low-density neighborhoods. District 7 Supervisor and cosponsor Myrna Melgar noted the bill reflected “a halfway point between different perspectives on land-use.”
- Others disagreed. District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai criticized the five-year hold on development for qualifying properties and continued environmental review requirements as poison pills that will make building more difficult. He and District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey described aspects of the legislation as a facile attempt to exempt the city from state density zoning laws. Dorsey warned that San Francisco would still face state sanctions for violating the laws, including loss of funding for transit and local planning control, which could disproportionately impact his district.
- Meanwhile, board president and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton opposed the bill for different reasons, saying it would encourage more property speculation and displacement in his district. District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani also voted against the bill.
- Read more about this vote and its implications here.
The board did, as expected, authorize bond financing for three important affordable housing projects, including:
- 730 Stanyan, which is planned as a 150-unit project to house moderate-income and formerly homeless families. Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation and the Chinatown Community Development Center are the city’s nonprofit partners on the project. Bond financing will be up to $130 million. Interim uses for the site have been the subject of squabbles between Supervisor Preston and Mayor Breed.
- Sunnydale Block 3, which is part of the ongoing transformation of decades-old public housing in Visitacion Valley into a mixed-income community of up to 1,675 dwellings. Mercy Housing and Related California are developers. Block 3 will include 170 affordable homes, and this legislation is set to clear $74 million in bond financing for the project
- $102 Million in bond financing is set for part of Balboa Reservoir, an 1,100-unit project planned since the 1960s and finally approved in 2020. Located next to the main City College campus, 150 of 550 affordable units will be set aside for faculty. Bridge Housing, Mission Housing Development Corporation and Avalon Bay Communities are among the developer partners.
- The votes come at a time when the city’s housing pipeline is slowing down, and more proxy battles over housing policy are set for the November ballot, which may feature competing proposals from the mayor and supervisors.
In 2008, San Francisco established a Tourism Improvement District to tax hotels to upgrade Moscone Center and provide an operations funding stream for the Convention and Visitors Bureau (now known as the San Francisco Travel Association or SFTravel). This week, the board voted to renew and expand the district, approving a resolution by Peskin and Mandelman to hold an assessment hearing on Sept. 13.
- The tax will increase by a quarter of a percent to create a fund for further promoting Moscone Center as a convention destination.
- Prior to the pandemic, Moscone Center hosted dozens of large events annually and accounted for more than 20% of the city’s tourism industry.
- Hotels in the outer neighborhoods, which are less likely to be used for downtown conventions, will continue to be assessed at a lower rate.
- The assessment is also expanded to include short-term rentals such as Airbnb rentals.
- The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic shocks hit San Francisco especially hard, but tourism appears to be recovering. There were only five conventions booked for Moscone in 2021, while this year there are 34. But international tourism, the most lucrative, is still way down.
Roll Call: Drug Crisis and Monkeypox
New business introduced at Roll Call included items addressing the ongoing drug overdose crisis, foreclosures, regional transit, and monkeypox.
- Preston and Dorsey introduced hearing requests relevant to the drug overdose crisis. Preston’s would address next steps for the Tenderloin initiative, and concerns over the impending closure of the Tenderloin Center (neé Linkage Center). Dorsey’s hearing would assess the status of recommendations made by the Street Level Drug Dealing Task Force.
- Safai introduced legislation mandating that homeowners facing foreclosure over property tax defaults be more quickly referred to the Mayor’s Office of Housing to take advantage of remediation help.
- Walton introduced a resolution approving the new compromise MOU with other constituent agencies and counties over governance of the Caltrain Joint Powers Authority.
- Mandelman requested a hearing to assess measures the Department of Public Health is taking against the spread of Monkeypox. So far, there are 10 cases of the disease in the city. The hearing will examine vaccination, testing and public education efforts to combat the disease.
- District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar introduced a resolution calling on local and state agencies to respond to the discovery of toxins in the 2500 block of Irving Street. A controversial affordable housing project has been proposed for the block.
- Melgar has called for an audit of the Ocean Avenue Association, a Community Benefit District serving the Ingleside-area corridor, citing concerns over recent leadership changes.
Clock Starts for DA Appointment
Finally, the board approved a resolution declaring the results of the June 7 election.
That election, which featured the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin as the main act, was certified by the Department of Elections on June 22.
- The declaration clears the way for Mayor London Breed to appoint a replacement for Boudin. The mayor’s office has been interviewing possible candidates since before the election. Likely candidates include District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, Alameda County prosecutor Nancy Tung and Superior Court Judge Eric Fleming.
Mike Ege can be reached at [email protected]