San Francisco

Mission District Housing Moratorium Initiative Qualifies For November Ballot

A proposal to enact interim zoning controls, and thereby freeze the development of market-rate housing for 18 months in San Francisco's Mission District, has qualified for the Nov. 3 ballot.

The proposed measure, certified on Tuesday and entitled the Mission District Housing Moratorium, calls on the city to develop a plan that sets aside at least 50 percent of new housing for households that are low-to-middle income.

The housing moratorium aims to suspend issuance of city permits for construction of new housing, demolition of old housing or conversions, unless for the purpose of creating projects consisting of 100 percent affordable housing.

Permits for demolition, conversion or elimination of industrial spaces in the Mission District would also be suspended unless the site is to be used to create 100 percent affordable housing units.

Jonathan Scott Weaver, an attorney with the San Francisco Tenants Union who helped draft the language for the initiative, said today that it was intentionally written to be open-ended and allow the community to consider broad solutions going forward.

"There are any number of strategies," Weaver said, explaining that the overall goal of the moratorium is to put pressure on the city to make choices that allow low, moderate and middle income residents to remain in the city.

Weaver said that under San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's watch, "We've overbuilt luxury already," which he says negatively impacts the community and has led to an exodus of the Latino population.

According to Weaver, 88 percent of the housing built over the last seven years in the Mission District has been luxury, or market-rate, housing and that the needs of those residents who cannot afford to rent or buy luxury housing must be addressed.

Weaver said that Lee "has a lot of friends in the development community who contribute to his campaign," and that without the interim zoning control, the luxury housing in the Mission District will likely to continue to be built at a rapid pace.

The reaction during signature gathering for the ballot initiative was "very, very positive," Weaver said.

The moratorium, if passed by voters, would apply to the neighborhood roughly bound by Cesar Chavez Street to the south, U.S. Highway 101 to the north, Guerrero Street to the west and Potrero Avenue to the east.

The Mission District Housing Moratorium would require the city to develop a Neighborhood Stabilization Plan to develop, as well as preserve, housing that is affordable to low, moderate and middle-income households in the Mission District.

The proposal stipulates that units created must be made available to Mission District residents who are facing displacement, but how that would be enforced remains to be seen.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Plan would be required to include an affordable housing development strategy that could use zoning and other land use tools to promote and fund affordable housing development and designation of special use districts, as well as additional incentives for developers who choose to build affordable units, Weaver said.

The moratorium idea previously failed in a vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last month, despite hundreds of supporters who filled the board chambers and testified to being priced out of the
neighborhood as young technology workers move in to the area.

The proposed measure would also authorize the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to hold a vote on whether to extend the moratorium by another 12 months.

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