SAN FRANCISCO PLANNING -- TOWARDS WHAT? | Libertarian Party of San Francisco


Although City planners have generated a great many ideas and goals within the past three years or so, they do not seem to be developing a cohesive and credible plan. One day they speak of the urgent need for affordable housing, below-market-rate units, or safeguards against evictions. The next day they promote high-end ecodistricts, transfer of capitalization and control of public housing to the private sector, and high density areas catering to higher-income workers.


We would like to offer three samples of San Francisco’s current planning and development projects as examples of our point of view.


Central SoMa Eco-District Task Force Recommendations – Released November 2013.


These recommendations call for massive transformation of a 24-block area south of Market Street, from Market Street to Townsend, and from 2nd Street to 6th Street: “This once-industrial area is now positioned to become a growing center of the city’s and region’s high-tech industry. With the construction of the Central Subway (scheduled to begin operation in 2019), undeveloped or underdeveloped parcels in the area offer significant development opportunity. The Central SoMa Plan will propose rezoning this area for dense, transit-oriented, mixed-use growth and hopes to capitalize on rezoning to incorporate district-level energy and water infrastructure.”


To us, this sounds like the normal gentrification that naturally occurs when higher-income workers or residents move in. But the planners say, not so: the plan calls for “Equitable Development,” to “Promote Equity and Local Opportunity,” by establishing a “Locally-based employment program with specific focus on low and medium income workers, to be incorporated into Eco-District project development.” Wherever there is massive gentrification, would anyone not expect the need for custodians, gardeners, security guards, fast food handlers, street cleaners – not many of whom able to live in the area?


You will want to see the report yourself, as well as the extensive list of other similar projects:


Ellis Act Displaced Emergency Assistance Ordinance – Sponsors, Chiu; Campos, Kim, Mar, Breed, Farrell and Cohen. On Agenda of December 10, 2013, for Board of Supervisors final vote.

Ordinance amending the Administrative and Planning Codes to provide a preference in occupying units or receiving assistance under all affordable housing programs administered or funded by the City, including all former San Francisco Redevelopment Agency affordable housing programs administered or funded by the City, to certain tenants being evicted under the Ellis Act, California Government Code, Section 7060 et seq.; and making environmental findings, and findings of consistency with the General Plan, and the eight priority policies of Planning Code, Section 101.1.”

As gentrification expands, owners of older buildings, housing long-term tenants under rent control, naturally see the benefits of getting out of the rental business (at least temporarily) and entering into more lucrative arrangements. And our leaders, who signed off on the City’s plans, fight, probably fruitlessly, some of the plans' inevitable results.



Emerging Issues: Sustainable Development – Central Corridor Eco-District Framework.


The Ellis Act ordinance shows the progressive side of planning and development; however, the other side is exemplified by the Eco-District Framework, which discusses the sharing of energy infrastructure across multiple buildings, resulting in savings produced by economies of scale, “The potential cost savings, in addition to the environmental benefits, from an appropriately planned community-scale energy system (efficiency gains and GHG reductions) can translate into higher property values.”…“Based on the benefits just described, a community-scale energy system will help catalyze development from a private sector perspective. The benefits to the public sector from this include increased revenue opportunities through system development charges and/or increased property tax revenue from higher property values that community-scale energy can bring.”


Plans do call for increased numbers of high-income workers, who want higher-priced housing, which push up both housing prices and property taxes. We assume that these events displace lower-paid workers, who then become recipients of some of the “benefits to the public sector” mentioned above. We wonder if the effort to remedy higher housing costs with public sector benefits constitutes a credible and achievable goal.


Our Conclusion.


The City does not feel comfortable with the direct benefits of the free market, the natural evolution of cities, and the free movement of populations in and out of areas. Planners seem to be caught in a cycle of needing increasing numbers of higher-income workers, who displace lower income workers, and who at the same time support unrealistic below-market-rate housing needed to carry out the City’s goals to keep lower-income workers in the City.


We like to remind voters that often one law acts as a chain reaction necessitating more and more laws.  The same holds true for micromanagement of City living.  One plan, especially an artificial one that attempts to manipulate basic market forces, will lead to the necessity of more plans.  Soon, we are faced with a situation nobody likes!