Can Affordable Housing and New Subways Ease San Francisco’s Growing Pains?

Being on the cutting edge of the technology industry, along with being just a gorgeous place to live, has lead to flocks of new residents migrating into the city . According to Plan Bay Area, the city is growing at a pace of approximately 10,000 new residents per year. By 2040, this amounts to an additional 150,000.

The city’s elected officials have felt massive pressure to deal with the side affects of this dramatic growth. There is, of course, the well known housing crunch, which has seen rental and ownership prices in the city soar. And then there are the efforts to improve the city’s transportation system, which has been strained by all the new cars on the road, and the surge in public transit ridership.

With this in mind, elected officials came out last week with a series of proposals. They would love your thoughts:

Affordable housing

Last week, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee unveiled his affordable plan. His goal is to build or rehabilitate 10,000 units of housing for low income or working class families by 2020.

He will do this through expanding the city’s inclusionary housing program, which requires that developers, when building new properties, set aside a certain percentage of housing units to be offered at below market rate.

Lee’s plan would allow developers to add up to two stories to existing properties, as long as a portion of the new units are set aside as affordable. Lee also wants the city to negotiate with developers when the timeline on keeping a unit below market rate expires. Plus the city would have the first right to buy the unit if it goes on market.

Last couple points:

Lee wants to make it so non-profit developers can take over federally funded public housing projects, as long as they commit to upgrading them. This could bring as many as 2,000 rehabilitated units online by 2018.

And finally, when a new housing unit goes on sale anywhere in the city, pre-existing residents of that neighborhood would get priority in renting or buying the property.

How does this all sound to you? Do you support the mayor’s program for affordable housing? Vote and comment here.


Mayor Lee’s Affordable Housing Plan for San FranciscoSan Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has set a goal of building or rehabilitating 10,000 units of below market rate housing by 2020. There are are a number or means by which he wants to achieve this. One of the primary ways is by increasing the amount of affordable housing developers must set aside with new projects. Lee’s plan would also provide developers the option of adding up to two additional stories to existing properties, again so long as a portion of those are set aside for affordable housing. Under his proposal, the city would be able to negotiate with developers once a unit of affordable housing expires and reverts back to market rate. The city would also have the first right to purchase formerly affordable units that go back on the market. Additionally, some existing public housing projects would be taken over by non-profit developers for rehabilitation. And finally, Lee’s plan would make it so that neighborhood residents would have priority when applying for new housing that opens in their neighborhood.


A San Francisco Subway System

The other affect of population growth has been seen on the city streets in the form of long lines of break lights.

With clogged roads disrupting the city’s bus and light rail service, San Francisco County Supervisor Scott Wiener has had it and wants something new: a widespread network of subways. And he made a step in that direction last Tuesday when he introduced legislation that the city create a subway master plan.

Currently, the only option in the way of subways are the Bart and the muni metro that runs down Market street through Twin Peaks to West Portal.

Wiener wants more:

First, he would have the Central Subway – currently in construction – be extended from its current planned end at China Town all the way north to Fisherman’s Warf.

Then he wants to see the completion of a second BART transbay tube that would connect riders from Alameda to Mission bay. This would allow for the holy grail of many a BART rider: 24 hour service.

After that he envisions essentially constant subway construction in the city so that most every part of San Francisco has access to underground transportation.

The major roadblocks that could derail his vision: well, funding to begin with. The price tag for projects like these will no doubt be in the tens of billions. A lot of the money to fund the Central Subway came from the Feds, and more money seems unlikely with the Republicans controlling Congress.

Wiener points to legislation he got passed last election to boost transportation funding as a source of funds. And he also maintains that Congress won’t always be dominated by the GOP, thus opportunities to obtain more funding may present themselves.

But of course the other challenge will be public resistance. Subway construction will involve massive disruptions of daily life, something that merchants and residents are both sure to balk against.

Wiener appears optimistic, however, that the job can be done.

What’s your take on the potential future of the subway system in San Francisco? Do you think it should be built? Vote and comment here.


Scott Wiener’s San Francisco Subway PlanIn addition to high housing prices, another affect of population growth in San Francisco is clogged streets. To address this, county supervisor Scott Wiener wants the city to pursue a subway master plan that would eventually see much of the city connected by a subway network. The city is currently working on the Central Subway, which will connect the Caltrain Station in the SOMA north of Market Street to China Town. Wiener, however, wants the subway to be extended up to Fisherman’s Warf, saying that once this is opened the system will by far be the most ridden public transportation infrastructure in the city. To pay for all this – the price tag is expected to be in the billions – Wiener points to legislation that was recently passed that increases public transportation funding, a proposed transportation fee on new developments, and is holding out for additional state and federal funding. Wiener is confident that, despite the sure public opposition in certain cases, overall support for a new subway system is likely to be high. Should the city invest heavily in a subway system? Vote and comment here.

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