No More Development in the Mission?

The Bay Area is still in the midst of a Housing Crisis. This is a topic that we have covered extensively on this blog, with many articles being written about potential new development policies, on new state policies, on homelessness, and other potential reforms. However, there is one measure that recently qualified for the San Francisco ballot that really surprised us, Measure I.

Measure I would place an 18 month moratorium on the development of any project of 5 or more units within San Francisco’s Mission District, unless the project is 100 percent affordable. The moratorium could also be extended in 6 month increments with a majority vote by the County Board of Supervisors. The Measure also directs the City to create a “Neighborhood Stabilization Plan” which would assess the impact of the moratorium and the housing crisis in general on the Mission District, and outline a series of policies designed to combat gentrification and rapid neighborhood turnover. The overarching goal of the plan would be to create a policy framework ensuring that 50 percent of all housing within the district is affordable to low, moderate, and middle income renters. This plan would be required by 2017.

Proponents of the measure point to one major reason why they believe this moratorium is needed: the Mission doesn’t have enough affordable housing and current market conditions are not creating enough. Specifically, they point to the City’s annual Housing Inventory reports dating back from 2006 up through 2014, which show that Mission produced a total of 1,327 units during that time, but that only 165 (12.4%) could be considered affordable, a far cry from the 64 percent goal outlined by the regional State agency ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments). And let’s not forget what the market rent is currently in San Francisco, where the average monthly cost of a one bedroom apartment will run you close to $3,400. At these prices very few lower income and service workers can afford to remain in a neighborhood that used to be known for it’s diversity.



Opponents of the measure deride it as thinking backward, making it harder to develop housing when it’s supposedly needed most. Given that the majority of San Francisco’s affordable housing is built through inclusionary zoning, meaning between 15-40% of all new projects need to be affordable anyway, restricting the development of market rate housing actually leads to less affordable housing overall. Furthermore, they argue that placing a moratorium on one part of the city while allowing others to still develop simply shifts the burden onto other neighborhoods. And thus a cynic might simply read the measure as an attempt to limit all new development within the Mission under the guise of affordability.

What do you think? Should Mission residents vote in favor of Measure I? You can view, vote and comment on the whole measure here.

For a full list of San Francisco’s ballot initiatives, click here.

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