Vanishing city

Up against intense market pressure, longtime residents and community projects fade from SF

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Esperanza gardeners (left to right): Gabriel Fraley, Maria Fernanda Valecillos, Alana Corpuz, Veronica Ramirez, Jonathan Youtt

rebecca@sfbg.com

On a recent Tuesday night, some of the city's most influential developers, architects, and land-use lawyers gathered in a conference room at the ritzy W Hotel for a panel discussion, titled, "San Francisco's Housing Crisis: Can the Tech Boom Help Us?"

It was a provocative question by any measure, but equally intriguing was the lack of even a hint of objection to the dead-serious framing of increasing unaffordability as a "crisis."

Even among well-heeled property brokers at the event, which was hosted by San Francisco Magazine and the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, there appears to be universal acceptance that the city stands at a crossroads.

"The question asks itself: Who gets to live in San Francisco?" Tim Colen, HAC's executive director, stated by way of introduction.

To break it down into extremely simplified terms: High-salaried professionals easily make the cut, while tenants of modest means who lack stable rent control are more hard-pressed to find housing they can afford. Opinions on how to approach this problem differ sharply.

Colen and other panelists posited that the solution is to build as the city has never built before, aiming for the construction of 100,000 units in the next two decades. But panelist Peter Cohen of the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations countered that today's development projects aren't being constructed for people who actually live in the city, 61 percent of whom make less than 120 percent of the Area Median Income.

The city's real-estate market is invariably described by those who closely track it as "hot," or "bubbly," bringing to mind a cappuccino, perhaps, that induces a jittery feeling. Speculation abounds.

The ripple effect extends beyond residential units. All across the seven-by-seven peninsula that once represented a haven for misfits and iconoclasts, stories abound of arts organizations, nonprofits, and community gathering spaces getting priced out, pressured to move, or otherwise swept away due to economic circumstances beyond their control.

From 2009 to 2013, UC Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti noted, explosive job growth coincided with San Francisco bearing the third-largest spike in rental prices on average, nationwide. In 2011, San Francisco rents were 34 percent higher than they had been 2003; by 2012, they had jumped to 53 percent higher, according to a market analysis prepared by The Concord Group. According to San Francisco Rent Board data, 1,757 eviction notices were filed from March of 2012 to February of 2013, reflecting a 12-year high.

"The problem has serious social consequences," Moretti said at the event, sounding for an instant like a tenant advocate. "There is a serious amount of displacement."

Every upheaval is messy, every tenant-landlord rift is complicated, and circumstances vary case by case. But taking a broad view, the overwhelming consequence of San Francisco's gale-force property market pressure is a cultural shift; the fabric of a longstanding community is unraveling. Below are a few stories of the people and projects that are finding they won't be able to stay in the San Francisco spaces they occupy for much longer.

THE CORNER OF HAIGHT AND RESENTMENT

Jon Zuckman, better known as Jon Sugar, showed up for a May 15 court appearance on his pending eviction proceeding with an entourage in tow. He was flanked by LGBT housing activist Tommi Mecca, perennial political candidate and sex worker Starchild, and radical activist Jerry the Faerie, among others, all longtime characters of the city's lefty, radical LGBT scene.

Judge James Robertson, citing a letter he'd received from Zuckman's doctor, agreed to grant a 60-day continuance, "for the purpose of allowing the defendant to try and locate alternative housing."

Comments

Bestemor.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2013 @ 10:18 am

Anyone here a grandmother?

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2013 @ 11:41 am

While it's true that 100K doesn't go very far in San Francisco, my arguments against means testing never center on whether or not the renter can afford it. I don't even want to go there, because whether or not the renter can afford it is completely irrelevant to me.

-Means testing will lead to widespread discrimination against moderate income tenants, as landlords seek tenants who are not only able to afford their already high rents, but have income that makes them ineligible for rent control and thus allows the landlord to raise rents at will.

-Means testing is nothing but a plan to divide and conquer tenants, separating tenants who have rent control from those who do not. That will further weaken tenant support for rent control, with the ultimate goal being to get rid of it entirely.

-Means testing is an invasion of privacy, subjecting tenants' finances to landlord scrutiny, which frankly is none of their goddamn business.

-But the overriding reason we should strongly oppose any kind of means testing, is because regulation of rents is proper in and of itself, to make sure that landlords are not unfairly gouging tenants. Gouging people is *inherently* wrong. It is NOT OK if the person can "afford it." It is wrong. Period. I don't give a shit if the tenant is a millionaire. It is as wrong to gouge a millionaire as it is to gouge a pauper.

And btw... why are you conservatives suddenly into punishing success? If a tenant is successful enough in their career that they make a lot of money, good for them. That doesn't give you license to dig into their pockets and steal from them so you can give it to someone even wealthier.

Posted by Greg on May. 22, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

Means Testing would be fair, but could never pass in SF. There are just too many wealthy tenants who would oppose it.

I predict: People who really need housing support will not receive it. Vacancies will go to the highest bidder or be removed from the rental stock. Gentrification will accelerate. The outcome will be the exact opposite of what Progressive politics were supposed to achieve.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2013 @ 11:23 pm

For all the reasons stated above.

I find the hypocrisy (or cognitive dissonance) pretty astounding, from those on the right who constantly bleat about "punishing success" but then come up with crazy schemes like means testing of rent control.

It's one thing to ask someone to pay higher percentages in taxes. We live in a civilized society, and those taxes go to benefit the whole society. But to ask a person to pay more money for the same product, to one individual, who probably has even more money... that really is just punishing success. And where taxes, properly structured, serve to mitigate inequality, means testing of rent control would only serve to exacerbate it.

The fact that the same people who are for this, bleat about "punishing success" in other contexts, only reinforces the notion that they don't really care about sound policy. It's just class warfare they're waging, by any means necessary, and things like "punishing success" are just rhetorical flourishes.

Posted by Greg on May. 23, 2013 @ 7:38 am

But your statement that "taxes go to benefit the whole society" is more theoretical rather than real.

In reality, most of our taxes go towards the military and other subsidies for the elites, with (increasingly smaller) crumbs going to social needs, like education, public health, etc.

Eat, rather than tax, the rich.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 7:59 am

The only people who can benefit significantly from tax deductions are the people who pay the most tax. If you're on a minimum wage, there is quite simply no way you can take a large tax deduction because there isn't enough tax due in the first place.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 8:39 am

where the tax revenue actually goes--private corporations and middlemen who skim off the top even of socially worthwhile spending.

They steal from you as well.

Look up, not down.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 8:54 am

sometimes the government helps, say, home ownership, by giving tax deductions for mortgage interest and property tax.

Other times it boosts the home industry more directly by directing revenues to, say, Fannie Mae.

I'd personally favour a flat tax over one that gives special treatments here and there, but much of the time government spending is directed at benefitting the majority as with home owners, those saving for retirement, education, healthcare, business and defense of the homeland.

I'd rather they spent less, borrowed less and taxed less, but I don't have an issue with what they spend it on, only how much.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 9:20 am

Because that goes to one group and not another. Why should someone getting food stamps pay less for food than me? Why should someone who gets a Section 8 voucher pay less rent for me for the same home?

I'm being punish for my success by being denied welfare, tax credits and a host of other goodies.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 8:41 am

I don't think means testing is a crazy scheme. Why should upper-middle class people get below-market rents while the poor are still scrambling? Doesn't make sense to me.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 11:01 am

and asserting that they should not be punished for that. I will no doubt often remind him of that statement.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 11:23 am

Greg, there's a big difference between confiscating more money from wealthy people on the one hand, and using means testing to limit the subsidies they receive on the other.

I'm all for limiting government-mandated subsidies to the wealthy, but I am not in favor of confiscating voluntarily-acquired money or resources from people without their consent, regardless of how well off the victims may be.

I share your concerns about means-testing being invasive of tenants' personal finances. But government income taxes are even more invasive.

Ultimately I think the best solution is to allow more housing to be built, and reduce regulations and bureaucracy in order to lower costs so that it will be more affordable.

I personally see a lot of cognitive dissonance in people who hate on landlords and say how greedy and awful they are, yet simultaneously oppose any steps that would allow more people to become homeowners so they don't have to deal with landlords any more (except of course for the biggest landlord, the government, which will evict you from your home if you don't pay them rent in the form of property taxes).

Another key reform would be to make it easier for property owners to subdivide their land into smaller parcels and sell off pieces of it, so that poor people can afford to buy a small piece of land and own a home on it.

And eliminate zoning laws so that we can get more effective use out of existing spaces. This would also reduce traffic and pollution by allowing more people to live closer to where they work.

Posted by Starchild on May. 23, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

Hey- I just hope for the tech bubble to burst and massive layoffs happen, then we'll see who's crying.

Posted by Rockydoesit on May. 23, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

not gain the happiness you clearly crave from the misfortunes of others since, as we have already seen, we bounced right back from the dotcom bust and from the RE bust.

You see Americans don't like failure and we always bounce back and win in the end. So rather than sitting on your ass, whining and hoping that misery will consume others, why not actually make an effort and try and succeed?

Posted by anon on May. 23, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

Right-on, Rocky! I'm looking forward to that, it can't come soon enough although it may not be happening anytime soon considering all of the people I see on sidewalks and crossing streets looking absolutely zoned in to that screen on their gadget and unaware of their surroundings. It's the biggest addiction I've ever seen. I'm also seeing more tech shuttles than I do Muni buses.

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

Someone previously wrote:

"I've lived in the city for 20 years and I DESPISE what the city is becoming."

So do I. It's very depressing. I've lived in the city for over 30 years. I would not have moved here then if this city were the city back then that it is today. I loved living here up until a few years ago. If I didn't live here now, I would have no interest in moving here now. It's also become so snotty, unfriendly and cold (and I don't mean the weather).

Posted by Guest on May. 23, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

20 years ago, there were far less good restaurants, and places that are hip now were ghetto's back then e.g. Hayes Valley, Valencia Street.

We also have a far, far better range of well-paid job opportunities, and there is a feeling of affluence and confidence that didn't exist in the drab 1980's.

We've elected Mayors with a dynamic vision for the city, and not allowed ourselves to be paralyzed with the "loser cred" self-hating image the city used to have.

We're a global contender now, rather than a rundown poor neighbour to LA and NY.

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2013 @ 7:20 am

Because the last two mayoral elections were rigged.

Gavin Newsom stole his election. That was the year they found voting boxes floating in the pay. They paid off his opponent Matt Gonzalez not to fight the election with a well paying corporate job. And you know a guy named Gonzalez is going to jump on a well paying corporate job when the alternative is a court fight with people who have already rigged an election.

Ed Lee was elected via voter fraud in Chinatown. One of the news outlets did a story showing people signing up voters in Chinatown for Ed Lee. If you don't know about Chinese, they do whatever the important people in the community tell them to do.

That report was never followed up and the next thing you know Ed Lee is Mayor.

All elections are rigged now. You don't elect anyone or approve anything anymore.

Posted by Happeh on May. 25, 2013 @ 7:43 am

progressives lose elections other than an actual lack of votes.

Voting fraud in one district in an election that was decided by more than the entire number of votes in that district?

Posted by Matlock on May. 25, 2013 @ 10:21 am

Because the last two mayoral elections were rigged.

Gavin Newsom stole his election. That was the year they found voting boxes floating in the pay. They paid off his opponent Matt Gonzalez not to fight the election with a well paying corporate job. And you know a guy named Gonzalez is going to jump on a well paying corporate job when the alternative is a court fight with people who have already rigged an election.

Ed Lee was elected via voter fraud in Chinatown. One of the news outlets did a story showing people signing up voters in Chinatown for Ed Lee. If you don't know about Chinese, they do whatever the important people in the community tell them to do.

That report was never followed up and the next thing you know Ed Lee is Mayor.

All elections are rigged now. You don't elect anyone or approve anything anymore.

Posted by Happeh on May. 25, 2013 @ 7:44 am

Because the last two mayoral elections were rigged.

Gavin Newsom stole his election. That was the year they found voting boxes floating in the pay. They paid off his opponent Matt Gonzalez not to fight the election with a well paying corporate job. And you know a guy named Gonzalez is going to jump on a well paying corporate job when the alternative is a court fight with people who have already rigged an election.

Ed Lee was elected via voter fraud in Chinatown. One of the news outlets did a story showing people signing up voters in Chinatown for Ed Lee. If you don't know about Chinese, they do whatever the important people in the community tell them to do.

That report was never followed up and the next thing you know Ed Lee is Mayor.

All elections are rigged now. You don't elect anyone or approve of anything.

Posted by Happeh on May. 25, 2013 @ 7:48 am

Because the last two mayoral elections were rigged.

Gavin Newsom stole his election. That was the year they found voting boxes floating in the pay. They paid off his opponent Matt Gonzalez not to fight the election with a well paying corporate job. And you know a guy named Gonzalez is going to jump on a well paying corporate job when the alternative is a court fight with people who have already rigged an election.

Ed Lee was elected via voter fraud in Chinatown. One of the news outlets did a story showing people signing up voters in Chinatown for Ed Lee. If you don't know about Chinese, they do whatever the important people in the community tell them to do.

That report was never followed up and the next thing you know Ed Lee is Mayor.

All elections are rigged now. You don't elect anyone or approve of anything.

Posted by Joe Johnson on May. 25, 2013 @ 7:51 am

Because the last two mayoral elections were rigged.

Gavin Newsom stole his election. That was the year they found voting boxes floating in the pay. They paid off his opponent Matt Gonzalez not to fight the election with a well paying corporate job. And you know a guy named Gonzalez is going to jump on a well paying corporate job when the alternative is a court fight with people who have already rigged an election.

Ed Lee was elected via voter fraud in Chinatown. One of the news outlets did a story showing people signing up voters in Chinatown for Ed Lee. If you don't know about Chinese, they do whatever the important people in the community tell them to do.

That report was never followed up and the next thing you know Ed Lee is Mayor.

All elections are rigged now. You don't elect anyone or approve of anything.

Posted by Joe Mittal on May. 25, 2013 @ 7:53 am

Posting the same nonsense 6 times here doesn't make it read less like nonsense. It just makes you look too dumb to figure out how to post properly.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2013 @ 8:05 am

Why not blame the computer program that posted it all of those times?

Why doesn't the guardian use a real comment system like Disqus?

Posted by guest on May. 25, 2013 @ 8:45 am

They get done in batches.

So post once, then wait a while, and it will appear.

Patience, dude.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2013 @ 9:55 am

That is pretty clever. Put up a bunch of duplicates of my post, then criticize me for being dumb.

I wonder if it will work?

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2013 @ 8:49 am

And then tried to cover it up by claiming that someone else had done that.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2013 @ 9:54 am

To Rockydoesit:

I just saw a video of people in an office testing Googleglass. I can't wait for those to show up around here. People will be walking into buses, light poles, utility poles, bus shelters, into other people (more so than they already are with their hand-held gadgets) etc. They are a MAJOR distraction.

One person testing them said, "I'd be a hazard walking around with these on."

Posted by Guest on May. 24, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

Go to Oakland. You got the same kind of anti money set of thinkers over there, they have NIMBYism, they have "I don't want that here: mind set. I have lived in Oakland and Berkeley.

Posted by Garrett on May. 28, 2013 @ 11:23 am

Oakland that SF can become a reasonable place again. It's not the rich people who are mugging people, littering up the streets with their stale urine and crackpipes, and consuming welfare benefits as a lifestyle decision.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2013 @ 11:39 am

to "lose" your life to a "parasitic" infection.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2013 @ 11:58 am

They're just so tolerant and open to different viewpoints.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

Classist namecalling and insults elicit hope for your early demise. Even Mother Teresa would hope for it after reading the hatred you constantly write here.

Posted by Guest on May. 28, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

I just remember when sf was fun you would go to mission and see crack heads and mexicans in gangs went on broadway and would see come crazy homeless people or maybe some tranny yelling at people on the street. Little Italy actually had italians not chinese people everywhere and chinatown had gambiling on the streets and no one cared. The hippies in height an ashbury were actual hippies who were so out of there mind on drugs you couldent hold a conversation with them Fillmore was filled with black people who would mug me down for being white but i could go up to them talking about N.W.A or at the time andre nickatina and i would be hangin out with them a minute later drinking that nasty ass old english or smokin some rat weed on the corner. The queers in castro were fun to hang out with not just some liberal bitching about everything under the sun. flash to 2013 and you have suburuban kids with an arts degree dressing as idiots aka hipsters living in mission the whole city is a way overpriced liberal hell hole even more so then back in the day Fillmore is full of yuppies and they gave it some name of which i believe is the west end little Italy is basically chinatown and chinatown nothing interesting is going on it just smells like shit. Trannys do crazy shit now and people feel sorry for him/her or consider them a hero. ugggh all i can say is that i live in philly now reminds me of sf but people actually love america here and there is a lot more ethnic pride here and a way better city. Since being here went to nyc which is also destroyed by hipsters, yuppies and overpriced rent . All i ask is that all of you yuppies and hipsters dont ruin oakland or vallejo so next time i visit and can still get some good memories of the bay area.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

I was born in San Francisco and raised in the city and love the city but I'm going to make some claims that might upset people. Did you know that the Germany cities of Hamburg, Munich and Köln have larger populations then San Francisco and that of the 337,451 white people in San Francisco, the average income is above $250,000 (white people average) a year and the average white person has a house worth 1,4 million dollars or more. There are 800,00 people living in San Francisco and only 337,451 are white and they are considered some of the wealthiest people in the World. The city of hippies, love and anti war movement has become a rich persons ghetto. It would be nice if the city would attract more middle class. As for the nonwhite community in San Francisco, they made up way too much of the lower income and service sector jobs, call them the slaves for the 1% who are paid good!
Now I'm sure I pissed people off but it's this way.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2013 @ 5:11 am

And why don't you like success?

On a day when Detroit declared bankruptcy, you might want to feel grateful that there is so much success here.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2013 @ 5:51 am