Editor’s Notes

Pub date August 29, 2007
WriterTim Redmond

› tredmond@sfbg.com

You’d think that this was a Republican town, with the way the local news media have been bashing not only the left but also some of the better, more effective, and more functional progressive institutions in San Francisco. I wouldn’t waste my time with this stuff, but there are real issues here.

I woke up Aug. 21 to a San Francisco Chronicle headline proclaiming "Anti-gentrification Forces Stymie Housing Development." The piece, by Robert Selna, opened with the sad, sad tale of a poor auto shop owner who wants to "build eight apartments and condominiums on an empty lot next to his Mission District auto shop and rent some of the apartments to his mechanics."

Well, it turns out that the evil Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition is fighting that plan, Selna reported, "insisting that [the] project not go forward until the city evaluates how new development on the city’s east side will affect industrial land, jobs, and housing."

The message: a little entrepreneur is getting hosed by a big, bad "not in my backyard" group that wants to stop new housing. The implication (and this is just the latest example of this stunning lie): the left in San Francisco is against building housing.

Well, for starters, MAC is playing only a modest sideline role in fighting the 736 Valencia project, a five-story structure that is designated legally for condos and includes no affordable housing. The real opposition is a group called Valencia Neighbors for Community Development. The issue, Valencia neighborhood activist Julie Ledbetter said, is that as many as nine new market-rate housing projects are in the pipeline for a short stretch of Valencia, and they shouldn’t be approved one by one without any regard for the cumulative impact.

MAC activist Eric Quezada told me that the organization has indeed taken the position that the city shouldn’t go forward with any more market-rate housing projects until it’s completed a legally mandated environmental study of the cumulative impacts of high-end condos on displacement, blue-collar jobs, and overall land use.

But that doesn’t mean MAC is against housing.

In fact — and this is the killer here — MAC emerged in the dot-com era almost entirely out of the nonprofit housing community. Some of its earliest and most prominent members were (gasp) housing developers. Just for the record, nonprofits have built something like 25,000 low- and moderate-income housing units in this city in the past 25 years. That is housing the city needs, housing that meets the city’s own clearly stated goals. And the progressives, people like the MAC members, are essentially the only ones who have built any affordable housing in the city at all.

Selna told me that he didn’t write the headline and "isn’t taking sides in this." I realize it’s not all his fault that he’s stumbled into a political hornet’s nest — but he has.

Then in the Aug. 22 SF Weekly, Matt Smith wrote that the left is turning this city into nothing but a tourist trap by promoting "a price-goosing apartment shortage of 30,000 to 70,000 units." That’s what, 140 giant new towers, or 7,000 10-unit buildings … that will go where? And what if (as is likely) rents still don’t come down? (Smith had no comment when I called him.)

And now C.W. Nevius of the Chronicle wants to shut down the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Recycling Center so that homeless people won’t have any money … and will what — panhandle more aggressively? Break into cars? Makes perfect sense to me.