Animosity, Divide Intensify in Housing Bond Debate

by Jeremy Elprin on June 23, 2004

Only a few hours apart yesterday, the Board of Supervisors Finance Committee and the full Board agreed to continue two different affordable housing bond proposals, proving once again that consensus on either measure may be nowhere in sight.

Tempers rose early in the morning as Finance Chair Chris Daly sparred with Matt Franklin, the mayor’s housing director, at a hearing that resulted in another continuance of Mayor Newsom’s proposed $195 million housing bond. Later in the day, the full Board voted 9-1 to continue Board President Matt Gonzalez’s $210 million proposal.

At the Finance Committee hearing, Daly appeared frustrated with many of Franklin’s repeated claims. Franklin stated that the mayor’s bond proposal was based on broad consensus, an assertion that Daly has categorically rejected for weeks. Then, as Franklin suggested that households of moderate, not low, incomes were the neediest of housing assistance, Daly made it clear that he did not want to hear any more from mayor’s housing director.

A few hours later, a cooler, calmer Daly exhorted his fellow Supervisors to pass his co-sponsored bond proposal instead of pushing it back to another meeting. “That’s what we should do, that’s our moral obligation, and, guess what, that’s good policy,” Daly said.

Daly raised the point that by approving a $210 million ballot measure, the Board could still lower the total to any amount. Inevitably, there would be necessary tweaking and restructuring of the proposal before it was placed on the ballot in the fall. But if the Board were to approve the mayor’s $195 million bond, they could not raise the dollar amount any higher.

If certain politically powerful constituencies, such as the city’s huge tenant population, refuse to vote for the $195 million bond because it doesn’t provide enough money for affordable housing, the bond will fail miserably. Therefore, Daly advised, the Board should pass a measure with a higher dollar amount, with a malleable figure that could be worked down after a true consensus has been reached.

But the rest of the Board appeared too ambivalent to side with Daly. Some Supervisors, while suggesting they would vote for the Daly-Gonzalez bond further down the road, were concerned that approving the proposal with too much haste could ultimately prove calamitous. Amidst heated disagreement surrounding the two bond proposals, about the only thing the Board could agree on was that so far, little consensus has been reached for either measure.

Now the Board remains faced with the challenge of bringing together the two conflicting sides to agree on a housing bond that will collect at least a two-thirds vote in November. But as individual details surrounding the issue appear more contentious, compromise is becoming all the more difficult to find.

Filed under: Bay Area / California