Kim, Peskin and Lee Win Housing Showdown

by on March 3, 2016

If you were left confused by the Board of Supervisor’s reaching a unanimous vote on March 1 to place what was supposed to be a highly contentious measure raising inclusionary housing fees to 25% on the June ballot, this is understandable.  All the media talk about a “war” between Supervisors Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin on one side and Mayor Ed Lee on the other failed to grasp that all three worked collaboratively and diligently to reach a positive compromise.

That’s certainly no surprise to me. As I wrote in December, “Peskin and Kim both like getting deals done.” I also noted that Lee would be a beneficiary of these deals, as “getting developers to increase affordable housing furthers the mayor’s goal of creating 30,000 new or renovated units.”

The compromise essentially allows pipeline projects to operate under the 12% rules but requires the mayor’s office to come up with an additional 200 units of affordable housing. This is roughly the number of units lost when Prop C in 2012 reduced the inclusionary rate from 15% to 12%. Progressives can now say that they have  reversed the deal they made in order to get developer support for the $1.3 billion Housing Trust Fund, which was the heart of Prop C.

Whether voters raise the inclusionary rate to 25% in June could be impacted by a part of the compromise requiring that an economic feasibility study be completed and released before Election Day. But most developers just want to ensure their pipeline projects get done, and will deal with the future inclusionary rate later should voters approve the 25%—which I fully expect.

The real conflicts around this measure were not between Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, and Ed Lee; rather, the problem was that some of their allies wanted their negotiating partner to “lose” rather than help forge a win-win outcome.

I kept telling worried developers that I was confident of a positive solution to this conflict because I know Kim, Peskin and Lee. All want affordable housing and are open to creative approaches to creating it.

Confirming that the problem was with each side’s supporters, both  told me they felt that this compromise could have been reached a month ago. That it instead took to the deadline was due to constituency demands, not the parties personal inability to reach agreement.

And the outcome for San Francisco is significant. As Residential Builders Association leader Sean Keighran told me, “The real news here is bigger than housing. It’s about the ability of Mayor Lee and Aaron Peskin to work together for the good of the city.”

Why Kim Wins

The inclusionary housing compromise is a huge victory for Jane Kim, Kim faces a tough State Senate race against Scott Wiener, and has staked her career on leading the city’s fight for affordable housing.

Kim is the Supervisor most identified with the proposed doubling of the inclusionary housing rate to 25%. obligations to provide affordable housing. Had the March 1 compromise not been reached, Kim’s top campaign asset would have become a major obstacle; she would have been seen as killing affordable housing rather than expanding it.

I never thought Jane Kim would go over the cliff pursuing an unrealistic housing agenda but many felt otherwise. Political success requires taking on big challenges and overcoming skeptics, and Kim did both in this deal.

Peskin Also Wins

When Aaron Peskin served on the Board from 2001-2008, he was the supervisor developers trusted most. He quickly resumed this role after rejoining the Board and only Mayor Lee commands more trust from the development community than Peskin.

Because some San Francisco activists have not been around very long, they wrongly interpreted Peskin’s opposition to 8 Washington as showing he was “anti-development.” This housing compromise should refute that once and for all.

Aaron Peskin has already proven to be a tremendous asset to the city in the short time since he returned to the Board. And he’s got a lot on his plate left to do.

Another Housing Win for Mayor Lee

The compromise adds to the unprecedented number of big affordable housing wins for Mayor Lee.

Historians will look back and marvel how a mayor that won a $1.3 billion housing trust fund to rebuild public housing for the lowest income families, a $310 affordable housing bond, and who also implemented a Small Sites Acquisition Program that has stopped around two dozen Ellis Act evictions was nevertheless seen as not “doing enough” for affordable housing by some activists.

People are certainly free to hold that position but it’s wrong.

The truth is that Lee is creating an affordable housing record unlikely to ever be matched. And in the first big test of the new, progressive Board, Jane Kim and Aaron Peskin joined with the mayor in increasing affordable housing—-the right way.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He’ll be at the SF History Days event at the Old Mint on Saturday starting at 1pm if you want to come by to say hello and/or pick up his book on the Tenderloin, The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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