Supervisor Pushes Back Against Density Near Transit

Gordon Mar sponsors resolution to preserve Sunset District's sea of single-family housing

Most of the Sunset District is zoned for low-density, single family housing, even a short walk from the two rail lines that serve the area. D4 Supervisor Gordon Mar wants to keep it that way. Photo: David Yu
Most of the Sunset District is zoned for low-density, single family housing, even a short walk from the two rail lines that serve the area. D4 Supervisor Gordon Mar wants to keep it that way. Photo: David Yu

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

The Sunset District is home to Muni’s L Taraval and N Judah Lines which, for the most part, are bounded by low-density, single-family housing. Last week District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar proposed a resolution to oppose State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 50, which seeks to increase density around transit.

“I support increasing density near transit, including in the Sunset, but we need the opportunity to plan for our own neighborhoods with permanently affordable housing, more open space and more robust community benefits. If we loosen zoning restrictions and increase land values, we must demand that developers meet the needs of the community,” Mar said to the Richmond Review/Sunset Beacon.

A drone shot of the Sunset District's sea of single-family housing. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A drone shot of the Sunset District’s sea of single-family housing. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Mar goes on to justify his resolution by claiming that Wiener’s bill doesn’t contain affordability provisions and displacement protections. Except that it does.

From Wiener’s reply to Mar’s resolution (SB 50 Letter), sent today:

Your resolution falsely states that SB 50 does not allow San Francisco to ensure “a meaningful net increase in affordable housing”…the exact opposite is true: As confirmed by the San Francisco Planning Department, SB 50 will result in a significant increase in affordable housing, because far more parcels will be zoned for density and thus candidates for affordable housing (only densely zoned parcels can have affordable housing) and because more multi-unit projects mean more below market rate units under San Francisco’s inclusionary’ housing ordinance. Currently, affordable housing is illegal in 70 percent of San Francisco due to low density zoning. SB 50 changes that status quo, whereas your resolution perpetuates the status quo.

Wiener’s letter also points out that:

The purpose of SB 50 is to address one of the root causes of California’s housing crisis: hyper-low-density zoning near jobs and transit, in other words, cities banning apartment buildings and affordable housing near jobs and transit. This restrictive and exclusionary zoning was originally created one hundred years ago to keep people of color and low income people out of white neighborhoods, and it is currently exacerbating racial and income segregation. Bans on apartment buildings and affordable housing in huge swaths of California — i.e., zoning that bans all housing other than single-family homes — have fueled our state’s housing affordability crisis, helped generate California’s 3.5 million home deficit (a deficit equal to the combined deficits of the other 49).

As previously reported, SB 50 is a revamped version of Weiner’s last attempt to lift housing density limits around transit, SB 827. That bill was strongly opposed in areas with transit that are zoned for single-family housing. The previous bill was also criticized for having insufficient levels of low-income housing or protections against displacement. This new bill is meant to address concerns about displacement and has been racking up endorsements.

Mar’s resolution, meanwhile, is co-sponsored by other San Francisco supervisors, including Norman Yee, Sandra Lee Fewer, Aaron Peskin, and Hillary Ronen.

  • Wouter Dito

    The State Legislature should have required that cities and counties add room for jobs only where there is also room for adjacent housing. Now, many communties are way out of balance. But the answer is NOT to take the power to zone and blend away from local governments and give it to greedy, un-elected housing developers who will score and scorch and move on to ruin the next neighborhood and the next community. This bill is being pushed by GIANT CORPORATIONS seeking more nearby housing for current.AND FUTURE workers they want to increase their PROFIT. And MONEY TALKS loudy to some ambitious politicians.

  • LazyReader

    If increasing density makes cities affordable, Why aren’t cities more affordable? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/bf6c6b84677d68da06fbcc1afb8a1ef505b1b25901e853973132f1db3859f3e6.gif

  • Richard Bullington

    Dude, put down the hookah. Those GIANT CORPORATIONS are going to be laying off half their workforces as a result of AI driven customer interfaces in the next 15 years. People are, on average, going to be poorer than they are now, for the first time in American history. The median wage is going to go into reverse, though the mean may continue to increase a bit. The curve of income is about to go hyperbolic.

    This is not driven by those GIANT CORPORATIONS. It’s driven by Scott Weiner’s sense of justice. Quit beating that poor straw man.

  • agvs

    Do you know what the largest contributing factor has been to the doubling of housing construction costs in the Bay Area over the last 3 years? Increased wages for construction workers, not “greedy GIANT CORPORATIONS”. If you want to live in a world where nobody profits from building housing and corporations are out of the picture, then I hope you’re handy with a hammer, because you’ll be building your own house.

  • MistOfTheCity

    Wow! Guess this reporter just wants us to take the bill author’s rhetoric and spin wholesale and not look deeper into the details. Yes, let’s all take a Republican shallow perspective that everyone can get on board with. [sigh]

    Be very careful of shiny objects.

  • MistOfTheCity

    Because it doesn’t in already high density cities. SF is highest density per square foot in nation. Do your own homework. Stop believing the rhetoric being fed to you.

  • MistOfTheCity

    I agree with you partly but this is just basic supply and demand. Big Corp came with deep pockets. Big Developer saw that a thousand miles away. So, your point has a Big Hole in it.

  • MistOfTheCity

    Right on!

  • MistOfTheCity

    There are at least a dozen other housing & upzoning bills that will counteract SB 50. Use your search engines, go to the states website. There is just a lot of hype on this one because this guy is a young YIMBY acolyte that is selling a bill of goods for the for-profit giant developers. It will fail.

  • Eric Johnson

    The Sunset is neither “hyper-low density” (~20,000/sq mile?) or near jobs (hour commute to FiDi on transit?). I really don’t get why the YIMBYs and redditors or so obsessed with it.

  • gb52

    Before building new housing, let’s look at opening up buildings that have been left vacant. Just like the vacant business storefronts, there are also too many vacant dwellings. There are dozens of apartments that have been left unoccupied for years or perpetually under construction right on Taraval. We’ve got to manage the greed that has ousted people and businesses through unsustainable rent increases and left vacancies for no good reason.

  • How about you pursue the vacant buildings while others work on building new?

  • David Marcus

    SF has just about the lowest vacancy rate in the country so, while it’s frustrating to have any vacancy, it’s also doubtful that’s how we’re going to solve the housing crisis.

  • David Marcus

    If less density makes cities affordable, let’s return our single family neighborhoods to sand dunes.

  • p_chazz

    And how do you propose that we “manage the greed?”

  • Roger R.

    Yes it does… in cities that actually allow housing to keep up with demand. Here’s an article from VOX about the subject: https://www.vox.com/2016/8/8/12390048/san-francisco-housing-costs-tokyo

  • TheOnlyElroi

    The vacancy argument is just a way for NIMBYs to prevent housing development. The real vacancy rate is the number of housing units that do not exist because local residents shut it down in planning or by zoning law.

  • Sean Hussey

    1. Cities are built on hubs, so they’re dense.
    2. Cities can allow supply to be greater than demand to lower prices on this prime real estate. Wealth moves away, decreasing prices.
    3. Cities can prevent the supply from being greater than the demand, but still allow some buildings to be built. Wealth stays, increasing prices.

  • keenplanner

    Send in the clowns.
    Dissappointing that these SF supes would align themselves with entitled NIMBYs in Atherton, Palo Alto and Marin.
    The cookie-cutter neighborhoods in the Sunset and Richmond districts are not endangered, but what an opportunity for political grandstanding and fear-mongering.

  • keenplanner

    All the anti-whatever crowd screams about the ‘big corps” that are pulling strings behind the scenes, and evil developers who do their bidding.
    So when was the last time someone who isn’t a “big developer” built a project in San Francisco? Profit margins in SF leave little room for big greed, and it takes a thick skin to go up against all those neighborhood activists who protest everything, and then complain that we haven’t got enough housing.

  • Kevin Withers

    SB50 is a real estate bill, being promoted in the veneer of a housing bill. We passed a entire package of bills last year. Has there been time to see the results? Nope.
    Should we believe the demands/ incessant tantrums displayed by Wiener, that we need more & more legislation to try and receive instant-gratification to an issue whose results are measured in decades?

  • JackBaker

    The argument that SB50 is “a real estate bill” is a common scare tactic used by NIMBY elites who don’t want the status quo to change. This anti-housing mindset has for decades destroyed affordability in California. Do not let these people fool you with their faux-progressive fears of “speculators” – what they’re really doing is trying to keep young people out of their expensive, mostly white neighborhoods.

  • Kevin Withers

    “Nimby Elites”. LOL. What other imaginary cartoon characters have you created? Trying to slot people into your comical categories is simplistic and erroneous. The pro-growth-at-any-cost strategy simply doesn’t hold water.

  • Ari Isaac

    Re ” We passed a entire package of bills last year. Has there been time to see the results? Nope.”
    Not true. SB 35 is a general failure b/c it kept the same overly restrictive RH1 zoning, which doesn’t pay for the mandated inclusionary affordable housing %, so hardly any takers for the past year, incl. b/c localities still block projects from even using it. Developers (who are who build things) nearly all say it doesn’t pay to build affordable units under SB 35. So, SB 50 is needed to fix the failings of SB 35, w/ limited upzoning where it makes sense, and where it can pay the most for providing lots of affordable units.

  • Ari Isaac

    re “SB50 is a real estate bill, being promoted in the veneer of a housing bill.”
    you are obviously not a renter. All renters want more apartments rental supply at all levels of income, including more height and more density. Only NIMBY homeowners want to ban apartments and restrict rental supply.

    SB 50 is as real as it get b/c it is the ONLY bill out there which will most likely actually produce affordable housing. So, it is a bogus NIMBY scare tactic to pretend it serves the rich and makes developers rich. SB 50 requires a high % (say 13-23%) of the units in a project be inclusionary (i.e., affordable housing). So, w/ SB 50 we are guaranteed to increase our affordable housing stock, which cities cannot afford to do, so as a fair incentive private investors to take the risk with their money, they have to get enough market rate housing in the project to make it possible to provide the below market rate housing. SB 50 strikes that needed delicate balance b/c cities are broke and cannot afford to buy land and enough build large scale affordable housing to move the needle. You need developers and speculators to do that. Somebody has to pay the subsidized housing, so if not the government (socialism/communism), private capital has to still make a profit (aka capitalism). So, the 80% market rate (and/or luxury) units subsidize the creation of 20% lower income affordable units. This is the smart way to get subsidized housing, from the rich private sector paying for the poor, instead of more government debt to do it.

    Due to the broken NIMBY anti-building system the cost of construction of any housing in CA has skyrocketed so that no affordable housing near jobs can be built without allowing many times more market rate housing to be built and requiring a reasonable level of below market rate (BMR) . To achieve that then we have to pass legislation at the state level that ends local NIMBY zoning height/density control near jobs and mass fix rail transport, and requires reasonable BMR inclusionary housing. If you are not willing to make that trade-off then you’ll make the uber rich NIMBYs very happy with ever surging higher property values and rents paid to them, for the decades to come.

    see studies that show (common sense) that if SB 827 (now SB 50) had passed, doing the above prescription, that rents in the jobs cities not only would rent stop surging up, but they would have gone down by as much as 3-10%:
    https://www.mercatus.org/publications/california-SB827-density-deficit-transit-housing

    so, the status quo means almost guaranteed devastation for the housing have-nots (aka renters), and near guaranteed MUCH bigger, and continued, gains for the housing haves (aka NIMBYs). So, clearly, all renters should support the YIMBYs, and make apartment complexes legal to build again throughout big cities.

    The “solutions” the NIMBYs seems to be proposing is to push out affordable housing for the ‘housing have nots” to far enough away from the rich NIMBY single family home zones so that they won’t have to live next to common renter. This just keeps up the south bay’s defacto gentrified segregation and pushes any equity housing into effectively ghetto areas over the hills.

  • Ari Isaac

    Supervisor Gordon Mar and his Sunset District 4 is a poster child for exactly what is wrong is broken in CA’s housing zoning/production system. Sunset District 4 always elected moderate/conservative supervisors, but Tang was a big supporter of SB 827 and so was her would-be replacement Ho. But the uber NIMBY, anti-housing, Sunset District 4 for the first time switched to elect a left-wing progressive, Mar. He was originally pro-upzoning for affordable housing (esp. for teachers and civil servants) but his NIMBY constituents turned the vise on his balls and he flipped opposite , no against it, just like Beverly Hills did to LA Mayor Garcetti in ’18, initially pro 827 then flipped against SB 827.

    See how Mar pays lip service saying producing affordable housing in Sunset is a high priority:
    https://sfrichmondreview.com/2019/03/10/gordon-mar-focuses-on-expanding-sunset-housing/
    …Mar looks forward to expanding opportunities for all members of the Sunset. His priorities include …But above all is the effort to increase housing development that is affordable for working-class families and seniors who have been priced out of the area…. While some have argued that the development of more housing could be detrimental and exacerbate the problems facing the city today, Mar asserts that strategic development is the key to address this complex issue. “There are appropriate ways we can expand housing across the City and the Sunset District in particular, that would maintain the quality of life and character of our neighborhood.”

    So, what does Mar consider as doing enough on housing? Apparently, building one apartment to house 100 teachers. SF housing crisis solved, according to Mar, b/c only the eastern districts should be upzoned and have all the apartments, none should be in the Richmond or Sunset. See:
    “Some of the strategies he has laid out include creating financial incentives for home owners to add accessory dwelling units (apartments added to existing residential buildings) in single-family homes and increasing housing density along the commercial and retail corridors of the district.

    Another key strategy Mar cited is identifying underutilized public sites where housing can be built, as is currently being done with the Educator Housing Project at 43rd Avenue and Judah Street. This plan aims to construct a new community that is expected to include more than 100 new apartments specifically for educators.”

    The ADU part is utter non-sense b/c the state already requires it and nearly all the 2 floor homes in the Sunset district already “illegally” rent out their converted garage spaces.

    This part of his PR is classic NIMBY:
    “Mar maintained that a critical component in the quest to expand housing in the Sunset District is that it is done in a way which is supported by the residents of the community rather than outside forces. … “All of this would be done in a community-driven manner. It’s important that the community members get to decide how much housing to develop and where,” Mar said. ”

    NIMBY translation: go build somewhere else in the eastern districts b/c Sunset is all 2 floor single family, and those NIMBYs say they don’t want that to change, even if only along the only 2 rail lines in that district.

    So, these NIMBY authors, Supervisors, and homeowners have zero credibility on providing anything that will solve our housing and homelessness crisis b/c they know very well it’s best for them and their families to keep blocking affordable housing production so they can keep getting richer and keep out the ‘undesirable’ renters. People should be smarter, and look beyond misleading authors, and see the SB 50 facts directly in its plain text. I hope NIMBYs stop their fake news and fear mongering to keep it illegal to build apartments in CA big cities, so the NIMBYs continue to get richer and renters continue to get poorer and homeless. We, the people, are entitled to not have NIMBYs and their elected government create segregationist policies that favor blocking apartments supply to make asset values and rental income surge to the home owners while renters get crushed, and many going homeless in droves. We have a right to a free market when it comes to housing production.

    NIMBYs are profiting off of their planning commissions and Supervisors like Mar committing the above crimes against the people! They MUST be stopped, and the only way to do that is to shift exclusive power away from them via bills like SB 50.

  • Ari Isaac

    Supervisor Gordon Mar effectively says:
    NIMBYs (mostly old retired) should control zoning and SF is closed for business. Damn their kids who can’t afford to live in SF, damn the poor who can’t afford to live in SF, damn the middle income who can’t afford to live in SF, damn all the civil servants who can’t afford to live in SF, damn all the SF college & high school kids who can’t afford to live in SF, damn all the new blood who want to live in SF, and damn them all to get the hell out of SF, get the hell out of Bay Area, go the hell out of CA, including damning the high value companies/jobs that has made the SF Bay Area (and LA) the envy of the country and world.

    Supervisor Gordon Mar says damn the rest to homelessness, those who can’t even afford to leave SF. He and his NIMBY constituents also block Breed from putting any navigation centers in the Sunset district. Just ask him if he welcomes navigation centers in his district.

    Something has to be done, and NIMBYs (and their defacto supporters) just saying “NO” and “Go elsewhere far away” is exactly what caused this crises, and only emergency actions will get us out of this housing emergency any time soon. So, we all should applaud Newsom for actually treating this like a state of emergency and not like all others who’ve been paying lip service to it while most Californians get crushed by bone crushing rents, house prices, and commutes. local control = local rich NIMBY owners continue to block housing production = they make MUCH more $$$ = renters get crushed into leaving CA or into homelessness.

    We must stop the local control madness which is destroying lives, enriching NIMBYs, and harming our environment. To avoid sticks against NIMBYs from Newsom all together, just support the sensible SB 50, to support struggling renter’s rights over rich NIMBY homeowners to get filthy richer!

    The NIMBYs have created a humanitarian crisis according to the UN, but all they care about is stacking their local government with NIMBY officials while the rest of us are damned to misery and getting flushed down the toilet (and out of CA), making CA one of the highest poverty rate states in the country, and faulting our economic health as companies/jobs also leave in droves, which is what Berverly Hills, Mill Valley, Cupertino, and all NIMBYs, etc. are happy and highly effective at causing. They are simply limousine liberals pretending to be fighting for the poor when they are really hired (i.e., elected) to protect the rich, b/c renters do NOT vote, but homeowners DO. Shame on NIMBYs!!! They must be stopped.

    https://sf.curbed.com/2018/10/26/18028576/united-nations-rapporteur-homeless-farha-human-rights-violantion

    UN report calls Bay Area homeless crisis human rights violation
    6
    Special rapporteur cites SF and Oakland along with worst slums in the world

    https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/rapporteur-United-Nations-San-Francisco-homeless-13351509.php

    United Nations report: SF homeless problem is ‘violation of human rights’

  • Ari Isaac

    Supervisor Gordon Mar and his Sunset District 4 is a poster child for exactly what is wrong and broken in CA’s (lack of) housing zoning/production system. Sunset District 4 always elected moderate/conservative supervisors, but Tang was a big supporter of SB 827 and so was her would-be replacement Ho. But the uber NIMBY, anti-housing, Sunset District 4 for the first time switched to elect a left-wing progressive, Mar. He was originally pro-upzoning for affordable housing (esp. for teachers and civil servants) but his NIMBY constituents turned the vise on his head and he flipped opposite , against SB50, just like Beverly Hills did to LA Mayor Garcetti in ’18, initially pro 827 then flipped against SB 827.

    See how Mar pays lip service saying producing affordable housing in Sunset is a high priority:
    https://sfrichmondreview.com/…/gordon-mar-focuses-on…/
    …Mar looks forward to expanding opportunities for all members of the Sunset. His priorities include …But above all is the effort to increase housing development that is affordable for working-class families and seniors who have been priced out of the area…. While some have argued that the development of more housing could be detrimental and exacerbate the problems facing the city today, Mar asserts that strategic development is the key to address this complex issue. “There are appropriate ways we can expand housing across the City and the Sunset District in particular, that would maintain the quality of life and character of our neighborhood.”

    So, what does Mar consider as doing enough on housing? Apparently, building one apartment to house 100 teachers. SF housing crisis solved, according to Mar, b/c only the eastern districts should be upzoned and have all the apartments, none should be in the Richmond or Sunset. See:
    “Some of the strategies he has laid out include creating financial incentives for home owners to add accessory dwelling units (apartments added to existing residential buildings) in single-family homes and increasing housing density along the commercial and retail corridors of the district.

    Another key strategy Mar cited is identifying underutilized public sites where housing can be built, as is currently being done with the Educator Housing Project at 43rd Avenue and Judah Street. This plan aims to construct a new community that is expected to include more than 100 new apartments specifically for educators.”

    The ADU part is utter non-sense b/c the state already requires it and nearly all the 2 floor homes in the Sunset district already “illegally” rent out their converted garage spaces.

    This part of his PR is classic NIMBY:
    “Mar maintained that a critical component in the quest to expand housing in the Sunset District is that it is done in a way which is supported by the residents of the community rather than outside forces. … “All of this would be done in a community-driven manner. It’s important that the community members get to decide how much housing to develop and where,” Mar said. ”

    NIMBY translation: go build somewhere else in the eastern districts b/c Sunset is all 2 floor single family, and those NIMBYs say they don’t want that to change, even along the only 2 rail lines in that district.

    So, these NIMBY Supervisors and homeowners have zero credibility on providing anything that will solve our housing and homelessness crisis b/c they know very well it’s best for them and their families to keep blocking affordable housing production so they can keep getting richer and keep out the ‘undesirable’ renters. People should be smarter, and look beyond misleading authors, and see the SB 50 facts directly in its plain text. I hope NIMBYs stop their fake news and fear mongering to keep it illegal to build apartments in CA big cities, so the NIMBYs continue to get richer and renters continue to get poorer and homeless. We, the people, are entitled to not have NIMBYs and their elected government create segregationist policies that favor blocking apartments supply to make asset values and rental income surge to the home owners while renters get crushed, and many going homeless in droves. We have a right to a free market when it comes to housing production. NIMBYs are profiting off of their planning commissions and Supervisors like Mar committing the above crimes against the people.

  • Ari Isaac

    Supervisor Gordon Mar effectively says:

    NIMBYs (mostly old retired) should control zoning and SF is closed for business. Damn their kids who can’t afford to live in SF, damn the poor who can’t afford to live in SF, damn the middle income who can’t afford to live in SF, damn all the civil servants who can’t afford to live in SF, damn all the SF college & high school kids who can’t afford to live in SF, damn all the new blood who want to live in SF, and damn them all to get the hell out of SF, get the hell out of Bay Area, go the hell out of CA, including damning the high value companies/jobs that has made the SF Bay Area (and LA) the envy of the country and world. Supervisor Gordon Mar says damn the rest to homelessness, those who can’t even afford to leave SF. He and his NIMBY constituents also block Breed from putting any navigation centers in the Sunset district. Just ask him if he welcomes navigation centers in his district. Something has to be done, and NIMBYs (and their defacto supporters) just saying “NO” and “Go elsewhere far away” is exactly what caused this crises, and only emergency actions will get us out of this housing emergency any time soon.

    So, we all should applaud Newsom for actually treating this like a state of emergency and not like all others who’ve been paying lip service to it while most Californians get crushed by bone crushing rents, house prices, and commutes. local control = local rich NIMBY owners continue to block housing production = they make MUCH more $$$ = renters get crushed into leaving CA or into homelessness. We must stop the local control madness which is destroying lives, enriching NIMBYs, and harming our environment.

    To avoid sticks against NIMBYs from Newsom all together, just support the sensible SB 50, to support struggling renter’s rights over rich NIMBY homeowners to get filthy richer! The NIMBYs have created a humanitarian crisis according to the UN, but all they care about is stacking their local government with NIMBY officials while the rest of us are damned to misery and getting flushed down the toilet (and out of CA), making CA one of the highest poverty rate states in the country, and faulting our economic health as companies/jobs also leave in droves, which is what Berverly Hills, Mill Valley, Cupertino, and all NIMBYs, etc. are happy and highly effective at causing. They are simply limousine liberals pretending to be fighting for the poor when they are really hired (i.e., elected) to protect the rich, b/c renters do NOT vote, but homeowners DO. Shame on NIMBYs!!! They must be stopped.

    https://sf.curbed.com/2018/10/26/18028576/united-nations-rapporteur-homeless-farha-human-rights-violantion

    UN report calls Bay Area homeless crisis human rights violation 6 Special rapporteur cites SF and Oakland along with worst slums in the world

    https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/rapporteur-United-Nations-San-Francisco-homeless-13351509.php
    United Nations report: SF homeless problem is ‘violation of human rights’

  • Ari Isaac

    We should not let the progressive’s “perfect” be the enemy of the SB 50 “good”, b/c the NIMBY supervisors status quo is the evil.

  • davantage

    To Mar: If there is no meaningful increase, then why vote against it?
    We know you represent the NIMBYs.

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Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content. State Senator Scott Wiener’s transit housing bill, S.B. 827, was defeated by a six-to-four vote in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee yesterday. “While […]