469 Stevenson Street Statement

2021-11-01

Hundreds of families were denied housing in San Francisco because of Supervisors Gordon Mar, Dean Preston, Myrna Melgar, Connie Chan, Rafael Mandelman, Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, and Shamann Walton.

These Supervisors abused an environmental law to block 495 homes at 469 Stevenson Street, where Nordstrom currently runs a valet parking lot. This housing checked every box: next to a BART station in downtown San Francisco, it’s close to transit and jobs. The building would provide affordable housing to hundreds of low-income families. It would not displace residents. Yet City leaders still blocked it, citing flimsy excuses and bowing to special interests.

The swift, resounding backlash to the vote surprised some City leaders. In the past, Supervisors received little criticism when blocking housing. Supervisors should take notice: building housing is popular. San Franciscans will no longer accept empty words about our housing shortage from City leaders who perpetuate it.

We were shocked to hear some City Supervisors justify their vote against housing with the excuse that housing supporters did not speak up. How can they expect future residents and everyday citizens to speak as loudly as the special interest group TODCO, which used insider connections to lobby against housing? We expect City leaders to do the right thing and approve housing. City leaders cannot expect victims of the housing shortage to speak up more loudly than special interests at every single vote.

We call on City Supervisors who understand the gravity of our housing crisis, such as Myrna Melgar and Rafael Mandelman, to champion bills that remove delays, petty politics, and corruption from the City’s capricious & slow housing approval process. Technical processes like environmental review should be left to experts. Organizations like TODCO must not be allowed to extort developers for bribes and buy political influence with City Supervisors. Our City leaders must address the housing shortage now, acting with urgency and empathy for the many housing-insecure San Franciscans.

We welcome the State of California’s investigation into whether the City Supervisors violated state law by blocking this project. We thank Supervisors Matt Haney, Catherine Stefani, and Ahsha Safai for standing up to NIMBYs and special interests by supporting this housing.

Mayor London Breed must act boldly in the face of City Supervisors’ intransigence. We are thrilled to see Mayor Breed champion more homes, including her latest "Cars to Casas" proposal. In the next year, Mayor Breed can lead again in the City’s Housing Element, the plan to build 82,000 new homes by 2031.

As law professor Chris Elmendorf and the SF Chronicle Editorial Board urge, Mayor Breed must direct the Planning Department to ensure that the City’s Housing Element accounts for the City’s dim record of turning planned homes into real homes. The Housing Element must rezone and legalize enough potential housing that the City would actually build 82,000 homes as mandated by the state.