SF Chronicle Completely Flubs Coverage of the Hub

Dean Preston
4 min readAug 31, 2022

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One of the most pressing issues in San Francisco is racial equity in housing: as we move to build more housing, how can we ensure that it is shared equally, instead of displacing people of color in favor of more affluent white people?

It’s great that Chronicle columnist Heather Knight is attempting to cover this issue, but unfortunately, she simply got the story wrong.

Knight claims in her latest column that thousands of units of housing have been delayed because of a community-requested racial equity study to better understand how building large scale market rate housing in the Hub might impact communities of color. The study has been delayed. But not one single unit of housing — affordable or market rate — has been delayed as a result, a fact that was confirmed by our city’s Planning Department.

The article’s headline — “Thousands of units delayed for a study that never happened” — is 100% false and the Chronicle should retract it.

Here’s the real story.

In the very early months of the pandemic, the Board approved the rezoning of three major projects in the Hub, for a total of 1,644 units of housing. This included a land dedication that would later make possible Marvel in the Mission, which will add 330 units of permanently affordable housing. The agreement also approved a 345 unit development at 98 Franklin, at the time in my district, with 25% affordable on-site. Those were the only three sites that were ready to go. For the remaining 15 sites, no development proposals were on the table, or even on the horizon.

On the balance of the Hub sites, community groups asked for a race/equity study given the extent of the broader upzoning. The Board unanimously facilitated that by approving the three sites that were ready to go, but held off on the balance of the proposed upzoning so that community groups could undertake the study, which everyone had hoped would be done in six months. A local nonprofit agreed to fund and conduct the study.

Unfortunately, the pandemic had other plans. There was an initial scope of work for the study from a consultant hired by the nonprofit, but it was not finished. We are disappointed that the study was not completed as planned.

Regardless, the Planning Department confirmed in an email to Supervisors in late 2021 that “The race/equity analysis is not holding up any project per say, as projects have other paths forward. The sites that were removed from the legislation do not have active applications, with the exception of One Oak.” The fact is that developers are fully able to pursue individual projects in the Hub with or without the proposed area rezoning, even more so in light of recent state law changes.

Meanwhile, the housing market has shifted dramatically since the start of the pandemic. The pre-Covid proposals for the Hub may need to be revisited more comprehensively anyway to address the changing conditions. For a number of reasons, including cost of capital, cost of construction and materials, and supply chain issues, developers have chosen not to move forward many market rate projects citywide. This includes thousands of units that are fully entitled (ie, no further approvals necessary) but remain unbuilt, including fully approved projects in the Hub — like One Oak and 98 Franklin — where development hasn’t even begun. To be clear, these projects already benefited from upzoning and are fully entitled, but haven’t moved forward, not because of the usual Chronicle/YIMBY strawmen (Board of Supervisors, neighbors, etc), but because of the one obstacle they will never name: market forces.

Given that for-profit developers seem increasingly unwilling or unable to deliver the housing that people need, now is a great time for the government to go big on thousands of units of dense, union-built social housing in the Hub. The public sector and nonprofits are far better positioned right now to go big in the Hub, and I hope the City will move in that direction. We have been doing the work to make this vision a reality — with Prop I in 2020, my office has fought for and won more than $230 million to date — with a projected $176 million annually going forward — in new funding that is intended for permanently affordable housing. The Hub presents a golden opportunity for public investment into truly affordable housing for workers.

My office will continue to lead important efforts for housing stability and affordability, even as the Chronicle continues to offer a steady diet of deregulation propaganda.

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