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Above: [people. power. media] file photo

San Francisco has become the cautionary tale for how not to develop a city in the 21st Century. Frequently derided as the most expensive housing market in the US, skyrocketing rents and mass evictions are forcibly displacing residents as the gap between the rich and the poor is growing faster than anywhere else in the US.

Artists, working class families and longtime residents have declared that San Francisco is “losing its soul.” At the helm of this sinking luxury liner, overlooking the City’s planning and developments is the Director of the SF Planning Department, John Raiham, who has been in this role since January 2008. Raiham is now facing evaluation before the people at a public comment session on Thursday December 10 at the Planning Commission. [people. power. media] has compiled some statistics that show what it’s been like to live in San Francisco during this time.   

1)  Soaring rents-  The rental cost to live in the city has become one of the main factors driving people away from the area. Based on San Francisco Planning Department’s 2008 and 2014 housing inventory reports, the rental price for a two bedroom apartment in San Francisco has spiked from $2,650 in 2008 to $4,580 in 2014.

2)   Way more luxury than affordable built-  While rental prices have been increasing, the amount of affordable housing constructed has lagged far behind. According to inventory reports, 4,550 affordable housing units were built in the past six years, while 15,805 of market rate units were built at the same period of time, This means that over 70 percent of housing that has been built for the luxury market.

3)   Thousands of evictions-   Since 2008, there have been over 3,000 no-fault evictions (i.e. Ellis, owner move-ins, demolition, condo conversions) recorded by the Rent Board. While tenants activists always say there are many more no-fault evictions that go unreported, that's at least 3,000 households that have been forcibly displaced since 2008.

4)   Losing rent control units-  Rent control has played a key role in the City’s rental market to ensure landlords can only raise a tenant’s rent by a fixed amount each year. However, rent-controlled housing units (built before 1979) are disappearing quickly. The total number of rent-controlled housing removed from the City’s housing stock since 2005 is 4,258, according the City’s 10-year Housing Balance Report.

5)   New affordable can't keep with rent-control lost-  Compare the 4,550 new affordable units against the 4,258 rent stabilized units lost. As the Housing Balance Report shows, over the past decade, San Francisco has gained only 292 new price controlled units.

6)   Thousands of established businesses closing-  Based on the 2014’s Budget and Legislative Analyst report, 70,118 businesses had been closed down between 2008 and 2011. Of these, 14,123 businesses were considered established businesses, which means they had been operating for at least five years. When we dig a little deeper, we see that this is due to commercial real estate prices jumping from $374.7 per square foot in 2008 to a jaw-dropping price of $675.1 per square foot. 

7)   Non-profits paying more for rent-  A May 2014 City report showed that nonprofits are facing on average an over 30% increase in rent. Rent increases are threatening these organizations’ existence because many need to stay at their current locations to fulfill their missions. Increased rent payments also means less resources available for their services.

8)    Losing diversity-  According to a 2015 report by PolicyLink, the Bay Area is the second most diverse region in the nation. However because of ever-increasing rent, more people are forced to move out of the City. The result is that “The people-of-color population is expected to grow over the next few decades in every county except San Francisco County, where it will decline.”

9)    Losing artists-  The arts are a critical component to any vibrant, creative city. According to a 2015 report from the San Francisco Arts Commission, artists are facing alarming displacement from San Francisco. Based on the SFAC survey, 72 percent of artists are facing displacement from SF due to affordability issues and unstable living situations.

10)    Losing blue collar jobs-   One of the essential job creators in San Francisco is light industry, also known as “Production Distribution and Repair” or “PDR,” such as auto mechanic shops, printers and wholesale contruction. According to a 2002 SF Planning report about PDR, “A healthy and vibrant city has a variety of economic activities,” and PDR is essential for maintaining this diversity. The Eastern Neighborhoods land use plan which was approved by the City at the end of 2008 set goals for keeping PDR businesses which support blue collar jobs and the arts. PDR conversions and demolitions-- both legal and illegal-- have accelerated, and Planning has not produced any statistics on how much PDR space has been lost and is in the pipeline for being destroyed.

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