The Vida SF condominium building and New Mission Theatre, at Mission and 22nd streets. (Thomas Hawk/Flickr)

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor

For most of this year, a battle has been brewing over the proposed “Mission Moratorium” and how to address a shortage of affordable places to live in the neighborhood that’s been called ground zero for San Francisco’s housing crisis.

Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission District, first publicly floated the idea of halting market-rate residential construction in May. His legislation fell two votes short of a nine-vote supermajority it needed to pass the Board of Supervisors in June. But by that time, a coalition of community groups was already crafting what would become Proposition I.

The measure’s language is deceptively simple: If Prop. I passes, the city would not issue permits for 18 months in the Mission for either new market-rate housing developments (what Prop. I supporters call “luxury housing”) or renovations of buildings containing five or more units. It would also halt demolition, renovation or conversion of certain industrial businesses zoned as production, distribution and repair. The measure would allow the Board of Supervisors, by a majority vote, to extend the development halt for an additional year.

It also requires the city to create a comprehensive housing plan by early 2017 that would ensure at least half of all new housing in the Mission be affordable for low-, moderate- and middle-income earners.

The proposition’s implications, however, are somewhat complex and involve the soft science of economics and the fluid housing market.

Supporters and opponents agree that the Mission District has been ravaged by San Francisco’s housing crisis. Long-term residents of the neighborhood have been priced out in droves, to the point that Latino residents no longer make up a majority of the population. A report released Tuesday by the city’s budget and legislative analyst projects that, if current trends continue, Latinos will make up less than a third of Mission District residents in 2025.

“It’s going to become a boring neighborhood,” said Roberto Hernandez, a resident and Mission District organizer affiliated with many groups, including Our Mission, No Eviction. “You’re not going to have the mariachi. You’re not going to have the person selling churros, the lady selling flowers on the corner, and just that vibrant Latin-American feel that the Mission has — it’s going to be gone. It’s going to disappear.”

The report found that the district is losing its economic diversity as well. From 2000 to 2013, low-income Mission District households earning less than $35,000 per year increased by about 900. The neighborhood shed 600 moderate-income households and added more than 1,000 households earning $150,000 or more.

Prop. I opponents point to another report, this one released in September by the city controller’s office. They say despite the Mission’s troubles, halting development there will only make things worse. The controller’s report found “a temporary, 18-month moratorium would lead to slightly higher housing prices across the city, have no appreciable effect on no-fault eviction pressures and have a limited impact on the city’s ability to produce affordable housing during the moratorium period.”

That’s because city law requires market-rate developers to either sprinkle some affordable units in any given project (12 percent of the total units), build more affordable units in another location (20 percent), or pay a fee for developing below-market-rate units.

“If we stop market-rate development, it will absolutely dry up those funds, funds that are being currently slated to be used in the Mission District to build affordable housing,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell. “It is simply the wrong approach.”

But Campos, who supports the ballot initiative after his legislative attempt failed, said the city’s affordable housing fee hasn’t worked to actually develop the units the Mission needs to keep home prices and rents in the neighborhood down to something resembling sanity.

“I don’t think it’s working because the concept of letting developers not build on site is a flawed one,” Campos said. “I’m all for building more, but we’re not going to take that argument to its logical next step in a way that’s realistic. … We’d have to double the size of San Francisco. We’d have to build another city on top of this city.”

That point comes from the budget and legislative analyst’s report, which applied national and statewide housing needs estimates to San Francisco. It found that for city housing costs to have stayed on par with prices nationwide, San Francisco would need to have added 459,000 housing units between 1980 and 2010. There are less than 400,000 units in the whole city.

But, as opponents point out, there’s no disagreement over the debacle that is San Francisco’s housing market and the need to do something. The question is what.

“We all know that there is an issue around affordability, not only in the Mission District but across the city,” Farrell said. “From my perspective, we need to be building more housing at all income levels. … We need to make sure that we build more housing in our city, more housing in the Mission District, and that’s the only way we’re going to be able to alleviate the housing crisis that we have right now.”

Roberto Hernandez has heard that argument. He said he’s been hearing it for years while his friends and neighbors have been forced out of the Mission.

“It’s been coined by the developers and the mayor: ‘Build, build, build, build.’ But that’s for the rich and not for the everyday folk. … It’s not for the people in the Mission. It’s not for people in San Francisco.”

S.F. Proposition I: Mission’s Future Is Central Issue in Moratorium Vote 28 October,2015Alex Emslie

  • Eaabbs Schevere

    The district was not always “latino.” After the 1906 earthquake, Italians, Germans and others settled in the area, then later moved to the outer areas of S.F. The Spanish speaking population in the area is relatively new overall. No particular ethnic or language speaking group has a “right” to the Mission.

  • David

    Agree there is an affordability issue in SF (and the rest of the Bay Area) but do not understand how a problem that stems from constrained supply and intense demand is solved by further constraining supply. Feels more like an emotional (and irrational) response to a legitimate issue, the effects of which will only exacerbate the issue in the long term. Seems like a feel-good way of kicking the can down the road.
    Also, agree with Eaabbs Schevere – can’t really say any particular group has a “right” to a neighborhood. Anyone that thinks the ethnic/social character of a neighborhood should be this or that is making that determination with reference to a particular point in history. Go back far enough and the Mission was Mexican territory, before that, inhabited by Native Americans. But you don’t hear anyone complaining about how the Mission has lost its Native American roots. The only constant is change. Trying to lock a neighborhood into being this or that b/c that’s how you remember it / envision it is tantamount to denying reality. Things change; trying to force them to stay the same, against the inevitable movement of time, is like trying to stop the tides.

    • Sean Hussey

      The problem is that they are not building middle class housing at all. You see there are three main classes in America. There are the extreme poor who qualify for affordable housing, then the middle class, which includes some of the Latino population, and the rich. Why are they building rich and poor housing, but no middle class housing when many of the people losing their homes due to the Ellis Act make too much to qualify for affordable housing, yet too little to afford rich housing?

  • Mission residents have valid agenda there being harassed due need for “Condo mania” Vida next to tragedy 22nd Mission fire displace 12 units. Yes, on rent control all fires around Castro and Mission never investigation aware or care “Dave Campos” supporter for change along LGBTQ rights which Scott impartial! Moratarium I on ballot Nov 2015 30month banned on new construction you decide this election. 89 Dolores next 38 Dolores and 2001 Market residents displace okay for condo units! 15 Church St and Dubuce and Valence residents on rent controlled suddenly fires gentrification adamant need to erase decay no resident can stay if you can’t pay. The logic fight is among bonds not assured only 72 BMR” units 490 So. Van Ness zoned for 60 to 105 floor towers yes “REITS,LLC,SIIS and Hedge Funds eager to invest these high yield markets doubt me contact “NAIOP” former building. 22nd Mission up for sale, former displace tenants suing due safety violations before the fire yes owner could gain $25 million or more! Castro going be gentrified due, TIC units and condo mania closure LGBTG commerce due conversations to cafes or Lofts! Ed thanks for your mayoral tenure I’ll see you Nov 3 2015 to make the change. San Franhattan or San Fraterity only selected few can reside majority displace no longer. City by the Way Ellis act is way going pay to fight back never concede! New apt dwellings 150 Van Ness and 101 Polk exempted from BMR” units why Ed time for change!


Alex Emslie

Alex Emslie is a criminal justice reporter at KQED. He covers policing policy, crime and the courts.

He left Colorado and a career as a carpenter in 2008 to study journalism at City College of San Francisco. He then graduated from San Francisco State University's journalism program with a minor in criminal justice studies. Prior to joining KQED in 2013, Alex freelanced for various news outlets including the Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Bay Guardian.

Alex is proud of his work at KQED on a spike in fatal officer-involved shootings in Vallejo, which uncovered that a single officer shot and killed three suspects over the course of five months. Alex's work with a team at KQED on police encounters with people in psychiatric crisis was cited in amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court. He received the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists Best Scoop award in 2015 for exposing a series of bigoted text messages swapped by San Francisco police officers. He was honored with 2010 San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and California Newspaper Publishers Association awards for breaking news reporting on the trial following the shooting of Oscar Grant. Email: Twitter: @SFNewsReporter.