Everyone talks about affordable housing; Prop F makes it the law

Editorial by Willie Ratcliff

Are you dreaming of a home of your own? Are you dreaming of the opportunity to build homes for your family and your neighbors?

Proposition F on the June 3 ballot can make your dreams come true – if the majority of San Franciscans vote for it. And polls – Lennar’s own polls – say they will.

With passage of Prop F, 50 PERCENT OF NEW HOUSING BUILT AT CANDLESTICK POINT MUST BE AFFORDABLE – BY LAW. Even the Lennar-leaning Chronicle admits, in a story published Tuesday, May 20, headlined “Lennar agrees to low-income S.F. housing pact,” that Lennar’s Proposition G is not legally binding.

Don’t be fooled by the last minute effort to divide and conquer us that story describes: a deal between ACORN, SFOP (San Francisco Organizing Project), the Labor Council and Lennar that relies on Lennar’s promise that it will increase the proportion of affordable housing from the 20 percent it had in mind when it wrote Prop G to 32 percent. The lowest affordability threshold Lennar promises would be for families with 60 percent of the area’s median income, not 30 percent as in Prop F.

Considering Lennar’s record of breaking every promise it’s made since it touched down in Hunters Point – and you’ll find the same record all over the country if you google Lennar – I put about as much trust in Lennar’s promises as in George W. Bush’s. Evidence is surfacing that Lennar’s broken promises are behind the current financial woes of both the City of Vallejo and the mighty CALPERS (the California Public Employees’ Retirement System).

Why should we believe that Lennar really intends to build 10,000 homes here when it was recently so cash poor that it sold 11,000 of its properties – most of them newly built homes – for 40 cents on the dollar? Why should we believe that Lennar wants anything more than a tight enough grip on the over 700 acres of Hunters Point that Mayor Gavin Newsom, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein want to give it so as to borrow against that land?

Lennar must be desperate to have already spent $2.23 million on Prop G – better known as Prop Greed. And that’s just through April.

Let me quote from a few interesting sources – first from the May 19 newsletter by the venerable Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth:

Vote Yes on Prop F: Working families need affordable housing & fair deal

Coleman Advocates and our new 501c4 affiliate, the Coleman Action Fund for Children, have endorsed Proposition F and we urge you to go to the polls June 3rd (or before!) and Vote Yes on Prop F. This is why:

1) Prop F is a proposal from a Bayview community coalition working to keep Bayview Hunters Point affordable to longtime families and residents, and to keep much needed development in the neighborhood accountable to the real needs of the community, not just the bottom line. Over 12,000 San Franciscans put this proposition on the ballot.

2) Proposition F guarantees that 50% of the new housing in the proposed Bayview-Hunters Point development is truly affordable to working families. This means that thousands of families with incomes under $92,000 per year could purchase safe, new homes at well below-market rates.

3) Proposition F is doable for developers serious about meeting the needs of Bayview families. “50% affordable” still allows any developer to build 50% “market rate” — meaning thousands of new condos priced to sell to the highest bidder, not to Bayview families struggling to stay in the city.

4) The family flight crisis has hit African American families the hardest, with a 50% decline between 1990 and 2000 alone. Dramatic efforts are needed to reverse the tide.

Working families are hopeful that Prop F will pass with a 50% plus one vote and in a recent poll nearly 60% of San Franciscans said they would vote in favor of Prop F. Join Bayview activists, affordable housing advocates, environmental organizations and Coleman families in voting YES on Prop F. Go to www.propositionf.com for more information.

Chronicle: Nothing to see here, move along

by Milkcluber 5/19/08

That’s what gets said when people stop to get a closer look at something that seems out of place: “Nothing to see here, folks, just move along.”

This weekend, the bond companies further downgraded Lennar’s stock rating, in part because of its California operations:

“The downgrade reflects Lennar’s very weak profitability so far in this housing downturn, along with our expectation that the company will face ongoing earnings pressure due to worsening operating conditions, particularly in its important California and Florida markets,” S&P Credit Analyst James Fielding said in a statement.”

That came out on Friday. Nothing [was reported about it] in the Chronicle Saturday, Sunday or Monday – not even in the business section.

The new brokered deal with Lennar by the Labor Council and others came out on Friday afternoon. Nothing in the internet version of the Chronicle on Friday, nothing in the print paper Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

Interestingly, as the Lennar story became more timely and important, the Chronicle walked further away from it. Last year, Robert Selna did an outstanding job of evaluating Lennar’s ability to obtain land deals from San Francisco City Hall.

Here’s what the Chronicle wrote then:

“But Lennar’s enterprising relationship with San Francisco City Hall – in which it has come to control much of the city’s remaining undeveloped land – gives the company unparalleled sway over how San Francisco will evolve, arguably rivaling the clout of the city’s elected leadership and the voters themselves.

Critics say there are dangers in relying so heavily on a single company. If it ran into financial trouble, the impact on the city could be magnified. Moreover, trying to bargain from a position of strength with a corporation driven by its bottom line can prove difficult for public officials who need the company to deliver on multiple fronts.”

The Chronicle reports in the same article:

“But the control Lennar now holds over the city’s development future also would seem to increase its leverage with San Francisco in negotiations and renegotiations at the shipyard, Treasure Island and Candlestick.

UCLA real estate Professor Eric Sussman cautioned that the city may find it difficult to hold Lennar to its promises and that Lennar’s desire to make money inevitably will conflict at times with the city’s social goals.

“Look, there are always going to be cost overruns and contingencies, and the developer is going to say, ‘it’s out of our hands,’ ” Sussman said. “That’s probably magnified in big projects and multiple simultaneous projects with the same developer.”

Steve Meyers, a lawyer who represents redevelopment agencies throughout California, said that ideally a city is protected by the contract it signs with a developer. The reality is more complicated, he said, because officials find it hard to get tough on one project if they’re depending on the same company to deliver on other projects as well.

“It becomes more difficult to deal with a single operator if you’ve got an established relationship that you know involves multiple projects over a long period of time,” Meyers said.”

The point is about both the Chronicle, which once prided itself on its commitment to bringing news to readers, and the upcoming vote on Prop G.

Half the city could be wearing MIA bracelets with “The Chronicle” inscribed on them, and that would be nothing new. So what’s new now?

We are two weeks from when the polls close – and we are at the period when it is likely the most votes will be case because of absentee ballots.

A decision of critical importance to the city is simply blacked out – not just by the Chronicle, but our Magical Mystery Tour Mayor is off on more photo ops (watch for his walk-on role tomorrow at the Labor-Lennar press conference), City Hall itself has kept completely silent without so much as a hearing on this proposal or Lennar’s deals with the city, and so-called housing advocates anxious to retain their prime listings on the Rolodex Hall of Fame suddenly have nothing to say, pro or con.

The last chance may be the Tuesday press conference. But I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on whether any of the tough questions get asked, by the Chronicle or anyone else.

So, that’s all, folks.

Finally, I want to quote some comments about our Prop F written by the people who know it best, the people who wrote it, your neighbors right here in Hunters Point. This is from www.PropositionF.com:

Proposition F guarantees workforce housing, while Proposition G only ‘encourages’ it.

Lennar’s initiative does not guarantee that any of the housing it builds will be affordable, and only encourages that some of the housing should be below market rate. Lennar’s initiative also does not mention any specific level of affordability at which the units would be produced.

Proposition F requires that 50% of all new housing be affordable at the following levels:

-1/6 of the affordable homes at or below 80% AMI ($73,600)

-1/6 of the affordable homes at or below 60% AMI ($55,200)

-1/6 of the affordable homes at or below 30% AMI ($27,600)

50% affordability rates here are still very profitable and optimal for the community.

Prop. G is about corporate welfare. Construction at this site is one of the most subsidized construction projects in San Francisco. The City is planning to contribute public land and help pay for the project out of its affordable housing fund by issuing bonds backed by future property tax revenue from the homes built by Lennar.

Proposition F is one vital piece of the puzzle to responsibly rebuilding Bayview-Hunters Point.

The Hunters Point Shipyard is one of the most contaminated superfund sites in the country. Given the long legacy of environmental racism that has affected the health of children and families throughout Bayview Hunters Point, we must remain vigilant in demanding the highest standards of environmental regulation and protection throughout all levels of this project, and forcing ANY developer to follow the mandates of Proposition P, passed by voters in 2000, which requires the land to be cleaned before developers move in.

Proposition F provides that preferences for rental or purchase of new affordable housing be given to families of low- and moderate-income in this priority: (1) any Alice Griffith resident in good standing; (2) persons entitled to residential relocation assistance; (3) individuals paying more than 50% of their income for housing or residing in public or HUD Section 8 housing; (4) San Francisco residents; and (5) the general public.

Proposition F was initiated by the community.

And Proposition F remains community-driven and community-focused. This is a struggle between people power and profits. We can’t afford glossy ads or spin doctors. This is a struggle for our homes and our community. All we have is the truth, every environmental justice organization in San Francisco, faith-based organizations, anti-displacement activists, and progressive Democrats. But we shall not be moved.

F is for FAIRNESS

Proposition F requires reasonable levels of workforce housing, making it affordable to live here for the people who feed our community, keep our city clean, and teach our children. Proposition F would give workers a way to stay in San Francisco, requiring that 50% of units developed in the proposed Bayview-Hunter’s Point development are available to working families. Proposition F is San Francisco’s chance to vote against the out-migration of working families, ensuring that the people who make our city a diverse, rich, and beautiful place to live, can afford to live here too.

These are our last two weeks to make sure San Franciscans understand why they should VOTE FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING: YES on F, NO on G … YES on FAIRNESS, NO on GREED. We must also make sure that the folks we know best VOTE 100% on JUNE 3.

I’ve been thrilled to see – and join – all the volunteers who’ve worked passionately for months to spread the truth about Prop F, the Bayview Affordable Housing Initiative, so that we can make our dreams come true.

In these final two weeks, please join us. Call or email Jaron Browne at POWER if you can help with phoning, leafleting or door knocking: Call (415) 864-8372 or email jaron@peopleorganized.org.

Some of you have been lied to so long you’ve almost forgotten how to dream of a home of your own and a chance to earn a good living. I’m telling you, dust off your hope, polish your dreams until they shine, roll up your sleeves and let’s be WINNERS! Let’s PASS PROP FAIRNESS on JUNE 3! Yes we can!

Contact Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff at (415) 671-0789.