According to D6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, rumors of San Francisco’s death are greatly exaggerated
by Carol Harvey
Housing is in trouble nationwide. Kick this up a notch in the City and County of San Francisco. The formerly popular city itself is in jeopardy.
You can watch more of Dorsey’s Coffee at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHrKWOo7hlZCFS8kiXhHYicr7WZ6GPcRW
“San Francisco has been mismanaged,” said Lotus Yee Fong at Dorsey’s Sept. 29 coffee event. “There is a great deal of corruption, and, therefore, housing, homelessness and mental health issues are out of control.”
She recognized “how the City really works. And, we’re not saying that other cities don’t have it, too – but San Francisco has kind of reached the very end of the corruption scale.”
She continued, “In the old days – it’s not like it was perfect. But it was kind of normal-sized corruption.
“But, now this City – this is Global Finance Central for the Asian stock markets, right? And the money that is in their elections for each candidate and proposition or whatever – we don’t have the say, the control about how things are.”
Homelessness and the fentanyl crisis drives tourists and potential condo owners away
San Francisco is filled with citizens in tents ranged along sidewalks next to desperate fentanyl hawkers and people dead from drug overdoses. This has given the City a reputation as a place where, as Fong put it, “conventions and tourists don’t necessarily want to come. Also, the tech bubble has burst so companies are moving out of the City and the state.
“The convention business has started coming back to a small degree but not like it used to be. And the mental health and homeless issues – the reputation is everywhere now, so people don’t want to come to San Francisco anymore.”
The center of the centerpiece
The Treasure Island-Yerba Buena Island development project is crucially important to the City and County of San Francisco. Developers were counting on the huge project at Yerba Buena and Treasure Island standing as a centerpiece of new housing, some of it affordable. At the center of the centerpiece are the astronomically priced Yerba Buena Island condos.
Because San Francisco’s reputation is so damaged, “They’re having trouble selling those condos,” asserted Fong.
“Also,” she said, “They overbuild.
“There are too many residential and commercial (buildings) at high rates, and they are not filling them. That’s why the people with money are in trouble.”
The assumption has been that the YBI condos will be bought up by rich Chinese.
Fong cautioned, “You can’t be planning for people who aren’t even going to live here. We have to look at the big picture and the big strings.” Referring to “the new money in the city,” she said, “a lot of wealthy people don’t want to live here. This is just going to be a pied-a-terre, the French call it. You own real estate in many places, and that’s where you put your assets, your money.”
A pied-a-terre is a house or apartment kept for occasional use. For years, fabulously wealthy families have maintained pied-a-terres on Russian Hill and in Pacific Heights that they visit while passing through.
‘The Residences at Yerba Buena Island
You can visit The Bristol at this link:
Inside the lobby at 724 Battery St., in the glassed-off sales office of The Residences at Yerba Buena Island, one can view a model displaying an enormous condominium complex covering the entire crown of the natural island.
Recently, we circled the steep incline to the Bristol at the top. The only completed condo, the Bristol, can be seen looming gray and white over Treasure Island facing the Golden Gate Bridge and out to sea.
We were surprised by how easy it was to get inside – how eagerly the staff greeted us, giving us much-appreciated little chocolates.
Tom Gasbarre, sales manager of the Residences at Yerba Buena Island, met us on the sidewalk in front of The Bristol and ushered us – me with my camera rolling – through the accessible front doors into the lobby.
He readily shared key information.
“There’ll be 266 homes here (on Yerba Buena Island); 124 in The Bristol Condominiums.”
Mr. Gasbarre pointed across the street to two additional “product types” under construction, one called The Townhomes; the other called The Flats. The Flats contain seven residences per building. A fourth clutch of condos, named Courtyard Townhomes, is being built on the opposite City side of the island over the hill next to a one-acre off-leash dog park.
On a map, he indicated “a six-acre park at the top of the island,” the sand beach down along Clipper Cove, and “a ferry service that connects the islands to the Embarcadero Ferry Building.”
The planning is lavish.
“The architect who did the exteriors of the buildings and the layout of the community is Hart-Howerton,” a local design firm at 1 Union St., Third Floor, San Francisco.
“The interiors of this building (The Bristol) were done by Edmunds and Lee Associates,” based in the Mission District at 2601 Mission, Suite 503.
“And the interiors of The Townhomes and Flats will be done by Meyer Davis,” a prestigious interior design firm based in New York City.
Gasbarre verified what we knew, that the developer for all the 266 homes in the Yerba Buena Island build-out is Wilson-Meany. Wilson-Meany and Lennar are doing a joint venture on Treasure Island consisting of 7,700 homes.
He told us Yerba Buena Island studios start at $185,000 – one bedrooms at a million.
“They planned it and built it when they thought that they could fill it,” said Fong, “and nobody’s coming.”
Treasure Island is really going to be carrying a lot of the City’s housing promise
At his Sept. 29 Coffee, Dorsey discussed the vital importance of the Treasure Island-Yerba Buena Island project.
“There is state law,” he said, “that requires municipalities to update their general plan every eight years. It’s a portion of the General Plan called the Housing Element.” And the Housing Element is “the strategy for how municipalities are going to take steps to build housing and actually facilitate the production of housing, including affordable housing levels.
“There’s a number that comes out every eight years called the RHNA (pronounced RENA)” or “sometimes called ‘the RHNA targets’ or ‘RHNA minimums,’ because it’s a minimum floor.”
The acronym, RHNA, “stands for Regional Housing Needs Allocation. San Francisco’s RHNA allocation is 82,069 units. Treasure Island represents about a little under 10 percent of the entire goal (for the whole City of San Francisco). So, this is a really important part of that.
“I’m going to be committed to fulfilling the promise of meeting our RHNA targets,” Dorsey vowed. “And, the reason is because the state law has changed, and under state law currently, if San Francisco (actually, if any municipality) doesn’t make its targets, they risk the loss of state funding for affordable housing, for transit, and then possibly the loss of local control altogether.”
As a result, said Dorsey, “if the state were to take local control away, it means that everything is by right.
“The definition of ‘by right’ is that development may proceed under a zoning ordinance or by law without the need for a special permit (or) ordinance.
“If it (the project) meets the building codes and zoning, you’re in – you’re good. There’s no discretionary review whatsoever.
“So I’m going to be doing everything I can as a member of the Board of Supervisors to be what I’ve said is, ‘The Conscience of Housing’ on the board. That means I’ll support more housing in my district. But I’m going to support housing in everybody else’s district as well.
“Because the reality is if we get punished and we lose state funding for affordable housing (and) for transit, our district gets hurt the most. District 6 is going to get hurt the most.
“Treasure Island is really going to be carrying a lot of this because literally 10 percent of the goal – or a little under 10 percent – is going to be here on the island.”
$115,000 to $150,00 parking spots
During our Bristol visit, I mentioned to Tom Gasbarre that we heard they were charging $115,000 for a parking spot associated with the Yerba Buena complex. “Is that true?” I asked.
Gasbarre explained that every new development in San Francisco mandates that the parking is sold independent of the residences.
“So, that is correct. The cost of the parking space is $115,000.”
“That brings the price up a tad,” fellow visitor, Lois Scott, joked.
“A little bit,” said Gasbarre, wryly.
“Right now, they (the City) has mandated any new construction sold in San Francisco – the parking is sold independent of the residence.
“Ours is less than most at $115,000. Most of them are $150,000 for parking – or more.”
Some of the most ambitious residential housing endeavors in history
At his coffee event, Matt Dorsey insisted, “I think we have to do everything we can to take care of housing,” which meant that he supports a massive amount of new construction.
“We are about to embark on some of the most ambitious residential housing endeavors in history – since World War II, anyway.” It appeared he was referring specifically to the 7,700 new homes on Treasure Island, in addition to the 266 Yerba Buena Island condos, totaling 7,926. The stated purpose is to jump the population of the islands from 1,300 to 1,800 souls to 20,000 more people.
However, at his Sept. 29 Coffee, several attendees described San Francisco as “dead.”
Dorsey countered by joking, “Rumors of its death are greatly exaggerated.”
Let’s hope he’s right.
Carol Harvey is a San Francisco political journalist specializing in human rights and civil rights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.