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The Richmond Is Not For Sale

Last December I sent out a message to Richmond neighbors about the mayor and her Planning Department’s plan to upzone the entire City, which would increase the building height limit on our streets. In the Richmond, this means Geary Boulevard could have buildings as tall as 140 feet at some intersections. I asked our community for input on these plans because your voices are important in this process.

I heard from so many of you and from small business owners on Geary Boulevard, Balboa Street and all along Clement Street telling me that their landlords are increasing their rent at an unreasonable rate. Some even told me that their landlords are considering selling their buildings for a windfall profit in this development push and they are concerned that this trend will only increase if this proposal passes.

They weren’t the only ones. Tenants wrote in worrying about possible displacement. Aging homeowners expressed concerns about being priced out. In fact, the vast majority of those who wrote or called had serious concerns about the plans underway in the mayor’s office. Their stories demonstrate the pitfalls of a one-size-fits-all planning approach. It may work for developers and speculative investors whose focus is to turn profits, but it certainly isn’t working for our residents and merchants, and it certainly won’t develop the type of affordable housing the Richmond desperately needs.

For the Richmond – named one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world – my message as your district supervisor to speculative investors and profiteers has been clear: We are not for sale.

Instead, our residents demand funding to build more affordable family housing. We want developers to build the housing developments the City has already approved, like the Lucky Penny project and housing at Alexandria Theatre. We want meaningful planning solutions and sufficient resources to build housing that San Franciscans can actually afford, and we want to protect our residents and small businesses against displacement.

Most importantly, we reject being told by the mayor’s office what should be happening in our neighborhood. Instead, we demand recognition of our needs and a response to our asks. This is one of those moments that City Hall is telling us what works for them instead of what works for us. But the Richmond is not, and never will be, for sale.

We are also facing a potential blow with a new law passed earlier this year by Senator Scott Wiener which would single San Francisco out for penalties for not meeting the goal of 82,000 new units by 2031. We know we need to continue to build the affordable housing that San Francisco and the Richmond desperately need, but this law ignores the economic realities of market-driven housing development. The City’s own records show that San Francisco currently has 70,000 housing units approved for development, and more than 60,000 empty units available for rent. Clearly, what we need are resources to actually build the units already approved, and funding to build affordable units, not punitive mandates that take away critical housing funds.

This is why, last month, SF Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and I jointly sent a letter to City Attorney David Chiu to ask him to review the law and provide advice on our legal options to defend our tenants, small businesses and homeowners against displacement.

The Richmond is not immune to development pressures and displacement, as well as many other problems that the rest of the City faces. I know this because I work to bring resources to our district to keep our streets clean and safe, including increased funding for the Police Department, retired police ambassadors to help patrol our corridors, Public Works staff to clean up hot spots and the expansion of street crisis teams to tackle the mental health crisis not just downtown but also on the west side of our City.

We continue to welcome new small businesses on Geary Boulevard, Balboa and Clement streets even during the pandemic. We facilitate offers of housing vouchers and long-term housing to fire victims so they can continue to live in the Richmond, especially our monolingual residents. We support small businesses with their lease negotiations, grants when they suffer burglaries and vandalism, and we make sure to bring Public Works to their doorsteps when additional clean-up is needed with trash and graffiti. We also improve our access to public transit and provide more parking for our small businesses with Geary BRT. Now, we are fighting against displacement as an entire community.

I’ve been proud to stand with our residents to support these efforts. I know we are making progress because we work together as a community, and we are inclusive in our outreach and process. But right now, there are active forces trying to divide us, and people who have not done the work want to simply buy what we have worked so hard to build together. I will continue to build with the Richmond community so that we can all continue to live and thrive in the coolest neighborhood in the world!

This article was published in the Richmond Review in February 2024.

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