Front detail of the Vida SF condos at 22nd and Mission Street, one of the recent luxury housing developments in the Mission District. Photo Bridgid Skiba

On June 2, more than 800 Mission residents gathered at City Hall to support a temporary halt to the construction of luxury or “market-rate” housing in the Mission District. The community spoke loud and clear in favor of a moratorium on luxury housing, yet after eight hours of testimony, the board failed to heed the pleas of hundreds.

Though seven supervisors voted “yes” and four “no,” the “no” votes by Supervisors Weiner and Farrell (who are both seeking election to higher office), and Supervisors Tang and Christiansen (who are beholden to Mayor Lee) were enough to prevent the nine-vote supermajority needed to enact the measure.

The oversupply of market-rate units has made housing less affordable and made Mission residents fearful about the long-term survival of their community. On June 2, Mission residents testified about the changing face of the neighborhood, as well as the changing faces, the displacement of their neighbors due to evictions and ridiculously high rent, and small businesses being priced out of the market and replaced by businesses that cater to a higher paying clientele. Many Mission residents testified that they now feel like strangers in the neighborhood they grew up in.

Hundreds of Mission District residents occupied City Hall on May 8 to call for a moratorium on luxury housing. The moratorium later failed to get the number of supervisors votes required to pass. Photo Mabel Jiménez

The practice of permitting unrestrained market-rate development continues despite the stated goals of the city to build housing that is affordable to its residents. Last year’s Proposition K set a goal of making 33 percent of new housing units affordable to low- and moderate-income households (which for a family of four means incomes of less than $81,500 and $122,300 respectively), and that 50 percent be affordable to middle-class households (incomes less than $152,850).

In the Mission District, there are 478 housing units either under construction or approved for construction, and only 34 units (7 percent) affordable to low- and moderate-income residents—far short of the 50 percent affordability goal. Using any measure, whether it be the goals of Proposition K, The Eastern Neighborhoods Plan, or the targets set by the Association of Bay Area Governments, the city has failed to meet its affordable housing goals.

Apologists for the status quo have known all along that the practice of rubber-stamping luxury developments isn’t helping to solve the housing crisis. Reports prepared by the San Francisco Planning Department have shown, year after year, that the city has fallen far short of its affordable housing targets and while more than doubling the production of luxury housing.

The city Chief Economist Ted Egan has stated that in order to have an appreciable impact on lowering hosing prices, the city would need to build as many as 100,000 new market-rate units. Even with the attitude of “build baby build,” that isn’t going to happen, so the city continues to operate in a way that works only for the real estate industry, developers, and the financial interests that bankroll them.

This crisis has created a huge groundswell of activity in the Mission. Mission and citywide housing activists are developing a multi-pronged approach to deal with the affordability crisis, including a proposed ballot measure for an 18-month moratorium on luxury housing in the Mission District. The turnouts on May 8 and June 2 are just the tip of an iceberg.