How is a 500-unit apartment development like a genetically modified food? For San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen, it’s obvious.
Taking to Twitter after a Chronicle podcast that discussed both sides of the debate over building a 27-story apartment building on a department store parking lot, Ronen took issue with those who consider her “pro-housing” just because she sided with seven other supervisors in sending the Build Inc. project back for additional environmental review.
“That’s like calling people that support genetically modified foods as ‘pro-food.’ Ridiculous. No one in this City is not pro-housing,” she tweeted on Monday.
This is the first fair piece of journalism on this subject from the Chron and pretty clearly lays out both sides of the debate. Highly encourage anyone who cares about the housing debates in SF to listen to the entire podcast.
I have only 2 critiques. https://t.co/5nzC5lN12r
— Hillary Ronen (@HillaryRonen) November 1, 2021
Though many supervisors who voted against the project were silent on Twitter immediately after the decision, more have been coming forward under pressure from both the state, which is probing the legality of the vote and calling for the city to take on more of its share in creating new housing, and “Housing Twitter,” which lambasted the decision.
“We have been pushing other cities to do their share, to be better, so when San Francisco does something like this, it puts the proverbial turd in the punch bowl,” State Senator and former San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Chronicle in a story on the state’s investigation into the vote.
If the Ronen tweet was an attempt to mollify critics, it had the exact opposite effect. The GMO tweet has gotten over 100 negative comments and 20 likes since it was posted, with some pointing out that being against GMOs that could feed the hungry could be considered “anti-food” and others who found the idea that everyone in NIMBY San Francisco is “pro-housing” laughable at best.
“Absolutely insane to look at a decades-long housing crisis and make this statement,” read one comment.
Some also pointed out that another Ronen tweet in which she called Build “a major issue” could give the state more fodder for finding that the board was acting illegally when it voted against the development, since it was supposed to be considering environmental concerns.
“Boldly stating that this particular developer is part of the reason for voting against the EIR is exactly what the lawyers wanted to hear. I dread the legal costs the City will now incur due to this vote,” one critic wrote.
Supervisor David Campos also called out gentrification concerns, rather than environmental issues, when he defended his vote against what he called a “luxury high-rise.”
“I know what it is like to fear eviction – and we need housing that working people can afford, not projects that force families out,” he tweeted, linking to a longer explanation of his stance that includes a picture of himself as a teenager living with his family in a one-room apartment.
“Being anti-displacement is not anti-housing,” he wrote. “Being anti-gentrification is not anti-housing. Listening respectfully to a community in fear of losing their homes is not anti-housing.”
In response, Supervisor Matt Haney, who was one of three supervisors in favor of the development and represents the mid-Market neighborhood that’s the site of the proposed project, tweeted that the apartment building had “significant community support”.
Yes, the city needs to build more affordable housing, he said, but he also asked critics to come up with another apartment building development on private land in the city with more than the 24 percent this project would have had.
“If this project was such a bad deal, what were the comparable better ones?” he tweeted Tuesday night, quickly racking up nearly 400 likes.
Can anyone name a San Francisco housing development over 100 units, on private land, w/o accompanying office space or a DA, that was built with more than 24% affordable units on/off site?
If this project was such a bad deal, what were the comparable better ones? https://t.co/lL6O4Fl8M6
— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) November 3, 2021
The online debate has statewide implications, as Haney is running against Campos in a special 2022 election for an assembly seat that opened up when Mayor London Breed appointed Assembly member David Chiu as City Attorney.
“This rhetoric is as tired as the housing shortage and isn’t playing well for voters, thank goodness,” the housing advocates at SF YIMBY tweeted in response to the Campos comments.
The rejection may also spur on state legislators hoping to create stricter infill and density policies that city leaders will not be able to vote down in the future.
State Assembly member Buffy Wicks, who represents Berkeley and Oakland, took to Twitter Tuesday to say that the San Francisco vote is “exactly why we need state-level housing policy.”