Community: Another Reminder That San Francisco Is Not the Model for What Davis Should Do

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

San Francisco, CA – Senator Scott Wiener yesterday responded to a threat by members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to sue the state to block housing laws.

“The State’s unfair legislative mandates that are diminishing our City’s ability to build the affordable housing our residents desperately need, and eroding our ability to meet our legal obligations to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing,” the December 26, 2023 letter reads in part.

It adds, “We cannot force developers to build and yet new legislation would seek to penalize San Francisco anyway.”

But Supervisor Peskin doesn’t stop there.  He gets personal.

He told 48 Hills that’s an argument “from a senator who hates his own Senate district.”

This was in response to a quote from Wiener in the Examiner.

“Anyone who tells you that we can subsidize our way out of this disaster also has a bridge to sell you,” Senator Wiener said. “The argument that we should only be building subsidized housing is an argument for a perpetual, severe housing shortage.”

Been waiting for the response from Wiener—and it finally came on Thursday.

He posted on X: “These 2 Supervisors — who both have truly awful track records on housing — want SF to sue the state because a law I wrote (SB 423) requires heightened scrutiny for SF.”

In the letter, Supervisor Peskin as well as Supervisor Chan conclude: “This new law will create undue hardship on San Francisco and ultimately lead to displacement of small businesses, residential tenants, and homeowners in San Francisco.”

Senator Wiener responds, “They’re straight up lying about the law. The quote below from the letter is a fabricated NIMBY scare tactic.”

In response to the claims about the “unfair legislative mandates,” Senator Wiener calls it “falsehood from the 2 Supervisors’ letter, since the housing laws they’re melting down about have led to *thousands* of new below market rate homes in SF alone. Our housing work has been a major boon for housing affordable to low income & working class people.”

Senator Wiener explains, “I put heightened scrutiny for SF into the law b/c SF has by far the worst/longest process for new homes in CA,” including the longest housing permit approval time, highest fees, most reported violations of state housing law.

“This isn’t just technical talk about housing permit timelines, development fees, etc.,” he continued.  “SF’s broken down housing system — which our laws are fixing — pushes the middle class out & pushes people into homelessness. It’s why 2,500 kids in SF public schools wake up homeless every day.”

He added, “We didn’t get here overnight. San Francisco has been adding layer upon layer of process for the sake of process since the 1980s. A lot of that wasn’t actually legal. An audit last year found 18 violations of state law in the City’s housing policies & practices.”

After explaining some of the legislative fixes, he notes, “SF hasn’t even fixed all the illegal practices exposed by the state audit.”

He concludes, “Reversing a housing crisis that took 50 years to create won’t happen overnight or with one new law. Sadly, some people only know how to get in the way. They have no actual solutions.”

All of this is of particular interest to me, because this past summer, after going back and forth with a local opponent of housing in Davis, I finally pressed them—how would they solve the housing problem?

They denied there was a housing problem but suggested that Davis should do what San Francisco does.

That suggestion was ironic at the time—and is getting more so.

In my initial response I focused on technical and structural differences between the two that made the suggestion largely a non-starter.

But it’s getting worse now.

Senator Wiener hints at this, noting that San Francisco has been operating illegally for years.  A state audit, he noted, found 18 violations of state law, and San Francisco has yet to address them all.

In addition, now we have the city coming perilously close to having their Housing Element decertified (Davis doesn’t have a certified Housing Element still).

You have local leaders threatening to sue the state, pointing fingers at their own State Senator, and looking to wage some sort of civil war against each other.

There have definitely been times of tension and contention in Davis—especially over housing policies.  But as much as some citizens like to point their fingers at the City Council and City staff, our own local problems pale in comparison to what is happening in San Francisco.

That is not to say things will be easy.  I point out again, multiple council members in the last few months have noted that Davis cannot address its housing needs with just infill—and we all know that peripheral housing means a Measure J vote at this time and that could be its own mess.

At the end of the day, I would much rather deal with these problems than attempt to emulate what is going on in San Francisco.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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1 Comment

  1. Keith Y Echols

    Two things can be true: San Francisco has excessive time consuming regulations for the construction of new housing.  San Francisco shouldn’t be penalized because they can’t force builders to build housing.  In other words; I believe there should be a penalty for imposing excessive regulation and drawing out the time needed to get approvals for building.  But I don’t think the the city should be penalized if nothing gets built as that’s still largely a function of the market.

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