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Crosscurrents

San Francisco Proposition E: Limits On Office Development

san_francisco_prop_e_pic.jpg
Jeff Chiu
/
AP Photo
Residential houses are shown in front of the skyline in San Francisco, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Proposition E attempts to play hardball with the city's affordable housing crisis.

Proposition E is trying to play hardball with San Francisco’s housing crisis. The measure states that if San Francisco can’t build more housing, it can’t have new office space either.

San Francisco already caps the amount of new office space it builds every year. Under Prop E, that cap would mirror the city’s affordable housing failures. If San Francisco falls short of state-mandated housing goals and builds five percent less housing than it’s required to, the city’s annual limit on new office space development will also drop by five percent, and so on.

Supporters of Prop E argue it will incentivize developers to build affordable housing and avoid a more aggressive cap on building. They also say the measure will build tens of thousands of new housing units South of Market. The SoMa affordable housing group, Todco, has spent over $400,000 in support of it.

The measure has its fair share of critics, including San Francisco City Hall’s economist Ted Egan. Egan and others argue that Prop E doesn’t address why affordable housing is so tough to build in San Francisco and say the city will inevitably fall short of the state’s housing benchmarks. Eventually, they say that means Prop E will drive businesses out of San Francisco. A handful of real estate developers and business groups have spent around $30,000 opposing the measure, and the urban planning nonprofit SPUR opposes it too.

Teresa Cotsirilos is a reporter at KALW, where she covers labor rights and public health in the Bay Area’s immigrant communities. A recipient of the IWMF Adelante Fellowship and the Center for Health Journalism's National Fellowship, she is currently investigating California wildfire cleanups and their impact on immigrant workers’ health and safety.